Stirling & O'Connell

Why an investigation is critical to your criminal defense case

If you have been charged with a crime, you may worry that the government has all the power. After all, they have an entire police force to gather evidence against you. How can you compete? The truth is, a police report often ends with the arrest, leaving an open path for a defense counter-investigation.

What is a counter-investigation?

No police investigation is perfect or perfectly complete. A counter-investigation goes through the police report piece by piece to find errors, holes, faulty witnesses and unfollowed leads. Some information is very hard for a defendant to get. Not all witnesses want to talk to the defense side. Courts may deny open records requests. But important information may also come to light. Examples may include:

  • Was the witness a confidential informant or someone else with a conflict of interest?
  • Did the state ever follow through on checking the alibis of other suspects?
  • Did the police act on an anonymous tip?
  • Did the police investigate other suspects? Did they follow through?
  • What information do you personally have about the situation?
  • What facts did the state purposely avoid because they did not help the state’s case?
  • Who can the defense call as a witness on your behalf?

Keep in mind that the sooner a counter-investigation begins, the more helpful it will be at preserving evidence, making sure your rights regarding evidence and witnesses are secured and gaining access to witnesses and physical evidence.

Telling your story

At trial, a jury needs to decide which theory of the case they believe. In other words, whose story rings true? A counter-investigation will help you challenge the state’s claims and help you tell your story to the jury.

For example, the chief witness in a Milwaukee murder trial claimed to see the defendant shoot the victim in a particular street. The defense filed an open record request regarding the chief witness, along with other witnesses. They discovered that the chief witness had actually shot someone in that same street six weeks prior to the crime being prosecuted. The defense not only discredited the witness, it gained an alternative suspect to present to the jury.

As a defendant, you have a disadvantage in the criminal justice process, but a good investigation can help level the playing field. Make sure the police are not the only people investigating your case.

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