If you have just been charged with murder or a serious violent crime in New York, chances are the last thing you are initially thinking about is how to win the case. Instead, you’ve been brought to jail, about to face a judge who may or may not grant you bail and you’re facing possibly the rest of your life in prison. Things are looking grim and hopeless; however, at this very early stage the case can often be won or lost, even if the trial is ultimately a year or further down the road. From a lawyer who has won many cases in which violent crimes have been charged, here’s a checklist of what you need to do if you are charged with murder or a serious violent crime and you want to win your case.
First Step: Don’t Panic
While everything seems to be crumbling around you, you need to hire a top criminal defense attorney right away. As discussed in an earlier blog post, if you don’t have a lawyer in place who you trust and have been through some battles with, find the best criminal lawyer you can who has a verified track record of success, not an internet clown masquerading as a top criminal attorney.
Once that lawyer is in place, he will use the first few days after your arrest to gather as much evidence as possible while the evidence and witnesses are still in the area and available to be interviewed. If your lawyer waits too long to start working on the case, valuable evidence may disappear forever, evidence which could lead to your acquittal down the road. More importantly, the prosecutor at this early stage is distracted, focusing on getting you indicted or dealing with bail issues and is not on top of every witness or piece of evidence which could help the defendant. So there is a finite period of time in which your defense lawyer and his investigator are flying under the proverbial radar – allowing you an incredible opportunity to upend the case against you. Witnesses should be interviewed – taped if possible – and an investigator sent out to the crime scene to speak to people who may have seen the alleged crime occur. The witnesses who are unhelpful are discarded; the witnesses who can help you are debriefed and kept close until they are needed for trial. In addition, oftentimes prosecutor or law enforcement officers intimidate witnesses into not speaking to the defense – yes, it happens – so if your lawyer acts quickly, he will have these witnesses interviewed, taped and locked into their stories before it’s too late.
Next, Focus On the Bad Witnesses
You’ve been charged with a crime which could land you in prison for the rest of your life; probably a good idea for your lawyer not to leave any stone unturned in defending you. As a criminal defense lawyer, our job is not to search for the truth in a case; it is to decimate the prosecution’s case and get an acquittal. And with that single-minded mantra in place, a top criminal lawyer will start an investigation into every last crevice of a prosecution witness’s life, as far back as possible. The witness lied under oath in a civil deposition five years ago in a civil case in another state? You’ll need to track down every litigation he has ever been involved in and get your hands on those legal files. The witness has been convicted of 15 crimes over the past ten years and the prosecutor is preparing to hand you his rap sheet a week before trial? Get that criminal history immediately instead and pull every single file from every case from every state — this could take months so your lawyer will need to get on it quickly. Order plea transcripts, sentencing transcripts, anything in which the witness is speaking under oath or his lawyer is speaking on his behalf. The witness was divorced? Get your hands on as much of the divorce file as you can, speak to the witness’s former spouse’s attorney – and sometimes speak to the former spouse of the witness yourself. Such people usually are a wealth of impeachment information on topics you never dreamed existed.
By the time your lawyer has looked at and developed all of this information about the prosecution’s witnesses which can include financial and criminal histories, applications for credit, civil litigations, etc., hours of devastating cross-examination will already have been prepared which will convince your jury these witnesses would lie about the weather. And that’s before you even get the witness’s statements from the prosecutor about the crime for which you are charged, which certainly can include inconsistencies and obvious mistruths. As a lawyer who has been described in the media as a great cross-examiner, I can tell you that my strategy with any government witness is to destroy their credibility before I ask a single question about the crime of which they are testifying about. And when a witness is destroyed on the stand, the government’s credibility is destroyed and with it goes its case. The best criminal lawyers in New York will not stop digging into a witness’s life until that witness is completely neutralized. And isn’t that what you are paying him for?
Call a Top Criminal Lawyer in New York, Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and Westchester Today
Call the criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman today about your case — if you want to win your case. We have over 25 years of great success on some of the biggest criminal cases in the country and will do our best on your serious case as well. Call us at (212) 581-1001 to schedule a free consultation today.