Reaction of criminal defendants

Do criminal defense attorneys tell their clients not to react when they hear a guilty verdict? If so, why? I can understand a defendant sitting there stone faced if he/she is truly guilty, but I cannot understand a truly innocent person just sitting there with no reaction.

In my experience, before the jury is brought in, the judge will instruct the entire courtroom not to react or create any sort of outburst.

There are very few innocent defendants who receive a guilty verdict.

As said the judge expects no one to make any loud disturbances at any time in their court. The defense attorney isn’t going to offer any advice on how to react for a ‘legal’ basis because their reaction has absolutely no effect whatsoever on any future proceedings (appeals, sentencing etc.)

I don’t know about little girls, but little boys are trained to maintain a stiff upper lip in times of extreme stress. In any case, it’s part of the naturaly biological reaction: when under attack you tighten up and get ready for fight-or-flight.

What defendents do sometimes experience is gut-wrenching fear, because the “tight bands acrsss your chest” sensation extends to all your stomach muscles, but the visible sign of that is normally stone faced.

Guilty or inocent, defendents who have already mentally accepted that they are going to be sent down have available a much wider range of emotional reactions to display.


We’ve been over this before, and he is correct. The burden of proof in criminal cases ensures that wrongful convictions are very much the minority (which not to say that they don’t happen).

I told my clients not to react to a guilty verdict. You’re in front of the judge who will be considering your sentence, no reason to piss them off. No one can get pissed off if you sit their quetly.

A little reaction is okay for a Not Guilty verdict.

Why only a little? Once that verdict is read, they’re free to walk out the door, aren’t they? Or are there judges dickish enough to jail them for Contempt right after being acquitted?

I always prepare a client before the announcement. I’ll be realistic with them, but offer hope when merited.

Not necessarily. They aren’t typically free for a time afterwards. They still have to be processed. If they be a dick about it so can the Court Staff. If this is not the only trial they are facing, they still have to face that.

They may be done, but I have to see that judge again and again. Just be cool, and we’ll get you out as soon as possible. They’re not going to be jailed for contempt, but Judges like a bit of decorum in the Courtroom.

IANAL, but I don’t believe you can be held in contempt until you disobey an order from the court. If defendant stands up an says “suckas!” after the verdict is read, at that point no order to shut up had been given. Right?

I don’t think that they have to repeat the order not to be an ass in court more than once. It’s pretty much stated at the beginning of the day or is understood to be valid throughout the entire process. Process isn’t complete until you are outside the courtroom doors and out of sight of the judge (ie the doors are closed behind you). Then you can do your little victory dance! :slight_smile:

It very well might have been stated a the beginning of the day, but my case wasn’t scheduled until the afternoon session so I was never given such an order! :stuck_out_tongue: Certainly anyone understands you’re not supposed to be an ass in court, but does that “understanding” count for the purposes of contempt?

For what it’s worth, I’ve been seated at the “wrong” table several times and don’t recall them saying anything about talking out of turn or being a jerk. It didn’t need to be said.

I really doubt you’d be held in contempt for an outburst after a not guilty verdict. At most the Judge would ask you to knock it off. If, after a polite request from the judge, you didn’t knock it off, then you’d be risking contempt. Still, it would have to be pretty bad before anything really happened to you.

I apologize for hijacking, but are they really not legally free to walk out the door if they so choose after an acquittal? I thought the post-acquittal processing was just to get back whatever property they had at time of arrest or something like that. Are they still under control of the justice system for some time afterwards?

I don’t know what would happen if you tried to walk out the door. In practice, however, my clients were always quite happy to know they would soon be free, and cooperated with being escorted back to the jail to get processed for release.

ETA: In the* rare* situation where they were in custody for trial and found not guilty. It would be more routine after sentencing if they have enough “time served” to earn an immediate release.

Practice not only varies depending on jurisdictions but also within different parts of the same jurisdiction IME.

If the person had been remanded into custody during trial then what happens is once the verdict is announced, the Judge will issue an order saying something like “to be released forthwith if not remanded in some other case”.

What happens is the person is taken to the area where the processing will take place. It really depends on where the Court is. In some large Court Complexes, they have a facility right there, but in many others they don’t, in which case an individual is taken back to the place they where they were being detained and then processed.

Processing will involve first ascertaining whether the individual has a right to be released right there. If you are facing separate trials for various offences, then an acquittal in one trial will not necessarily permit you to be released, you still have the rest to face. Its also not unknown to face deportation even after conviction, if you are a fofeigner. Once that is done, then, yes they fill out the paperwork, and receive the necessary ones from the Court, update your file, release your property and undertake whatever general and specific procedures they need to do, and then let you go*.

Time: generally a few hours to perhaps a day. The system is overworked as it is, they are under no desire to keep you longer than they have to.
*For certain types of persons, like minors and mental defectives, they have to release them to an appropriate adult, so they have to arrange that. For vulnerable ones, such as those suffering from physical infirmities, FME, they are required to at least check if the person has someone, but they cannot force them into it.

For a person who has been released after a successful Appeal, it may be several days until they are released. Firstly because, unlike at trial, in most Appeals, the accused is not present during proceedings, and secondly the prison has to ascertain the specific impact of the order.
Little Nemo** and casdave might be able to tell better, but I have been told by prison officials that the one thing the release office hates is when the conviction has been upheld but quantum of sentence is reduced, since now all their plans on how to deal with said prisoner have to be reworked, like right now.

By this logic, the defendant can do anything disrespectful imaginable until an order to stop is given.