The NY Times Magazine had a very informative article on the Colorado SuperMax prison and what solitary confinement does to an individual (it makes them go crazy). We strongly suggest you read it.
The NY Times here also ponders the question of whether Dzhohkar Tsarnaev's attorneys will put him on the witness stand in the Boston Bomber trial?
We have a new poll up. Lawyers are divided on this question of whether to put a client on the stand. Obviously, in federal court, the decision is more perilous because of the obstruction of justice enhancement. (For those of you who stay put in state court, as hard as it is to believe, the feds punish you even more for testifying and losing because they view it as an automatic proof of perjury).
While we try to keep an open mind as we approach each trial, our view is that if we cannot be in a position to win with our cross of the prosecution witnesses and the use of defense witnesses, then we shouldn't be proceeding to trial. Put another way, we don't want a trial to rest on the testimony of our client.
Putting a client on the witness stand changes the dynamic of the trial, mostly in favor of the prosecution. Our view is that no matter how weak the prosecution's case is, the jury will disregard the reasonable doubt instruction and focus on the defendant's testimony. A bad performance by the defendant can save the prosecution's case. A good performance by the defendant can weaken the prosecution's case. But it takes a stellar performance by the defendant to win a case, and most defendants don't have that in them.
Yes, we know that you have to put the client on in a self defense case. This is not about those specialized cases. This is about your average criminal prosecution in Florida.
We say the safer course is to handle the matter in voire dire. Get the jury to affirmatively buy in to the proposition that a client doesn't have to testify and they won't consider it if the client doesn't. Then, if the case is going well, keep the client safely seated next to you.
What say you?
See You In Court.
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