Why do lawyers put on no defense?

I have to say , if I am on a jury and the defense can’t find a single witness to call, then to me that’s just throwing in the towel. I suppose the strategy could work but I wonder how often it does.

As a juror, that’s not your job. The defense is under no obligation to prove anything. The question you have to answer is, “did the state prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt?” If they did not, there’s no reason for the defense to do anything more.

(Now, as a practical matter, if the defense is not planning to argue a case at all, it’s probably because they have a good reason, and will move for the judge to dismiss based upon lack of evidence, in which case the jury is irrelevant. (Unless the judge decides not to dismiss it.))

I know they don’t have to prove anything, but they can put on witnesses to disprove the prosecution right?

If they discredit the prosecution witnesses during cross examination, they don’t need additional witnesses.

If such witnesses are available. But why waste everybody’s time if they don’t need to? What’s the point of calling your own forensics expert if you destroy the prosecutor’s guy on cross, for example?

If no witnesses are available that to me also says a lot.

Also if you are going to discredit an expert, seems like a good idea to do it with another expert, not just by asking questions .

Is this about a specific case (I try not to read the news anymore) or just a question about the strategy in general?

I’ve orchestrated a few civil defenses for very low force car accidents that consisted of large photographs of the vehicle damage (the scratched rear bumper) and maybe a little bit of cross-examination of the plaintiff’s 16 experts justifying $150k+ in medical charges incurred over a 2 year period. The idea is to let the plaintiff tie his own rope and stick his neck in it–singing about how he’d never had any pain before but now his neck, low back and rotator cuff are demolished and it must be because of this car crash. Then my defense attorney strolls up to an easel, points at the photo of the rear of the plaintiff’s car and sits down. Maybe, he’ll ask the plaintiff’s experts if the crash was ever described to them, and if so do the pictures seem to match that description. That’s usually good for a chuckle or two. We could hire mechanical engineers and independant physicians to examine records and treatment and comment on necessity of treatment and causation, but sometimes the plaintiff’s case is insulting enough on its face. And once you’ve insulted the jury, you’re pretty much screwed.

no specific case in mind.

Part of me agrees. But most of me is scared beyond belief that someday I might get accused – or framed – for something when I don’t have a plausible alibi. I was home alone minding my own business. No one saw me. Maybe I did have the motive and the opportunity, but your honor, I didn’t do it! And there simply ISN’T any evidence that I didn’t. Such things do happen. And that’s why our system puts the burden on the prosecution.

Me too. My experience with juries is they can be capriciously irresponsible at times. Usually very reasonable, insightful, creative and full of fresh ideas. But just often enough they come up with a verdict that seems like they were watching a completely different trial and even the opposing attorneys give each other a WTF? look.

I served on a jury and the defense presented no defense. There were only 1 or 2 cross-examination questions and that was only for 2 of the prosecution witnesses. It was actually quite a successful defense strategy- the defendant pled guilty [not told to the jury] to criminal possession. The prosecution had to show that the unregistered gun belonged to the defendant and none of the other 3 guys there and that the defendant had intent to use the weapon in an unlawful way. Intent is very difficult to show unless there has actually been an action or a written plan. The prosecution argued that only one of the four was wearing a bullet proof vest and only 1 of the four had fingerprints on the gun.

The defense stating that the gun didn’t exist or that the defendant wasn’t at the scene doesn’t do any good. The defense strategy was that possession does not show intent to use (especially in a poor inner city neighborhood) and that more importantly it was an illegal search. We were directed not to comment or decide on the illegal search or the possession questions (the illegal search question was being decided in a federal court, I found out after the trial). Those cross examination questions were fantastic in that they all brought the police and witness testimony into question about how much intent was preconceived by the arresting officers as compared to the true evidence as it existed at the scene. “Was the defendant actively hiding the gun or was it just in the glove box?” “Were the group of friends planning a robbery or crime or were they merely sitting and hanging out with friends on some steps?” “Was it a getaway car or just an illegally parked car because there were no other spots on the block?” The police officers often said things like, “usually when we see that…” which were obviously not about this case.

After 3 hours of trial, we spent 3 hours deliberating on the definition of intent and had to rehear testimony and jury instructions multiple times. So a “no defense” strategy is quite viable, and I believe requires the prosecution to have an even more solid case in that the defendant isn’t scared and thinks the evidence doesn’t prove the charges.

[For anyone still reading, we convicted on all counts primarily because one of the officers had been on the force for 18 years and this was the first time he’d actually been called to the stand and he was nervous and really seemingly felt bad for what was happening to the defendant’s life as he knew it was a third strike-type situation. He’d arrested the guy a couple of previous times but each incident had escalated from the previous one; which was one of the bases for the illegal search claims as the officers said they were just coming over and were going to ask the car to move and to say hi to the guys seated nearby but the defense was asserting racial profiling.]

A friend of mine got into a similar accident. Car barely scratched, indeed and her apparently almost fine. Except that since she has suffered from pains in the neck, shoulder, arm (the accident was many years ago).

It’s only an anecdote, but apparently (from what I heard/read since), this situation isn’t uncommon. The shock to the neck/upper body that occurs when bumped in by a slow moving car can result in a variety of lasting pains.

I recall during the OJ trial there were a lot of comments that the prosecution witnesses helped OJ and the defense witnesses hurt his case.

Clearly in that trial he had a ton of money to put on a defense so he was going to do that.

I hope for juries filled with people with the same attitude.

It’s happened to me to some extent. Slid on ice and bumped a curb. No dent to the wheels, no alignment issues even. Drove on and did my day with no issues. Woke up the next morning to an awful headache and a nasty neck muscle spasm. Had a pair of very unpleasant massages that week and was as good as usual. That event got me into the habit of putting money on cases that my cohorts might not, and it even makes my boss nuts. But if there’s nothing else stinky about the claim I’ll give you a couple thousand for a bumper scratch in exchange for a release–protects my insured from suit and gets you a lot of jaccuzzi/sauna/massage time just in case you really do have something muscular going on like a spasm. Once you sue me, that money is presented one last time for 2 weeks and then it’s gone. And juries around here won’t come close to it in their award.

Trying to stay on point with the OP: a weak mechanism for injury provides a weak case. You have no reason to doubt your friend, but if you’re a juror looking at someone with little/no damage to their car, a mechanism that pushed them backward into a big pillow, complaints of crippling pain despite negative CT/MRI/Nerve conduction studies…the only thing that really makes sense is gold-mining. For that reason, as I mentioned above, the defense will play quiet and count on the skepticism of the jury. Conversely, if the defense graces the complaints with medical exams, engineers, bimechanical experts, etc., then the jury tends to get the idea, “Hey, maybe the defense thinks the plaintiff’s case isn’t so obvious and that even they think there’s something compensable here.” It would be so much easier if people were always honest, but they’re not and it’s hard to identify the liars.

I was on a jury where the defense had no witnesses. One of the three charges we unanimously decided not guilty immediately because the two prosecution “witnesses” gave different accounts of the alleged offense. On another charge it was patently obvious that the defendant was guilty. On the third charge, the prosecution’s evidence was a little shaky. We were split 50/50 on that one for a long time, and finally said not guilty on that one as well. I still think the guy was guilty, but it was true that the prosecution’s case left room for doubt.

So you convicted based on whargarble without concluding that beyond a reasonable doubt the accused had the required intent.

So if you are on the jury and the accused is said to have committed a crime in the absence of witnesses, you consider he is probably guilty.

You guys are doing a good job of convincing me of something I already knew about juries.

Let me see, the police officer testified that he just wanted to say hi to the guys seated near the car (in addition to asking that it be moved)? I think I know why he was nervous. That, to me is absolutely unbelievable.

I am curious as to whether the judge instructed the jury members that the defendant was under no obligation to testify and that his failure to testify could not be used as evidence against him. If so did he also say that the defense needs to offer no witnesses and that guilt could not be inferred from their failure to do so? Thanks.

Defense lawyer: Officer, did you in fact handcuff the plaintiff to a pole?

Officer: Yes

Defense lawyer: And then you arrested him an hour later for loitering?

Officer: Yes

Defense lawyer: Did it occur to you that he had no other choice but to loiter since you had him fixed to a pole?

Officer: um, well, uh…no
Juror #3 whispering to Juror #4:** He must be guilty. There’s no defense witness!

I agree that is completely unacceptable. Those jurors shouldn’t be discussing evidence prior to deliberation! :smiley: