A huge question that often arises in a criminal trial is whether a Defendant should testify. So often, jurors want to hear from the Defendant. Such question is being widely spoken about today at the Palm Beach County Courthouse where Dalia Dippolito is on trial for charges of hiring a hitman to kill her husband. Ms. Dippolito, with the advice of her attorney is going to have to decide whether to take the stand.
The decision to take the stand is solely at the Defendant’s discretion. The Defendant’s lawyer can advise on this, but the final decision is up to the Defendant–even if the Defendant’s attorney does not agree.
As a Defense attorney, whether to advise your client to take the stand or not is sometimes an excruciatingly difficult decision. Everything may have gone well in the trial to that point, and then by having the Defendant testify, the Defendant may not do well and sink him or herself. On the other hand, the Defendant may do well and help win the case.
Putting your client on the stand requires that one has practiced and prepared one’s client for hours in testifying. This includes asking questions on direct examination and having the client cross-examined as if he or she were in trial facing questions from the prosecutor.
A Defendant testifying is a case by case scenario. Some Defendants are better public speakers. Some do not have a criminal record. The decision to testify is based on the overall trial and all of the characteristics of the Defendant. We shall see if Dalia Dippolito takes the stand in her murder for hire trial.