24 January 2013

Trial Preparation


Trial is a mystical concept to many defendants and hence, trial preparation can seldom be adequately explained to them. Considering very few defendants go to trial, it should be understandable that defendants do not properly visual the process. Nothing prepares them for the experience. On those occasions when the defendant has disappeared, will not acknowledge correspondence, return phone calls, or otherwise make himself available for consultation, criminal defense attorneys ask themselves why they bother. On the morning of the trial, the defendant may or may not show up. If an appearance is made, he or she will expect to leave shortly for another appointment or worse, having just got out of bed and is barely coherent. The day's events have not been explained to the defendant because he or she has failed to communicate with his or her attorney (I will say men are much worse than the women). The prospect of sitting in a courtroom most of the day during which the defendant is expected to be sworn in, get upon the stand in front of everyone, including the jury, and answer questions is overwhelming. None of this was anticipated by the defendant for the very simple reason that his ability to anticipate approaches zero. The class of defendants to which I refer do not anticipate or plan. It is foreign to their experience as human beings to reflect on anything other than their immediate needs. Most non-lawyers do not realize the amount of work that preparing for trial can be nor how intense and consuming a trial is. This is especially true of those defendants to which I refer. In their mind, you show up and have a trial--what's the big deal. This is not only for the reason that they do not know what a trial is, but they do not give it a thought. Most court appearances for most defendants are short. These appearances may be arraignments, guilty pleas, sentencings none of which take long and usually involve the defendant, a couple of attorneys, and the judge--oh, and the lady who sits in front of the judge, whatever she does. None of these activities take any effort. So as much as these defendants know, they will show up, they will say something, or someone will say something to them, they will be done and can go about their business. This is all very frustrating to the attorneys involved who actually think that some preparation is appropriate, some consultation with the client and witnesses would be a good thing, and realize the loss of time and inconvenience of the citizens of the county who have been called to jury duty, sat through their film on how to be a good jury, and otherwise lost a half-day of pay.