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Taking Control of Your Defense: Why Criminal Defendants Can't Rely on Prosecutorial Missteps

Posted by Kara Hoopis Manosh | Sep 14, 2023 | 0 Comments

In a criminal justice system built on the presumption of innocence, it's easy for defendants to believe that the burden of proof solely rests on the prosecution. While it is true that the prosecutor must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, criminal defendants should not place their entire defense strategy on the hope that the prosecution will stumble or fail to meet their burden. Instead, they must be prepared to take an active role in proving their own innocence at trial. Let us explain why relying on prosecutorial mistakes is not a viable strategy and why defendants should be proactive in building their defense.

1. The Burden of Proof

The cornerstone of any criminal trial is the burden of proof. The prosecution is tasked with establishing the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This high standard means that the prosecution must present strong evidence and build a compelling case. However, this does not mean that the defendant can simply sit back and wait for the prosecutor to falter.

2. The Fallacy of Relying on Mistakes

Many defendants may hope that the prosecutor will make mistakes or fail to present a convincing case. While prosecutorial errors can occur, relying on these mistakes is a risky strategy. The legal system is designed to ensure a fair trial, and judges often correct any significant errors made by the prosecution. In many cases, relying on prosecutorial mistakes alone is like hoping for a miracle.

3. Building a Strong Defense

To increase their chances of acquittal, defendants must actively participate in building a strong defense. Here are some key steps they should consider:

   a. Consult with an Attorney: The first and most crucial step is to hire a competent defense attorney. An experienced lawyer can assess the case, identify potential weaknesses in the prosecution's evidence, and develop a solid defense strategy.

   b. Gather Evidence: Defendants should work with their attorney to gather evidence that supports their innocence. This may include witness statements, alibis, or physical evidence that contradicts the prosecution's case.

   c. Cross-Examination: During the trial, defendants should be prepared for cross-examination. They must be ready to challenge the prosecution's witnesses and evidence effectively.

   d. Presenting a Defense: Depending on the circumstances, defendants may need to present their side of the story. This could involve testifying in their defense or calling witnesses to testify on their behalf.

   e. Expert Witnesses: In some cases, expert witnesses may be necessary to refute the prosecution's evidence or provide alternative explanations for the alleged crime.

4. Maintaining the Presumption of Innocence

By actively participating in their defense, defendants not only increase their chances of acquittal but also help maintain the presumption of innocence. This presumption is a fundamental principle of justice, but jurors are not legal scholars - they are people from the community who want to reach the right conclusion when they serve as jurors. The simple truth is that they are looking for any clue about whether you are guilty or innocent - and staying silent and putting up no defense when the prosecution is putting in a solid case is usually not a good look  


While it may be tempting to place all hope in the prosecution's mistakes, criminal defendants cannot realistically rely on this as a defense strategy. Instead, they must be prepared to take an active role in proving their own innocence at trial. By consulting with experienced attorneys, gathering evidence, and participating in their defense, defendants can increase their chances of a fair trial and a just outcome in the criminal justice system.

Career defenders understand how jury trials play out, and will work with you every step of the way to put up the best defense possible or  

About the Author

Kara Hoopis Manosh

Attorney Manosh has dedicated her entire career to defending the rights of the criminally accused. She has handled thousands of cases, appearing in every courthouse in the State of Rhode Island.


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