Criminal defense attorneys, when they are appointed or hired to represent their clients, are starting off behind the eight ball. That is to say, they are behind in the progress of the case.
The first thing they accomplish is talk with their client to get their side of it. Then they file motions for discovery and wait for it to be delivered. In the time between, they file motions, and set the course for proceedings.
What they are missing is plentiful.
First, they usually start out with one side of it, and usually their client does not tell them the truth (or leaves a lot out). Then when the discovery arrives, and the attorney reads it, he realizes something is not what they were told. Or, there are at least differences. Now the attorney is left trying to reach a solution with the district attorneys, or they ask for a trial date.
But what if the client is actually innocent? Do you take a chance that it will work out in trial, or should you investigate? Attorneys should never be placed in the position of investigating and representing their client at the same time.
Why can’t an attorney investigate? Well he can, and can probably accomplish it very well. However there are things that need considering. What if the attorney takes a statement from a witnesses or the victim, and then in trial that witness contradicts what he told the attorney? The attorney can question the witnesses about it, but when the district attorney discovers there is a different statement from the witnesses, he has the right to cross examine the person who took the conflicting statement. That would then turn the defense attorney into a witness, and he would have to withdraw as an attorney.
Now while this is not common, it has occurred. Most of the time, this situation occurs during motions and suppression hearings, and the defense attorney points out the different statements. Then the district attorney requests the right to cross examine the defense attorney, thus turning him into a witness.
The defense attorney should never place himself in a position for this to occur. Investigation is crucial in the litigation of the case. The solution is to hire a private investigator to assist in the criminal defense.
North Carolina Investigative Services, INC work with our attorneys as a team. We prepare together to defend the client. We meet with the client and get the defendant’s version. What this means to you: it frees up your time to concentrate on legal aspects, and most often the defendant will will discuss the incident more freely with an investigator.
We review the discovery and then go over with the defense attorney and the defendant. We then make a assessment of the case and the strength of the case. This enables us to focus on the problems in the case, or advise the client of his alternatives. NCGS re-interviews witnesses, and the victim. We look for other witnesses and anyone else who may have knowledge of what had occurred. We take statements and supply them to the defense attorney. We accomplish criminal histories on everyone involved in the case. We can be called to testify if warranted.
These are just some of the things we accomplish in each criminal defense case. F Lee Bailey once said a good attorney is only as good as his investigator. No attorney should proceed to trial without obtaining an investigator. Both the defense attorney and the private investigator should believe in the team concept. Because it is a criminal defense team, which they are part of.
Let us remember that the police investigate the crime and gather the facts, and present it to a judicial official and an arrest is made. This is the process that places the defense team behind and playing catch up, so the sooner in the process the better it is to hire the private investigator. Let’s not forget that the defense only has about two percent chance to succeed, and then they spent most of the time catching up with the prosecutors.
So why would a defense attorney not want or need to hire a private investigator? Every citizen has the right to receive a fair and impartial trial. every defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Every defendant should be afforded the same opportunity to have their case investigated, to make sure the facts have not be skewed. A private investigator levels the playing field and provides the defendant with a neutral and impartial investigator to seek, and gather the facts, so that they can be assessed so the defendant can present his defense. What this means to the criminal defense attorney, is that it is prudent to hire a Private investigator who knows how to conduct a thorough and professional criminal investigation.
This is where hiring a person with law enforcement experience is necessary. The Private investigator must know how to take crime scene photos that will accurately detail the sequence of events so the jury will understand exactly what happened. The photos must document location, time, date, lighting, surroundings and many more details to address the who, what, where, when, and why of the case. Here too, the Private investigators interview skills are very important, they must know the exact questions and the optimal way to phrase the questions to obtain the information you need.
Obtaining and preserving evidence is crucial to any criminal defense case. The investigator must know laws, the proper way to gather evidence and maintain the chain of custody for possible court proceeding. Many good criminal cases have been lost because of tainted evidence.