What is Needed to Build a Strong Case
All legal cases are won or lost based on the strength of the material case facts presented by the representing attorneys. There are two basic types of cases, with those being criminal prosecutions by the state and civil tort prosecutions by a plaintiff legal counsel. It is important to keep in mind that the different types of cases are evaluated by different standards regarding the burden of proof, and the strength of the case should be consistent with those burdens.
In civil tort claims, the burden of proof is a “preponderance of the evidence based on a totality of the circumstances” and all evidence will essentially be “weighed” by the court. Even a single material case fact can determine an outcome. In criminal cases, the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt” because lives are being interrupted when the state applies criminal charges. Regardless of which class a cases will fall into, both presenting attorneys are effectively prosecutors of sorts and strong cases are essentially built in the same manner.
Assemble the Documented Evidence
Solid material case facts will all have documentation supporting the assertions made in a case filing. Each particular assertion in a pleading should have ample applicable documentation in as much depth as possible. For criminal cases, this usually consists of official police reports following an investigation and finding potential witnesses supporting the claim that a crime was committed. For civil torts, and in particular in personal injury cases, this includes all documentation supporting the fact that an accident occurred resulting in an injury to the plaintiff being represented. This also applies to business disputes. Documentation should also be included that supports the assertion that the respondent had a reasonable duty of care to the injured plaintiff, and that the respondent breached that duty either directly by action or indirectly by failing to act as a reasonably prudent individual would have acted.
Interview Your Witnesses
Personal witness testimony can be very valuable in any type of legal proceeding. Cases that go to court usually do so because there are competing versions of how the events of a case actually transpired. Having your witnesses prepared for court is always essential because information offered beyond the direct questioning of the attorneys can result in surprise materially applicable evidence that no attorney wants revealed if it will weaken their case. The purpose of going to court is winning a favorable verdict, and your witnesses should also be strong supporting individual documentation, including a deposition when allowed. Depositions can often reduce this possibility and should be considered with all witnesses.
Criminal prosecutors usually do not like to see technicalities used in a criminal case. However, many times the whole defense rests on a specific technicality. And, depending on the attitude of the court, technicalities could even be suppressed as material case fact, which can be unfortunate for a defendant if the suppressed evidence is a defense assertion such as illegal search and seizure by the arresting officer. In civil torts, technicalities are rarely suppressed and often the technicality will control the entire preponderance evaluation. The amount of evidence is not always the most important aspect of any court case, and one technicality that is entered into the record can have the heaviest impact on the final outcome of the case.
Always remember, if the law is making your case weak, hammer away at the facts. This includes technicalities as well because they can make a major difference in the outcome of your case. And, when the facts are making your case weak, hammer away at the law. The law always applies, and many times the statute can “outweigh” the facts when the burden of proof is being considered. All strong cases will have strong elements of proof, regardless of criminal or civil category.
Jay Sekulow is an Supreme Court advocate.