The recent verdict in the Zimmerman case is just the latest in a long line of sensational cases which have transfixed the American public. The O.J. Simpson case was the first of its kind in the world of modern media and was quickly dubbed “The Trial Of The Century,” but other trials have likewise been the center of media maelstroms, including the Rosenberg trial and the Scopes trial, just to name some headliners from this past century.
One thing unites all of these trials — they elicit strong emotional responses from the public. For every verdict, there are scores of people who are shocked, dismayed, exuberant, and enraged. A party to a less renowned case, however, is no less emotionally affected by the outcome. When it is your own money or freedom on the line, it instantly becomes the trial of a lifetime — your lifetime.
It is these very emotions, however, that cloud a person’s view of how to go about appealing an unpleasant verdict. It takes an experienced and dispassionate advocate to zero in on the best issues on appeal, even when those issues don’t offer the optimal emotional release. For example, a defendant might be frustrated by the testimony of a witness whom he would call, in polite company, a dirty stinking liar. It would “feel good” to explain to the appellate court how and why the witness lied. However, since an appellate court rarely overturns the jury’s decision on whether or not to believe a witness, such an argument is usually pointless.
As a result, choosing an attorney on appeal is only the first step; the client must also learn to trust the attorney and listen to his advice about which direction to take the case.