Wednesday, August 22, 2018


[Photo from wikipedia]

     As you have probably heard by now, former Trump campaign chairman and businessman, Paul Manafort, was convicted by a jury in federal court yesterday on eight counts of tax and bank fraud. The jury was reportedly unable to reach a verdict on the ten remaining charges. Sentencing will be at a later time.  Manafort also still faces other federal charges in the D.C. district.

As a practical matter, being convicted on even one count, in federal court, which utilizes the federal sentencing guidelines, is sufficient for a federal judge to consider all relevant conduct in imposing sentence. And there is no parole federally.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


[Photo from wikipedia]

Today, closing arguments began in the criminal trial of former Trump campaign coordinator Paul Manafort.  According to various news reports, both sides asked the Judge for up to two hours for closing arguments.  Judge T.S. Ellis reportedly voiced skepticism about the lawyers being able to keep the jury's attention for that long!

What do you think? Should closing arguments be kept under an hour? Are jurors less attentive than they were one hundred years ago, when closing arguments often lasted for hours?

As a former federal prosecutor in Augusta, Georgia, I handled a few major complex fraud and public corruption cases in which my closing argument reached 90 minutes in length. However, I always tried to remember that if you talk too long, you will lose your jury!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018


[DOJ Seal from wikipedia]

A lot has been written about the ongoing federal criminal jury trial of Paul Manafort.  Today, I don't intend to discuss the merits of the Mueller team's case against the former campaign coordinator of President Trump.  Instead, I want to focus on the government prosecutor's manner of making his opening statement.  He read it!

In particular, according to news reports, the prosecutor read his entire opening statement to the jury.  Reading an opening statement or a closing argument is a pet peeve of mine!  In my opinion, no trial lawyer should ever READ an opening statement!  Instead, I believe a good trial lawyer will be so prepared that he or she will be able to speak, without reading, their statement or argument.  Nobody likes to be read to.  Also, by speaking, instead of reading, a trial lawyer is better able to both make eye contact with jurors and to display a greater degree of confidence and preparedness!

As a former federal prosecutor in Augusta, Georgia for over twenty years, I prosecuted and saw countless federal criminal trials.  In my opinion, the best lawyers never read their openings or closings!

I am sure the government's attorney in this case is a fine lawyer!  But in my opinion, opening statements should be spoken but NOT read!

What do you think?