Lessons Learned from Getting to Not Guilty

By Sharon L. McCarthy and Jay R. Nanavati
For the Defense
December 2019, Vol. 4, Issue 4

Every criminal defense attorney knows that being indicted is a life-changing event for a client. In many cases, white-collar clients have never even been issued a traffic ticket and often are highly respected in their business communities. Yet a federal indictment for most white-collar offenses carries with it the prospect of not only a felony conviction, but prison time, which, in most cases, is determined by the amount of money at issue in the alleged crime. One of the most difficult decisions for the client is whether to accept a plea offer from the government and the certainty of a lower sentence even if only based on acceptance of responsibility, or risk going to trial and face what most certainly will be a higher sentence once the court has heard all of the government’s evidence. Once the client chooses to go to trial, the burden of that decision falls on trial counsel, who must do all that he or she ethically can to provide a vigorous, credible, effective defense of the client before a jury. In this article, we share lessons learned and successful trial strategies from three of our cases, based upon listening closely to our clients with an open mind. Of these cases, two trials ended in acquittal, and one ended in pre-trial dismissal of the indictment.

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