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Visiting a Courtroom

The federal courts in the US are open to the public, and they encourage the citizens to follow the public proceedings and trials. It is always beneficial to remember that whenever one is in the courtroom, the proceeding is of immense significance to the parties involved. Involved parties are the ones who are likely to lose or gain their freedom or money, due to the outcome of the court’s proceeding. Therefore, it is necessary for the members of public to follow the proceeding and to behave in a manner that will benefit the procedure of the courtroom. As a rule, no one should talk or make noise during the trial, and everyone is supposed to stand as a gesture of honoring the entrance or exit of the judge into or from the chamber. If it is necessary, exiting the court when the court is proceeding should be done quietly. No spectator is supposed to take photographs or record the proceedings in the court.

After speaking the opening statement, it was clear that all the jurors in the courtroom were hooked. Those of them who wore glasses adjusted them, while leaning forward on their seats. The eagerness to hear the proceeding could be felt across the room, everyone was ready to get every detail as the court prosecutor weaved a gripping unfolding bringing the shooting that had occurred to life inside the court. As he continued to describe how each gunshot had struck the victim, everyone in the courtroom and even from the public gallery could vividly see the judge cringing in reaction to the description of the fateful event just as it happened. It seemed as if the man was being shot, right there before their own eyes: the first bullet struck him on the chest the second shot went through the right shoulder, and the third and the fatal struck the fallen young man right through the temple.

As the presenting prosecutor made his last call for action, the courtroom was totally quiet, no movement, except some deep breath now and then and several jurors who calmly nodded  in resonance with the call for action as called for by the prosecutor. At some point, the prosecutor could pause, and make eye contact with the bench of jurors as a gesture to confirm their distinctive bond and allow them to sock in the scene crime; they walked him back to his seat after resting the case with the court.

The stillness filled the court as the prosecutor walked to his seat. The opening statement by the prosecutor was so moving that even the presiding judge was reluctantly caught up in the scene that had been created by the prosecutor; he was absorbed in the emotion of the occasion. As a matter of fact, it took several moments before the judge finally asked whether the defense side was prepared to make any opening statement. Every person in the courtroom was wondering what the defense team response would be in his opening statement. The court had just experienced the prosecutor giving a breathtaking opening statement that had ever been presented in the courtroom.

The prosecutor had used a mixture of vocal and verbal mastery to make an indelible reflection into people’s minds. The key question was on how the defense was going to counter the image that his client had been painted by the prosecutor before the court. The defense lawyer stood from the seat with a composure and clearing of his throat. He seemed to have confidence as he unbuttoned his suit-court, pushing the chair underneath the table. He stood beside the accused and placed his left hand on the middle aged man’s shoulder, and he started by officially addressing the court. His words: “May it satisfy the court to know the truth?” After the presiding judge had given him permission to proceed, “You may now carry on, counselor,” the defense counselor turned to the prosecutor-after obtaining a go ahead, the defense lawyer enjoyed the renewed attention from the public gallery.

In a well composed gesture, the defense lawyer politely acknowledged the prosecutor with, what seemed as, a sincere nod, before he walked to the centre of courtroom. After he had come to his preferred place in the well of the courtroom, approximately three yards back from rail and was accurately at the centre of the jury stand, the defense paused for awhile as he made significant eye gesture with each member of the bench. Then after a moment of silence, the courtroom was all prepared to hear from the defense. Then the defense addressed the jury. The first sentence that proceeded from his mouth was a bombshell. He commenced by saying, “The defense team agrees with the description of the scene of crime as given by the prosecutor, and with all that was said by the prosecutor”. This came to many as a shock since normally it is least expected that the defense would start by agreeing with the presentation by the prosecutor.

It is not a common thing to hear such confessions during the opening statement. After all, considering that the key aim of the court is to carry out the adversarial trials, with such an agreement, there was little purpose for having the court when the confronting parties could agree so easily on all issues. At this point, I thought that the defense attorney was overwhelmed by the evidence presented in the opening statement by the court prosecutor, and he had decided to disown the accused. His opening sentence may have sent a wave of shock to the public in the courtroom, but it is the word that followed in his statement that would set the platform for his whole opening statement. “The defense team agrees with the argument presented by the prosecutor, however…” He paused at this point to allow the point of his indulgence sink in his audience before carrying on, “…the three shots were justified, since my client’s life was in danger, and he acted as described by the prosecutor, in self-protection”.

From this point on, the defense lawyer was developing the muscle of Concessions.

By giving such a gigantic dispensation at the commencement of his opening statement, the defense attorney dramatically improved his power to persuasion with the court and it also helped him to focus on his winning point to a strong and sharp edge. From the opening statement that was made by the defense attorney I understood that one does not need to hold an argument in every issue and every fact in the trials. By considering which issues matters most to the case at hand, and which fact should concede, the defense attorney was able to focus his case to the right direction. In this trial, the defense team knew that it was not possible to dispute that the accused was not in any way involved in the said crime, considering that the accused was seized at the very scene of the crime. He also knew that it would  have been hard to argue that the accused, who was his client, had not fired those three fatal shots, since the client’s thumbprints were found on the involved gun, and the GSR test had proved that his client was the registered owner of the same firearm.

With all these information, the defense attorney was aware that he could not build up reasonable dispute against those facts. He had to concede those facts at the commencement of his opening statement, which helped him to take the raised matters off the discussion and nullify their impact to the current presentation to the court. The defense attorney was able to swing the focus of the court and jury out of those strong evidences and drifted them towards a new and unexpected, though equally conceivable description of the occurrence. Through conceding the apparent facts and running them into the theme of the trial, it was possible for the defense attorney to attain three most fundamental goals.

First, the defense attorney was able to bolster his credibility with the jury. By giving the trial at hand the credit it deserves, without exaggerating it and giving it unreasonable amount of attention, helped the defense team to develop reliability with the court. The jury was able to see that this attorney was not out to waste the court’s time by trying to develop defense against this strong evidence. Hence, the jury acknowledged the effort by the defense to save court’s time, therefore, was ready to listen the defense version of the occurrence. It is fundamental to admit the apparent, to be believed.

The other thing that the defense attorney was able to do was to diminish the impact of the complainant opening statement that was emotionally charged and had impacted every quarter of the courtroom. The moment the defense attorney conceded the facts presented before the court, he disempowered them and allowed the jury to bring their focus to see his arguments. “For sure, my client is responsible of the shooting; however there was a sufficient reason as to why he did so”. This statement changed the course of hearing from the fact that someone was shot to the fact that there was a sufficient reason as to why he was shot, and that was the new base of trial.

In conclusion, the defense attorney focused all his attacks on the whole that he had poked on the opening statement by the state’s attorney, by doing so he was increasing his chances to have a breakthrough. From the experience in the presented case, it is clear that concessions should be considered as an option in a given trial but not for all cases. Knowing that concessions would have worked in his case, the defense attorney poked holes on the opponent’s evidence at the very beginning of his presentation. This shifted the direction of the entire course of trial, and dramatically shifted how the judge focused on his considerations.


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