Sunday, March 22, 2009

Can't judge a trial by the news

I have tried cases, and I have watched trials, that were reported on and in the news - television and newspaper. What I have noticed every time, is that one cannot determine, as a juror can or should, what the verdict should be. The reporter comes in with their preconceived beliefs (which they have not promised to set aside and frequently don't), and they usually watch only parts (generally the quote exciting stuff), and they don't hear it all. Even if they watch final arguments, if it was a long trial or the judge restricts final argument (which happens frequently in Harris County), the lawyer may miss what is a key element for some people. But the jurors heard it - even if the reporter didn't.

In my arguments, I try to remember to tell the jury that if there is a point that is important to them, that I didn't mention in my argument, that does not mean it was/is not important. It means that either I forgot with all the things I am trying to remember, I am nervous and my nerves are affecting my memory, or that I did not realize the importance. But, they, as the independent judges who have heard all the evidence, are in the very best place to decide what is important and what is not, and to remember as they do this review of all the evidence - even that not mentioned - that the burden is on the State at every step of the way to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.

I could go on regarding argument and perhaps I will in the future but this blog is really about the news. If you are a lay person, and even us lawyers who tend to do this - don't judge a case (or the jurors' decision) based on the reports. Read about the case, be interested, but remember that you didn't hear it all. : )

Blog on . . .

(I will return to my trial blog - it just is time consuming so I'm taking a bit of a break.)

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