By William L. Baskette, Esq.
Your first conference with your new lawyer is a strategy session where you review the case and agree on a strategy of “plan of action.”
In a criminal case, the plan will call for a review of:
The Indictments (pronounced “in-dite-ments”). The charges against you are in written form and may be challenged by a motion to quash or dismiss if they are poorly written. You won’t know how to challenge the case against you until you see what the State has written in the formal charges against you. If you’ve been charged with a crime, a review of the indictment and plan of attack, if appropriate, is the first course of action.
Discovery Motions. Once the district attorney’s open file has been reviewed, your lawyer may have to decide what the file did not show that you are entitled to know about the evidence against you. At this time, he will decide what discovery motions, hearings and witnesses he plans to use to give him the information he needs to defend you.
Investigations. Can you afford to pay for an investigator to look into the case, question witnesses and develop evidence? There may be special tests to run on the evidence collected. Who are the witnesses other than the district attorney’s witnesses? How will you find them and keep track of them? Witnesses move and may forget the facts of your case, or may be unwilling to testify. How will you preserve their memory and know where they live when trial starts? What can be done when you cannot afford experts needed to testify for you? What are the alternatives? What other factors affect you and your case? How should you and your lawyer plan for and handle them?
Trial Strategy. What is the best trial strategy to develop that will help your case? Can your attorney develop a theme of your case? What is your best defense or defenses? He can advise whether it is wise to testify in your own case. Under our rules, it may be more harmful to tell your own story because of the prosecutor’s questions that will be asked.
Your Options. You may not be able to beat the case against you, and then must have other options to consider. How best can you minimize the punishment the court will impose on you? What are your lawyer’s best estimates on each of these aspects?
When all of the case analysis has been completed, the decision to go to trial or to plead guilty to a charge should be discussed carefully between the lawyer and the client, but it is the client’s ultimate decision. Be sure that your lawyer puts any plea bargain offers in writing and carefully understand the result of pleading guilty or not contest.
When it is all over and you review your conduct, your lawyer’s conduct and the court’s conduct, and you consider whether the entire process was fair under the circumstances, you have experienced the best the system has to offer whether you were found not guilty or guilty. If you have been found guilty it is time to review the benefits of rehabilitation the State of Texas must offer you if you are interested in improving yourself.
Every trial has a trial strategy, whether it is to fight or take advantage of a good plea bargain. Be sure to understand your trial strategy and agree on it every step of the way. Good planning will often lead to the best results.