16 Sep The Importance of the “Sufficiency of the Evidence” Instruction in a California Criminal Trial
The Importance of Evidence
Any experienced criminal defense attorney in California who performs trial work knows the value of the jury instruction that discusses the sufficiency of circumstantial evidence, and how important it is to discuss the instruction during jury questioning and in closing argument. Calcrim 224 provides if the evidence presented during the trial creates two reasonable conclusions, one that points to innocence and the other that points to guilt, the jury MUST adopt the conclusion that points to innocence and is required to find the defendant “not guilty”.
When the attorney brings this instruction to the potential jurors’ attention during the initial jury questioning, they are being conditioned early on. By asking the jurors if they would follow this instruction even if they wanted to adopt the prosecution’s version at the end of the trial, puts them on notice that they have no choice but to adopt the defense version, and that they would be violating the law if they did not follow the instruction.
It is then the attorney’s job to bring out testimony during examination of the witnesses, all of those circumstances that create the reasonable defense version that points to innocence. For example, if there is a 911 call, is there anything helpful on the call that helps argue any point you are trying to establish? Consider and review any and all pictures taken during the investigation process? Do any of the pictures depict a circumstance that helps you argue any reasonable conclusion that points to innocence? What about any other physical evidence that may assist your argument? Are there any potential defense witnesses that can be called in to testify about a relevant circumstance that builds the defense argument? This obviously takes some planning on the part of the entire defense team. By outlining the circumstances you are hoping to prove during the trial, and the source you are hoping to elicit them from, it will help you prepare a powerful closing argument. For example, if the attorney utilizes PowerPoint for closing argument, she can easily create slides that show the jury all of the circumstances that were brought out in testimony that help establish the defense’s reasonable interpretation of the evidence that points to innocence.
Depending on the circumstances of the case and the advance preparation of the defense team, creating an argument that supports a reasonable conclusion that points to innocence is possible, even in the most difficult cases. Even if the person on trial completely admitted conduct in a recorded interview, don’t lose hope. There are many times people admit to things they actually did not do, just to get the questioning over, not realizing at the time it is going to be used against them in court. Obviously this is a huge hurdle when trying to utilize Calcrim 224, but it’s no impossible.
If you or a loved one are looking for an attorney to help you fight your case, and there is a possibility it will be decided by a jury, Kenney Legal Defense Corporation may be available to assist in your defense.