As a Colorado personal injury attorney who has been around a while, I am well aware of proper courtroom etiquette. But while catching up on my Colorado legal news, I came across a story that can help me illustrate what I’m talking about.
Casually referred to as “Rule 1”, I remember hearing this principle constantly as a law student and young Colorado workers’ compensation attorney. When the judge or jury agrees with you, stop talking!
Last week, a woman was on trial in Washington State for vehicular assault where the other driver suffered a collapsed lung and three fractured ribs. She was visibly shaking and crying as the jury filed into the courtroom to deliver its verdict. The woman and her supporters were gleeful when the jury delivered a “not guilty” verdict.
This is where Rule 1 comes into play – the defendant and her attorney should have then sat quietly but for whatever reason, the defense attorney asked the court to “poll the jury”. Ordinarily, this is only done in the event of a guilty verdict as this is one last chance the defendant has to break free of the charges. Rarely does it work but when you’re talking about your life, you would want your defense attorney to try anything right?
But polling the jury after a not guilty verdict is unheard of…not guilty means the case is closed, the defense wins and everyone can now go home in peace.
Unfortunately for the defendant, the first juror polled said she did not agree with the verdict so the jury was sent back to deliberate further. When they returned, the defendant was convicted of the lowest count.
The woman’s attorney, as attorney Scott Greenfield put it, essentially “…snatched defeat from the jaws of victory”.
I know the defense attorney in this case must be kicking themselves right about now for forgetting this important rule at such an important time. I wanted to write about it in my Colorado workers’ compensation blog to not only remind me, but to be sure all of my potential clients and readers of this are well aware of it.