Legal Strategy

Legal Strategy
Introduction to Legal Strategy

Having a legal strategy helps you to present your case in the best and most efficient manner. It also helps you to anticipate and counter defences. Further, it ensures that you present all the evidence required by the close of your case. Below, are some legal strategies that wildlife crime prosecutors may use.

Prosecution Guided Investigations and Pre-Charge Advise

Sometimes, the success of your case will depend on the quality and timeliness of advice and assistance that you give to the investigator. Working closely with the investigator is a good stratety to increase your mutual understanding and trust. The involvement of the prosecutor at the early stages of an investigation can also eliminate unnecessary work for the investigator. Further, it eliminates need for follow-up investigations and ensures that all the evidence necessary to support the case is obtained.

Early involvement of the prosecutor can also help to identify potential evidential difficulties. This will lead to quick resolution of those difficulties. It will also be be easy to identify possible lines of defence and ways to rebut them. The prosecutor’s involvment further improves the presentation of evidence within case file preparation. It reduces post-charge investigations, the need for court adjournments and amendments and withdrawal of charges.

Applying Storytelling Techniques to Present Your Case

Apply storytelling techniques as a strategy to ensure that you present your case clearly. Storytelling techniques also  ensure that the judge remembers your case long after you close it. Such techniques include:

  1. Begin or end with your strongest witness.
  2. Ensure that the witnesses tell the story.
  3. Set the physical setting of the crime through the witnesses, i.e., the location, time of day, type of weather etc.

A good way of applying storytelling techniques is to elicit step by step replay of events from the witnesses and the evidence. Ask the witnesses a series of question to draw out the story of the events. These include questions pertaining to what the witnesses saw, heard, felt and their emotional reactions to the events. Further, reinforce the testimony by repeating some key words or phrases used by the witnesses. See the illustration below:

Unreinforced Testimony

Witness: I saw the accused person carrying an object that looked like an elephant tusk.

Prosecutor: What did you do next?

Reinforced testimony

Witness: I saw the accused person carrying an object that looked like an elephant tusk.

Prosecutor: What did you do after you saw the accused person carrying an object that looked like an elephant tusk?

Highlighting the Defendant’s Motives

Ensure that the witness testimony is able to highlight the defendant’s motives for committing the crime. Such motives may include greed or enrichment.

Anticipating the Defences

Part of an effective trial strategy is to anticipate likely defences. You can do this by presenting evidence that undercuts or contradicts the anticipated defence. As a prosecutor, you should generally be aware of the defences that the accused person is likely to rely on. Some examples of defences for the crime of poaching or illegal hunting of wildlife are:

  1. Self-defence i.e., the defendant killed the animal because it was attacking him.
  2. Diminished responsibility i.e., the defendant was incapacitated by drugs or alcohol. He did not know that he was killing the animal.
  3. Lack of blameworthiness i.e., the defendant was only in the company of a poacher but did not poach. Or the defendant did not know that he was being taken on an illegal hunting expedition.
  4. Not a wildlife species i.e., The defendant killed an animal but it was not a wildlife species or a protected species.
Leveraging on Expert Evidence

Expert witnesses are important in wildlife crime cases. Many times fundamental questions such as identifying the specimen in issue requires expert opinion. Expert witnesses may also be called during pre-sentencing hearing. This is usualy a good strategy to have an expert testify on aggravating factors of the crime. The expert may testify on the vulnerability of the species or the high profit margins of the poachers and traffickers. The expert can also testify on the impact of the crime on the economy, society and local livelihoods.

If properly utilized together with other prosecution strategies, expert testimony can enhance the prosecution’s case. This is because expert testimony educates the judge and the public about wildlife conservation and wildlife crime. It helps the judge understand the context of the crime and the rationale for charging the offender. Prosecutors should, however, be careful in selecting well qualified and knowledgeable experts. This is because expert evidence can be impeached by independent experts called by the defence.

Increasing the Scope of Evidence

Evidence should come from diverse sources and not just eyewitness testimony. This can include corroborative testimony from other witnesses, physical and demonstrative evidence as well as expert evidence. Having diverse sources of evidence helps to make the prosecution case more credible. It also emphasizes the key facts to the court.

Legal Research

It helps to carry out legal research from the outset and have judicial precedents ready for any sticky point. Further, you should have scholarly articles and other documents that emphasize points of law that may be raised by the defence through motions or objections.

Author: DidiWamukoya

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