Sunday, February 12, 2006
An important decision in white collar cases, as well as many other cases, is whether the accused will take the witness stand. Much of the decision is not premised upon what the accused might say in support of his or her position in direct examination, but rather will the individual, and the story they present, withstand cross-examination.
Mens Rea, or whether the accused intentionally committed the alleged acts, is often a key focus in white collar cases. Thus, hearing from the accused is clearly beneficial. But when the defendant tries to explain away improper conduct, it can be devastating to the case, especially if the government has not presented sufficient evidence during the trial. The testimony can end up convicting a defendant who might have been acquitted because of existing reasonable doubt.
This is the issue probably being considered by former Governor Ryan and his defense team as the point of making the decision of testifying or not testifying is likely to arise this coming week. (see Chicago Tribune here) And this is no doubt a tough decision here as Ryan is a thoughtful speaker who has made significant contributions in the state and internationally.