Entries categorized "Trial Tactics"

The CSI Effect

Lately, there's been a lot of talk around the blogosphere about how shows like CSI effect juries. It's not a new topic. I think I've seen it make the rounds before at least twice and I figure it's one of those stories that gets pulled out when a reporter is faced with a slow news day. Still, it is almost impossible to resist pontificating on it (and I'm weak willed).

I think that the expectation has one practical effect. It does focus jurors on investigations left fallow by law enforcement. For example, assume an officer pulls over a car and when he has my client exit finds a an improvised crack smoking device on the floorboard in front of Client's seat with enough residue for analysis (enough for a conviction in Virginia). He charges Client with possession but not the driver or other passenger. The CSI effect is going to be helpful when I ask that officer if he checked for fingerprints or if he sent it to the lab for fingerprints. It focuses the jurors attention and lends credibility to my closing argument that the reason they didn't do it was because the officer and prosecution decided they wanted to convict my client and didn't want to find evidence that the cocaine belonged to someone else. I've had a couple cases in which I think this scored points; in one it was very effective because it looked like the police were either sloppy in their investigation or had engaged in willful blindness.

What I worry about when I go to court is the effect of Matlock or Perry Mason. As a matter of fact, I ask in voir dire if anyone expects the trial to be like it is in those shows. I think these shows have made a greater impact on the ingrained mythos of the courtroom. If you say the names everyone knows who you are talking about and everybody knows what they did in the courtroom. They would cross examine people so dramatically, so well, and so insightfully that the true criminal would break down and admit his villainy on the stand. Thus the defendant is proven absolutely, 100% innocent every time. While I think most jurors understand intellectually that this will not happen, I think they have been subconsciously prepped for that kind of trial. And if there is no big, spectacular breakthrough in the trial they may tend to assume that everything was calm because the everything was on track, the prosecutor was right, and the defendant is guilty. I think asking about it in voir dire helps a lot but I'm curious as to how others deal with this. Comments?

One Question too Many

I'm doubt this is an actual transcript of a criminal defense lawyer cross-examinging a police officer, but it's pretty funny nonetheless.

Q. Officer, did you see my client fleeing the scene?
A. No sir, but I subsequently observed a person matching the   description of the offender running several blocks away.

Q. Officer, who provided this description?
A. The officer who responded to the scene.

Q A fellow officer provided the description of this so-called   offender... Do you trust your fellow officers?
A. Yes sir, with my life.

Q. With your life? Let me ask you this then officer, do you have a room   where you change your clothes in preparation for your daily duties?
A. Yes sir, we do.

Q. And do you have a locker in that room?
A Yes sir, I do.

Q And do you have a lock on your locker?
A. Yes sir.

Irving Younger would have said to the examiner:  "Sit down!  It wasn't a coup, but at least you didn't blow it.  Now shut up!"  But the lawyer did not.  Read below the fold to see what happened.

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