NOT GUILTY: The two favorite words for a defense attorney to hear and the ONLY words a client wants to hear.

In reflecting back on my trial last week, there is something that has really stuck with me. In the last three trials I’ve had where I believed it was critical to the case for the client/defendant to testify, the two where the client testified were not guilty verdicts and the one where the client did not testify was a conviction.

There is an idea that most defense attorneys have that we should absolutely avoid putting our client on the stand to testify. While there are certain situations where a client really cannot testify, I think we should reconsider. It was very clear in speaking with that jury panel last week that they really wanted and needed to hear from the client. We were in a position after the close of the state’s evidence to consider not having the client testify. However, I felt that there would be unanswered questions in the juror’s minds and that the client needed to testify. As it turned out, in speaking to the jurors after trial, the client’s testimony WAS critical to their deliberations. It certainly was probably critical to a jury instruction we received on “accident” which was the basis for our defense.

So regardless of our constitutional “right to remain silent,” the truth of the matter is that jurors want to hear both sides and they really want to hear it from the person who stands accused.