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In today’s episode Jake Minick talks with NC DWI trial attorney Chas Post. Chas Post is a Board Certified Specialist in State Criminal Law by the North Carolina State Bar and is the only lawyer in Lee County, NC who has earned that distinction. With his broad understanding of North Carolina criminal laws, Chas specializes in Criminal Defense and Driving While Impaired (DWI) cases throughout the state. Born and raised in Sanford, Chas represents folks from all walks of life. Chas is known throughout the legal community as being a tenacious trial attorney who is not afraid to litigate the tough cases. He relishes an opportunity to represent the “little guy” and to go “head-to-head” with the tremendous power of government in front of a jury of 12. He has tried hundreds of bench trials, argued hundreds of pre-trial motions, and appeared in countless hearings on behalf of his clients.

 

Highlights:

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Chas provides a detailed roadmap for a successful initial consultation

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We discuss the importance of going through discovery, both the officer’s report and the video, with a fine tooth comb

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Insights into how to humanize your client during voir dire, opening statements, and closing argument

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Chas emphasizes the importance of watching and utilizing video evidence

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Learn how to use the jury instructions to empower your closing

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Find out from Chas how we can improve the public perception of the criminal defense bar

Transcript:

Episode 6 Transcript

Jake Minick:

Hello, fellow freedom fighters, and welcome to another episode of the podcast. Today, we have a very special guest: a husband, father, entrepreneur, politician, and most importantly for our discussion today, an amazing trial attorney. Chas Post, welcome to the podcast.

Chas:

Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate you asking me to be on.

Jake:

Chas and I went to law school together, and basically from day one, you kind of thrived in terms of having a stage, whether it was in the classroom or actually in mock trial at the Charlotte School of Law. I mean, it was just from day one, there was just kind of this natural ability to speak to people, to communicate well with people in an audience-type setting, so kind of just wanted to pick your brain a little bit about kind of what led to law school.

Chas:

Well, first of all, you are too kind. I feel like I’m a people person. I mean, I genuinely like people. There’s a lot of folks in this world that do not genuinely like people. I genuinely like people I like to be around people, so obviously, the pandemic that we’re going through right now is killing me, because I’m not getting to see the people.

Jake:

Right.

Chas:

To get to your question, I think I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home where my dad was a trial lawyer; still is, I work with him now here in Lee County. He’s the Senior Partner. He’s been practicing law, criminal defense and personal injury, for almost 40 years, so I grew up around it. There’s really nothing else I ever dreamed about becoming other than a lawyer, so that’s really why I decided to go to law school in the first place, was because I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my dad.

Jake:

With that, kind of before going to law school, did you ever kind of have an internship with your dad’s office, watch him in the courtroom, or was it more just kind of seeing him in and out of home every day, kind of talking about the law practice at points? What did that look like?

Chas:

Well, I mean, I can remember being… this is back in the day, so 13, 14… and somebody calling up at on a Sunday night at like 9:00, stating that they just got arrested. My mom was out of town, and my brother and my sister were somewhere else, and he’s like, “Come on. You’re coming with me to the jail.” So, I’m in the jail at like 14, kind of just sitting there, scared to death.

Chas:

He talked about them a lot at home, but when I was in high school, I did some internships here. I was basically the whatever they wanted me to do; take the trash out, run across the street to the clerk’s office, take stuff to get filed. I would come after school when I wasn’t playing a sport. I played baseball and basketball, so really, it was the fall when I was able to come after school and work here from like 3:00 to 6:00, doing whatever they needed me to do.

Jake:

Yeah, that’s awesome. I think that having that hands-on experience is such a blessing, in terms of kind of walking down that path. I mean, there really is nothing like kind of that jail visit environment in terms of kind of turning on the passion.

Chas:

Yeah, and I mean, I have a passion for helping people. You and I and everyone that’s maybe listening to this podcast in the future, we see people in their darkest hour. I mean, a lot of times, they’re good people, and they just either made a bad decision or they’re wrongfully charged, and either way, we don’t judge them. We’re here to help them, and that’s one of the things that’s important to me, is when somebody walks into my office, I want them to understand, “Look, this is a judgment-free zone. We’re going to talk about this. We’re going to lay everything out from start to finish. You’re going to tell me your story. I’m going to ask you a lot of questions, and then I’m going to tell you how this is going to go in terms of first court date to last court date, and what are the options and what are the possibilities that you might run across during this long road to justice, for lack of a better term.”

Jake:

Is that all discussed with them during that initial consultation?

Chas:

Yeah. I’ve got to give a shoutout to my former boss, Bill Powers, who I watched for two years right out of law school, and before, when he gave me an internship. I took a lot from him. I mean, he would go real in-depth and explain everything to the client, start to finish. I mean, he explains the difference between district court and superior court, and how a cast starts in district court on impaired driving… I guess that’s what we’re discussing here, mainly; that’s his expertise, is impaired driving… just take an impaired driving case; starts in district court. You go through all your continuances; you have some hearings, maybe; you have a trial, maybe. If you win, it’s over, usually, unless the state appeals your pre-trial motion, and then it goes to superior court.

Chas:

He would just explain everything, so that’s what I do. From start to finish, I explain to them… first of all, let them talk. I say, “Tell me your story. Tell me what happened in your words, and I need you to tell me everything, because if you tell me that you only had two beers, and you blew this number, I may very well put you on the stand to say, ‘I only drank two beers,’ but if you tell me you drank 20 beers, I can’t put you on the stand.”

Jake:

Right, right.

Chas:

“I want to hear everything, and I want you to tell me the truth.” Then, I go into my questioning of what I need to know that they didn’t already tell me, and then I move to how all this works, and what I can do for them, and what I think we need to do from here.

Jake:

Yeah, I mean, I would say that there’s kind of a general idea of what happens during the consultation and how that moves from start to finish, but I honestly think the best attorneys do the best consultations. I think that there is a real art to doing the consultation the right way, because that’s really where you begin that kind of trust relationship with the client, and I think, like you said, listening to the client first and hearing their story, and letting them fully explain that… I get the sense sometimes when a client calls me, and I don’t know if it’s because they’ve talked with another attorney or another attorney’s staff member, or because they’ve read something about lawyers, or they’ve had a interaction with a non-criminal attorney in the past that was billing them by the hour, but I feel like there’s this real pressure of, “I need to get my story out, but I’m not going to have time to do that,” so they’ll start talking real fast. There’s this pressure, and it’s like, “Look, I’ve got as much time in the world as you need to let me know what happened, and then we’ll kind of move forward, so just tell me what’s going on.” I think just letting them have that opportunity is really important.

Jake:

The second thing that you said, asking questions, I think that is really where you have the ability to differentiate yourself from a lot of other lawyers, is by just asking tons of questions, right? This shows your knowledge about the particular type of law, and it allows you to then see what options might exist down the road. So, asking all of those important questions about sentencing, about what legal issues might be exposed… that is a really important thing in terms of differentiating yourself, so I love that. I love that. There’s a real art to the consultation.

Chas:

There is, and for all you younger lawyers out there, there is a business aspect to what we do, because this is how we make a living. You are a salesman in the initial consultation, so you have to sell yourself on why you think that you will do a better job than the other guy. Now, that does not mean you ever talk negative about any other lawyer, because that’s something that I would never do and I would never suggest anyone ever do. That’s not going to stand.

Jake:

It’s counterproductive, yeah.

Chas:

It’s counterproductive. It’s the worst thing you can do. It’s just terrible.

Chas:

What I’m saying is, just like you explained, the questions that you ask will show the client your knowledge of the stuff that you all are talking about. It will show the client that you know what you’re talking about and that you can help them in their time of need. It’s very important because the main thing that the client wants to walk out of here feeling is that that man or that woman really knows what they’re talking about, and I think they can really help me.

Chas:

Now, help me is a very loose term; I mean, are they going to get my case dismissed? Are they going to get me a really good deal? Are they going to keep me out of prison? So, helping someone doesn’t mean you’re just going to make it go away. Sometimes, unfortunately, in our line of work, we can’t just make it go away, and to help them is to listen and be there for them and mitigate the damage.

Jake:

Right, and I think that the more that you spend that time in the initial consultation listening to the client and hearing their story, and then asking them important questions, questions that are really going to help you better help the client, the more you are going to be able to help the client. It’s kind of odd, because, really, the way that I see sales happening in the consultation, and there is no doubt, like you said, there is a business aspect to this.

Jake:

The potential client, in business terms, is a lead, right? This is somebody that is going to move on to another person if they don’t hire you. At the same time, the way that you kind of do sales, or the way that I think that it sounds like from both of us, that this is kind of a joint kind of sales mechanism, is really to actually spend a lot of time with the client; to listen to the client; to treat the client like a human being. That’s the sales mechanism. So, there’s no sales-i-ness to it, right?

Chas:

Right.

Jake:

It is sales, but at the same time, it’s genuine, and I think that’s how you differentiate yourself from the competition, is by being human in the way that you show yourself in that initial consultation.

Chas:

That’s so true, and that drains into the future. In other words, if you’re going to have a jury trial and you need to humanize your client, you know all about them from the initial interview. You know where they work, if they’re married or not; do they have a family, do they have any children; what kind of emotional people they are. You can use that to your advantage in the potential for a jury trial, because I mean, juries are about people.

Jake:

Right, exactly.

Chas:

When you’re trying to humanize your client to 12 people sitting in that box that you don’t know, you have to know your client, and you have to know your client well. I try to meet with my client, in the event we have a jury trial, multiple times to prepare them; not necessarily to testify, but just so they know what’s going to happen, and I can get to know them even better.

Chas:

I don’t just meet with a client in the initial consultation, talk to them on the phone four or five times, and then put 12 people in the box and argue their case. I mean, they’re going to come see me. We’re going to sit down. We’re going to discuss all the options. I’m going to get to know them, so that I can use that to their benefit in jury selection, which is where it starts; on to the opening statement; in to cross-examination, maybe; and certainly, as long as it comes into evidence, in your closing argument.

Jake:

How do you do that, Chas? In terms of just kind of humanizing your client, or just in terms of your general structure for either voir dire or for kind of the opening statement, how are you using those tools to humanize your client or to just kind of strategically set up your case?

Chas:

Well, a lot of it depends on which judge sitting up there and how much leeway he or she will give you. If I’ve got a judge I know that will give me a little leeway, I’ll start from the very moment that I begin talking. “I’m Chas Post. I’m working with Post/Foushee/Patton. Here are my partners. Here are their names. Have we ever represented you in any matter? Yes? No? Have we ever been against you in any kind of matter? Yes? No? All right, now, this is John Smith. I have the pleasure of representing him. He’s a fireman at the Apex Police Department. Do you know anybody in the Apex Police Department?”

Chas:

Now, that may get me somewhere, or the judge may not let me ask that; some have and some have not. So, I’ll let the jury know who this person is the moment that I introduce them.

Jake:

[crosstalk 00:14:58]

Chas:

Now, again, you can’t bring up that he’s a fireman in the Apex Police Department in your closing argument, unless you can get it out someway on cross-examination or by direct examination. So, that’s the first way I do it. I just try to make sure that they know who they’re dealing with, if I want them to know who they’re dealing with.

Chas:

The second way is… especially if you have a client that is a good person, that has just made a mistake… you want to tell the jury, without actually telling the jury, this man over here or this woman over here could be you or it could be someone you love. Now, you can’t say that, obviously. You can’t put the jury in the shoes of the defendant; that’s not allowed. You have to find creative ways to express that, and it’s different in every case.

Chas:

I mean, I guess, for example, sometimes when you have an opening statement and you want to come across to the jury with your theme or your theory of the case, a lot of times we’ll say, “This is a case about a person who is wrongfully accused of a crime.” Well, that’s not that great. That doesn’t humanize your client. Why not start off with, “This is a case about John Smith, the fireman from Apex who just got off of work and was on his way home to his family, and got pulled over by this police officer,” and then go on into the facts. So, you’ve laid out… again, before you do that, you have to make sure that you’ll be able to get that information or those facts out during the evidentiary phase of the trial, because you can’t say it in opening and closing if it doesn’t come in into evidence, because you’ll get an objection, and that objection will get sustained, and it may cause a problem for you. Before you go into something like that, you need to make sure that you know for a fact that it’s going to come out.

Chas:

For example, the officer wrote in his report, “Defendant told me he worked for the Apex Fire Department.” You can ask the officer, “Isn’t it true my client works for the Apex Fire Department? He told you that.” “Yes.” So, those are some of the ways.

Jake:

I think that that idea of the opening statement, in terms of kind of beginning to develop a theme of the case instead of just laying out, here’s a forecast of the evidence, which a lot of times, that’s what the state is doing, and they don’t have a person representing.

Chas:

[crosstalk 00:17:48]

Jake:

They don’t have a human being on their side of the V, so they have to just kind of say, “Here’s what the facts are going to show,” but it feels very impersonal, and so the jury has the ability, as all of the evidence comes out, to either really dislike your client or to feel some sympathy and compassion for your client. So, you’ve got to start doing that damage control and then even getting onto the positive side of that emotional connection as early on as possible, so I love that idea, that kind of building in a theme and it kind of explaining who your client is.

Jake:

A lot of times, I don’t do that particularly well, so I’m going to have to start incorporating that kind of a theme into the opening statement, but even in terms of discovery, the officer might have asked your client where they work; they might have asked your client where they were driving to. So, if you can pull it out of the officer, you can develop the theme that you were just talking about without even having to put a witness on the stand.

Chas:

Exactly, and most lawyers just overlook those facts. “Who cares if he told him he works at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals? Who cares?” Well, I mean, it might matter later when you’re trying to show the jury that this guy is just a regular old joe who is in a bad spot, and you could be the same person in a bad spot. You need to look at everything, including who they are, before you make a decision as to their future.

Jake:

Yeah, I love that. I guess in terms of developing that theme of kind of presenting the humanity of your client, how do you that within testimony being presented, whether that’s in cross-examination or bringing out something from your own witness or whatnot, or in closing? How do you kind of carry that through to the end of the case?

Chas:

On cross-examination, that’s a little bit more difficult. I mean, you hope to goodness that the officer wrote some stuff in there like that the client was polite and cooperative, that he was able to carry on an intelligible conversation. I mean, sometimes, officers will write in there not very much, but then you watch a video and… that’s another good point that I failed to make: watch the video. If it’s available to you, watch the video. Not just a part of it, not just stop to arrest, watch the whole thing, because a lot of times, the ride… and I’m talking about impaired driving, and I keep going back to that… but the ride-

Jake:

That’s the main focal point, yeah.

Chas:

Okay. The ride from the scene to the jail, or to wherever the Intoximeter EC/IR II is located, is a good 15, 20 minutes, and a lot of times, a conversation will ensue and it will have nothing to do with alcohol. It will have to do with the officer’s family, the defendant’s family, what they’re doing the next day, what they’ve been doing, what they like to do; do they like to go fishing? Well, they both like to go fishing.

Chas:

Then, other times, you have a complete silence, and you’re watching the video and you don’t get to use any information, but those videos are very helpful in being able to cross-examine the officer. “So, Officer Johnson, after you arrested my client, you all had a long conversation about horses, right? He told you he had a horse farm, didn’t he?” “Yeah.” “You told him that you used to ride horses when you were a kid, right?” “Yeah.” “You all kept on and on about that, right, and he was able to hold that conversation with you without any problems, right? You understood everything that he said, right? He was intelligible, intelligent; seemed to know what he was talking about, right? Didn’t seem like he was lying, right?”

Chas:

That kind of helps humanize the person, as well, in cross-examination. That’s a tough one, though, because if there isn’t that information or isn’t that footage, you don’t really have much to ask the officers, as far as humanizing your client. Now, obviously, if you put the client up there on direct, you can humanize him all day long with questions about who he is, [inaudible 00:22:29].

Jake:

Yeah, I think that that point about watching the video and making sure that you’re spending that time doing that is extremely important. You really cannot prepare adequately if there’s video without really fully watching that, and again, from an emotional side of things or a human connection side of things, during that car ride, even if there’s no audio… they’re sitting in the back or front of a trooper vehicle with no audio… just their actions or their kind of facial expressions, those kind of things can be very humanizing and potentially relevant evidence that could come out, either through cross-examination or through your own case… question back and forth in the intox room about, should I blow or should I not blow; a lot of times, we’ll then delve into, “Here’s what this is going to do to my life if I blow,” and so, that explanation can come out right there.

Jake:

“What does this mean? Well, you heard on video what this means to my client.” There’s ways for some of those humanizing aspects to come out through the evidence.

Chas:

Piggybacking off of that, when you’re in that intox room and that officer is… usually, they’re supposed to read you your Miranda rights, and then on the back of that DWI-R form, there’s, what, 30 questions or so about you and what you’ve been doing? There’s some questions about medical stuff. So, if you want to get into evidence, that, a lot of times is helpful.

Jake:

Right.

Chas:

What time is it? Well, he knew that it was 11:00 PM. What day is it? Saturday. What’s the date? April 20th. If you look at that, those are all good facts to use, if the client gets the answers right, to show that his mental faculties were, in fact, intact at the time. Then, it kind of goes down to what did you eat, and how much do you weigh, and all those good questions, and sometimes you can humanize your client… if you got somebody on the jury that also has some sort of disease with their leg, and they know that they have a hard time walking, and you don’t have an expert like Doug Scott to get up there and say, “Well, if they have knee or leg or back problems, the officer really isn’t supposed to do the walk and turn on one leg stand.”

Chas:

You have a juror that didn’t tell anybody that he has back, leg, and neck problems, or ankle problems, and then a client tells the officer, “Yeah, I had surgery on my ankle a month ago”… that might help humanize the client with someone in the jury that has been down that same road or has a family member that’s been down that same road, and says, “Well yeah, I had ankle surgery a year ago and it took me a good six months to start walking right. I can’t believe this officer had this guy stand on one leg.”

Jake:

Well, in terms of just kind of some advice for an attorney, let’s say, getting ready to try their first case. How would you advise an attorney that’s preparing for their first district court trial?

Chas:

Well, there’s absolutely no substitute for preparation. If you have a close case and you are more prepared than the person sitting across the aisle from you, the chances are you’re going to win.

Jake:

That’s an advantage point for the defense, but we actually do have the ability to be more prepared. That’s one of the few places of advantage, is that the state has to prepare for 200 cases on the docket, and we’ve got to prepare for two. We’ve got the advantage on that front.

Chas:

I mean, you need to walk into that courtroom ready to go to war, and you don’t go to war without an arsenal. If you walk in there and you plan on arguing a case and you don’t have three copies of it, one for you, one for the state, and one for the judge, then you’ve already failed your client.

Jake:

Right.

Chas:

You have to be prepared. I mean, you have to take your case law with you, know what your angle is going to be, know the case better than the other side, and sometimes, quite frankly… and I’ll do this a lot, and my client will look at me like, “Who the you-know-what are you?”… I will not ask one single question on cross-examination.

Chas:

Sometimes it’s just best to keep your mouth shut, especially in a case like an operation case, where they don’t have an eyewitness, they don’t have an admission, and they didn’t go into any of the other stuff that you can use to corroborate a naked confession or to circumstantially prove that the person was the operator of the motor vehicle. I mean, the last thing you want to do is say, “So, did you find the keys?” “Matter of fact, Mr. Post, the keys were in your client’s pocket.” “You didn’t touch the hood, did you, Officer Johnson?” “Well, as a matter of fact, I did touch the hood, Mr. Post, and it was very warm.”

Jake:

Yeah, I’ve been there before.

Chas:

Don’t do that. These younger DAs that you get don’t know the tricks yet, and they may not ask those questions, and there’s no need for you then to go on cross-examination and tee it up for the officer to be able to answer the questions that could get your guy convicted.

Jake:

Yeah, I mean, I think that that’s one of the places where that DA’s handbook, the yellow trial notebook that they have, it lays out the questions in a particular order, and there’s not really a lot of follow-up questions listed, and for a new DA who is like, “Here’s the list of questions I’m going to ask,” they’re going to miss some of that stuff. Let them miss it.

Chas:

Let them miss it and don’t ask them about it. Don’t ask the officer about it. I mean, if you don’t hear slurred speech on direct, don’t say, “Isn’t it true, Officer Johnson, that you didn’t observe any slurred speech?” “Well, as a matter of fact, Mr. Post, I did observe slurred speech.” You just don’t do that to yourself.

Jake:

Right, right. Yeah, I think a different way of saying the same question without giving the officer that kind of out, is to kind of build it through the officer’s report, to say, “You’re trained, Officer, to take detailed notes. You did that in this case, didn’t you? You took detailed notes and you didn’t indicate anything in your report about my client’s speech being slurred, correct?” “No, I didn’t,” and then just leave it at that. Don’t say, “Well, did you hear slurred speech, and you just didn’t put it in the notes?” Don’t go down that road. Just lock them into the report, keep it yes and no answers, and move on from there.

Chas:

That’s why opening statements are so hard in some cases, because… it’s supposed to be, like you said before, a road map; this is what the evidence is going to be. Well, in a lot of these cases that we have, the evidence is, there is no evidence.

Jake:

Right, that’s so true.

Chas:

You get what I’m saying?

Jake:

That’s so true, yeah.

Chas:

The evidence will be that you will not hear this, this, this and this, and I’ve had judges ream me on that, and I’m like, “That’s what the evidence is, Your Honor.” I mean, the evidence is, you’re not going to hear this, this and this. That’s why opening statements, in my opinion, is the… and I know it sounds ridiculous… it’s the hardest part.

Jake:

It is. I mean, if you’re not going to present any evidence, in particular, which a lot of times, even if you are, you can’t really forecast that in opening statement, because you’re going to wait to see what the evidence from the state comes out; you’re going to wait to see if you can make an appropriate motion to dismiss before telling the jury, “Kind of here’s what we’re going to present.” It’s kind of like, “I don’t know what the state is going to present in their case, and this is their case. They have the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. We don’t have to prove anything.” Yeah, it’s difficult.

Chas:

I’m not going to try their case for them.

Jake:

Right, exactly. Exactly.

Chas:

To me, that’s a very hard… and I have not mastered that, nor have I mastered jury selection. Those are the two things that I need to work on in my own practice, is jury selection and… because sometimes I just feel rushed during jury selection. The judge is over there looking at me like, “First of all, why are we trying this district court DWI up here in superior court? Second of all, this is taking way too long.”

Chas:

So, sometimes I feel rushed in those impaired driving jury selections, but you just got to stay the course, take a deep breath, and know that if that judge gets mad at you, that’s not necessarily your fault. You’re trying to do the best job you can for the man or woman sitting next to you, because that’s their life that’s on the line. That’s just things that I need to work on.

Jake:

Yeah, I agree.

Chas:

Now, closing argument is where I like to shine. That’s where people can hear me all the way from one end of the courthouse to the other.

Jake:

Yeah, I’m not surprised by that, Chas. Again, from day one of knowing you, that would be where I would anticipate would be kind of the moment of Chas Post glory, and I feel like the closing, in a lot of ways, is really important for jurors, to connect these dots and to really understand what it is that they’re hearing. Just kind of… what are some of your pointers in terms of closing? How much are you kind of going into the standard of proof required of the state, the evidence, kind of humanizing your client? What are some pointers in terms of closing?

Chas:

I mean, like you said, you tie it all in at the beginning of the closing with the humanization of your client. The appellate courts in our state have really thrown us a bone, and the pattern jury instructions are amazing, in my opinion, with regard to burden of proof in the state of North Carolina.

Jake:

Right.

Chas:

I hammer “fully satisfied” or “entirely convinced” as much as I possibly can.

Jake:

Agreed.

Chas:

That phrase is… I don’t know how to describe it, other than amazing. Think about it. You’ve got to be fully satisfied or entirely convinced of every element of the offense charged before you can return a verdict of guilty, and if you don’t, you must return a verdict of not guilty. I mean, if you’re not fully satisfied or you’re not fully convinced, you must return a verdict of not guilty. I just think that’s very, very powerful language, and I think we’re fortunate to have that in our pattern jury instructions, so I hammer that.

Jake:

Yeah, I agree, especially since they then hear the closing instructions to follow that, really forecasting, “Here’s the law that the judge is going to give you,” because it then also makes it seem like you are being very upfront. I think that one of the things that the jurors are expecting from the criminal defense attorney is a lot of under-mindedness, a lot of lying, and so if you can say, “Here’s what the judge is going to tell you in a couple minutes. Now, let me explain that,” and then the judge tells them exactly that, they’re like, “Well, that’s exactly what we were”…

Chas:

Consistent. It’s consistent, yeah. I mean, I think that… and we’re kind of jumping around, which is fine… but jury instructions? Use them, baby. Use them, use them, use them. Use them in your opening. Don’t go too long; you’ll get yelled at like I did about a month or two ago, but use them. Like you just said, if you tell them, the jury, what the judge tells them, they’re going to think you really know what you’re talking about.

Jake:

Right, and you’re not trying to pull one over them.

Chas:

Right, and another thing that’s very important is special requests for special jury instructions in certain cases. I mean, the jury instruction is what the jury is going to go off of in determining whether or not the state met its burden, and if you have some requests for some special instructions… Simmons in their instruction in .08, which I’ve never been granted… .08 cases, I’ve never had a superior court judge allow that.

Chas:

I’ll tell you, like in an operation case… operation cases are some of my favorite cases to try to a jury. In an operation case, the general statutes define an operator of a motor vehicle as a person in actual physical control of a vehicle which is in motion or which has the engine running. Operator is not defined in the pattern jury instructions, so I think it’s important to ask a judge to define operator as it’s defined in the general statutes when you have an operation case, because that statement right there is very powerful.

Chas:

Again, an operator is a person in actual physical control of a vehicle, which is in motion, or which has the engine running. If you’re standing outside of a vehicle and the vehicle is off, it’s not in motion and the engine’s not running, so it doesn’t meet that statutory language, and some jurors are going to be like, “I don’t care what the circumstantial is. It doesn’t meet that statutory language, so I don’t feel like he was the operator of the motor vehicle.”

Chas:

So, special requests for jury instructions are also very important during the charge conference. I think the people don’t put enough credence in the charge conference and the things that you can get into those jury instructions during that conference [inaudible 00:37:02].

Jake:

Let’s maybe end with this. What is kind of the number one thing that you think that we can do better as a bar that will allow us to have a better reputation?

Chas:

Well, nobody likes a lawyer until they need a lawyer, so the best thing that can happen is somebody in the community’s kid or whatever does something that they shouldn’t have done and they need to call you, and then you help them. Helping people, and taking someone’s problem and making it better, is probably the best way to do it, but for the people that don’t ever have that problem or a family member that has that problem, I think we just got to keep on keeping on.

Chas:

We’re defenders of the Constitution. Just because we represent someone that is accused of doing something very bad doesn’t mean we agree with people doing things that are very bad, and I think we need to make sure that we explain that to our friends who can then go tell their friends, that just because somebody is charged with something and I’m standing there next to them, and I’m advocating them, not just in words, but in spirit, doesn’t mean that I agree with what they did.

Chas:

Sometimes we, as criminal defense lawyers, have to police the police. We have to make sure that the person’s rights that we’re representing has not been violated. We have to make sure that the police didn’t cut any corners, or we have to make sure that they’re not telling a lie or exaggerating. So, I mean, there are good lawyers, and there are some bad apples with any profession, and unfortunately, the bad apples have made our profession look bad on occasion, but there’s guys like you out there and guys like me that can turn the public perception around, and we just need to keep on doing what we do and doing a good job for people, and making sure that people know that we care about them and their problems.

Jake:

I appreciate that, Chas, and I think that what you’ve just kind of laid out is, you change the public perception one person at a time, and when that person gets in trouble themselves or has a family, and then they call; then, from the initial phone call, whether they’re talking directly to you or to one of your team members, from the point that they come into the office, I feel like so many people have a positive culture shock where they’re expecting, again, somebody to really be kind of waiting to screw them over, waiting to kind of… it’s all about money, and then when they find out, “Wow, this person really cares about me,” that really does kind of change the mindset and the reputation that we kind of had, not only as a criminal defense bar, but as attorneys, in general.

Chas:

I agree with you. Regarding money, in the initial consultation, for all you folks that are listening, I never bring up money until the very end, and I try my best to allow the potential client to ask me about the fee. I try not to just say, “Here’s the fee.” I like for me to go through all the stuff that we’ve talked about in that initial consultation, and then for me to say, “Do you have any more questions?”

Jake:

Right.

Chas:

Then, for them to say, “Well, how much is it going to cost?” Then, we talk about money.

Jake:

I love that. Another point of agreement in terms of the way that we do the consultations. I, for the life of me, cannot understand how any office can tell somebody, especially through a staff member, during the first phone call, “Here’s what our fee is for that charge,” because you’ve given yourself no grounds to differentiate yourself from anybody else by doing that.

Chas:

It’s impossible. I think it’s borderline malpractice to say, “It’s $1,500 for a DWI. Now, now what?”

Jake:

Right.

Chas:

What if they’re a Level One with three or four convictions from 1990, and they’re going to jail for 120 days or three years or something? So, it’s just… yeah, I don’t believe in that at all. I believe in talking to the person, hearing their story, and then coming up with the fee.

Jake:

Well, that’s great, Chas. Appreciate very much all of the thoughts that you’ve been able to share with us, and I appreciate you coming on the podcast.

Chas:

Jake, man, I’ve always admired you, and I appreciate what you do for our profession and our society as a whole, so thanks for having me. I look forward to talking to you again soon, my friend.

Jake:

Yeah, you’ll definitely be back on.

Chas:

All right.

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