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A Great Debate

All the talk of debates over the past few weeks has got me thinking about debates that go on in courtrooms all over America every day. Just as the presidential debates bring to light issues that will potentially affect millions of people collectively, the outcome of courtroom arguments affects the lives of millions of people individually.

Sometimes it’s difficult to follow what’s happening in a court of law during a criminal trial so let’s break it down to make it more digestible. There are two things a prosecutor must establish when bringing a case to a jury. First, the State must establish the facts of the case. This is the “who did what to whom, where they did it, how they did it and when they did it” part of the case. The word “fact” by its very definition means something that is true, something real and beyond dispute. But like everything else in the world of lawyers, it’s just not that simple. For example, if one eye witness saw a man running from the scene wearing a black hat, and the other eye witness, equally credible, saw a man running from the scene wearing a white hat, well, which is it? The fact is, a fact can’t be established. So establishing facts can be really challenging and it’s up to the jury to decide which witnesses to believe and which ones to doubt.

The second thing the prosecutor must establish is that there has been a violation of the law. The state has to prove that what the defendant did was illegal. This may seem pretty easy in the case of something as dramatic as murder. If you murder someone, well, that’s illegal, right?
Not so fast. Again, the world of lawyers is a world onto itself. What if you murdered someone who broke into your home? Is that illegal? No, but now we are back to the facts of the case. Did the person actually break in or not? And the way the statutes are written it is possible that when you broke the law, you broke more than one. That’s because if you are thinking about burglarizing a home, and then actually do it, that’s two broken laws: one for conspiracy and one for burglary. Oy vey!

Savvy defense lawyers know how to talk to a jury to make sure there is some doubt somewhere. The defense attorney does not have to prove you are innocent; he only has to make sure the state proves you are guilty. But if the defense attorney can plant even a mustard seed of doubt in the jury’s mind, he’s won. We saw this in the Casey Anthony trial. Yeah, the public thought she was guilty, but the jury? Well, the jury had an inkling of a doubt and that’s all it takes.

They say a person who represents himself in a court proceeding has a fool for a lawyer. Don’t be a fool, get a lawyer who debates often and well. Call Richard Tendler for more information on how the law works and how he can make it work in your favor.

The word “fact” by its very definition means something that is true, something real and beyond dispute. But like everything else in the world of lawyers, it’s just not that simple.

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