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Hedding Law Firm

Los Angeles Jury Trial Criminal Attorney


How To Win Your Jury Trial In One Of The Los Angeles Courts?

Over the last twenty-five years, I’ve done many jury trials – probably approaching two hundred. Believe it or not, there’s a very short list of attorneys in criminal defense in my experience that have actually done jury trials. A lot of attorneys sure just kind deal attorneys and don’t do a lot of jury trials and are just going in on cases trying to work out a deal for their client. Now that, of course, does have some benefit because probably the majority of cases that are filed are filed because the prosecutors have good evidence against the defendants and they should be resolved by way of a negotiation and a plea deal.

However, not doing jury trials and not having familiarity with jury trials or having success and skill to do a jury trial is a huge weakness for a criminal defense attorney. The problem is, if you do get a case where a trial is necessary, you’re unable to do it. I have clients calling me all the time saying, I got this attorney, we did the preliminary hearing on the case and now he’s saying he can’t do the jury trial. What kind of an attorney is that? In other words, the attorney has to have all the skills necessary to represent a client in the best possible way, so you’ve got to make sure that your attorney has the ability to do a jury trial and has a track record of success.

Another good point about jury trials is that even if the case shouldn’t be tried to a jury, there could be some issues in the case, and if you can point those issues out as a defense attorney to the prosecutors, these LA prosecutors will listen to you. That’s one of the factors they evaluate in offering a deal. Are there any triable issues? In other words, if a case was taken to trial, could we possibly lose? If they think they have a chance to lose, they’re going to factor that in when they decide what the offer is going to be. I point out all the time to prosecutors – listen, you’ve got some problems here. You’re not going to prove certain things because there are weaknesses in your case. There are witnesses who have said conflicting things. There are people who have an incentive to lie or have a bias towards a defendant. There are all sorts of different angles when it comes to a jury trial in Los Angeles in trying to win the case. Sometimes a win is convincing the prosecutor to give the client a lesser charge and keep him out of jail. Sometimes a win is fighting the case in front of a jury and getting a not-guilty verdict, and sometimes it’s somewhere in between that. You have to get an attorney who can do it all and who has the wisdom to help you make the right decision and educate you on how your criminal defense case should be handled.

What Are The Mechanics Of A Jury Trial That Play Into Winning In Los Angeles County?

When you go into the jury trial, one of the first things you’re going to do is pick a jury. So, you are going to want to have an attorney who is familiar with this. When I’m asking the jurors questions, one of the first questions I ask them is – hey, when you came in here today and you saw my client sitting next to me, I assumed you realized he was charged with a crime. Did you immediately think to yourself, this guy must be guilty if they’re charging him? Believe it or not, a lot of the jurors raise their hand even though they are instructed that there’s a presumption of innocence and they should assume the person is not guilty. That right there begins the process of trying to win the case. That’s a teachable moment for the jurors to say to them, hey listen, we have a system here and this is how the system works. How would you like it if you were in trouble or one of your family members or friends was in trouble and they had a juror on the case who already thought they were guilty before they even heard any of the evidence? Of course, nobody would want that. That’s not fair. So, that’s the beginning of the education process of the jurors and that’s the beginning of getting jurors that will be sympathetic towards our client’s case and will listen and be fair when it comes to your argument, in the end, to try to get your client acquitted.

Another big thing in jury trials is an attorney that can effectively cross-exam the prosecutor’s witnesses. Because the prosecutor has the burden in a jury trial, they’re going to have to put on their evidence first. As they put on each piece of evidence through their witnesses, the defense attorney gets an opportunity to cross-exam those witnesses and being able to impeach them – show that they’re not telling the truth, get their client’s version of events across to the jury – is imperative if you are going to have any chance to win a jury trial. As a defense attorney in a jury trial, if you can attack the prosecution’s evidence sufficiently to make their witnesses not credible, you’re now in a position in the closing argument to destroy their case and say to the jury – listen, how could you possibly find a guy guilty based on the evidence that the prosecutors have presented, based on witnesses who are not credible, who are not telling the truth, or are giving inconsistent and conflicting information? So, cross-examination is huge in a jury trial in Los Angeles County.

Also, the ability to argue is huge. The arguments start with the opening statement. The opening statement of the defense tells the theory of their case. They let the jury know – hey, this is what we think happened here and this is what we’re going to show you through the evidence. We don’t have any burden, but we still have a position and we’re going to show you, and then in the end after all is said and done, you’ve got to be able to close it up in the closing argument and make the argument in front of the jury that your client is innocent and refer back to the opening statement. Say, I told you we were going to prove this, and look we did. Then you go to the prosecution’s evidence and you attack and say listen, this is what they presented, this is what they had to present to win and they didn’t present it. They are relying on this witness or that witness, and that witness’ credibility is not good and therefore, there’s no way you can find the client guilty.

So, in the end, there’s a lot of different parts and a lot of different strategies when it comes to a jury trial. There are not that many attorneys that have jury trial experience. So, when you sit down with your attorney, you better make sure that they’ve got jury trial experience, they know how to fight a case, they know how to win a case, and really get a sense from that attorney when you sit down with him face-to-face, eye-ball to eye-ball, that they know what they are doing and they are the person you would want representing you in front of the prosecutor, the judge and even a jury, if necessary.

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Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

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