What I learned from this trial is that sometimes less is more. It was a very short trial because I decided to close my case after the main victim testified. I was able to impeach the victim with his video interview at the scene, which was captured by police body-worn-camera. At that point, I felt like the jurors had enough to cut through the confusion and lies, so I wanted the jurors to go home and ponder that rather than call more witnesses.
This trial reaffirmed the importance of a good voir dire and the importance of planting the seeds of your defense in voir dire. I was very lucky because the judge did not cut me off. This is very unusual in criminal cases and with this judge in particular. You are lucky if this judge gives you 20 minutes for voir dire. I talked for over an hour and a half. I was able to be fully present and listen to the jurors’ emotions of fairness and empathy for my client who wasn’t even in the room.
One juror who had been thinking about the concept of “guessing who’s telling the truth.” He basically said that it was not fair he had to “guess” in order to convict someone and to guess someone into jail. He said it loudly and clearly. I felt this palpable energy of kindness coming from this juror and in the room. I took a step back, looked down at my notes as I was trying to buy some time to let the silence do the work for me and even though I still needed to cover a “Client’s Right Not to Testify”, I decided to end my voir dire on that note. It was such a powerful moment that I wanted the jurors to remember that as my last point.
In my closing arguments, I looped back around to that concept, that in this country we don’t “guess” someone into a conviction. I thanked them for taking the time to do their jury duty obligations and reminded them that their presence was truly a gift for my client.
They came back in 45 minutes with a full acquittal on all serious felonies and even the misdemeanor charge. My client was free to be at home for Christmas!
Fighting for the People | Gerry Spence | TEDxJacksonHole
Renowned trial lawyer Gerry Spence reflects on justice in a powerful personal retrospective.