Many Ramsey County defense lawyers litigate these cases for many years and only handle a handful of jury trials. They are incredibly rare. Nevertheless, an aggressive St. Paul sex crime attorney always prepares a case as if it will go all the way to a jury trial. Such diligent preparation is a key to a successful outcome not just in jury cases, but in pretrial negotiations as well.
Like most aspects of criminal defense, jury trial preparation and presentation is partly scientific and partly artistic. Jurors expect both these presentations, and it’s important to get the combination right. An overly scientific presentation bores many jurors, and an overly artistic one has too much razzle-dazzle.
This part of the process may be the most important phase. Therefore, most St. Paul sex crime attorneys begin jury selection before the jury even enters the courtroom. In fact, it begins before the lawyer enters the courtroom.
St. Paul sex crime attorneys must always be on their best behavior. That’s more difficult for some of us than for others. One of my law school professors told a story about a colleague of his. The lawyer drove an expensive sports car to court and unwittingly cut off a juror in the parking lot. The jury later found in favor of his client but reduced the damages “so that lawyer couldn’t afford a new Ferrari.” Furthermore, jurors always get cutsies in lines and they always go first in the rush for the elevators.
Those information cards which Ramsey County prospective jurors must fill out may seem like a waste of time. But to an experienced St. Paul sex crime attorney, they contain a lot of information. For example, people who have lived for a long time at one address are usually more conservative than people who move around a lot.
When it comes to actually selecting the jury, it’s important to distinguish between leaders and followers. In the 1957 classic 12 Angry Men, there are one or two strong voices for guilty, one or two for not guilty, and everyone else follows along. The followers cannot hurt your client. But the leaders can. So, it’s important to identify them and eliminate them with one of the six peremptory strikes.
When we handle jury trials, we never refer to our client as “the defendant” or even “Mr. Jones.” These labels are too impersonal. Instead, the defendant is always “Richard.” More familiar terms like “Rick” or “Ricky” may be even better, depending on things like the client’s age.
Because of the Sixth Amendment’s confrontation clause, the alleged victim almost always testifies in court. In a few cases, mostly child sex abuse prosecutions, the judge may allow the alleged victim to testify remotely. The approach that a St. Paul sex crime attorney uses while cross-examining the alleged victim can either endear the jurors to the defendant or alienate them completely. Some possible approaches include:
Planning jury arguments is important as well. Since prosecutors go first and last, they have some room for error. But St. Paul sex crime attorneys do not have that luxury.
All that preparation and presentation work is useless unless jurors have something to hand their hat on, metaphorically speaking. Sympathy alone is not enough to acquit the defendant. For that, the jury must have reasonable doubt.
That defense could be a lack of evidence. In many sex crime cases, the alleged victim had been drinking. Furthermore, many people block extremely traumatic memories. If the alleged victim’s testimony is unreliable, the case collapses.
An affirmative defense, like consent, may be available as well. The legal definition of consent is rather rigid, but there is some room for interpretation. And, if our St. Paul sex crime attorneys do their job, this interpretation should go the defendant’s way.
A jury trial is the ultimate test. For a free consultation with an experienced St. Paul sex crime attorney, contact Capitol City Law Group, LLC. Go online now, call us at (651) 998-7634, or stop by 287 6th St E, Suite 20, St Paul, MN 55101.