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Trial skills are essential for the defense, says Fairfax criminal lawyer

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Trial skills addressed by Fairfax criminal lawyer- Image of jousters

Trial skills and experience are an essential part of a criminal defense lawyers’ toolkit, says Fairfax criminal defense lawyer

Trial skills are essential for all criminal defense lawyers, and are only learned and refined best through doing actual trials. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I am fortunate to have taken hundreds of cases to trial, refining my persuasive abilities all the more with each case that proceeds to court. No matter how great a lawyer gets in his or her trial ability, new achievable quantum levels of excellence are always ahead.

If I want to negotiate a plea in my Virginia criminal case, why does my lawyer need to be skilled with trial defense?

Plenty of Virginia criminal defendants are anxious to negotiate guilty pleas in their cases. While I can understand at the head level how plea negotiations are about realpolitik, I have always loved going to trial, and trial skills are essential for that. Prosecutors and judges know this. Negotiating is more powerful when backed up by powerful threat, whether that threat be being trial ready in a criminal case, walking off the car dealer’s lot if the salesperson rejects the customer’s offer, or inking a peace treaty.

What if you do not achieve the plea negotiation you want? If your Virginia criminal defense lawyer is trial ready with trial skills, you have the opportunity to succeed at trial. If your lawyer is not ready for trial, hopefully you can get a trial date continuance to assure you have a lawyer who is trial ready. Never go to the courthouse battlefield without being fully ready for combat. No criminal defendant wants to be caught with his or her pants down in court.

An accomplished Virginia criminal lawyer takes essential control

The late jazz musician Miles Davis said the first indication to him of how good was a musician was to watch how the player picks up his instrument. The instrument needs to be an extension of a great musician and integrated into his being, just like a great swordsman treats his weapon as an extension of himself. Similarly, I integrate the law and my trial skills into my battle for my clients, and make every square centimeter of the courtroom and courthouse my home court, whether I have been in that courthouse hundreds of times, like in Fairfax, or only a few times, far from Northern Virginia.

Essential among trial skills is to own the situation, and to not give a criminal defense lawyer’s power to the judge, prosecutor, hostile witness, nor anyone else

Owning the situation means rarely if ever seeking the judge’s help while the criminal defense lawyer is cross examining a witness. I am at my best when I own the situation, whether the desirable or undesirable arises, with my trial skills and presence ready to move us closer to victory.  When a prosecution witness tries throwing proverbial feces at me, it is my job to redirect that fecal matter right back at the witness if that will help me win for my criminal defense client, or to disintegrate it. If an opposing witness goes beyond the scope of a question I ask, or answers a question that s/he reformulates, unless that answer harms my client, I have such options as saying: “We are going to get to that, but are not there yet” (which can make the witness regret s/he ever opened that can of worms for him or her) or “Now that you have answered a question I did not ask, please answer my question” (which when posed in the right situation and at the right time can undermine that witness’s credibility, highlighting his or her inability or downright unwillingness to follow his or her oath to simply answer the damn questions posed by the lawyers and judge; nothing more nor less). A related approach is for me to offer the witness the choice between the lesser pain akin to having a few proverbial thumbtacks pressed by me into the witnesses’ flesh, than a whole crate of them.

A great criminal defense lawyer never begs

A great criminal defense lawyer never begs a judge, prosecutor, opposing witness nor anyone else. Those are never among the right trial skills. Settlement negotiations come from a position of strength and from imparting key information and persuasion that is calculated to move negotiations forward without detrimentally disclosing defense intelligence. For instance, when a prosecutor declines to agree to a procedural remedy to a matter, the criminal defense lawyer should not hesitate simply to seek judicial relief, while also being ready to show the judge the good faith efforts the defense first made to resolve the dispute without first seeking judicial intervention. In that latter vein, recently when my Fairfax DUI trial date was about to be continued —  where the courthouse rules allow a continuance for either side on the first DWI court date — I told the prosecutor it would be a good idea for us that day to correct a materially adverse defect in the warrant of arrest / charging document. The prosecutor looked at the applicable statute whose black and white answer was in my favor, and told me the issue could be argued opposite to my view, and declined to agree to such a remedy. I simply responded: “That is fine. I’ll simply argue the matter on the next trial date,” which I can also argue through a scheduled motions hearing before the trial date. I had already provided the prosecutor the information to reach the right conclusion and to help him avoid looking silly, at best.

A great criminal defense lawyer comes alive in the courtroom and wants to be nowhere else

The day after I won an assault trial in the Fairfax courthouse, the deputy who was in the courtroom  for that trial walked up to me and complimented me on my performance. I told him how much I enjoyed that trial, and he told me he could tell the same through watching me at trial. Every trial and every moment at trial is an opportunity for a criminal defense lawyer to obtain justice for his or her client and to improve his trial skills. That is why, for instance, I smile when I object in court.

Fairfax DUI and criminal lawyer Jonathan Katz sees multiple possibilities rather than boundaries when defending those accused of Virginia DWI, misdemeanor and felony offenses. See the major difference you can make for your defense by arranging a free in-person confidential consultation with Jon Katz about your court-pending case, at 703-383-1100.