Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Importance of Themes in Criminal Trials

Over the years, I have observed that the best trial lawyers have a theme, or theory, of their case, which they utilize thoughout the trial.

For instance, if your theory, or defense, involves accident or mistake, then you will want to help the jury focus on this theme throughout the trial. For example, if accident or mistake is your defense in a Medicare fraudulent billing case, beginning with jury selection, during voire dire, the defense attorney may ask prospective jurors several questions concerning whether they have ever made mistakes while filling out forms. Of course, we all have made such errors! But the answer is not the important point. The important point is that the defense attorney is trying to develop a theme and encouraging the jurors to think about the possibility of making a mistake. You also hope the jury will relate to your client.

Another good theme I have seen used at trial involves the old saying, "bad things happen to good people." Doesn't that theme give you a good image of a person that you can relate to? Again, the point is that you want the jury, from the very beginning and all throughout the trial, to relate to your client and to recognize that a mistake may have occurred, but that your client is not a "bad egg!"

Of course, utilizing a theme can carry you only so far at trial! For instance, if the government has video tape, DNA, and finger print evidence, your goose may be cooked no matter what theme you utilize! And if you were representing Charles Manson, would a theme really matter?! What could your trial theme be for Manson? "Bad things happen to mad, psychotic people?!"

1 comment:

  1. Richard,themes, can they have an influence over the evidence? I get too confused with the court and jury proceedings some times.
    Like when you can tell the innocence or guilt of some one yet the verdict goes thee other way.