|Commentary Authored by Houston Criminal Defense Attorneys Andy Drumheller, Derek Hollingsworth and Jeremy Monthy Published in Texas Lawyer newspaper |
A View From the Dugout at the Roger Clemens Trial
|August 20, 2012 11:59 pm|
Every trial is important, and every client is important. Occasionally the rest of the world agrees and a spotlight hits your case.
That was the scenario we recently faced at Rusty Hardin & Associates during the firm's successful defense of former professional baseball star Roger Clemens against perjury charges.
The nine-week jury trial in United States v. William Roger Clemens provided several valuable lessons for any trial lawyer handling a complex or high-profile case, including those listed below (one for each of Clemens' Cy Young awards):
1. Even large, well-funded opponents can be defeated. The considerable forces aligned against Clemens included four federal prosecutors at the counsel table, the accumulated work of more than 100 FBI agents, and an untold number of others from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia (the largest U.S. attorney's office in the nation) researching and briefing specific issues, not to mention staff and legal counsel in the U.S. Congress. The prosecution had significant legal and investigative firepower.
7. A jury trial is not a risk; it's an opportunity. Clemens and all of us on his legal team believed in his innocence, and he wanted his day in court. However, the court of public opinion all too rapidly adjudicates a dispute. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the high court in Lafler v. Cooper (2012) that "criminal justice today is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials." Many now believe that jury trials are a mere formality when cases already have been the subject of intense public debate and scrutiny.
Nothing could be further from the truth. There are no rules of evidence in the court of public opinion. People can say anything in media reports and other politicized public forums leading up to a high-profile trial. But that's not true in a court of law.
Jury trials are the place where advocates for each side finally test scandalous allegations in front of impartial citizens. Without the crucible of cross-examination and the constitutional protections offered by a fair jury trial, there is little chance that anyone will examine public allegations in a manner that is fair to all sides. Lawyers often think about a jury trial as a risk, but in a high-profile case, a jury trial is how they can level the playing field.
Copyright 2012. ALM Media Properties, LLC.
Send this page to a friend