Planet Defendant: Diplomacy

Diplomacy is a lost art both in science fiction and the real world. The Star Trek and Star Wars movies deal with the results of failed diplomacy: armed conflicts and wars. In the real world, we see more and more failures of diplomacy in our country. One example is our fractured political process where Democrats and Republicans want to bully each other instead of engaging in diplomacy to solve pressing problems.

If you try to represent yourself after being charged with a crime, you will have to be a diplomat on Planet Defendant. You will have to diplomatically interact with a prosecutor, a judge, and court personnel. If you go to trial, you will have to diplomatically interact with witnesses and a jury. “Diplomatically interact” means that you must advocate on your own behalf without angering, confusing or alienating anyone.

Before trial, the most important person is the prosecutor. The prosecutor decides what to charge and whether or not to offer a plea agreement. The prosecutor is a human being with feelings like everyone else. Bullying or blowing your top in person or via email is not diplomatic. You run a huge risk that the prosecutor will take offense and refuse to change a plea or offer a plea at all. The prosecutor’s offense probably would spill over and infect your trial resulting in a guilty verdict with a stiff sentence.

Another important area of pretrial diplomacy concerns the judge. The judge may issue pretrial orders such as requiring your appearance at court dates or requiring you to be fingerprinted. You may find these orders silly, inconvenient, and/or confusing. That’s no excuse to ignore them. You must diplomatically obey the judge’s pretrial orders.

It may be tempting to vent your feelings on court personnel.  Don’t do it! Court personnel are there to process defendants and paperwork through the criminal justice system.  They are not therapists or friends. You must deal with them diplomatically.

Interviewing witnesses before trial requires an intense level of diplomacy. It’s intense because every witness is unique and has his or her own attitude towards you and testifying. Some witnesses want to help you and don’t mind testifying. Others don’t want to be interviewed and don’t want to testify. You will need all the diplomacy you can muster to deal with these witnesses.

At trial, the judge will expect you to perform as if you really are a defense attorney. Your diplomacy before the judge will be on display to the jury and the prosecutor. The prosecutor will probably do something in his or her presentation of the case that will irritate, anger, and/or confuse you which will require more diplomacy on your part.

The jury ultimately is the most important because they will decide your guilt or innocence. As with witnesses, every juror is unique and has his or her own attitude towards jury duty and your case.  You must diplomatically balance your dual roles of defendant and defense attorney before the jury.

Diplomacy when representing yourself can be frustrating, stressful and exhausting.  You need an experienced defense attorney who will be your diplomat throughout the process.  Attorney Gary Rohlwing has over three decades of experience being a diplomat in the Arizona criminal justice system.  Please call him today for a free consultation.

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