I try cases
by Jamison Koehler on November 11, 2019
Since I joined the court-appointed panel in 2015, I have taken 63 cases to trial. I have secured outright acquittals in 23 of these cases – roughly 37 percent – and partial acquittals in an additional 8. This leaves across-the-board guilty verdicts in 32 of the cases. In other words, I lose on every count in just over 50 percent of the trials.
My count-by-count record is slightly better. Overall, I have secured not guilty verdict on 44 counts (54%) with guilty verdicts on 38 counts (46%).
Although I no longer have access to the records, I am sure this win/loss record is better than the one I enjoyed as a public defender in Philadelphia. Back then, with upwards of 120 misdemeanor clients a week (most of whom I was meeting for the first time on the day of trial) and 25 to 30 clients a week when I was doing felony bench trials, I was often flying blind. After all, because we did not have body worn cameras back then, we usually had no way to impeach the testimony of police officers or civilians. My record was two acquittals in one day, thereby earning me a begrudging nod from Stu Schuman, the grumpy misdemeanor supervisor. But most of our wins came through discovery or speedy trial motions.
Looking back at on it with some hindsight, I am horrified at the level of representation we were required to provide. Nobody deserves a harried and overworked lawyer who meets the client on the day of trial and who also has 30 other cases to worry about.