By Hon. (Ret.) Ken E. Adair
Don’t Run From Uncomfortable Truths
Video Transcribed: Every compelling story that you will tell as a trial lawyer has some ugly truth to it. Sometimes when you have a client in a criminal case, you represent a criminal defendant who’s been in trouble before, maybe many times before.
Maybe your client made some admissions during the course of a police interrogation, maybe they confessed to a crime that they didn’t commit. Maybe your personal injury client is dependent on pain medicine, or they become addicted.
Those are ugly truths that don’t necessarily cause the case to be devoid of merit and not compelling enough to seek damages from a jury or to seek acquittal from a jury. You have might have a client that had a delay in seeking treatment.
There are good reasons for delaying seeking treatment. In order to find out what the truth is of your story, if the story is compelling, you’ve also got to find out and flesh out what some of the ugly truths are about your story.
That’s the whole story. And if you try to conceal some of these ugly truths and it sounds too good to be true. Well, we know what jurors think about things that are too good to be true. And if you look through the course of the trial, like you’re trying to hide truths, facts, then that’s not going to help your credibility when you ask a jury for damages.
I had a friend of mine, he was kind of quiet, he was kind of shy. We used to be colleagues as criminal defense lawyers. He was a public defender in an office where I had previously been a public defender and he was really shy. And he looked at the jury and the first words out of his mouth, and he’d been to the trial lawyer college like I had.
So he knew how to address this issue. And he said, “Look, I’m terrified. I’m scared for my client. I’m tired. I haven’t slept hardly in two or three weeks. And Oh, by the way, my client confessed to this crime. And here we are asking for a jury trial and asking for a jury to hear the evidence in this case and be fair. So why are we here?
Why are we here if my client confessed to the crime?” And as every good trial lawyer does, he waits patiently through that uncomfortable silence that will always ultimately save you. And eventually, a gentleman raised his hand and he said, “Well, I’ve heard a lot about false confessions. It’s in the documentaries. It’s all in the news.”
And the lawyer thinks the juror for that and asks if anybody else had heard about this concept of a false confession and without getting into false confessions, there’s a lot of reasons why people make false confessions or make admissions that aren’t necessarily true in the course of police interrogation and this lawyer’s client was eventually acquitted of the crime even though he confessed.
That’s an ugly truth and you can run and hide from it. You can pretend it doesn’t exist, or you can embrace it. If your client is addicted to pain medicine, because they’ve been in a horrible accident and they’ve had an injury, then they were put on pain medications.
That’s one of the risks of being put on pain medications is becoming dependent and addicted to pain medicine. And so talk to the jury upfront about it, let them know, “You know my client’s been taking pain medicine for three or four years.” Ask the jury, “Have any of you had any loved ones or very close friends that are being treated for chronic pain that might be taking more pain meds than you think maybe they should? And ask for a show of hands.
I had a jury trial one time, I had seven people out of 18 raised their hands. And I asked those jurors to tell the stories without getting too personal or into detail about those relatives and loved ones with chronic pain. And they all agreed that it’s a terrible choice to have to make.
Do you suffer through the pain or do you risk being a little bit loopy and risk becoming dependent on pain medicines? And I had a zero offer, in that case, 5,000 in hard meds. And I got a $27,000 verdict. It wasn’t a huge verdict, but it was much better than what the offer was.
So when you learn the truth of your client’s story, you got to take the good stuff, you’ve got to take the bad stuff and you can’t run and hide from any part of the truth. You embrace the ugly truths with glorious truth. And I hope this has been helpful to you. If you’re in need of the following: Focus Groups & Mock Jury Sociometrics, First and Second Chair Co-Counsel, Jury Trial Preparation Services, go to trial-win.com