ANN ARBOR, MI - 10/17/2018 — As a criminal defense attorney, a large part of my job involves going to trial. We’ve all heard of a trial, probably seen a few on television. But trials in real life are not exactly what you see on TV. This article is a very brief summary of a few aspects of trials.
No Perry Mason Moments
Although you may have seen many trials on TV, trials in real life are nothing like TV. On TV, each trial will build up to a dramatic moment. That dramatic moment will usually involve someone who admits they were the person who actually committed the crime instead of the defendant. Or it could be someone who admits they were lying when they originally accused the defendant of committing a crime.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen in real life. In real life, there are no Perry Mason moments (the term lawyers use for dramatic trial moments such as these from the television show with a lawyer by that name.) Trials are actually much more boring than this. We usually know what everyone who gets on the stand will say with few surprises. Even when we know someone is lying, we can expect that person to simply persist in that lie, rather than completely change their testimony on the stand. We can work to expose the lies, but never expect that person to change the story mid-trial.
Trials Are Not a Search for the Truth
Many people might assume that a trial is a “search for the truth.” That a trial is a mechanism by which we discover “what really happened” in an alleged incident. Many people think prosecutors, who are unsure about what really happened, simply charge the crime and “let the jury figure it out.” People would not be blamed for thinking this way, as these notions commonly prevail in the general knowledge. However, a trial is not where we discovery the truth or let the jury sort out “what really happened.”
In fact, the only thing that matters in a trial is whether the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused person committed the crime. The prosecution must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury is instructed to return a verdict of Not Guilty if the prosecution is unable to prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. As you can see, a trial is not a search for the truth, but rather a test on whether the prosecution can prove the defendant committed the crime. This is a crucial distinction and a huge conceptual difference.
Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a criminal defense lawyer. Sam can be reached at (734) 883-9584 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.
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