Trial preparation-- Avoiding common pitfalls topic of training

By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

Experienced and new criminal defense lawyers filled Foster, Swift's continuing education conference room in Lansing to learn the intricacies of preparing a trial book. Frank H. Reynolds, who has defended cases ranging from misdemeanors to capital offense murders, brought these experiences to his recent presentation.

Reynolds presented the attendees with a detailed description of the contents of the trial book beginning with the complaint and information and moving on to the closing argument. Some of his recommendations were:

-Begin preparing your trial book following the first client interview.

-Place a copy of the complaint as the first tab, replacing with the information when the case is bound over to circuit court at the front.

-Include the statutes and the legal issues of the charged offense.

-Add jury instructions with annotations.

-Keep a list of common objections used at trial with supporting court rule and law so you are ready to use them when needed.

Reynolds offered tips for conducting a trial. Client preparation, he noted, should include discussions on proper dress, the organization of the trial and no talking while testimony is being given. "Don't let clients interfere with you during the trial. Give them pad and paper to write questions."

Opening statements should include both visual and auditory techniques to appeal to all learners but, "use a form that works for you." For closings, "write the important things that you want to include in your closing down as they happen during the trial so you won't forget them."

Investigation of your client's case, according to Reynolds, is ongoing. "Always go to the crime scene," he said, "use an investigator to interview client's witnesses. You want to be careful that you don't become a witness in the case." Each witness "should have a tab and page in the trial with a goal for each and, if needed, a set up for impeachment."

Reynolds included comments on the effective use of the Preliminary Examination, including explaining to the defendant the possibility that at the close of the prosecution's witnesses, more charges could be added or a charge reduced.

Reynolds was recently approved as a Life Member of the Sixth Circuit Judicial Conference. U.S. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alice M. Batchelder reviewed and accepted Reynolds' request which was endorsed by U.D. Court of Appeals Judge David W. McKeague. The Judicial Conference of the Sixth Circuit is an annual meeting of all circuit, district, bankruptcy and magistrate judges of the Sixth Circuit.

Reynolds is a Foster Swift shareholder and member of the General Litigation Practice Group in the firm's Lansing office. He focuses primarily on criminal defense, family law, and professional and occupational licensing. Active in both his legal and residential community, Reynolds is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, the Ingham County Bar Association, Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan and he is a Fellow of the Michigan State Bar Foundation. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Lansing.

Published: Tue, Aug 31, 2010