There are many routine criminal cases in Illinois every day. Drug charges, DUIs, gun crimes, murders, assaults, conspiracy make up the day-to-day cases of the dockets of criminal courts in the Chicago area and throughout the state.
But then there are exceptional cases. One of those cases just ended with a not guilty verdict for a defense attorney. Yes, in this case, the criminal defense attorney needed his own defense attorney, as he and his partner were the defendants. The attorney is a well-known Chicago lawyer who had been accused by the U.S. Attorney's Office of coaching witnesses to lie and filing misleading court documents
For many attorneys within the defense bar, it was seen as an attack on the defense bar as a whole. The FBI seized records and files from the firm and the prosecution attempted to show that the long question-and-answer forms used in preparing witnesses equated to perjury.
The defense argued that they were providing aggressive representation for their clients, as they are required to do by the canons of professional responsibility. Even the judge admitted that when he was practicing attorney he used such form documents to prepare witnesses.
Being a witness in a civil trial can be nerve wracking enough, but in a criminal case, where someone's liberty or potentially, life is at stake, the pressure can be overwhelming. Proper witness preparation is essential in any trial, as the experience of sitting in a witness box under cross-examination is like no other.
The judge also pointed out that the size of the indictment, with 21 counts, was perhaps designed to make it appear “where there is smoke, there is fire.” Prosecutors often attempt to maximize the appearance of wrongdoing by loading up an indictment with many similar, related charges.
In this case, the judge, a somewhat more jaundiced observer of prosecutorial behavior than the average jury, was not impressed by this practice.
It was also notable that some the former clients who testified against the attorney received substantial reductions in their sentences, another tool used by prosecutors to obtain favorable testimony.
Source: chicagotribune.com, “Judge acquits attorney on charges he coached witnesses to lie,” Jason Meisner, September 1, 2015
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