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Trial fearlessness and excellence is essential for criminal defense

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Trial fearlessness and skill are vital for criminal defense, says Fairfax criminal lawyer

Trial fearlessness and skill are critical for all criminal defense lawyers, unless they limit their work to appeals and otherwise do not appear in court. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, this truism is such second nature to me that I was surprised when a prosecutor recently volunteered in front of me that one or more of the newer prosecutors in his office are trepidatious about going to trial, let alone that this prosecutor would have even admitted this in the first place. My initial response was that I thought one of the very reasons that people become prosecutors is to obtain trial experience. Public defenders (which is how I started my criminal defense career, for five years) and prosecutors tend to be the lawyers who get the most and best trial experience. The advantage of doing criminal defense versus prosecutorial work is about the mindset and panning for and exploiting the gold that is part of the essence of criminal defense.

Does my potential Virginia criminal defense lawyer have essential skill and trial fearlessness?

Among the legitimate questions to ask a Virginia criminal defense lawyer whom you are considering hiring is his or her trial fearlessness, experience, and ability. Just as a person thinks twice before getting major surgery from a neophyte surgeon, a Virginia criminal defendant should know about his or her lawyer’s trial experience and ability. Yes, many criminal and other litigation cases settle without a trial. At the same time, fear or unpreparedness for trial should never guide a criminal defense lawyer’s motivations for nor approach to advising his or her client about how to proceed with plea and other settlement negotiations. To do otherwise would also contravene a lawyer’s attorney ethics obligations.

Is great trial performance about slickness or great results?

The title of this article is trial fearlessness AND excellence. Add killer instincts to boot. Fearlessness by itself is not sufficient for a Virginia criminal defense lawyer. Sometimes fearlessness comes from not knowing the landmines that are around the corner that should be known. The great criminal defense lawyer knows or senses many or most of those landmines. The type of fearlessness that makes one a better trial lawyer is the samurai in-the-moment unflinching kind of fearlessness that will effectively, powerfully and skillfully face any necessary challenge. Slickness has no part in this, as results are what matter.

What type of fearlessness is needed for excellence in Virginia criminal trial defense?

The HagakureBook of the Samurai, excellently sums up the best trial fearlessness for a criminal defense lawyer, which is fearlessness of death  — fighting in the moment — and here being willing to face possible failure as the only way to achieve victory: One of the shogun’s personal guards sought swordplay training from the great Yagyu Tajima no kami Munenori. The guard at first denied being a sword master himself, until Tajima no kami finally coaxed from him that he had long ago shed his fearlessness of death. The swordmaster responded that the “ultimate secrets of swordsmanship also lie in being released from the thought of death… You need no technical training; you already are a master.” Zen and Japanese Culture (Daisetz T. Suzuki). 

How can fear be used to the criminal defense advantage?

Even for the best criminal defense lawyer, fear can still rear its ugly head. For trial fearlessness, that is the time to embrace and know the fear and to send it on its way, which is akin to the move of the t’ai chi ch’uan martial art that I practice, called embrace tiger- return the tiger to the mountain. Without coming face-to-face with and resolving our fears, they will never go away.

Does trial excellence come at the snap of the criminal defense lawyer’s fingers?

Trial excellence and trial fearlessness come from sweat equity, full preparation, fully throwing oneself into the trial and the client’s cause, and finding and presenting the client’s and case’s story that will obtain acquittal. This does not come without investing substantial time and even experiencing pain, because for the lawyer to fully understand and present the client’s plight, the lawyer must dig into his or her own relevant experiences, which is sometimes bound to include painful happenings from the past, even unresolved pain and trauma that the lawyer carries with him or her, sometimes just below the surface.

Can a criminal defense lawyer expose himself to pain on the trial success path without the support of others?

I am blessed not to be alone on this criminal trial fearlessness success path. Early in my criminal defense career, I attended the premier two-week National Criminal Defense College of the Trial Practice Institute (also known as “Macon“), and the four-week Trial Lawyers College when in its early stage. These two programs were the seeds for a lifetime finding and developing of my personal magic to obtain justice for my clients, with numerous of my Trial Lawyers College alums only a phone call away to work through some of the most challenging aspects of our cases. On top of that are such great trial consultants and teachers as Don Clarkson, a psychodramatist and psychological therapist whom several of my clients have hired on my recommendation, to catapult their trial testimony to more persuasive heights, while helping me and my client bond even closer as a team on this path to acquittal.

What about preparation, knowledge, experience, and sweat equity for obtaining great criminal defense trial results?

All of the above factors plus trial fearlessness are essential for excellent criminal defense trial performance. Great trial work is chess play, never checkers. There is no resting on the laurels of prior victories, but always continual striving for becoming better at each trial, and  for winning. The criminal defense lawyer who thirsts for a revels in victory for his accused client has that needed oomph to go the extra mile in pursuing victory for his client.

Why do I need a great trial lawyer if I have resolved to plead guilty?

Why have you resolved to plead guilty? First, find and work with a lawyer who will pursue avenues for winning. and who will give you a frank assessment of your prospects for victory, risks of failure, and what the defense team needs to do in terms of witnesses, preparation and expenses to obtain as much justice as possible. Even if you have resolved to plead guilty, the prosecutor might have other things in mind that will not achieve the plea deal you want. Always negotiate your criminal case from a trial-ready position of strength. Make sure your lawyer has trial fearlessness and excellence so that you will not get caught with your pants down if you have to go to trial, and your chances of success at trial are thereby enhanced. Moreover, sometimes favorable plea deals only come during the trial itself. Most importantly, make sure that you and your lawyer are fighting like hell and like you have never fought before.

Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan Katz has successfully defended thousands of people accused of DUI, felony and misdemeanor offenses, and has taken hundreds of cases to trial before juries and judges. Find out the great defensive difference that Jon Katz can make for your case by sitting down with him for a free consultation about how to assess and catapult your defense towards as much victory as possible. Call 703-383-1100 to schedule a meeting with Jon.