As a criminal attorney, the high that I chase is the time between getting a call from the Clerk – “we have a verdict” and the foreperson announcing the unanimous decision of the jury to the Court.
Yesterday evening, I gave an hour long defense summation on Indictment 1538/2020 in Kings County Supreme Court to a Brooklyn Jury. Our client was accused of two incidents of Criminal Sexual Act in the Third Degree by his wife. He was looking at four years in jail, sex offender registration and deportation to Pakistan. The summation was emotional, impassioned and raw.
For the past two years, the Client has patiently awaited his day in Court. While he was out on bond, he lost his job, his livelihood and his ability to see his child. He had to relocate out of the state of New York, in order to find a job that covered his cost of living. He was generous with his time and all the video meetings and calls that I have requested to prepare for the case. To learn more about the Complainant. To learn more about the family court case. To learn more about what happened, or didn’t happen.
One day in July 2020, our Client’s wife woke up, and walked into the precinct to report that she was raped on two different occasions by our client. One incident 15 months prior. The second incident 19 months prior. The Special Victims Detective conducted a 45 minute investigation, that solely consisted of interviewing the complainant. They determined that based on the interview, there was P.C. (police talk for “probable cause”) to put the arrest through and start the criminal court process.
The next two years turned into prolonged litigation in both family court and in criminal court. The District Attorney was asking for a plea to Criminal Sexual Act in the Third Degree with a six month split (6 months jail and 4.5 years probation) and a Batterer’s Intervention Program, which is essentially is a 12-week class that teaches people that they shouldn’t beat or abuse their spouse. No one needs to go to class to know that. What the DA failed to include in the plea offer is that the plea to the charge also carried with it the requirement for the Sex Offender Registration (SORA).
This morning, when I woke up, I was certain the jury could not convict our client. Over this morning’s second (maybe third) cup of coffee, I kept thinking about whether or not I wished I did anything different in terms of the trial. I exposed the Complainant’s lies in the Grand Jury, Criminal Trial and Family Court. Six different, material, inconsistencies in what she said between these three sworn proceedings. I showed her motive to the Trial Jury – sole custody of their shared child. I argued that her demeanor and emotion were all designed to appeal to the jurors’ human side.
There was nothing I would have done differently. I left nothing on the table. I did my job as an effective counselor and advocate.
The Jury was charged in Part 11 in under an hour on general legal instructions, charges in the case and the guidance on how to conduct deliberations. Jury went to the jury room. We retired to a conference room to await our fate and our Client stepped out for a smoke break. Within 30 minutes, we received a call from Phil, the Court Clerk, who said the jury sent a note saying they had a VERDICT. Although I have tried 30+ cases to verdict:
- Never is the first note from jury the verdict. Usually, the jury sends a note asking for a read back of the testimony or clarification of the jury instructions.
- A quick verdict is bad for the defense. That usually means the prosecutor presented a very strong case, which resulted in a quick conviction.
We shuffled back to the Courtroom and waited for the Courtroom staff to “line up” the jury. That is, put them in the correct order of how they sit in the jury box. Twenty minutes after getting the call, the jurors were in the box and Juror #1, Madam Foreperson was reading out the verdict.
Madam Foreperson, announced “NOT GUILTY” on Count 1. At that moment, I knew that it was going to be not guilty on all charges because this case was all or nothing. Complete conviction or a complete knock out. The entire case rested on the complainant. All or nothing.
On cross-examination, I took no prisoners. There was no middle ground. Either the client was guilty of all charges, or not guilty of everything. Immediately after the interpreter translated to our Client what Madam Foreperson said, he turned red and began to sob. Complete raw emotion, from a man that sat up tall and didn’t react to any of the testimony that accused him of doing heinous, horrible things to another human being.
The sobbing got louder and louder to the point that I could not hear Madam Foreperson announce NOT GUILTY on the second and last count of the Indictment. The Client, still crying, turned to me and hugged me, his lawyer. Touching a woman, especially a married woman, was “haram” in his conservative culture. But at that moment, just like I argued on summation, certain things cross cultural and religious norms.
To our Brooklyn Jury, thank you for answering your jury summons. Thank you for sacrificing 10 days of your life to be a juror on our case. Thank you for listening to all the evidence. Thank you for critically analyzing everything that you’ve heard. Thank you for seeing the case for what it was, when Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office didn’t. Thank you for doing justice.
I love you. I love Brooklyn Juries.