I try cases

by Jamison Koehler on November 11, 2019
D.C. criminal defense attorney

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.  

2 Comments on “I try cases

  1. That…is quite a statistic. I didn’t realize defense lawyers took cases to trial at such a high rate. Is that typical? Is it because you’re taking court appointments?

    Also, it’s pretty amazing that you would publish this on your website, especially since win/loss statistics can be so misleading — affected at least as much by the kinds of cases you take as by the kind of lawyer you are.

  2. Hello Mr. Pundit! Good to see you back on this site commenting.

    I don’t know what is typical. Court appointments definitely affect the number of cases that go to trial. And most of the cases that I took to trial were before a judge and lasted no more than and a day or two. It would be very difficult to have done that many jury trials during the time period. Many cases were dismissed on the day of trial because the government was not ready for whatever reason.

    Yes, win/loss statistics can be misleading. A high win-rate could suggest you are a great trial attorney. It could also suggest you are afraid to take difficult cases to trial.

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