I am an experienced criminal defense attorney with over 15 years of criminal defense trial experience and almost fifty (50) jury trials as lead counsel. In addition to trying over a dozen homicide cases I have successfully defended death penalty cases and tried numerous other serious criminal cases in state and federal court. I am also state and federal criminal appeals attorney. I was honored for my outstanding criminal defense by the Oklahoma Criminal Defense Lawyers Association after only two (2) years of practice, I attended Gerry Spence's trial lawyer college in Dubios, Wyoming and I teach continuing legal education courses on criminal law.
Hiring the Best Attorney to Fight your Murder Charge in Oklahoma
Anyone charged or suspected of homicide needs to contact an experienced criminal lawyer immediately. Not only do they need an experienced criminal defense attorney they need a trial lawyer, they need an attorney that routinely handles serious criminal cases and a lawyer that has won serious criminal cases at trial.
Most criminal lawyers are not trial lawyers because most cases are resolved without trials. Just because a lawyer advertises for homicide cases does not mean they have any business handling them. I estimate that around five (5) percent of "criminal lawyers" have the skills as a trial lawyer to handle homicide cases. There are very few trial attorneys that I would trust to represent me if I were charged with a homicide.
Below are 10 things that will help you pick the best lawyer to fight your homicide case.
Has the lawyer had at least 20 criminal jury trials as lead counsel? Just because a lawyer has tried over 20 criminal jury trials as lead counsel does not mean that they are any good at it, but you will weed out a lot of bad lawyers by only hiring a lawyer that has had at least 20 criminal jury trials as lead counsel.
How many jury trials has that lawyer won as a defense attorney? This is a vital question to ask. It is also important to distinguish between trials won as a defense attorney and trials won as a prosecutor. Prosecutors win most of their cases at trial because they pick the cases that proceed to trial and pick the cases that they settle. If a lawyer tells you that they are a former prosecutor and that they tried 20 jury trials and won everyone of them, that is not that much of an accomplishment. Some former prosecutors make excellent criminal defense trial attorneys, but most do not. As a prosecutor the majority of the time the facts are on your side, the law is on your side and the judge is on your side. Most former prosecutors can't handle trials as a defense attorney where they have to fight, scratch and claw to find a way to win.
Winning a trial as a defense lawyer is much more difficult than winning as a prosecutor. Even good criminal trial attorneys lose more than they win. If a criminal defense lawyer boasts that they have an exceptionally high win loss ratio, they are usually either lying or being very selective about the cases they choose to defend. If a criminal defense lawyer takes on difficult cases you have to expect that lawyer to lose more than they win. In my opinion a criminal lawyer that has had over 20 jury trials and has a win ratio that would be considered to be a good batting average has a pretty good track record.
Do you feel comfortable with this lawyer? Do you like the lawyer? Is this lawyer just telling you what you want to hear? Do you trust this lawyer? If you are facing a murder charge you are in the fight of your life and you need someone that will fight for you, will this lawyer will fight for you? What does your gut tell you? If you are not comfortable with a lawyer you should not hire that lawyer, no matter how good people say the lawyer is. If you are not comfortable with a lawyer keep looking.
Most trial lawyers are not "touchy-feely" types of people because the "touchy-feely" types can not handle the pressure that comes with being a trial lawyer. So don't look for a "touchy-feely" type of person, look for a fighter a warrior. While you are looking for a warrior, you are not looking for a suicide bomber. You want someone who is aggressive, but effectively aggressive. An overzealous lawyer can turn a jury off quickly.
Get a list a of jury trials the lawyer has won so you can verify what he or she is telling you. Lawyers can tell you anything, so ask for a list so that you can verify what they are saying is true. Oklahoma Courts have very good online resources, with a name and a case number you can verify what you are being told.
Does the lawyer go to Federal Court? Whether a criminal lawyer handles cases in Federal Court is a big dividing line among lawyers. Just because a lawyer does not go to Federal Court does not necessarily mean they are not a good lawyer, but I would be cautious in hiring any criminal lawyer to handle a homicide case that does not have significant Federal criminal law experience. The reason is that more is expected of a lawyer in Federal Court. Lawyers are not allowed to get away with filing frivolous motions, or filing “canned” one page motions, or missing deadlines. Lawyers that engage in this type of behavior in Federal Court will eventually be run off by the Federal judges.
Does the lawyer handled criminal appeals? A good trial lawyer not only has to be a good advocate in front of the jury, the lawyer must understand the law and understand the implications of a particular strategy on appeal, otherwise they can not advise their clients properly. With a homicide charge having a lawyer that can both successfully handle a jury trial and successfully handle an appeal gives a defendant an overall better chance of winning.
Has the lawyer ever handled and death penalty cases? This is not a “must have” for finding a qualified criminal attorney to handle a murder charge, but it is certainly a plus. Death penalty cases are generally handled by more serious and experienced lawyers.
Does the lawyer write serious motions or just file “canned” form motions? Ask to see some of the lawyers writings. Is the motion over 2 to 3 pages? Is the lawyer actually arguing the law and applying the law to the facts? Or is the lawyer just asking the judge to do something without any legal analysis? Serious lawyers write serious motions and serious briefs.
What steps has the lawyer taken to improve their trial abilities? Representing someone on a murder charge is a great responsibility. What steps has that lawyer taken to improve his or her skills as a trial lawyer? There are a number of classes, schools and seminars around the country that lawyers can attend to improve their skills as a trial lawyer. Has the lawyer attended any of these classes, schools or seminars?
Has the lawyer received any independent recognition for their abilities by his or her peers? I'm not talking about these fake for profit organizations that sale recognition and solicit memberships to lawyers claiming the lawyer is the “top” or the “best”. I am talking about recognition from other lawyers. Have they been recognized by a criminal defense organization or a bar association for their work? Have they been rated by an independent lawyer ratting service. (Martindale.com is the most reliable in my opinion).
If you evaluate the lawyer you are considering hiring using the 10 factors listed above you should get a pretty good idea of the type of lawyer that you are considering.