David L. McCormick

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Is taking the stand risky for a defendant?

| May 26, 2021 | Criminal Law

When facing criminal charges in Minnesota, a defendant should avoid self-incrimination. Sometimes, a suspect makes a statement to the police before an arrest, and their words become crucial evidence for the prosecution. Other times, an arrest takes place when the suspect invokes their right to remain silent. A person might wish to explain him or herself by taking the stand in court. However, a criminal defense attorney may point out the dangers of this strategy.

Taking the stand may backfire

A defendant might assume that if he or she spells out things to the jury, the jury may believe the accused is innocent. However, the jury might not accept the testimony and later issue a guilty verdict. Inadvertently, the defendant redirected the focus from the prosecution’s ability to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to weighing the credibility the accused. Sadly, the jury might assume the testimony is perjury even when the statements are factual.

A defendant’s demeanor may also hurt their chances of an acquittal. Lacking the experience of an “expert witness,” the defendant may lose his or her composure and display highly charged emotions. Doing so may make a terrible impression on the jury.

Issues with the jury

Criminal law statutes provide rules for jury trials, and a judge may give instructions to the jury that seemingly protect the defendant’s rights. Sustaining an objection is one way that a judge takes steps to make the trial fair. Regardless, no one knows how the jury will behave. Even when told not to consider a statement, a juror may do so anyway. A defendant taking the stand might open more doors to risky outcomes such as these.

A criminal defense attorney may advise a client about whether to take the stand or not. The attorney might provide compelling reasons why not doing so is in the client’s best interests.