Attorney Jonathan Dichter was the featured guest on DUI Defense Podcasts’ episode of “5 Minute Legal Insights” on November 15, 2019. In the episode, he revealed one of the most common issues with DUI cases is jury bias.
“One of the biggest problems I confront is that most juries walk into the courtroom assuming my client is guilty, which is the opposite of what is supposed to happen,” Attorney Dichter said on the podcast.
He further explained that most jurors already believe that defendants are guilty because of the fact that they have been drinking and driving. He also said drunk drivers are “the most disliked defendants in the criminal justice system.”
When it comes to jury selection, Jonathan explains to the jurors that his job is not to prove innocence, but instead show holes in the prosecutor’s case to prove that there is reasonable doubt in the case, which means a guilty verdict cannot be obtained. He then will ask each juror if the prosecution fails to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, then they must promise to find the defendant not guilty.
“I go juror by juror and ask for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from every single juror. I do this for two reasons: I want the jury to get used to saying ‘yes’ to me because I’m going to do this to them later on,” he said. “It also becomes this avalanche of each juror realizing that everyone who agrees with him is right – and it bolsters my credibility.”
Additionally, Jonathan would engage in a two-minute conversation with the jury to break the tension in the room, often resulting in laughs and a change in demeanor. Once the jurors open up, he will explain to them that a big misconception of the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” should be “innocent unless proven guilty.”
He explained, “There’s a big difference between the two. If you say that you’re innocent until proven guilty, essentially it means that you are going to be proven guilty, and we’re simply waiting for it to happen. Whereas innocent unless proven guilty means that throughout a trial, the jury must be 100% on your side as the defendant.”
However, if there is evidence against the defendant to disprove every reasonable doubt, then the jury should find him/her guilty. That is why Jonathan said that if a juror can finish the sentence “I doubt, because…” then they must enter a not-guilty verdict.
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