Jury Trial or Bench Trial?

Last week I tried two assault cases. Prior to trial, my clients and I made a decision to waive our right to a jury trial and proceed with only a judge as the finder of fact and law.

The decision to give up our right to a jury trial required a lot of thought and consideration. My clients and I spent many hours discussing this issue before making the decision.

In the end, it was the right decision. Both of my clients were found Not Guilty by the court.

I have had a number of attorneys call since the acquittal. They wanted to know why we decided to waive our right to a jury trial and what factors we considered before making that decision.

The most important factor in my mind was the judge involved in the case. I knew that my judge was fair and open minded. I also knew that he wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the alleged victim’s injuries.

We also had facts and witnesses to dispute the alleged victim’s version of the facts. The 911 call was made by my clients friend immediately after the altercation. It was spontaneous and told the story we wanted the court to hear. It was also supported by other witness testimony.

The disadvantage of trying a case to a jury is simple — you just don’t know what facts are going to influence their decision in your case. I didn’t know how the jury would react to the pictures of the alleged victim’s injuries. I didn’t want the jury to inject emotion into the case and ignore the clear facts. I didn’t want the jury to reject the defense theory because the victim was beaten and ended up in the hospital.

In the end, the decision to try this case without a jury came down to trusting the judge and creating a theory of defense that was both believable and made more sense than the story that the victim and his witness were going to tell.

The choice to waive our right to a jury trial worked in this case. Depending on your facts and circumstances it might work for your case.

For more information about my practice or to inquire about criminal defense representation visit my website Michael P. Hanle, Criminal Defense Attorney or call me at 205-930-9717.