I thought it would be a good idea to have a blog devoted to the actual defense of criminal cases. Much of the work we do takes place outside the courtroom, and even away from our own clients. And the majority of criminal cases never result in a trial. So if this blog is intended to cover those cases that are going to end up being plea bargained, why the name TrialPrep, rather than "Defending a Criminal Case" or some other more encompassing name? I thought about that, and it is my belief that we should approach most of our cases, at least initially, with the idea that the case will be tried. I recognize that sometimes our own clients tell us right off the bat that they just want a good deal, etc., but since we cannot guarantee "good deals" or particular outcomes to our clients, then we should always keep the idea of trial open, and prepare accordingly. Moreover, to the extent one engages in many aspects of trial preparation (in a broad sense) one also has a better grasp of the facts of the case, and more information to work with as far as plea bargaining is concerned. One gets to know the strengths and weaknesses in the government's case and can use this to get that "good deal" the client wants. Moreover, if no deal satisfactory to the client materializes, or if your client simply changes his mind and decides to go to trial, you avoid finding yourself in a situation in which you all of a sudden have to start hussling to prepare for that trial you never expected to be at. There is always plenty of last minute work to do even for cases in which you have diligently prepared for trial, and you simply do not need to add to it unnecessarily. You will have enough work cut out for you reviewing last minute Jencks material, comparing it to previously disclosed evidence, getting an investigator to look into anything knew arising from those documents that may need further investigation, etc.
The difference in the support personnel for a sole practitioner and an attorney at a larger firm can make the role of a sole practitioner that of a one man band, requiring much more organization in order to get things done.
Different attorneys approach trial preparation in various ways. It is my hope that we can get as diversified an input from defense attorneys about the various matters they do in preparing for trial, as well as their particular approaches. Of course, different cases require different approaches, and we will try to discuss that here as well.
Trial preparation continues throughout trial. I don't know how many times I have found myself getting out of court, driving home, and working late into the night (or even working practically all night) just to get something ready for the following day. At times it is research and drafting motions and legal memoranda (perhaps based on some objection raised at trial on which the Court asked me or both parties to make a written submission). Other times it is review of the daily copy of a transcript (received via e-mail perhaps at 10:00 p.m.), and marking it for use the following day in cross-examining a witness. I have also returned home from a day of trial only to find that the Government has filed a motion at 8:30 p.m. (thanks to the advent of ECF) which requires my submitting an immediate response so the Court will have it the following morning.
You have to prepare to argue various motions, including your Fed.R.Crim.P. Rule 29 motion for judgment of acquittal, and you also have to prepare any additional jury instructions you find are needed, not to mention preparing for your closing arguments.
There are differences in trying a case on your own and being in a multi-defendant case. We will also discuss those here.
Although I have not mentioned it, there is also the matter of the use of technology prior to and during trial. Are you going to be making a PowerPoint presentation? Will you be using presentation software such as TrialDirector? And of course, there is the use of programs such as CaseSoft's CaseMap, TimeMap, etc. that can assist you greatly in organizing your case for trial. We will discuss some of those aspects here, but it is obvious that whatever you intend to do in these areas, requires plenty of pretrial preparation, and cannot be left to the last minute.
Okay, enough for now! It is my hope that you will find this site useful for your cases and that you will contribute your own views and ideas, be it via the comments to the posts, or by emailing them to PRACDL.