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Winning before the jury is seated

As anyone who has reported to jury duty knows, the selection process is tedious. But it’s important. One of our attorneys, Nate Pliska, showed in a January 23 trial why putting in the time during jury selection can pay off at the end of the day, when the jury begins deliberations.

Pliska’s client was charged with fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. To prove his case, the deputy Clark County prosecutor needed to prove the defendant assaulted another person, and the assault occurred in Clark County. That may seem like a low bar to clear – after all, the fact the defendant and the alleged victim engaged in some type of confrontation at a Clark County nightclub wasn’t disputed.

But was it an assault? The jury heard from the alleged victim, who said he was assaulted, and the defendant, who argued he acted in self-defense after being called a racial slur. The prosecutor emphasized that the defendant was drunk and upset and didn’t leave the establishment when asked to leave by the alleged victim, who worked as a bouncer.

None of that, Pliska said in closing arguments, was proof he committed the crime of assault.

The six-person jury voted to acquit. Jurors who stayed around after the not-guilty verdict was read in Clark County District Court told Pliska that during deliberations they kept coming back to what he had talked about during jury selection. Pliska had addressed the difference between “innocent” and “not guilty” and asked potential jurors if they were comfortable with that distinction. Could they accept that people might make poor choices -- but not be guilty of a crime? The selected jurors all said they understood that distinction and were comfortable with the distinction.

In the end, they were able to make the distinction.

Tags: criminal law, not guilty

Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.: Vancouver Defenders Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.
Vancouver Defenders