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Defending A High-Profile Criminal Case In Los Angeles


I have both defended and seen many high-profile criminal cases across Los Angeles in my 25-year career. It’s going to take a certain attorney with the right experience to be able to most effectively defend a criminal case in Los Angeles where the media is involved and it’s a high-profile case. Not only will the media be involved, but the prosecutors are going to put their best prosecutors on the case and they have unlimited resources in order to prosecute, investigate and convict a defendant of whatever it is they charged them with.

The bottom line in these high-publicity and high-profile cases is from the beginning, the defense has to get their theory together, and sometimes depending on the strategy and the totality of the circumstances, the defense will let the News media know exactly what their strategy is and what their version and what their story is.

Other times, because of the evidence and for strategic reasons, the defense will keep their defense a secret until the middle of the trial where they will most effectively spring it on the prosecution and begin to dismantle and take their case apart, piece-by-piece. I’ve done this many times in my career and there are circumstances where telling the prosecutors the defense will not work to your advantage because then they’re going to try to get witnesses to block your defense and try to muddy the waters up and make it look murkier when it comes to your story and your side of the case.

Once you hit them with it at the jury trial, it’s too late for them to do anything about it, because everything is zeroed on your theory of the case. Not just when you put on your affirmative defense when it’s the defense’s turn to put on the case in a high-profile criminal case. Also, from the beginning of the case, your theory should be twisted deep inside your opening statement, but not too much of it let out because the prosecutors are listening while you give your opening statement and a lot of times they can anticipate what your defense is going to be and then try to counter it. You don’t want this. You want to hit them with your defense before they even know what hit them and it ends up that there’s nothing they can do to stop you. I’ve done this in many cases. I’ve had prosecutors come up to me before the case starts and say hey, what is your defense going to be and I just look and smile at them and tell them, hey, you’re going to find out once the case starts. A lot of the prosecutors don’t like this, but the bottom line is you have to do everything you possibly can to help your client, especially in a high-publicity case.

What Are Some Defenses In A High-Publicity Case?

Obviously, the defenses are the same in any case, but in a high-publicity case, the jury and anybody listening to the case is going to be looking at every possible angle in the case in order to decide whether somebody is innocent or guilty. A lot of times in these real serious, high-publicity cases, the prosecutors will try to put on too much evidence and end up confusing the jury. So as far as the defense goes, yes you do want to obviously put out your defense, but you can’t go with stupid defenses that don’t make any sense because the jury is going to be turned off by that and they’re not going to find your client not guilty.

I like to keep it lean and mean. I just go with the stuff that makes sense in the totality of the circumstances and that is going to win the case. I believe in the term primacy. Meaning, I start with my strongest argument first, and then I go down from there. So, whenever I do a cross-examination in any high-publicity or high-profile case, I’m going to start with my strongest stuff. I’m not going to waste time asking stupid questions or asking irrelevant questions. I’m coming right with the strength, so every single time that I get up to speak, the jury is going to say, here he goes again, and that’s the key in a high-profile case – to make sure that when the defense attorney talks, they’re talking with authority. They’re talking common sense and they’re making the jury raise their eyebrow and say, wait a minute. I think this guy knows what he’s talking about. I respect him, and therefore, the arguments that the defense makes are going to be looked at very hard before a jury were to convict a defendant in one of these very serious cases.

During the course of the case, as you cross-examine each witness, you’re also going to want to get in your theory of the case, again, in a subtle way. It’s going to be tied up in the end in the closing argument. Again, when the prosecutors can’t call any more witnesses, can’t put on any more evidence, that’s when you’re going to seal everything up for the jury and say, see – look, I told you in the opening statement what we were going to prove. I called witnesses to prove it. I cross-examined their witnesses. Their witnesses brought out our defense therein. Then you bring back all the evidence for the jury and then you take them out in the closing argument. You remind them about the presumption of innocence – that someone is presumed innocent unless the prosecutors can prove them guilty and, in this case, they have not proven them guilty, and then you close in a powerful manner.

This is how you have to handle a high-profile case. Your theory is developed in the beginning. It’s carried all the way through your investigation into the trial and into the closing argument. If you have a high-profile or high-publicity case, come and sit down with me. We’ll go over everything and we’ll get the strategy together to make it a winning case.

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About the Author

Named Top Los Angeles Criminal Attorney by LA Times and named one of the Top 100 criminal defense attorneys in California by the National Trial Lawyers Association. I'm the attorney other lawyers hire to defend them.

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