What Is The Emotional State Of The Sex Offense Defendants You Represent?
Most clients walk a thin line between feeling terrified and believing their life is over, and righteous indignation. Some clients will say, “How dare they accuse me of raping that girl I met in the bar last night?” or, “I’ve had sex with 200 girls, I don’t need to rape someone,” or “Child pornography is disgusting,” or “I would never think of molesting my five-year-old niece.”
These types of rather strange arguments fall on the righteous indignation side of that thin line, and frankly, they can interfere with the defense. It is necessary to eliminate that righteous indignation, because it creates a barrier between the defense attorney and client, who absolutely must develop a true trust and synergy.
The most important part of the client interview is to develop that trust and synergy, to the point that there is absolutely no barrier between the client and their attorney. Righteous indignation often precludes the transmission of intimate and honest information between defendant and defense attorney.
Every client needs to understand from the very beginning that they themselves are the most important part of their own defense. A trusting, synergistic relationship must be established between the client and their attorney from the start.
Compelling Stories From The Falsely Accused
The client needs to feel like they are a human being, and the attorney needs to understand that the client has a story to tell. They want someone, anyone, to listen to them. And they need their lawyer to be that person. Anyone who has been falsely accused of committing this type of crime will have a compelling story to tell about the facts and circumstances that led to that false allegation, and the attorney needs to listen very closely to that story.
The client needs their attorney to listen to their story, because no one else will; the police just want a confession, family members will likely be too shocked and upset, and therapists are mandatory reporters. The defendant in a sexual offense case has a psychological and emotional need to talk to someone, and the defense attorney is usually the only person there to truly listen, and is the only one with whom there will be privilege and confidentiality.
The defense attorney is absolutely critical, not only because they are the only one who can listen to the defendant, but also the single most important person who needs to understand the defendant’s story.
The Best Eyewitness For The Defendant Is The Defendant Themselves
The defendant is the most critical factor in their defense, starting with the idea that they are the best eyewitness in their own case. In fact, they are usually the only eyewitness, because most sex offense allegations only involve the accuser and the accused. For this reason, the defendant is the best source of information, the best private investigator, and the best paralegal all in one. I tell every client that comma because it is the truth.
The defense attorney’s best chance at organizing a strong defense to a sex offense charge is by knowing every detail of what happened, every fact, including the where, the how, and the when, in order to attack the prosecutor’s case and counter their argument. The best chance at accomplishing all of this is through open, honest, and thorough communication with the defendant.
This is why all of my clients are actively involved in the preparation of their defense, the organization and review of the discovery, and the strategizing of the affirmative defense. This active involvement has to begin on day one of representation, and continue through to the end of the case.
The Decision To Testify In Their Own Defense
My underlying philosophy is that every case is different, and presents its own unique challenges. When it comes to healthcare fraud defense cases, complex Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act cases, and other criminal defense cases, my clients frequently do not testify. However, in a sex case, my clients almost always testify, because I think the jury needs to hear the client say that they did not commit the alleged offense. The jury expects that, because we all operate under the “There but for the grace of God, go I” element. In other words, every juror says to themselves, If I were falsely accused of this, I would take the stand and adamantly deny it.
The Importance Of Preparing The Defendant For Trial
A good defense attorney must prepare their client for trial, starting on day one when they are hired. Part of that is to start to prepare their client for the possibility of testifying in their own defense. This needs to be done at every office meeting, every interaction between the attorney and the client. It must all be seen as preparation and practice for the day the client walks into court to defend himself. In order to do that, the attorney needs to tell their client how important it is to be direct, and to answer simple questions with simple answers, rather than hem and haw or vacillate. The defendant cannot fight with or show righteous indignation to the prosecutor, and if the defense attorney notices even a hint of this, they have to nip it in the bud. The defendant should be preparing for trial months in advance. A conversation about readiness for trial should be had during the very first meeting between client and attorney.
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