How a Good Lawyer Makes a Difference at Trial
A good lawyer also has to size up his/her client and the witnesses for both sides. Will your witnesses sell to the jury? Are they believable? Are they consistent with each other and your client’s version of the facts? In the Finley case, the law was clearly against her, so were the facts. What to do? Some would seek a deal with the prosecutor, not Dan. He had many legal talents; he was a gifted orator and he had more than fifty years of experience trying cases. He handled many cases for notorious characters in Newport when it was a wide open gambling, prostitution and mob town. He knew that he could win this case by creating sympathy for his client. He would have to convince the jury, not that Janet was innocent–because she had confessed in writing, but that she had no control over the trigger of her husband’s gun that day. Would a renowned psychiatrist testify that Janet did not know right from wrong when the gun discharged ? That was the legal test of insanity at that time. Dan knew that wasn’t necessary or required by law.
As Janet ascended the steps to the witness stand, a hush came over the court room and all eyes were on the small figure in a dress suit with a quiet voice. She proceeded to tell her story about the family picnic: his intoxication and pouring a pitcher of beer over her head in front of their children, her parents and other relatives and friends. She described the beatings, the abuse, that he couldn’t hold down a job, that she had to beg for money from her family and friends to feed and clothe the children. Then the final straw–that night in a rage when he made her submit to an “unnatural”, by which she meant oral, sex act. Throughout all of this emotional testimony, Janet sobbed and tears were flowing; at the same time and in unison four or five other women in the third row were also sobbing. I looked at the female jurors; they were crying and wiping their eyes with hankerchiefs. Not a good sign for the prosecutors’ case. More to come . . .