In the field of criminal defense, the witness list is a standard requirement. The list will be required 30 days before trial or based upon the scheduling order provided by the circuit court judge. While many lawyers feel the need to make an extensive witness list, this may not always be in the best interest of the client. Sometimes less is more. Today, we will discuss why there are times when placing no witnesses on the list may be a wise decision for the criminal defense lawyer.
Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has created a criminal defense team that is known as the top in the state of Michigan. When asked about the witness list, Grabel stated, “This is not a one size fits all proposition. The lack of a witness list can be as helpful as a long one may serve. It is not the defense counsel’s burden to prove the case, and there are times when solely playing defense is the best strategy for the client.”
William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Known as a top trial lawyer, Amadeo stated, “When you are doing voir dire, you have to teach the jury who has the burden and connect with them. If you can review the questionnaire on the jury pool, you can learn a lot about them and whether they will understand the lack of a witness or hold it against your client. This process differs significantly from county to county. Sometimes it makes sense to limit the time of trial; sometimes the best move is to make it as long as possible. There is no rulebook for trial strategy in our state.
Joe Brugnoli is an Associate Attorney for Grabel and Associates and has become one of the top criminal defense lawyers in Kent County. Brugnoli added, “A witness list is something that can make or break your case. After doing your due diligence, you have to study the pros and cons of each witness with the understanding that if you place a witness on your list, they are fair game. Sometimes it is best to limit your client’s exposure when a matter is going to trial.”
While the witness list is an area of controversy in Michigan, the most crucial aspect of the topic that the criminal defense lawyer should understand is that knowing your audience is an essential rule of law.