It is important to undertake a thorough analysis of your case once you make a decision to charge. Case analysis helps you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your case. Further, it allows you to gauge how to best apply the evidence you have to ensure a fair trial. The steps below will guide you in case analysis.
1. Read the case file
You should read the case file through at least once before you analyse it. This will give you a sense of the themes. It also outlines the story that you will be telling during the prosecution of the case. If you do not understand a witness statement, or a document in the file, contact the investigator for clarity. Further, if the arrest and other aspects of the case have been reported in the media, read the media reports. Doing this will enable you know the public perspective on the case. Media reports may also have interviews of suspects and their lawyers. Through these, you can glean the defence that the accused person intends to put up.
2. Identify the parties
From the case file, identify the principal offender, other offenders, the victim and the witnesses, both of the prosecution and the defence.
3. Outline the chronological history of the events
A case is best presented by the chronological flow of events. When undertaking case analysis, you may find that the witness statements, documentary evidence etc. are not telling the story chronologically. It is therefore your role to trace the path of the case from the very first incident until the final action by the investigating officer. This will guide the order in which you call your witnesses to testify and in with you tender you evidence.
4. Identify the themes
Identify the running themes in your case and select a proper theme that you will follow at trial. The theme is the general storyline of your case and helps you to select the correct and adequate witnesses as well as evidence. Write down your theme in a short phrase. An example of a theme in a wildlife case where poachers are killing elephants, is greed. You can follow the theme of greed by the poachers which takes away resources from the community and the country at large.
5. Isolate the relevant facts
From the theme you have identified, you should be able to isolate the relevant facts of the case. At the root of every case, there is always a dispute between the parties but not all facts and circumstances surrounding this dispute will be important in proving the case. You must therefore determine which facts are relevant and therefore admissible. Write down a brief summary of the facts.
6. Frame the legal issues raised by the facts
You cannot prosecute a case if you do not know the exact issue or issues that you will be asking the court to resolve. The issue is usually presented as a question to the court. Write down this question alongside your theme and facts. Examples of framed issues in a case where the accused person is arrested in possession of wildlife products are:
- Was the accused person in possession of the wildlife product?
- Is the product a wildlife product?
7. Identify the points to prove.
In order to successfully prosecute the case, you must identify the points to prove. The points to prove are defined by the law. E.g. in a case of possession of a wildlife product the points to prove are “possession by the accused person” and “the product is a wildlife product.”
Go through your case file and ascertain that each point to prove is supported by facts and by evidence. In order to ensure that you cover all points to prove in your case, ensure that you are able to prove each of the three facets of the case below:
- Proof of elements of the crime – the actions of the accused person constitute a crime.
- Proof of identity – the accused person is responsible for the crime.
- Proof of credibility – the prosecution’s evidence is credible
8. Structure your presentation
You can now structure the manner in which you will present your case. Ensure that you structure it in a clear and concise fashion. It is easiest to present your case in a chronological manner. You may also choose to present your case backward, from the last thing that happened and ending with the eyewitness testimony which may be your strongest evidence. This will leave the court with your strongest evidence fresh on its mind. You do not need to call all witnesses or present all the evidence simply because you have it. Use only those witnesses and evidence that are able to prove the facts and the issues so as to save the court’s time.