Felony and Capital Trial Procedure
Felony and Capital Trial
A Trial Attorney Who Will Protect Your Rights in Criminal Courts
For more than 30 years, attorney Shea has prepared and argued legal claims in both felony and misdemeanor criminal courts. As lead counsel in Capital cases where the State was seeking death Attorney Shea has effectively achieved life sentences over death and court judgments overriding the jury’s recommendation for death.
When the person is charged with a criminal offense they are faced with imprisonment, heavy financial penalties, loss of a lifetime achievements and emotional devastation, both personally and for their family. As a criminal defense lawyer it is my responsibility to understand the effect a conviction will have on a person’s life. When selecting a criminal defense attorney to represent you it is essential that the attorney has the experience to develop an overall planned strategy for an effective defense.
Let’s review the anatomy of a criminal charge and some of the considerations to effect a defense:
Federal or State law enforcement agencies initiate criminal cases by filing an indictment or criminal information against the defendant. Rules of criminal procedure require a defendant be given a speedy trial, usually within 6 months from the date of arrest in a felony case or within 90 days from the date of arrest in a misdemeanor case.
Burden of Proof in Criminal Trials
The distinction between a criminal trial and a civil trial is the required burden of proof to win. In a criminal trial, the burden is on the government to prove the federal or state’s case against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. .
Trials are won or lost based on the attorney’s ability to properly prepare his her evidence and witnesses before trial.
Before defending a criminal indictment or information it is essential for a trial attorney, among other challenges to:
Review the information or indictment to determine if the factual situation as you know it matches the elements of the criminal activity being charged and are in conformity with the Federal or State statutes;
Identify the law that has been violated, to determine whether the statute of limitations in such action has expired;
Determine whether the action was properly initiated or should be initiated in another forum;
Determine whether an appropriate motion to dismiss or other legal action should be brought to test the sufficiency of the information or indictment:
Determine whether any rights of the individual are being waived for failure to take immediate action.
Determine whether the information or indictment contains any constitutional challenges to the federal or state statutes;
Participate in discovery by filing a Demand for Discovery, file for a Statement of Particulars to for the Federal or State prosecutor to identify time and place of the crime, develop alibi, as appropriate, file a demand for Brady evidence that may exonerate your client, file reciprocal discovery listing defense witnesses and evidence you intend to present to the court;
Review and analyze criminal investigation reports prepared by law enforcement officers; prepare analysis of witness’s statements; develop character and criminal back ground checks on federal or state witnesses; analyze law enforcement laboratory reports containing DNA, fingerprint results, weapons ballistics, and other laboratory findings by states expert witnesses and review states physical evidence maintained within the custody of the law enforcement agency and as appropriate and visit the crime scene and any escape route purportedly taken by the defendant;
Engage private investigator to review the crime scene and to identify any witnesses that may be favorable to the defendant;
Engage DNA, fingerprint experts and weapons ballistics experts review the federal or states reports and /or testing for scientific credibility;
In all capital cases and in cases where the defendant’s state of mind may be an issue engage the services of professional forensic psychologist to evaluate the competency of your client to stand trial and to understand the implications of his criminal action;
Prepare and establish a time line of the criminal events together with time line of witness statements, conflicts in witness statements, probabilities and improbable evaluations from the witness’s and factual situation.
Coordinate state witness’s depositions in a sequence appropriate to elicit a chronological structure of events;
Prepare legally and factually supported motions to suppress evidence obtained in violation of the defendant’s Federal and state constitutional rights.
Prepare legally and factually supported motions in limine limiting the introduction of evidence that is not material, relevant or hearsay from introduction during the trial.
Maintain a continued communications with the prosecuting authority during the discovery process to be assured that the authority is provided defense counsel with all evidence it intends to introduce during trial.
Never, under any circumstances relate any personal opinions of defense counsel or confidential information related to defense counsel by the defendant about the strengths and weaknesses of the case to the government authority or any of the third person.
Maintain a continued and open communications with the defendant and the defendant’s family.
Importance of Choosing a Jury
In the event that the case goes before a jury it is essential to select from a panel of prospective jurors a jury who will be fair and impartial in their deliberations by:
Be effective during jury selection to engage in intelligent and respectful interaction by which each prospective juror may openly discuss their personal feelings without fear of ridicule in order to identify the jurors who do not have a predetermined prejudice in respect to the guilt of the accused;
Be diligent and alert to the possibility of leading questions or other questions or mistakenly citing erroneous law being asked of the prospective jurors by the governments attorney very often in an attempt to mask prospective jurors prejudices; and having the confidence supported by the law and professional experience to initiate timely and valid objections for the record;
In a capital felony case a trial attorney has an ethical duty to eliminate any prospective jurors who have an unequivocal strong opinion in support of the death penalty;
Once the jury has been selected and sworn in to present an effective opening statement to guide the jury through a concise understanding of the material facts and applicable laws for which you are requesting the jury’s full attention to deliberate on and to render a disposition favorable to your case;
Be diligent to recognize and to timely object to opposing counsel’s introduction of testimony or demonstrative evidence that is in violation of the criminal rules of procedure; rules of evidence and in particular hearsay testimony, current law regarding expert or scientific evidence and to make a record of each objection by citing specific rule that was violated, supported by cases favorable to your objection;
Be diligent to remain dedicated to the facts of the case supported by the law and to present appropriate evidence to maintain the focus of a jury to render a disposition favorable to your case;
On each occasion after the government rest its case and again when the defense rested its case to argue a motion for judgment of acquittal citing why the government has not proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt as to each of the elements of the criminal offenses charged in information or indictments and supporting case law, as applicable;
During the trial elicit either through direct or cross examination witnesses testimony and identify evidence and maintain a defense record that that will raise doubt that the government has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt;
The jury is told by the court that the closing argument by the attorneys is not evidence and should not be considered as evidence in the case an experienced trial lawyer can either win or lose the case during closing argument;
Closing argument should be orchestrated to inform the jury of the reason they have been selected to deliberate the fate of the accused. Hold the jury to their promise to be fair and impartial during their deliberations in weighing the evidence applying the law; educate the jury on the elements of the crime for which the defendant has been charged; educate the jury on the meaning of, the constitutional duty and burden of the government to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt as to each and every element of criminal charge; educate the jury federal and state constitutional he meaning of proof beyond a reasonable doubt; present a truthful rendition of the facts that the jury has heard and how those facts should be applied against the elements of the crime charged to either find the defendant not guilty or guilty of a lesser included offense;
In every case when a defendant is facing the death penalty, lead counsel, as part of his or defense team has the responsibility to engage a second chair attorney with extensive criminal appeals and mitigation experience.
Formulate jury instructions as to the law applicable to the evidence presented during the trial;
Formulate specific issues that arose during the trial in order of legal importance to file or defend an appeal;
The about reference material is the opinion of Francis Jerome Shea and should not, under any circumstances be considered to be taken as legal advice.
For a free confidential and comprehensive evaluation of your case contact:
Francis Jerome Shea, PA, 644 Cesery Boulevard, Suite 250, Jacksonville, FL 32211;
Phone 904-399-1966; Fax 904-399-4866; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.