If you have been charged with a felony/serious misdemeanor and you want to proceed with a jury trial, you should be aware that the prosecutor will take the inculpatory (incriminating) evidence gathered and spin a version of events that incriminates you. When your defense receives this information before trial you will need to present an alternate scenario that puts the prosecutor's assertions in doubt. There are three basic ways to do this.
Challenging the Facts
The first way is the most obvious: you present convincing exculpatory evidence (evidence that proves your innocence) to dispute the story that the prosecutor is weaving. If the police have come up with some evidence that leans towards proving your innocence, the prosecution is required by law to turn it over to your attorney.
If you were not at the scene of the crime, then you will need to strengthen your alibi by using witness testimony or show evidence that corroborates this. If you have both, this will be much stronger than witness testimony alone. The strongest witness testimony comes from people who have no vested interest in the outcome of the case, and by people who have a clean criminal history. Evidence could include:
- a store/public transportation/cinema/sports event receipt with the time stamped on it,
- a credit card slip, or
- a business/traffic cam video.
If the prosecution has witnesses who have identified you as being there and committing the crime, your defense may include challenging the techniques the police used to get this evidence. For example, they may have tainted this process by using subconscious cues, presenting a photo array and telling the witnesses that the perpetrator is definitely in one of the pictures, or in some other way.
Showing Mitigating Circumstances
If you were there but you did not intend to commit a crime, then your defense would be to take the facts and show that there were alternate reasons for why you were there, or for what you did and why you did it. For instance, you made an anonymous call to the police that a crime was about to be committed, but you couldn't avoid being with the people who were perpetrating the crime.
It could be that you did all of the things that the prosecutor is claiming you did, but you had a completely different motive than what is being spun by them. For instance they may say you killed someone in malice or for monetary gain, but you actually did it in self defense.
Your defense strategy would be to bring up any evidence that you can find to show that this was a more likely reason for what transpired, such as the victim's propensity for violence or physical evidence that you were being assaulted. It would also show that you did not use more force than what was required to stop an attack, and that you could not escape the situation.
Disputing the Severity of the Charges
A final strategy to agree with the facts as they stand but to present evidence that you are being over-charged and that you do not deserve the consequences that come with the more serious charges.
An instance of this would be if you had dogs that mauled someone to death. You could be charged with voluntary manslaughter which would indicate intent to harm, but a more fitting charge would be involuntary manslaughter that might indicate you were responsible to a lesser degree for carelessness or a certain amount of recklessness.
You would need to convince the court that you did not realize that the dogs were capable of this at the time of the attack and that you had no malice towards the victim.
Remember, you do not have to prove 100% that what you say is the correct version, but you do need to create reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury that you either committed the crime, or that you committed the deed with criminal intent. In all these situations, you will need the services of an attorney who is well-versed in the laws of criminal offenses and their applicability to your situation, and will help you develop a successful defense strategy to deal with the facts.
To learn more, contact a law firm like Butts, Schneider & Butts LLP.