9/10/2013

Sometimes the Jury Gets it Wrong

Trial by jury is the most democratic way to decide a case. But, as every ad agency and marketing person knows, people can be manipulated by skilled story teller.  A jury is made up of 12 humans, and sometimes they get it wrong.

I am known for fighting police officers in court, pointing out when they have violated his client’s rights.  But, I defended Officer Stephen Tanabe against 7 Federal charges that allege that Tanabe committed fraud while acting as a peace officer.  I thought he deserved a jury trial that would clear his name from the false charges made by a former “friend”.

In my opening statement at trial, I said that during the trial I would attack the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses.

I felt that the government was believing the word of people who testified in the hopes that they would receive favorable treatment in cases against them. “These are people who built their careers on lies, deception and destroying people," I told the jury.

I think I did a decent job pointing out inconsistencies in the witnesses’ statements and getting the witnesses to describe their not-so-savory behavior.  The San Jose Mercury News went even further.  It reported that I hammered the main prosecution witness with my questions.

Dr. Phil on the PI Mom's Scandal
Dr. Phil was so upset that he believed Butler's story
that he ran this second segment about Butler's fall.
Unfortunately, the witness, convicted felon Chris Butler, is a great manipulator.  In the past, he convinced Dr. Phil, People magazine, the Today Show, Lifetime Television, and the Contra Costa Times to feature him doing fake investigations, according to Peter Crooks in Diablo magazine.  In fact, read all of Peter’s story called “The Setup” to find out how many normally suspicious people – including cops and journalists – were successfully and completely deceived by Butler.

In court, Butler was a good witness.  Despite the facts of his past criminal activity, his pattern of lying, his pattern of setting up others for a fall to protect himself, in person he seemed honest.

In my opinion, Butler manipulated the government prosecutor and the jury. He got them to believe events that I don’t think happened.  I pointed out what was wrong with Butler’s stories to the jury, but it didn’t matter.  He is that good!

My client was convicted of six counts of conspiracy, extortion, and multiple counts of wire fraud.  I think the people on the jury were the most recent victims of Butler’s manipulation of reality. He and his family were devastated.  Now Stephen Tanabe, a respected police officer, has been taken down by a friend who is looking for time to be shaved off his own prison time.

Going to trial is always risky, no matter how strong the facts are in your favor.  A good story in the hands of a skillful manipulator is powerful.  Innocent people often plead guilty to lesser charges to avoid facing the uncertainty of a jury.

I recommend that my clients go to trial only when the prosecution is being unreasonable and I think I have a good chance of convincing a jury to vote Not Guilty.  Given the facts as I know them, Officer Tanabe should have won in court.  However,  as every trial attorney knows, sadly, sometimes the jury gets it wrong.

1 comment:

  1. During the past 3 years I have been proud to say that Tim Pori, was my attorney during a three year ordeal in which I was charged by the federal government with mail fraud charges. During the entire ordeal, when I've felt most weak Mr. Pori made me feel legally secure. Mr. Pori defended ME and MY interests and did not insist that I plead guilty like so many attorneys will do try to do to avoid a trial. Mr. Pori is confident, aggressive, loyal to his client, charismatic, and a very intelligent lawyer with quick, sharp responds that made the prosecutors, FBI agents and IRS agents at my mail fraud trial look confused, and sometimes even surprised. During the long trial Mr. Pori fought with courage and passion. Mr. Pori and his entire defense team went to battle for me. His associate John Baumgardner explained the federal sentencing guidelines to me. Mr. Pori’s paralegal, Scott Stilson was invaluable during trial. Mr. Pori, thank you all for all your time & effort, it is much appreciated. You really are the best!

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