10 Principles of Defending People: #6 Investigate

June 5, 2018

By Collin County Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Here are the previous articles I’ve written about principles of defending people in this series:

Investigation is critically important in criminal defense and in many ways it is one of the central reasons we’ve been hired.  The chief sustained complaint for ineffective assistance of counsel claims is failure to investigate.

In sum, I’ll use a quote again I just used the other day… “the harder I work, the luckier I get.”  This is squarely the truth in investigating a case.

 

What Constitutes a Thorough Investigation?

It obviously depends on the case.  Not every case is capital murder.  The list of what needs to be done to investigate in some cases can be endless.  Examples of research needing to be done includes (but certainly isn’t limited to):

  • Thorough interviews of witnesses (including your own client);
  • Reviewing the background of witnesses (including your own client) such as criminal history, lack of criminal history, mental health issues, or even school records;
  • visiting the scene of the accusation;
  • inspecting physical evidence in possession of the police;
  • independent lab analysis or confidential re-testing of certain evidence;
  • Hiring an expert witness to assist with complex issues;
  • Reviewing public documents such as previous court records;
  • Investigating cellular data and social media such as text messages, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, etc.;

Pursuing a Theory

A major difference between a Defense investigation and a police investigation is the theories we pursue.  A Defense investigation shouldn’t be scatter-shot.  It needs to be focused towards a particular theory or theories in a particular case.  Police investigations tend to have theories too… but their theory is almost always that Defendant is guilty.

Why Don’t Some Lawyers Investigate?

There are multiple reasons.  First, is lawyers didn’t go to investigation school, they went to law school.  An investigation is something most lawyers learn by doing which might suck for you if you’ve hired one that’s still learning.

Second, many lawyers are afraid of what they’ll find.  They buy in to their client’s guilt and are worried if they dig up bad facts for their client then they’ll end up making the situation worse for their client.

Final reasons might include their lawyer is too busy, not resourceful enough, or tragically are indifferent.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law and is licensed by the State Bar of Texas.

 


10 Principles of Defending People: #10 — You Can’t Be Judgmental

May 30, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

The next few blogs I write will be about what I think it takes to be a successful criminal defense lawyer.  They are traits I hope my clients find in me.

10.  You Can’t be Judgmental

Being judgmental is for everyone else except your lawyer.  This is Square one.  If you can’t get past this then you don’t have much business defending people in my book.  Carrying judgmental thoughts about your client is excess junk we don’t need cluttering our brains while doing the complex task of practicing law.

Understand two things about my job.  First is I don’t know whether my client is really guilty or innocent.  The only way I’d know for certain is if I witnessed things myself — in which case the rules wouldn’t allow me to represent the person anyway.  Second, is beyond helping a person — our role has a far greater good and purpose… but that is a different topic altogether.  You can read about it here or here.

My impression is by the time a person gets to my office, they feel judged by their parents, spouse, children, neighbors, extended family, co-workers, and strangers they see pushing  shopping carts in the dairy section of the super market.  They don’t need it from me too.

Some lawyers simply can’t clear this hurdle.  Its too hard for them.  What they don’t realize is removing judgment from the equation is the first step towards really understanding their client.

Being judgmental causes lawyers to presume guilt and not innocence which is an extremely dangerous mind-set.  Presuming guilt causes a toxic and circular thought process which invariably results in the lawyer dumping the case — and the client — as quickly as they can.

Many people — not just lawyers — feel if someone “gets away” with something the sun will somehow not rise the next morning.  We hate injustice and we hate thinking about it in these terms, but the Earth will still turn on its axis if a guilty person doesn’t get convicted of Drug Possession, DWI, or even murder.

It is somewhat liberating to know how imperfect the world really is when you really reflect.

And oh, by the way… someone who is unsuccessfully prosecuted occasionally gets to enjoy indefinite sleepless nights, permanent damaged relationships such as divorce, and lost employment and opportunity.  They might also enjoy fear of financial ruin, actual financial ruin, or even their name permanently smeared in the newspaper.  Not that any of this should count as punishment.

A person who comes in and says they didn’t commit the crime deserves their version to be thoroughly investigated.  A person who comes in and says they made a terrible mistake deserves having us make every effort they are really understood by prosecutors, a judge or a jury.  I can’t see where my independent opinion of this person or what they might have done fits into any of this?

A good lawyer needs to clear their mind of the excess junk so they can fight for liberty, more accountable government, and to help a person who needs a voice.

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

 

 

 

 


Aggressive Criminal Defense Lawyer

March 6, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

My name is Jeremy Rosenthal.  I eat nails.  I crawl on broken glass.  When I’m not screaming at prosecutors or judges for my clients, I’m having a 30 Lb. medicine ball slammed into my abdomen like Rocky Balboa training to take on the planet.

Not really.

I suspect all lawyers – let alone defense lawyers – are regularly asked by prospective clients if they are “aggressive,” “tough,” or if they are “a fighter?”

Truthfully, I’m not the best person to answer the question.  I’d say go ask some prosecutors how fun I am in trial.  I’ve been at this long enough to be pretty sure I’m not the path of least resistance for them — but again — this is for them to answer.

I’d like to make two points in this blog.  The first is the question itself assumes being aggressive is the right approach in any given case.  Second, is being an aggressive, tough fighter isn’t mutually exclusive with other skills which make an excellent lawyer.

It would be interesting to be asked if I was “thorough,” “meticulous,” and “calculated…”  Just once I’d like to be asked if I was “sensitive,” “encouraging,” and “thoughtful.”  Maybe today someone will try to see if I am “charismatic,” “clever,” and “crafty.”

It takes all these skills — and more — on many cases.  There is a right time to turn up the aggressiveness and toughness.  There is a right time to be calculated,  a right time to be sensitive, and a right time to be charismatic (to the extent I can turn that one on and off).

Ultimately a person needs to choose a lawyer which makes them feel comfortable.

But your lawyer needs to have a complete game.  They need to be a Swiss Army Knife of skills because each case is it’s own snowflake.  There are cases where I’ve made courthouse enemies for decades and there are cases where we need to pay attention to the carpenter’s rule – measure twice and cut once.  Sometimes both are appropriate given the case.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is a lawyer licensed by the State Bar of Texas and is Board Certified in Criminal Law.

 

 


“My Lawyer Changed His Tune”

October 28, 2016

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

My favorite thing to be able to do in my practice is give great news and if I can’t do that — then at least folks can leave my office with hope and optimism.  Giving great news, giving people hope and a reason to feel optimistic has to be honest, realistic or based in fact or it’s destructive.

I hear “my last lawyer changed his tune” a lot when I talk with people who either are getting a second opinion about their case or from someone (or their family) who had a bad experience in the legal system.

They tell me their lawyer was really excited at the onset of their case about the prospects for getting a case dismissed, acquitted or charges reduced.  At some point later, the lawyer’s attitude and demeanor seemed to change and all the news turns bad.  Instead of gallantly fighting — the lawyer is insisting the client plead guilty.

I’m always disappointed to hear this and it does make me reflect a bit about what really went on.  I do my best to understand not only from the client’s side but also the lawyer’s side.

Here are some of the reasons this is a recurring problem in my view:

The Lawyer is Afraid of the Courtroom or is Risk Averse

Some lawyers are simply intimidated by the prosecution, by juries, or even by certain judges.  They give you a very rosy outlook in the comfortable confines of their conference room, but when the lights get bright or when the prosecutor begins to gnash their teeth —  they wilt.

Other lawyers are afraid of risks.  Trial is to lawyers what surgery is to doctors.  Some always err on the side of playing it safe.

Risk is a part of the practice of law, in my view.  Often my clients are less risk averse than I am and other times they want to take risks I try to talk them out of!  There are times when a lawyer has to firmly let the client know the risk must be taken.  Some lawyers can’t do that.

The Lawyer is Inexperienced

Inexperienced lawyers make a handful of mistakes.  First, they fail to see the downside to a case when it walks in the door.  When they hear the facts of what happen — they often see great issues but their lack of experience may fail to see how certain issues tend to collapse or be more difficult to handle than they originally thought.  They also lack the experience to foresee other developments which might change their outlook on the case.

Some lawyers really do get excited about your case but their mis-evaluation of it causes them to change course which is difficult to understand and can be confounding to the client.

The Lawyer Fails to Set Proper Expectations

Some lawyers do see the pitfalls in your case but over-promise in hopes of getting business.  This invariably backfires because when the case does become difficult, the lawyer is forced to retreat from their earlier optimism without any real reason.

The experienced lawyer knows hard truths up front equal a satisfied client at the end of the case.  My hope is my client understands that I’ll fight as hard as I can for them regardless of whether my outlook is rosy or bleak at the onset.

 

Sometimes the Case Really Does Change for the Worse

Every case is it’s own snowflake… unique and distinguishable from anything and everything else.  The more and more cases I handle, the less unpredictable developments happen.  But unpredictable developments do happen even in the most common types of cases.  New and unforeseen facts can arise about an existing case or things unknown to me about my client’s past can crop up and present a bigger hurdle than originally considered, or sometimes just a change in prosecutor can throw things for a loop.

What Your Lawyer Should Have Done…

Lawyers can avoid “changing tune” in the middle of the case by setting a realistic tone from the outset.  This is a function of experience of knowing the variables to come in the case and how they typically break, having the discipline to “tell it like it is” to the client up front and temper optimism with appropriate caution, and to show the proper follow-through with risk associated with the case.

I hope this helps anyone in this predicament understand.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is licensed to practice in the State of Texas and is Board Certified in Criminal Law.  Nothing in this article is legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation you should contact an attorney directly.

 

 


Scientific Evidence of False Memories

July 26, 2013

By Collin County Criminal Defense Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal

www.thecollincountylawyer.com

(972) 369-0577

The New York Times published this article talking about how scientists have been able to create false memories in mice.

Eyewitness testimony has been extremely problematic in criminal cases.  Not only are human’s imperfect in their ability to recollect specific facts and incidents — the problem is compounded because people can convey their poor recollections in a persuasive manner.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation, you should contact an attorney directly.