"I object!" Debunking Popular Courtroom Myths
Courtrooms and television go together like chocolate and peanut butter - at least, that's what countless writers of courtroom dramas would have you believe. In fact, some of cinema's best and most memorable lines have come from courtroom scenes. Who could forget, "You can't handle the truth!" from the film, "A Few Good Men?" Actually, Jack Nicholson was more right than he knew because the truth is, courtrooms are pretty boring places. It's not unheard of for people to even fall asleep during courtroom proceedings - including the judges! So as exciting as movies such as "12 Angry Men," "A Time to Kill," and "Runaway Jury" are and as riveting as television shows like "Law and Order," "L. A. Law," and "Boston Legal" are, they simply aren't reality. However, seeing the good guys vindicated and the bad guys get put in jail is always a recipe for engaging drama so the parade of wildly inaccurate courtroom dramas shows no sign of letting up. If you ever happen to find yourself in a real courtroom, the following list of busted myths will give you a more realistic idea of what to expect.
Myth: As long as you've got a good alibi, you've got a solid defense.
Reality: A solid alibi doesn't hurt, but there's still a pesky thing called "burden of proof." When the burden of proof is on the state, it means the state has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. However, when a defendant enters an alibi defense (e.g., the defendant is innocent because he or she wasn't at the scene of the crime at the time), the burden of proof is then on the defendant to prove their alibi is true. Unless there is physical proof that the alibi is true, presenting an alibi defense puts a defendant at a disadvantage.
Myth: It's nearly impossible to win a criminal case.
Reality: While it's true that if you're charged with a crime, the cards - and evidence - are usually stacked against you. However, in this country you are still "innocent until proven guilty" and that is why you're in court and not automatically in jail. Defense attorneys such as those at http://robertperezlaw.com/ can and regularly do get acquittals for their clients. It's easy for people to fall into the trap of pleading guilty to a crime they didn't commit because of this myth. Reality is it's often better to try for a "not guilty" verdict in a trial than to simply plead guilty in order to avoid a trial altogether. (Of course, each case is unique so be sure to consult with an attorney before making any decisions.)
Myth: You can admit anything into evidence at any time.
Reality: Producing evidence on the fly is a favorite Hollywood tactic. However, there are strict rules governing the type of evidence that may be admitted in court and how it must be admitted. The summary of these rules alone is 25 pages long - and that's the just Cliff's Notes version. The reason for all these rules is because it's a jury's job to evaluate the evidence and the outcome of the trial hinges on the jury's evaluation.
Myth: Your lawyer can yell, "Objection!" pretty much whenever he or she doesn't like something.
Reality: When you see a lawyer loudly object to something on TV or in a movie, it's almost never followed up with any justification. In real life, any objection must be followed up by the specific, legal reason you are objecting. If a lawyer says, "Objection!" then just sits there, the judge will think there's something very wrong.
About the Author: Stephen M. Michaels is a trial law expert and contributing writer who enjoys good courtroom dramas and educating the public about real court procedure.
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