Criminal court cases are like a presentation of stories; the prosecutor presents his/her story of a crime that occurred and who the guilty person is. Similarly, the criminal defense lawyer tells his/her story about what happened concerning the crime. The most believable narrative will win the case. To be believable, the story must be logical, truthful, and backed up by some type of evidence. The prosecuting attorney always begins the story by bringing criminal charges, but an effective defense attorney tears down the validity of the prosecutor’s narrative and brings to light the defense’s description of events. Not only must a defense attorney tear down the prosecutor’s case, but it is just as important for him/her to build up a case or tell a counter story for the defendant. Let us take a closer look at how the defense the attacking the prosecutor’s case and builds up the defense case.
Tear down the prosecutor’s case
The first thing the defense must do is find out what evidence the prosecutor has and his/her plans to use it—this is called “discovery.” Through the discovery process, the defense can obtain the following information:
- Police arrest records.
- Police statements.
- Statements of witnesses and prosecutor.
- Evidence the prosecutor intends to use at the trial.
Once the defense has the information the prosecutor intends to use, he/she can begin to understand the storyline that will be told during the trial phase. The defense attorney analyzes this evidence to determine the potential faults or weaknesses to attack, as well as assessing what areas of evidence are strong and potentially problematic. Remember, the defense must deconstruct the prosecutor’s story. A believable story will have elements of logic, truth (believability), and evidence (testimony). Let’s look at each of these areas in brief to discover how the defense strips away the prosecutor’s case:
Logic: One easily overlooked factor in some cases is logic. Are all the facts, stories, witness accounts, chronological order and details logical? Do they fit together to make a story or does something(s) seem out of place. So, details just don’t make sense when you have all the information.
Truth: Another aspect of the story that needs to be closely assessed is the truth of the witnesses and how the details are presented. Even facts that occur during the time leading immediately up to or following the crime must be looked at; these are referred to as “intermediate facts.” The defense cuts into the truth of the storyline by casting doubt on these facts. For example, in a Milwaukee homicide case the prosecutor presented details leading up to the murder which involved the defendant getting a haircut on the porch of a certain house. The truth of these intermediate details were never verified by the prosecutor, but the defense attorney found out that this did not occur. Although, this didn’t pertain exactly to the criminal act, it does undermine the prosecutor’s case. If he/she can be mistaken about that, then what other mistakes are there, the judge or jury could ask? Consequently, other evidence was discovered which revealed more erroneous information.
Evidence: If the defense attorney can find any area where evidence was not gained lawfully, then the case can be thrown out due to a technicality. All citizens have constitutional rights and the 4th amendment of the constitution protects people from unlawful searches and seizures. If police violated this right, the case cannot proceed any further. Therefore, it is paramount that the defense sift through the evidentiary proceedings, ask questions, and determine whether there are any ways the evidence can be tore down.
Additionally, defense attorneys search for any type of investigative mistakes. Did any of the police, witnesses, or prosecutor have ulterior motives for giving a report or the events? What was the chronology of the questionings?
Building up the defense’s case
Tearing down the prosecutor’s case is a great first step; now, it is time to build the client’s side of the story. By telling a narrative that runs counter to the prosecutor’s narrative, you are allowing the jury or judge to view the situation in a whole other light.
By tearing down each part of the prosecutor’s case, the defense attorney plants doubt in the jury or judge’s mind. The story of a crime committed is replaced by the counter-narrative that the defense produced. A well-thought out strategy wins the day in court. If you would like to discuss this further, please contact us today!
Disclaimer: The content of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact Jennifer Speas to discuss the specifics of your case.