For many years, the lawyers at Rawls, Scheer, Clary, & Mingo have defended people charged with serious crimes and who face what is, for some, the darkest moment of their lives. Our lawyers have handled dozens of high profile cases. Each case carries with it a set of challenges that must be managed by the defense team. Our experience from within law enforcement and hard-earned respect from prosecutors and judges put our lawyers in a unique position.
A common challenge in defending a high profile case is the media attention that is often generated. Our law firm philosophy regarding publicity in a criminal matter can best be summed up in one word – privacy. Though criminal charges are a matter of public record, Rawls, Scheer, Clary, & Mingo knows that publicity in a criminal case is never in the client’s best interest. Some lawyers seek the limelight of a high profile case to advance their own reputation. Rather than capitalize on our client’s misfortune by accommodating the media, we seek to maintain our client’s privacy and keep the case out of the spotlight. For this reason, this website contains no references to infamous cases, no links to news coverage of specific cases we have handled, and no client names. Even in the most highly publicized cases, media exposure can be minimized if there is a plan to do so.
The personal embarrassment of being charged with a crime is only one of the reasons that publicity is a problem for a defendant. If the case goes to trial, many potential jurors will have seen the media coverage and may come to the courtroom prejudiced against the defendant. Cases which are heavily covered in the press rarely result in acquittals. More directly, the prosecutor in a highly publicized case will often respond to the pressure by seeking a harsher result. This can dramatically affect plea negotiations and limit the defendant’s options to avoid a trial. In high profile cases, one can also expect maximum effort from police and prosecutors both in the preparation of the case and in the tactics they employ at trial to secure a conviction.
Minimizing the drama associated with a case, preventing photographs from being taken of the client, and limiting the number of court appearances are some examples of strategies which can either eliminate or curtail the spectacle which these cases sometimes become. To be sure, there are times when publicity cannot be avoided. When the case is being “tried in the press,” we develop a media strategy designed to balance out the negative publicity and paint our client in a more positive light. However, having handled dozens of high profile cases, Rawls, Scheer, Clary, & Mingo’s experience is that such a spectacle can often be avoided when we actively seek to protect and maintain our client’s privacy.
The law says that the accused is entitled to a jury of their peers. Though no one would disagree that a jury should be fair and impartial, the reality is that jurors often bring bias to their decision-making. In cases where there has been substantial pretrial publicity, a poorly selected jury may begin the trial with a “presumption of guilt” rather than a “presumption of innocence.” In other cases, the charges themselves engender fear and loathing. Allegations of violent crimes, drug trafficking, fraud schemes, and even immigration violations are examples of such cases having what some lawyers call ‘bad jury appeal.” Our law firm has taken on many such delicate and unpopular cases.
In addition to managing the pretrial publicity to neutralize the negatives, we utilize every tool at our disposal to pick a jury that will give our client a fair trial. We use focus groups to identify the most delicate issues presented in a particular case. This group of ordinary people hears the basic facts of the case from both the prosecution and defense perspectives and then play the part of the jury. By listening to their deliberations and questioning the participants, the lawyers at Rawls, Scheer, Foster & Mingo can best manage the facts and present the case (be it to a prosecutor in negotiation or a jury at trial).
We may also employ jury consultants. These are psychologists with specialized training and experience in the dynamics of juries. They digest the facts and consult with us to arrive at the best way to present our case so that the jurors will do their job – to keep an open mind and be fair to our client. When properly applied, the information these experts provide helps us to choose good jurors and present the case in the least inflammatory and most positive way to favor our client.
Of course, none of these tools we use to minimize jury bias is a cure-all. There is no substitute in this work for an experienced lawyer. All three of the criminal defense attorneys at Rawls, Scheer, Clary, & Mingo are seasoned trial lawyers with extensive jury trial experience. It is the combination of that depth of experience and the use of such tools as focus groups and jury consultants which enables this law firm to manage the predictable bias which comes with the territory in certain high profile cases.
Sometimes, challenges lie in the sheer complexity of the evidence in a case. Skillful management of the facts and law is the pillar of any effective defense – whether it is used to negotiate a favorable resolution or to fight the case at trial. For example, complex cases such as conspiracies or financial crimes often require that vast factual information be managed. In such cases, Rawls, Scheer, Clary, & Mingo’s lawyers and staff work together to master the facts and prepare the defense. We conduct our own investigation – interviewing witnesses, independently checking the “facts” given by the prosecutor, and usually uncovering important information in our clients’ favor.
Crimes such as sexual assault, murder, and vehicular homicides present unique problems. Much of the evidence in these cases involves forensic science. Our lawyers have extensive specialized training and experience in such disciplines as DNA, fingerprint, blood spatter, accident reconstruction, psychology, and serology. Our experience and skill can identify faults and weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case and when appropriate, present our own independent expert testimony.
Financial crimes often involve volumes of evidence and documents. Mastery of the complete financial picture of our client is not only vital in defending the charge but is also a shield against asset forfeiture. Additionally, “money laundering” is a charge which is increasingly being used by the Government to gain a tactical advantage in their prosecution of some unrelated, underlying crime (such as drug trafficking, fraud, etc.). By assembling and presenting a detailed forensic accounting – “following the money” – we not only defend against the money laundering allegation but also strengthen our client’s defense in the underlying charge.