Transferring Responsibility to the Jury
Transferring responsibility to the jury – what does it mean?
During every jury trial, there are certain things that must happen – and they do happen, whether you realize it or not. For example, at the beginning of each trial, the jurors will learn what the burden of proof is – they will most likely hear something like, “the burden of proof is on the prosecution, and the defendant is innocent until proven guilty.”
Of course, if you don’t effectively address the burden of proof in your opening statement, the jurors will learn what the prosecutor and judge want them to learn, and they might leave opening statements still believing that the defendant has something to prove if he or she wants an acquittal…
Similarly, at the end of each trial, the attorneys will explain the standard of proof – beyond any reasonable doubt.
If you don’t effectively explain what beyond any reasonable doubt means to them, the jurors might leave closing arguments not realizing that every element must be proven beyond any reasonable doubt and with the prosecutor’s words, “beyond a reasonable doubt doesn’t mean beyond any doubt” ringing in their ears…
What’s another example?
Transferring responsibility to the jury – whether you are aware of it or not, whether you like it or not, and whether you effectively explain it to the jury or not, it’s going to happen as you take your seat after the final argument.
Transferring Responsibility to the Jury
What do I mean by transferring responsibility to the jury?
For two years now, since the first day John walked into my office and asked for my help, I have been responsible for his case. I’ve been responsible for his defense, for doing everything within my power to bring out the truth in this case, and for returning him safely to his family.
It’s been a huge responsibility, and I feel like I’ve done all I could to investigate his case, to prepare this case for trial, and to present the facts to you in a way that shows the truth of what happened here. I’ve made our opening statement, and I’ve cross-examined the state’s witnesses to show you when they were being credible and when they were not.
I’ve made objections when I felt someone was breaking the rules or saying something inappropriate, and I’ve responded to the state’s objections throughout the trial. I’ve done the legal research, and I’ve argued motions to the court.
Now, you’ve heard our closing arguments and the time is quickly drawing near. Once I sit down, I must be done. I can’t explain why he is not guilty anymore. I can’t argue with the facts that I know are wrong, and I don’t get another chance to point out why a convicted felon hoping for a time cut is not a credible witness.
Once I sit down, the prosecutor may have more to say to you, but I can’t get back up and tell you why it’s wrong. That’s why I need you to do that for me – in the jury room.
This may be the most terrifying moment for me, and for my client, in any trial. This is the moment when I must take this incredible responsibility that I have carried for the last two years, turn it over to the 12 of you, and let go.
There’s a story that I often tell that may help illustrate this moment when I must transfer the responsibility for John’s future to you, our jurors.
The Wise Old Man and the Bird
Once, there was a wise old man and a foolish young boy. The foolish young boy wanted to show up the wise old man, so he came up with a plan.
He would go into the forest and find a little bird. The foolish boy would bring the bird to the wise old man, cupped in his hands. Then he would say, “Old man, what do I have in my hands?” The wise old man would reply, “Why, you have a bird, my son.”
Then, the boy would say, “Old man, is the bird alive, or is it dead?”
If the wise old man replied, “Why, the bird is alive, my son,” then the boy would squeeze his hands together and crush the little bird until it is dead. But, if the old man replied, “Why, the bird is dead, my son,” then the boy would open up his hands and the bird would fly freely into the forest…
So, the foolish young boy goes into the forest, and he finds a little bird. He carries it to the wise old man, cupped in his hands. Then he says, “Old man, what do I have in my hands?” The wise old man replies, “Why you have a bird, my son.”
Then, with an evil smile, the boy says, “Old man, is the bird alive, or is it dead?”
The wise old man thinks carefully for a moment, then, with a sad look in his eye, he says, “The bird is in your hands, my son…”
Criminal Defense Attorney in Charleston, SC
Charleston criminal defense lawyer Grant B. Smaldone focuses on criminal defense cases – we will get your case dismissed, find an outcome that is acceptable to you, or try your case to a jury.
If you have been charged with a crime in the Charleston area, call SC criminal defense lawyer Grant B. Smaldone now at (843) 808-2100 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.