When it comes to a client testifying in his or her own defense or in choosing to assert their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, attorneys must weigh a multitude of factors to provide experienced advice. One primary factor is whether a client has any criminal history. In a criminal case, a defendant’s criminal history cannot be mentioned by either party…unless the defendant testifies. Then, his or her criminal history is fair game for cross-examination purposes. The jury will hear all of the defendant’s criminal history. So, putting he or she on the stand carries with it the significant risk that the jury would use the criminal history against the defendant in the case in which they are testifying.
If a defendant has a clean criminal record there is less worry about them testifying, but that doesn’t end the analysis. For example, if your client is shy, withdrawn, poor at public speaking, easily manipulated, among many other concerns, it may not be a good idea for them to testify and subject them to cross-examination by the prosecutor. If they don’t testify, the jury will always be instructed by the Judge to not use that fact against them in any way.
In the case of Governor Greitens, none of these concerns are present. Adam Woody set down with the local CBS affiliate KOLR10 to discuss why Governor Greitens is the defendant every criminal defense attorney wants as a client. His charisma, charm, and intelligence will serve him well if he chooses to testify in his own defense. But, he must be careful and not cross the line into conceited, boastful, and arrogant. He will be prepared and thoroughly coached by his defense team, so we fully expect him to testify whether it is to a jury in a jury trial, or only to the Judge sitting alone whose decision has the force and effect of a jury verdict, which is the case in a bench trial. Stay tuned…next week will get interesting!