There are four factors that make a difference in whether or not you get true justice.
Let’s start with the most important question.
Do you want justice or do you want to win?
If you have made some bad choices, done something wrong or committed a serious error in judgment, you may not be looking for true justice.
You may be looking for the best possible result.
Staying out of prison, not having a felony record, not being on probation and not becoming a registered sex offender may be the more important goals.
You only go to trial if you cannot accomplish your goals through negotiation. Whenever you go to trial, no matter how strong or weak you case, there is uncertainty. You may win or you may lose. Trial is the last resort when all other efforts have failed. Some cases are won before trial on legal technicalities that result in dismissal or on your lawyer’s ability to convince the prosecutor to drop the case. If you have to go to trial…..You need to get a fair trial.
Your ability to get a fair trial depends on four things. First, is the judge fair and impartial? The simple fact is, most criminal court judges are former prosecutors. You have little or no control over who your judge is. Most judges think they are fair (like Archie Bunker), but the reality is that they are human, and their life experiences have made them prejudiced, one way or the other. Most times, it is the luck of the draw on whether or not you get a fair judge
The second thing that factors in is the jury. Can I get a fair jury? That depends on a number of factors. What is the nature of the charge? If it is a sex offense involving a child, the odds are stacked against you. If it is something like tax evasion, where most jurors hate the IRS, the odds are better. It depends on the demographics of the community where the case is tried. It depends on your race, your sex, your age and the nature of the charges.
The third thing is the jury selection process. In Federal Trials, most Federal Judges do not let your lawyer personally question the jury panel. They do this to save time. That is a terrible situation. The judges ask the jurors loaded questions like “Is there anyone here (that is so prejudiced) that they cannot follow my instructions”? “Is there anyone here that cannot be fair and impartial”?
The simple fact is that most prejudiced people either don’t realize they are prejudiced or will never admit it. Do you thing Archie Bunker thinks he is prejudiced? How do you think he would answer the judge?
In the State court system, lawyers are allowed to question the prospective jurors to determine bias or prejudice. This brings us to the most important factor in getting a fair trial. That is called the voir dire process. That is where the lawyer questions the jurors individually. This brings us to the only factor you really have control of. This is the most important factor.
You have to have a criminal defense lawyer that has the knowledge, experience and court room savvy to get good honest answers from prospective jurors. Jury selection is a skill that comes from experience. You cannot learn it in a book, and they don’t teach it in law school. What most lawyers don’t understand is that many trials are won and lost in the jury selection process. A good lawyer can predict who the foreman is going to be. A good lawyer knows how to match jurors with things that are going to factor in such as age, race, employment history, personal experiences and feelings. I have picked hundreds of juries over my lifetime and no two juries are the same. If you want a fair trial, you have to have a lawyer who knows what he is doing in the courtroom.A good lawyer keeps and unfair judge from giving you an unfair trial. A good lawyer helps you get fair rulings on the evidence. A good lawyer helps you pick good jurors and get a good verdict. The bottom line is that when it comes to a fair trial, the only thing you can personally do to get a fair trial, is to hire the best and most experienced lawyer around. The sad reality is, that in the American justice system, you generally get as much justice as you can afford. Spend your money wisely. Research the track record of the lawyer you are hiring. There is a world of difference between being slick at advertising and being competent in the courtroom.