Does the Truth Really Matter?
More and more people are beginning to believe that in criminal cases, the truth is a fleeting thing. As a criminal lawyer, I question jurors all the time in the process of qualifying them to serve on a criminal jury. Their opinions about the Court process most of the time are based on media reports and TV shows they watch. The media seldom gets it right and TV crime shows almost always get it wrong. In this great Country, you are presumed innocent. In fact, most judges even before a trial starts read the “presumed innocent” instruction to the jury. The problem is the most members of the public and most jurors, in my experience only give lip service to the concept of the presumption of innocence. This is particularly true when it comes to sex offenses and offenses involving children. In the criminal trials I have tried in the last few years, in almost every case, half of the jurors have been excused by the Court because of their strong feelings about crimes involving children, particularly sexual battery cases and lewd and lascivious cases involving children. The problem is trying to convince jurors that the truth really does matter. You have to overcome years of instilled prejudice against a person accused of a serious sex crime. The State has a tremendous advantage and in almost every criminal case jurors have to be educated to the realities of the criminal justice system.
How do you get to the Truth?
The search for the truth starts long before trial. In any criminal case, immediate and thorough investigation is a must. You cannot count on the police to disclose favorable evidence. You cannot count on the prosecutors to disclose any fact that hurts their case and helps your defense. There is a rule called the “Brady rule” that in theory requires a prosecutor to disclose favorable evidence. That rule is routinely violated with no real adverse consequences for the individual prosecutor. Hardly ever does a judge do anything if a violation occurs. It is up to the individual criminal defense lawyer here in Sarasota to not only find the truth but prove it. Witnesses get coached, particularly child witnesses. Children are easily led and will often do what a parent or prosecutor suggests. An angry parent or spouse can easily slant the facts or cause the child to exaggerate the truth, and jurors who start a case already prejudiced are easily misled by passionate presentations by a prosecutor hell bent on getting a conviction. Hard work, thorough investigation and creative cross examination is a good start in the search for the truth. Does the witness have a Facebook account? Has the witness posted something on the Internet? Has the witness sent an email to a relative or friend about the events in question? Has the witness been coached? Are there emails that can help your case? Does the witness keep a diary? Does the witness have a motive to lie? Has the witness lied before? Does the witness have a reason to lie now? Do they have a reputation for making up things or exaggerating the truth? Has the witness said something before that conflicts with what they are saying now? Does the witness have a mental problem? Is the witness Bi-polar? Will they crack on the witness stand?
There is an old saying, “The truth will set you free”. That may be true but getting the truth before the jury takes decades of experience. They cannot teach experience in law school and that experience only comes from years and years of practice. Experience in prosecuting cases does not convert into experience in defending cases. Those are two totally separated concepts. I have defended cases for over thirty years in Florida and Federal Courts. Getting a good result, winning a trial or saving someone’s life is no accident.
If you have questions about the legal process, a loved in trouble or are curious about how the criminal justice system really works feel free to call my Sarasota office at 941 366 3506