We Get To Know Our Clients
Clarity in Communication is Important
Our defense strategy is incomplete if we don’t know our clients. When our criminal-defense team is hired to represent someone accused of a crime — indeed, before we are hired — our first priority is to get to know the person before they become our client. Our goal is to gain an understanding of him or her while working to build a relationship for the purpose of effective communication. There are many obstacles to clear communication between any two people, and if the two people don’t overcome the obstacles, they can’t communicate. If a lawyer and his client can’t communicate, the defense is in trouble.
Active Listening Makes a Difference
The most important part of communication is listening; if the lawyer doesn’t listen actively to his client, he can neither understand the client’s story nor effectively communicate legal advice to him. If the lawyer doesn’t listen actively and intently to his client — not just to the words, but to the feelings underlying them — the defendant might as well be talking to himself.
Grand Jury Indictments
Our Defense Strategy: Preemption
If we’re hired before the client is indicted for a felony, we’ll sometimes make a presentation to the grand jury to try to prevent indictment. To a large extent, whether we present evidence to the grand jury depends on whether we think the evidence will convince the prosecutor not to pursue the case.
Grand juries are theoretically independent, but it’s very rare that a grand jury will “no-bill” (that is, decline to indict) a person if the prosecutor encourages them to indict. If the prosecutor is ambivalent about the case, or seems to be looking for an excuse not to prosecute, and if we have evidence to present to the grand jury, we will write a letter to the grand jury, explaining our case, attaching documentary evidence, and giving contact information for the witnesses we want them to hear.
Dangers of Presenting Evidence to a Grand Jury
Presenting evidence to a grand jury is a hair-raising experience because we can’t be present in the grand jury room when the grand jury is meeting — we send witnesses in, and don’t get to hear what the grand jurors are asking them or what they’re saying. Our presentation to the grand jury gives the prosecutor a preview of our case, so if we offer evidence to the grand jury, and they indict anyway, we’ve put ourselves at a disadvantage by revealing evidence of our defense strategy.
Information is Power
Once we’ve read the offense report, we begin our own investigation of the case. We reinterview the best key witnesses (both friendly and hostile), find other witnesses not named in the offense report, visit the scene of the crime, seek out documentary evidence, and consult with our own expert witnesses on the meaning of the physical evidence.
We Handle The Detective Work
We do much of the investigation personally, and use top private investigators with a wide range of experience to do the rest. We believe it’s best to know more about the case, by the time we go to trial, than anyone in the courtroom.
Reviewing the State’s Criminal Case
Starting at the Offense/Incident Report
In a Texas criminal case, the offense report (not available to the public while the case is pending but, in most counties, available to the lawyer representing the defendant) provides the best summary of the investigation that was conducted by the police. It will also include the statements of witnesses and a description of the physical evidence.
What Can They Prove?
Examining the reports from law enforcement is often our starting point for learning about the facts of the case. It’s only a starting point, however. We don’t assume that anything in the offense report is true, or that the government can prove anything in the offense report. (Remember: The most important factor in a criminal case isn’t what’s true, but what the government can prove.)
Criminal Trial Preparation
If the client is indicted (either before or after we’re hired), we prepare for trial. At the same time, if the client thinks there’s any possibility of a plea bargain, we keep the lines of communication with the government open on the possibility of a plea. We anticipate the problems that might arise in each phase of trial, and find the best ways to avoid or overcome them.
Moving Toward Trial
At this point we polish our opening statement and closing argument, and consider the issues we’ll want to discuss with potential jurors in voir dire. We organize our files by witness, so that when the prosecution presents a witness we have all of the papers related to that witness in one folder for cross-examination.
We also make sure that any witnesses who will testify in our client’s favor will be available at trial, either by agreement or (more often) by subpoena. We prepare important witnesses (including our client, if there’s any chance that they’ll testify) for both direct examination (questioning by us) and cross-examination (questioning by the prosecutor).
This is also the stage at which we file any motions asking the judge to do things like order discovery or suppress evidence.
Bennett & Bennett, Criminal-Defense Lawyers
Facing prosecution in Harris County, TX for a crime is stressful and frightening, but with our legal team on your side you may be afforded some comfort. Attorneys Mark & Jennifer Bennett bring over 20 years of criminal law experience to the battle on behalf of our clients, and take no shortcuts in the implementation of our defense strategy.
A Board Certified® Houston Criminal Law Attorney
As a Board Certified® criminal lawyer, Attorney Mark Bennett earned his certification in criminal law from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, a distinction realized by less than 10% of criminal defense lawyers in Houston, and Texas as a whole. If you need our help don’t hesitate to call our legal team. Our phone number is 713-224-1747.