Is Refusal to testify a Dead Giveaway of Guilt?

Disgraced former FBI agent John Connely just lost -he was convicted by a miami jury of 2nd degree murder. My question: connely did not testify in his own defense. I tend to see this as an admission of guilt-what say you all?

I say you’re completely off. First, during the voir dire process when selecting a jury, the defense attorneys will make it clear that not testifying is in no way indicative of guilt, and anyone who can’t accept this will not be qualified to serve on the jury.

Next, I can imagine plenty of reasons that an innocent person would want not to testify. I think you just haven’t thought this through.

CurtC (cute name!) needs information, not necessarily criticism. Help, somebody.

BTW OJ didn’t testify in his murder trial, and as we all lknow, he got off.

IANAL, but was a juror on one and only one trial. The accused did not testify. We were firmly directed by the judge that this fact was absolutely not to be taken into consideration. It is the prosecution’s job to prove that the accused is guilty. The defence does not have to do anything except show ways in which they have not done so.

It’s also worth remembering that not all people come off as sympathetic or even honest when being questioned, even if they’re being totally truthful. And the pressure of being on trial can make it even harder for a person who might be very nervous or anxious.

Telling a jury to ignore it is one thing. Actually being able to do it is another. Police lie and manipulate people into appearing guilty. They should be greatly discounted in a trial. Unfortunately they have an aura of truth that most people buy.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8z7NC5sgik&feature=related This is a video another doper posted showing why the less you say the better off you are.

What does that have to do with a defendant testifying or not at a trial? It’s the prosecutors who cross-examine, not the police.
To the OP: why would you see not testifying as meaning anything at all? It’s not a “refusal”–there’s no expectation to testify. The jury decides based on the evidence presented in court. Absence of testimony is not evidence.

I think lawyers will tell you (at least my dad did once and he was an attorney) that a jury wants to see the defendant say, “I didn’t do it.” While refusing to testify is not an admission of guilt and there can be good reasons to not do so I am willing to bet there is a gut instinct in most people that if the defendant does not take the stand he/she is hiding something. Of course the jury is instructed to not view the absence of testimony by the defendant as evidence of anything there is some of the, “Don’t think of a white elephant!” aspect to it (merely by telling you not to think of it you by default think of it).

I think the OP viewed the matter in this way.

I agree, but I’d amend your second sentence to say that “The defence doesn’t have to do anything at all.” Of course, doing something (calling defence witnesses, for example) is always a good idea and is often done; but technically, the defence doesn’t have to do anything.

Remember also that the defendant has the right to remain silent, even in the courtroom. He or she cannot be compelled to testify; and staying silent shouldn’t be taken as meaning anything other than the fact that the defendant chooses to stay silent. But if the defendant agrees to testify, then it would seem to me that the defendant has waived the right to silence, and would have to answer any and all cross-examination questions the prosecutor might ask. This could be a very dangerous course of action for a defendant. It seems best that the defendant not testify, if the prosecution cannot make its case and/or there are enough defence witnesses and evidence to raise a reasonable doubt.

There are many, many reasons not to have a defendant testify. I had a case about a year ago in which I advised a defendant not to testify even though I believed him to be innocent. His passenger went nuts inside a liquor store and broke a bottle over the owner’s face and head while my defendant was outside waiting in the car, and they charged my guy with the passenger’s aggravated assault. I didn’t want him to testify because he had a ten year old prior conviction for aggravated robbery of a convenience store that I didn’t want to come out; if the jury heard it they would have slam dunked him even if he was innocent this time. The jury convicted him anyway, but the court of appeals reversed his conviction based on insufficient evidence.

Sometimes you’ll have a witness you won’t want to testify because they’re just terribly, terribly, awfully bad on the stand. You wouldn’t believe how bad some people can be on the stand. I had a case two weeks ago with a woman who, by the end of her cross examination, probably would have admitted to her involvement in the Kennedy assassination because she couldn’t specifically remember not having been in Dallas that day. This wasn’t even a criminal case - we were probating a will.

Absolutely not. As others have said, it’s the prosecution’s job to show that the defendant is guilty. The defendant doesn’t have to do a dang thing if they don’t want to.

I served on a jury a few years ago and this is exactly what happened. The government presented their case and the defense never put their client on the stand. The defendant literally never said one word in court. Both the judge and the defense attorneys made a big point of the fact that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty and it was up to us jurors to decide whether the prosecution had met that standard.

What did the jrurors decide?

i think there are a few things to consider in not testifying screwing you or not.

of course you can tell a jury all this legal mumbo jumbo, strike that, jury ignore that comment sort of thing. but any slick and shady DA can toss in the idea that a person pleading the 5th is guilty. but then any savvy defense lawyer can counter it.

so in a perfect world, it should make no difference whether you do or don’t. and in a criminal case, i think it would be easy to call bulls@#t, since you have to be beyond a shadow of a doubt to convict. so if a juror/jury can’t back up their decision with evidence, it’s a no go. i think it would matter most in a case where the evidence is stacked pretty good both ways, and some slick slimey DA worked in the crap a@@ idea that silence is guilt. that might end bad.

and like someone else said, some people can bury themselves in some legal loophole they never saw coming. but i’ve never been on a jury, so it’s all a guess to me…funny enough though i got a jury summons for dec. 3 at the great chicago county jail…should be fun

It’s not a dead giveaway for guilt but it sure as heck suggests there was something other than total non-involvement.

Sure, the law says otherwise. The law also pretends a bunch of other nonsense. It’s loaded with bullshit that somehow manages to work for the overall good.

Most court cases are not black and white. Most prosecutions and defenses are various combinations of exaggerations and partial information for various reasons. In that context not testifying does not become a dead-giveaway for specific guilt for the specific accusation.

Most criminal cases use “beyond a reasonable doubt” which seems a lesser standard than “shadow of a doubt” I’d say.

I don’t care what anyone said, if I was being accused of a major crime that I didn’t commit, I would be screaming it from the rooftops, let alone testifying for myself.

Mild hijack … what happens if the defendant gets seriously ill and ends up hospitalized. Can the trial go on without him/her being there as long as it is not when they are supposed to be on the stand?

Because they are professionals at twisting minor inconsistencies into what appears to be major lies. As it shows, if they question you for 12 hours in a row and ask you same or similar questions over and over., a small difference will be pointed out as a lie.
“You told the cops you were at work til 10. We found out you left at 9:30.” You are now a liar. They ask so much that eventually you can slip up.