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When is an Exhibit Sticker More Than an Exhibit Sticker?

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An exhibit sticker can do much more than identify an exhibit for the record. It can actually be used as an organizational tool to aid the jury in understanding what the exhibits are being used to prove, as well as, better understand your case and how it is being put together. When I was a federal prosecutor I handled a number of “complex” fraud cases and had to come up with my own system for tracking my evidence and proof for each count of the indictment and the various overt acts of the conspiracy count.

I used my indictment as a narrative tool to help the jury follow my evidence and cross-reference which exhibit helped prove which count and corresponded with the various overt acts in my conspiracy count. My conspiracy count was organized like a short story with each event (overt act) referenced on the exhibit sticker along with any separate substantive count for other the crimes separately charged.

For example, Exhibit 44 – OA (d) – CT 15 would tell the jury that the Exhibit 44 was being used to prove overt act (d) of the conspiracy count and Count 15 of the indictment. I would also annotate my copy of the indictment’s substantive counts. At the bottoms of each count on my copy of the indictment, I would list the witnesses that authenticated the exhibits, provided forensic testimony, or other supporting evidence as well as list the corresponding overt act of the conspiracy count. This allowed the jurors and court to easily follow my proof at trial. It also permitted me to easily address any motion for a directed verdict by specifically identifying the witnesses and evidence that proved each count.

By keying the overt act to the exhibit, the jury could easily move through the proof and see that I had established each count. The jurors had no trouble following my story. I numbered the exhibits in chronological order to fall in line with my overt acts. I numbered my counts chronologically as well. The jury could take the exhibits delivered to them by the bailiff which were submitted to them in numerical order and work through the indictment with little confusion. This would lead to rapid verdicts on very complicated cases. This also built up trust between the jurors and myself. They knew I cared about them and wanted to make their job as easy and efficient as possible. This system avoided confusion in the jury room. Using this numbering system with my organizational system discussed in my earlier post entitled: “How to Stay Organized During Trial” allowed me to gain control of the courtroom and the trust of the jury and judge.

One caveat, I would make sure you explain the system both in opening and closing, and ask the jurors to pay special attention. Invariably, jurors assume someone else will be taking down notes and fail to focus on your explanation. I learned this lesson the hard way when the only note taker on the jury was removed prior to deliberations and no one else had paid close attention to my explanation. The jurors sent a note to the judge asking for me to explain the numbering system again. The judge refused to honor the jurors’ request. Eventually, they figured out the system and made short work of the case.

Why the Adversary System? Is it the best?

Why the adversary system? Should we be filled pride or skepticism about its use? The adversary system is under appreciated and its value is misunderstood by the public. As a result, it is often held in low regard. When each side is equally represented and  heard, it more often than not results in accurate assessments and outcomes. Then why the skepticism? Misinformation and propaganda by the wealthy and big business suggest that there are all kinds of crazy verdicts against the rich. No one hears when some poor person or working class citizen loses. There voice is not heard. There are very few places in this world where a handy man and a multi-millionaire can square off and be heard by everyday people to resolve their dispute. Absent the contingent fee contract such justice would be impossible for citizens. Corporations, doctors and insurance companies are financially able to hire big law firms and pay $500 plus per hour for an army of attorneys from a politically connected firm to carry their cause. There is no true equalizer in the criminal realm beyond our constitutional rights which many view as mere technicalities. Honestly who could compete against a government which has unlimited funds in a criminal trial. The government has well-trained investigators, experts and attorneys to pursue their position. If they want you badly enough it would be very hard to prevail without the adversary system and its many protections that try to balance the scales of justice. At the end of the day an innocent man’s best hope is to be physically free, but financially drained with a cloud hanging over his personal reputation.
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The Trial Notebook: Being Prepared for “Unexpected” Legal Issues During Trial

During the course of a trial have you ever had an ” unexpected” legal issues arise and say, I know there is a case or rule out there on point, but I just cannot remember it? The best way to prepare for such issues is to keep a trial notebook.

20111004-081849.jpg What is a trial notebook you may ask? Well my trial notebook represents twenty plus years of knowledge I have gained from my research, review of advance sheets, jury selection issues, trial procedure and evidentiary issues. I keep a three-ring binder with lettered tabs from A to Z. I use re-enforced three-ring paper and make notes on matters I come across which might arise during a trial and then file them under the right heading and index it under the proper lettered tab. Below is an example of such a note I have listed alphabetically under “P” in my trial notebook:

Privilege – Work Product – I.D. of Witness Statements

An interrogatory invades the thought processes of counsel, and tends to reveal the detailed pattern of investigation conducted by the counsel by asking for the names and addresses of all persons interviewed by counsel. It has been held that such information is protected by the work product privilege and T.R. 26. See generally, United States v. Renault,Inc. (1960), S.D.N.Y. 26 F.R.D. 23. Massachusetts v. First National Supermarkets, Inc. (1986) D. Mass., 112 F.R.D. 149, 152-153.

I especially concentrate on areas involving discovery issues, jury selection, evidentiary foundations, privilege, hearsay, relevancy, authentication, jury instructions, motion in limine topics, procedural issues and motions for directed verdict as these issues can arise during the course of a trial with little or no time for research. A judge will be duly impressed with your ability to rapidly address such issues. Start today and begin keeping your trial notebook. It will make you a better advocate and attorney. Before you know it you will be able to cite actual authority for your legal position at a moment’s notice.
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