Second Verse Same As The First?
One of the most dismal experiences a trial lawyer can have is reading a transcript of a case you have already tried. The only thing worse is having to sit through a read back or replay of testimony> I think of myself as fluent, sometimes even eloquent. My transcripts betray me to be a stuttering mess of non-fluencies.
I am preparing now for a special version of this Hell: the retrial of a murder case I tried last September. The jury could not agree on counts of murder as to one victim and attempted murder as to another. So come this September, we will try the case all over again.
I had hoped this week to travel to Omaha, Nebraska to work with a trial consultant who reads this blog and volunteered his time. I generally don't play well with others, but this fellow reads: We started a correspondence that of sorts around the time I noted with glee the publication of C.J. Jung's Red Book. I say you've got to love a guy who tried cases and reads difficult books.
Omaha will have to wait, however. I have two lawyers out of the office for the month of August. I am running from one end of the state trying to put out fires. It's too busy a time to leave.
So I sit, staring at transcripts of my work and looking for ways to improve. (The prosecutor told my partner that the verdict was 11-1 in favor of conviction; I have a lot of improving to do.)
It is a close case; the defense is self-defense. My client, a male, claims he was backed into a corner near steep stairs descending to basement by a drug-crazed woman. He shot her dead and wounded a friend of hers as they argued.
It is hard work, reappraising a trial. The thought of trying the case again fills me with dread. There was anger aplenty in the room, with grieving and bitter family members of the victims present daily. The prosecutor became embittered, too. I did not help matters at all. I sometimes attack when no attack is needed.
Jury selection begins August 30. It will take a couple of weeks to pick the jury, given our state's quirky and entirely wasteful manner of picking jurors by speaking to candidates one at a time out of the presence of all other jurors. Evidence won't begin for at least another month. I have time aplenty to ponder a job half done last trial. This much I know; the retrial will not look like the first trial. Oh, the defense will be the same. But I have an opportunity to do better this time around. I will.