Why Defendants Shouldn't Testify
We now know even more than we did yesterday about what jurors were thinking when former Enron chief's Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling testified in their own behalf at their fraud and conspiracy trial in federal court in Houston. And what we have learned since the verdicts ought to remind every defense attorney out there why it is such a bad idea to allow the client to testify in a criminal trial.
For example, one juror said of Lay: "He was very focused, but he had a bit of a chip on his shoulder that made me question his character." She did not explain how Lay's character would have anything to do with his passionate appearance on the witness stand. But, then, jurors aren't required by law to offer rational explanations for their perceptions. It's the defense that bears the risk of nonsequitors in the jury room.
Another juror said that he learned to "respect and like the defendants" before convicting them. With friends like that, right? Some jurors said that the two men never should have testified. At least one said that she believed the defendants absolutely had to come to the witness stand. "I would have always had questions if they had not taken the stand," the woman said.
No doubt Lay and Skiling and their attorneys figured their best chance for an acquittal was to try to sell jurors on the defense theme using the best salesmen around-- the defendants themselves. No doubt defense attorneys believed that Lay and Skilling were seasoned and savvy enough to withstand the intense prosecution they knew they would face. And, for the most part, both men did as well as they could have expected on the witness stand. It just wasn't enough. It rarely is. That's why criminal defendants rarely take the stand in their own defense. And that's part of the reason why Lay and Skilling are looking at spending the next few decades in a federal penitentriary.
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Posted by: Christine | May 26, 2006 02:23 PM
Posted by: attorneyofrecord | May 26, 2006 06:46 PM
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