Trials in Federal Court

by John Lovell

For my first blog with Peach State Lawyers, I’ll address trials in federal court. Because every client is cloaked in a presumption of innocence, I start with the view that the government has made an error in charging my client. My concern is based on my experience – the last three cases I tried in federal court resulted in acquittals for all or the most serious charges. The three trials resulted in acquittals for 1) murder and a gun possession charge, 2) two counts of attempted murder and a parallel gun possession charge for each count, and 3) four counts alleging the production of child pornography.

All three clients knew they were innocent of these charges and told me they wished to go to trial. After evaluating the government’s cases, I agreed with them and prepared for trial. The murder acquittal is an example of how we defend serious charges. In this case, we had more than a mere attack on the credibility of the government’s witnesses, we put up a case for innocence that was stronger than the federal government’s case. Together with my investigator, we discovered the person who committed the murder. We found witnesses who saw the murder and they were more credible than the “snitches” who testified with hopes of getting themselves out of trouble.

Not every case is appropriate for trial. However, a skilled attorney advises a client whether the case is triable.

When searching for an attorney in federal court, ask direct questions such as:
• How many cases have you handled in the courthouse where my case will be heard?
• How many trials have you represented a client as first chair (not as an assistant)?
• What were the outcomes of the cases you tried?

If an attorney tells you of terrific outcomes, ask to see proof. It is your duty as a person defending his freedom to find out which attorneys are marketing geniuses and which are skilled trial attorneys (some are both). The attorney focused on marketing may not have the skills to represent you in court. Even if the case is not a case that should be tried, you do not want an attorney negotiating for you who has a reputation of avoiding trials. You want an attorney who brings credibility to the table! After all, this may be the most important decision you make.

Peach State Lawyer Welcomes John Lovell to Our Blogging Team

I’d like to introduce a new member of our blogging team, John Lovell. John has practiced criminal law for a quarter century as an Assistant DA in New York and Atlanta. He also worked for 6.5 years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta. For over 11 years now he has zealously defended the accused. A recent successful case John handled typifies his work ethic.

The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, the top federal court covering Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, awarded John’s client a new appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court. This will almost certainly result in a new trial. In 2009, his client was convicted of murder in Coweta County. However, she did not receive the trial the United States Constitution requires.

John accepted the case after his client had lost a trial and lost on appeal. 99+% of the time, the case is over at that time. However, as John looked closely at the record in the case, it became apparent to him that critical testimony was presented to the jury without his client having access to her attorney. John raised this issue in a habeas proceeding in Georgia. The judge who heard the evidence ordered a new trial. However, the state appealed the decision to the Georgia Supreme Court. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled unanimously that John’s client was not entitled to a new trial and that the conviction would stand.

John and his client did not give up. John was convinced that the unanimous Georgia Supreme Court was unanimously wrong. There was only one avenue available … an “appeal” to federal court using a mechanism called the federal habeas corpus. The federal habeas corpus is a mine field. The rules seem designed to exclude cases from the courts. The slightest mistake results in the case being forever dismissed. John had to flawlessly follow the rules and meet every deadline just to have his client’s case heard.

The battle wore on through federal court going all the way to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (one court below the U.S. Supreme Court). After reading his brief and hearing John’s arguments, the 11th circuit granted his client a new direct appeal which, based on the law in Georgia, should result in a new trial.

John began representing this client in 2011. It has taken six years to get a favorable result that will stand. John showed persistence on behalf of his client, a trait we pursue at Peachstate Law.