Monday, June 15, 2015

Not Yet a "Victim"

We are a Law Firm for All of Life's Trials. Those aren't just words. We are trial attorneys at home in the courtroom.

When getting ready for trial, much time and effort is dedicated to preparing the theory of the case. A good lawyer starts with closing argument. They ask themselves, "what is the point of all this?" If you don't know where you're going, then you don't know what road to take. (Write that down). 
Giving him the finger.
Bernie de la Rionda pointing at George Zimmerman during Opening Statements.

Prosecutor John Guy also pointing at GZ.
Source: (June 24, 2013)

John Guy making sure everyone knows where Michael Dunn is.
Source: (September 25, 2014)

Prosecutor Erin Wolfson during the Michael Dunn re-trial. 
From there, every action that you take in preparation should work toward the destination- closing argument (and preserving the record for appeal). Part of this process is filing Motions in Limine. A Motion in Limine is a motion requesting that the court limit or prevent information or evidence from being presented to the jury because the information does not comply with the rules of evidence. 

Rhetoric, the art of persuasive speaking is a skill that every good attorney has mastered. Yet, sometimes even poor advocates have the benefit of buzz words on their side. For example, the word "Defendant" has a negative connotation in our criminal justice system. If you are a defendant (emphasis on the -Ant), most people assume that you have done something wrong. When a prosecutor or plaintiff attorney calls someone "defendant" over and over, finger pointed, it's easier to emphasize the negativity. (Fourth Judicial Circuit Prosecutors are especially good at this (see photos)). The same goes for the word "victim." 

A few years ago, Belkis added a new tool to her practice:  filing a Motion in Limine to keep the State from calling the alleged victim, "victim." Brilliant! But, it didn't work with the particular judge that she was practicing in front of at the time.

Last month, we tried again on a case that we handled pro bono as "Special Public Defenders." It worked. Probably because the argument went something like this:

Court: Ms. Schott, can I have argument on Defense Motion in Limine number 3?

Ms. Schott: Your honor, we would rely on the arguments made in the four corners of the motion. The alleged victim is not a victim until the State proves their case. Furthermore, the State does not need to call her a victim to prove the case. It's highly prejudicial.

Court: State?

State: Judge, she is a victim! Because the defendant committed this crime and made her a victim! 

Court: (laugh). Granted. 


Please feel free to use the motion below as often as appropriate. God's Speed.

* Editor's note: While we did not invent this motion, it's not used enough. We wanted to remind our colleagues that it is a good tool and we would love to see everyone use it more ofter. 

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