February 10th, 2010
“What’s your winning percentage?”
This is a common question for potential clients to ask. Because our criminal justice system is an adversarial one, the question seems natural. After all, when two sports teams compete, there’s usually a clear winner and a clear loser. Why should lawyers butting heads in a courtroom be any different?
My most recent jury trial illustrates why it’s difficult for attorneys to reduce their trial outcomes to a simple win-loss record. Take a look at the video evidence…
This 90-second brawl left my client facing 6 felony charges: 2 counts of Assault on a Public Servant, 2 counts of Taking or Attempting to Take a Weapon from a Peace Officer, Possession of a Controlled Substance (cocaine), and Tampering with Physical Evidence (for trying to toss the cocaine on top of the convenience store).
The District Attorney’s offer to settle the case was for my client to plead guilty to the 2 counts of Assault on a Public Servant and take a 5-year prison sentence in exchange for a dismissal of the remaining charges. We opted to let a jury decide. There wasn’t anything I could do about the cocaine in my client’s pocket, so he pled guilty to that in front of the jury at the outset of the trial. This move sent a signal to the jurors that they could trust me to tell them the truth about the case, even if the truth was painful. Then the prosecutors told the jury that my client was detained in front of the convenience store for the heinous offense of…jaywalking.
On cross-examination, I was able to get the officers to concede that the way my client crossed the street didn’t really meet the legal definition of jaywalking. The officers also had trouble remembering what happened to the first Taser after they shot my client with it.
The end result was that the jury found my client guilty of misdemeanor Assault and the Possession of a Controlled Substance, just like I asked them to. The jury also found him NOT GUILTY of the remaining charges, just like I asked them to. And my client and his family were thrilled with the outcome.
Doesn’t that sound like a “win” to you?
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