Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Hey Jodi Arias lawyers: you're doing it wrong

I don't want to say anything about the Jodi Arias mess. I don't want to get into the self-defense claim or the "should she get death" discussion (you know I think no one should) or even the celebrification of criminal defendants (I think you all know what I think of the Nancy Graces who created this monster).

Really, the only thing I want to say is this: no murder trial should take 5 months. I've had murder trials that involved multiple defendants, upwards of 40 charges, multiple victims, multiple incidents joined for trial. And not one of them has taken anywhere close to even half that time. For a one victim, garden variety murder case to take more than 2 weeks (separate from jury selection) is excessive in most cases. If the lawyers are taking longer than that, I can guarantee you they are putting on more witnesses than they should, taking too long with the witnesses, conducting cross-examinations when there is no need to, and doing a dozen other little things that are nothing but a waste of time.

I don't care what the attorneys think justifies such a lengthy trial. They are wrong. Universally, without exception wrong.

How can jurors possibly be expected to give up that much of their lives so attorneys can grand-stand, so every minute detail can be picked apart until nothing makes any sense? How can they be expected to pay attention and remember things? In his book "Mistrial" (full review coming soon), Mark Geragos talks about the Scott Peterson trial, also a 5 month trial. After the guilty verdict and death sentence, he talked to the jurors and asked them what they thought about what he considered the single most important piece of evidence that showed Laci was still alive at a time that made the state's case against Scott fall apart. None of the jurors had any idea what he was talking about. Because in 5 months of nonsense, they'd lost sight of the key details that might have made a difference. No attorney helps his/her case by taking so damn long to put it on and overwhelming the jury with minutiae. You aren't making your case if you're making the jury hate you for wasting months of their lives, either.

If I were ever at jury selection and the court and parties indicated they expected the trial to take anywhere near that long, I would be a menace. I would let them know I thought that was a sign that neither set of attorneys had any advocacy skills and that the judge had no control over the courtroom. In a trial that long, I would let it be known that I would keep track of which side took longer and vote against whichever party took longer, evidence be damned.

By all means, prosecutors should be allowed to make their cases. And of course I want all defendants everywhere to get to present their defenses. But if doing that takes five months, you're doing it wrong.


A Voice of Sanity said...

Because in 5 months of nonsense, they'd lost sight of the key details that might have made a difference. No attorney helps his/her case by taking so damn long to put it on and overwhelming the jury with minutiae.

All of the time was taken up by the prosecution in a meandering mess that started with the very first witness -- who had no knowledge of anything and wound up helping the defense. Geragos even abbreviated his case because the thing had gone on so long -- possibly losing more real opportunities to help his client.

S said...

That was my sense, but I didn't know for sure. I have always thought that the OJ prosecution took WAY too long with their case as well. In that case, though, it cost them. (Of course, if they hadn't let it be tried in downtown LA, maybe it wouldn't have.) So it doesn't surprise me that another California prosecutor would do the same. Frustrating that in the Peterson case, the long trial was "validated" by the jury verdict.

A Voice of Sanity said...

What is worse is that when presented with a very similar case with all of the evidence they didn't have in the Peterson case, the same prosecutors declined to proceed and gave the killer a deal of 17 years, with parole possible.

Gilbert Cano and Martha Moreno

Apparently a cute, pregnant Hispanic girl's murder wasn't of interest to the media and thus was of no use to the prosecutors!

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