Subsection 482(1) of the Code authorizes every Superior Court to make rules not inconsistent with a Federal statute. Subsection 482(2) provides a similar power to Provincial courts, subject to the approval of the Lt. Governor-in-Council of the Province. Sections 169 and 170 of the Courts of Justice Act create the Criminal Rules Committee and a procedure for enacting rules related to criminal proceedings. These are the rules permitted by section 482 of the Code. The Rules of the Ontario Court of Justice in Criminal Proceedings apply to all trials in the Ontario Court of Justice, often referred to as the Provincial Court.
Continue reading “Criminal Procedure: The Rules of the Game”
Ineffective trial counsel may unnecessarily complicate the facts of a trial by attempting to focus on every minute detail. Effective trial counsel, instead, understand the overall case in a way that permits counsel to focus on only the most important facts. This amounts to seeing the proverbial forest, despite its number of trees. The big picture is, in fact, the overall picture. It requires the development of an overall theory of one’s case. It amounts to your client’s story. Reduced to its most basic element, trial advocacy is the ability to effectively tell your client’s story. The story should lead to the ability to say at the end of the trial, “If you accept this version of events, then you must decide in our favour.” When the story is complete, when all the evidence has been heard, the end result should be victory. Continue reading “Game Plan: The Theory of Your Case”
The presumption of innocence means that the accused person does not have to testify, present evidence, or, prove anything. If the prosecution fails to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt the accused must be found not guilty. In other words, the innocence of the accused remains unless and until the prosecutor satisfies the court beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. The presumption of innocence has been defined as a test requiring proof much closer to absolute certainty than probability.
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Television programs and movies portraying trial lawyers at work invariably focus on the most entertaining aspect of trial advocacy. They condense into one or two hours the work of the trial lawyer before a Judge or a Judge and jury confronting a witness or presenting an interesting, witty, insightful argument. They tend to focus much less attention on the tedious and demanding preparation required to conduct a skillful crossexamination or a persuasive argument. But, the foundation of every effective cross-examination or oral presentation is thorough preparation- preparation that includes thinking and re-thinking the best methods and best words to use for the specific case.
Continue reading “Criminal Trials – fiction vs reality”
After requesting and receiving full disclosure, you should begin to prepare a trial brief. It should be a mirror in small of the overall trial plan: unified and coherent. Its organization should be simple, free of all irrelevancies, although the following materials are always relevant and should be there in an orderly arrangement:
Continue reading “The Trial Brief: Be Orderly, Be Complete”
It is often helpful to view the place where an offence is alleged to have occurred or to inspect items of real evidence that may be entered into evidence. In preparation for a murder trial, not too long ago, the defence lawyer had a videotape prepared from inside the house in which the killing took place. The victim had feared for her life for several months prior to her death. She had boarded up all the windows with plywood and drawn all the drapes.
Continue reading “Inspecting Places and Things”
Section 587 of the Code gives the trial Court authority to order the Crown to furnish particulars where it is satisfied that particulars are necessary for an accused to receive a fair trial. Where a particular is delivered pursuant to section 587, a copy of the particular is given without charge to the accused or her counsel and it is entered in the record and the trial proceeds in all respects as if the information or indictment has been amended to conform with the particular. While the matters described in subsection 587(1)(a) to (g) may be the subject of an order for particulars, these are not exhaustive of what might be ordered. Thus, the true function of particulars is to give further information to the accused of that which the prosecution intends to prove so that she may have a fair trial.
Continue reading “Applying for Particulars”
Uncovering all the facts requires more than meetings with your own client and the client’s witnesses. Complete disclosure is paramount, although the issue of what can or should be disclosed in any given case is by no means uncontroversial.
Continue reading “Discovering the Case: Be Thorough, Be Relentless”
So far as practicable, you should try to provide the same sort of empathy and support to the witnesses who may be called in support of your client. They too feel vulnerable when they deal with lawyers. Who doesn’t? But witnesses feel more than usually threatened. Except for the fear of punishment that the accused alone may face, witnesses consider that they are very nearly in the same position as the accused. They are unfamiliar with and usually frightened of the trial process, so they are reluctant to be involved. They need to be made to feel that the lawyer has taken into account their interest as well as those of the accused. They must come to see that the lawyer representing the accused is competent to handle the trial and to present them before the court without causing them humiliation or terror. Continue reading “Meeting the Client’s Witnesses: Be Patient, Be Supportive”
A common complaint against criminal trial lawyers is that, at bottom, they tend to show little empathy for their clients. We are said to show more concern for ourselves, and our fee, than for the person who, after all, stand accused of a crime and face the daunting power and authority of the police and prosecution. It may be true: the longer the lawyer toils away at this business, the greater the possibility that the lawyer will be insensitive to the particular plight of the individual charged. Continue reading “Meeting the Client: Be Interested, Stay Interested”