Few things in life can be more stressful than sitting on trial and facing several, expensive years behind bars. Really, just that sentence raises the blood pressure. Ideally, only those who truly committed a crime are ever on trial (let alone convicted), but that just isn’t how it happens. If you are accused, you have to defend yourself. And, even if you’re innocent, doing a bad job of that can mean losing everything.
Now, that’s why criminal defense attorneys exist, right? You — a layperson — should absolutely not be doing the defending yourself. Hiring an attorney means hiring someone adept and experienced with handling the law and navigating its winding roads for your benefit. This doesn’t mean arguing better (and louder) than the opposition, either. Attorneys work to make sure their clients are treated fairly every step of the way, from the very second you hire them. So, things like “making sure your jury isn’t full of people who hate you specifically” fall under their jurisdiction — to an extent.
Since juries ultimately decide whether or not you’re guilty, making sure the people on them aren’t unfair or biased can be an essential part of winning you your freedom. When it comes to something like domestic violence in particular, post-conviction relief is especially hard to get, so avoiding a conviction entirely is typically your attorney’s goal (and hopefully yours, too).
What is voir dire?
It’s okay; you won’t have to say that phrase out loud. If you’ve ever been selected for jury duty, though, it’s possible you’ve seen it before. Voir dire is about upholding your right to a fair and impartial jury; it’s a process through which potential jurors are questioned and studied to pick out possible biases that could hurt the case. For example, if you’re selected to be a juror on a murder case, but your father was murdered…well, you probably have a little bit of bias against accused killers. Even if the defendant is innocent, you’d be hard-pressed to believe that. So, you’d be released — as long as the voir dire caught you.
See, there are certain things the court has to ask potential jurors for certain cases, and they have to do it in certain, specific ways, or biases and other deal-killers can slip through the cracks. When those bad apple jurors result in innocent people getting convicted, you can understand why attorneys on both sides care so much about those questions. While attorneys themselves don’t conduct the voir dire, they can and do request certain questions be asked and things looked out for. In Maryland, trial court is required to ask clearly phrased, “strong feelings” questions as long as they’re requested. For domestic violence, an issue with many strong feelings involved, this is not something that can be skipped.
Questions that could and should be asked during a domestic violence voir dire include things like, “How do you think domestic violence should be handled?” and “What do you think makes someone violent?” These are in-depth, specific questions, meant to elicit specific responses. You want to make sure your attorney understands how important this process is and intends to participate to their fullest extent on your behalf. When a judge fails to ask prospective jurors if they respect a defendant’s right not to testify, he possibly opens the door to violating that defendant’s constitutional rights. This ain’t some petty fight we pick for no reason.
Good jurors vs. bad jurors in a criminal cases
Okay, so we know a jury makes or breaks the case, and we know we want impartial, fair people on it, but what is your attorney actually looking for, here? What are the ideal candidates for a domestic violence jury? Well, it’s not only about how they do during voir dire questioning, but how they act, too.
If your attorney is in the room, they should be paying attention to as many non-verbal cues as possible to suss out your jury. Not only is a good candidate impartial, but they’re also friendly and amiable. They want to be here; they genuinely care. Perhaps they show a willingness to listen and consider all sides, and don’t have a problem with lawsuits in general. We also want someone who isn’t so involved and absorbed in pop culture law they’re incapable of seeing your case as, well, real. If they’re looking for plot twists and dramatic turns, it’s easy to see how that can end badly for you.
Jumping off that, let’s talk about the bad apples. These are the jurors your attorney should try to get released ASAP — if they’re experienced enough to catch them. Aside from being obsessed with Law & Order, less-than-ideal candidates aren’t only biased, they’re also highly opinionated, stubborn, socially isolated, and insensitive as a person. They may get through your standard morality questions, but have a strong, secret hatred of the legal system and where they are. These people may only expose themselves when you pay attention to their body language, vocal patterns, and interactions with other potential jurors. Finding them is more important than finding the good ones, but it’s also harder.
Annapolis domestic violence defense attorneys make all the difference
If you’re on trial because you’ve been accused of domestic violence, you need all the help you can get to avoid a conviction. The prosecution will be doing everything in their power to try and prove your guilt, regardless of whether or not it exists. They’ll have physical evidence like medical reports, photographs, screenshots, and objects from the scene of the alleged crime, along with any circumstantial evidence they’re able to uncover. Usually, they’ll have more circumstantial than physical evidence, but both together can convince a jury if you don’t have a good enough defense.
The investigation into your alleged guilt begins as soon as you’re accused. In Maryland, simply filing a court petition can get your kids, job, and home taken away from you, and it doesn’t matter that you haven’t actually been convicted yet. When you hire a criminal defense attorney, they can start their own investigation to help you fight back. This includes the voir dire, but it also includes finding their own witnesses, uncovering their own information, tailoring their defense to your specific situation, and making sure your rights are never compromised or overshadowed. All the while, they’re keeping you informed and out of further trouble with their counsel.
Here in Annapolis and Ellicott City, those accused of domestic violence should act now and call Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law for help. I have years of experience helping people just like you in situations just like yours, and I understand just how intricate and fragile your defense is. ESPECIALLY if you did what you’re accused of, don’t wait to let me get started on your case. Call my offices today or use my contact form.
Just remember — Keep Calm, and Call Drew!