10 Principles of Defending People: (#5 All Eyes are Equal & #4 Know the Enemy)

June 6, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

I’m going over to me what are the top ten principles of defending people.  To recap the list so far:

#5 All Eyes are Equal:

People don’t trust themselves or their own judgment for some reason.  Lawyers included.

Maverick trusted himself.  He hit the brakes and the MIG flew right by.  He had cunning, creativity, and self-assurance to know the maneuver would work.  The fact it hadn’t been done before didn’t bother him.

What I like about Maverick is he didn’t ask anyone’s permission.  He just trusted himself and to a lesser degree wasn’t afraid to fail.  I’m a pretty far cry from Maverick, but I hope I think like he might every now and again.

When I say all eyes are equal what I mean is if a trial theory makes sense to me then chances are it makes sense to the jurors too.  If I think the police and prosecutors are reaching then I ask myself why?  Maybe they’ve been suckered by a doe-eyed accuser in a sexual assault case…  Maybe they’re blinded by my client’s appearance or problems they’ve had in the past… or maybe they’re so trapped in their own narrative, they can’t see they’re in an echo chamber as in some domestic violence cases.

Too often, lawyers will settle into a conventional defense.  They are afraid to think outside of the box.  But by thinking inside the box, they turn themselves into fish in a barrel waiting to be speared.  Remember all eyes — including the lawyers own — are equal.  The big picture makes sense.

Don’t be afraid to tell the jury about the big picture.  Don’t be afraid of hitting the brakes so the MIG can fly right by.

#4 Know the Enemy: 

The key to knowing your opponent in my book is experience, experience, experience.

I remember how I thought as a prosecutor.  It helps me today.  I was advocating for the opposite position which is something lawyers do.  I remember my thought process in trying to prove-up a case.  I remember my areas of emphasis to the jury, the assumptions I’d make in each case, and the points of emphasis to the jurors.  I also remember how effective defense lawyers would attack my case.

Defending cases are wonderful learning experiences too.

Cross examining hundreds of police officers teaches you how to control a sophisticated witness who is often trying intentionally to personally subvert you in front of a jury.  Mountains of experience teaches you how to strike the precise blows you need to inflict with your questioning without picking losing battles, having your message bogged down, or looking like a jerk.

Experience also teaches you the prosecutor’s playbook.  Prosecutors across the state share practices and training (as do defense lawyers) so it’s not uncommon to see the same techniques and arguments in different counties.  An experienced defense lawyer needs to know what is coming and how to neutralize, spoil, or blow-up certain tactics they ought to expect are coming.  It’s no different than a football team watching tape on their upcoming opponent and figuring out how to defend against certain plays or formations.

Knowing the enemy is important — but it can’t be confused with a winning strategy.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas.

 

 

 


The 5 Most Common Police Attitudes – #4

May 12, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Today, I’m continuing my series on the 5 most common police attitudes which I see case in and case out in the many, many cases I handle as a criminal defense lawyer.  As noted before, these opinions are due to my amateur police psychology.

#4 — Undecided

Police get complaints all day every day about wrongdoing.  They also see things while they are on duty which arouse their suspicion or curiosity.

It goes without saying often times when they approach a particular problem they are undecided about the outcome going into their work.  Normally, the longer a police officer is undecided in their investigation the more objective they will be.

Being undecided about an outcome is an extremely healthy attitude for someone making big decisions about another person’s life.  It causes the officer to investigate in detail and in doing so — to test alternate hypotheses, to review both favorable and unfavorable evidence in a balanced approach, and to understand the weight of their decision.  Obviously at some point an officer is likely to move off the undecided bubble one way or the other with the more information they assess and gather.  What is important is when they are undecided — they are better able to view the evidence neutrally.

I often see police who are extremely conscientious and do their very best to make the important decisions they are charged with making.  An officer should be undecided entering into every investigation undertaken.

But the equation breaks down a bit from here.  Police would have you believe they are undecided when approaching or investigating a case 100% of the time.  My experience is it is more like 20% of the time.

In fairness to police — I usually won’t see cases they don’t file unless I’m brought into the case very early.  The 20% could easily be much higher because I don’t know how many cases are put right in their trash-cans.

What I can say is by my best guestimation of the cases I do see — probably about 80% of the time the officer has a particular preferred outcome going into their investigation of cases they do ultimately file.  This can apply to DWI arrests, sexual assaults, or even white-collar embezzlement schemes.

Police are human too.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas.

 


The Greatest Misconception About Criminal Law

May 2, 2018

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

We hear and read a lot about “activist judges” or a Judge who re-writes the law from the bench.

Judges make popular targets for groups such as politicians or insurance companies who have a vested interest in stoking the public anger.  

A surprising attitude I’ll read about or see either in the news media or on social network cites is some think Judges make things easier for people charged with crime.  They think Judges somehow “re-write the law” to help guilty people go free or to make things easier for people charged with a crime.

Sadly, if anything is true, it is the opposite.  Judges don’t like crime, they don’t like criminals, and most in Texas campaign on being tough on crime.  And if they’re being creative with the law — they are doing so IN FAVOR of law enforcement, not in favor those accused.

Consider statistics of our State courts of appeal.  They are abysmal when it comes to ruling in favor of those accused.  

Here’s a prime example: A judge who has to legally toss out a case against a sex offender lest they be reversed might look for any excuse they can to save their own skin and keep the offender on the hook.  If they do so, they’ll look to an area on which they think the court of appeals will uphold them.  If the courts of appeals back up the original judge — presto chango- Judges have found a new area to skirt an uncomfortable rule.

We have many wonderful Judges in Texas.  I’m not suggesting otherwise.  And to be fair — the laws often do put judges in extremely uncomfortable spots.  

The US Constitution is a contract between the government and the people designed to protect the people from the government.  It was written keeping in mind the masses will always put individuals in jeopardy to preserve their own safety — and that they’ll use the tools of government to do so. 

The framers knew there would be constant pressure from the people on their own government to keep the people safe even at the risk of individual’s liberty.  But the constitution is often a minimal or bare-bones protection for someone accused of something heinous.  Lawmakers, Judges, and law enforcement all too often rationalize these individuals are lucky to get even minimal protection.  But those are exactly the people who need it the most.

Next time you hear someone say a Judge re-write’s the law from the bench, think twice.  If they say it is re-written to help a criminal defendant — quit listening.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about any topic you should contact an attorney directly.


Why Don’t the Police Care About My Rights?

May 1, 2018

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

You have to remember how many police officers think.

Police often think they are the noble ones on high.  They are on “Team Good Guys.”  They protect victims from crime.  They are the ones who bravely run into dangerous situations when everyone runs out.  They stand for truth, justice and the American way.  And many of them sincerely and honestly do.

And many believe in – and completely respect your rights.  As long as they get to win in the end.

What I’m trying to say is Police and to a lesser degree prosecutors and to an even lesser degree Judges can’t turn off their human mind.  They all gravitate to what they believe the equitable or fair outcome should be in every case and they think the law should be written in a way to support THAT outcome.

Naturally, because police never consider themselves in the wrong when they make an arrest, many think the law supports (or should support) the result.

Also, to be fair to police, its not an officer’s job be the legal experts.  They are trained in what they need to know to keep the streets crime free and come home from their shift safely.  I’ve seen many cases where the police misunderstanding of the law actually helps my clients.  Police will let someone go or charge someone with a lesser crime because they’re afraid of over-stepping someone’s rights… even if they’re wrong about what those rights are.

But the bottom line is many officers view your rights as speed bumps when they think you’re guilty of something.  They re-write the laws in their own head to fit it into why another person’s right are inconsequential or haven’t been violated.

In other words, they rationalize.  They’re people just like the rest of us!

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about this or any other situation you should contact an attorney directly.

 


Are Police Going through an Investigation or Just the Arrest Process?

March 12, 2018

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

The dictionary defines “investigate” as, “To carry out a systematic or formal inquiry to discover and examine the facts of (an incident, allegation, etc.) so as to establish the truth.”

Truth, then, is the focus of an investigation.

But virtually always we see the focus of an investigation is a person — not necessarily the truth.  The assumption made by law enforcement is the person who is the focus of the investigation and the truth are one and the same thing.  In other words, many, many “investigations” are flawed from the start.  The result of the investigation is only correct where the assumption is also correct.

And it is further true when you ASSUME you make an ASS of U and ME.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an “investigation” start with a detective or police officer reaching their conclusion first.  They call a tow truck to haul off someone’s car for DWI before they even ask the driver out of the car.  They offer a complaining witness victim assistance information, sympathy, and promises of action after just moments of hearing one side.  They promise action to someone who lost their savings when they come in blaming someone else for their loss.

Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to call those police actions “the arrest process?” instead of an investigation?  It is often clear the police aren’t interested in the truth — instead they are interested in arresting the person they think is guilty from the outset.  They just know in their heart the truth without researching any of the facts.  What could go wrong doing it that way?

The arrest process looks more like a geometric proof than a search for the truth.  The police are checking to see if there is enough evidence for each and every element and if there is — then bang — case closed and the bad guy is handcuffed.  The problems is many of the facts are rose-colored to the investigator and the standard for probable cause is low.  Instead of putting pieces of a puzzle neatly together, the oddly-shaped pieces are jammed together to make the image already in the officer’s head.

The arrest process might be just fine in certain instances.  I’m sure it often yields fair results. But let’s just not call them what they’re not — investigations focused on the truth.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about this or any topic you should consult an attorney directly.