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The right to testify at trial

Although it is not always recommended, the right to testify at trial is absolute. This short article will focus on some issues related to the right to testify and my own thoughts on why it is not advisable to invoke the right.

The right to testify has multiple constitutional grounds. The United States Supreme Court has held that “there is no rational justification for prohibiting sworn testimony from the defendants, who above all others may be in a position to hear the prosecution’s case.” (Ferguson v. Georgia, supra, 365 U S. at p. 582) “The defendant’s opportunity to carry out his own defense by calling witnesses is incomplete if he cannot appear as a witness …” (Rock v. Arkansas, supra, 483 US at p. 52.) Therefore, “[t]he is correct [to offer testimony] it goes beyond criminal proceedings: the constitutionally required due process in some extrajudicial proceedings includes the right of the affected person to testify. “(Rock v. Arkansas, supra, 483 US at p 51.)

Preventing a defendant from testifying at his own trial deprives the defendant of these “basic protections, … [without which]… a criminal trial cannot reliably fulfill its function as a vehicle for the determination of guilt or innocence, [citation], and no criminal punishment can be considered fundamentally just. “(Rose v Clark (1986) 478 US 570, 577-578 [106 S.Ct. 3101, 92 L.Ed.2d 460].) “No matter how daunting the task, the defendant has the right to confront and address jurors directly regardless of the chances of success. As with the right to self-representation, the denial of the defendant’s right to testify is not susceptible to the analysis of harmless error. The right “is either respected or denied; their deprivation cannot be harmless. “” (State v. Dauzart, supra, 769 S.2d at pp. 1210-1211, citing McKaskle v. Wiggins (1984) 465 US 168, 177, footnote 8 [104 S.Ct. 944, 79 L.Ed.2d 122].).

Consequently, the failure of defense attorneys to grant their client the right to testify is subject to automatic revocation or governed by Chapman v. California (1967) 386 United States 18, 24 [87 S.Ct. 824, 17 L.Ed.2d 705] (Chapman) revision standard. (The People v. Johnson (1998) 62 Cal.App 4th 608, 634-636 [applying Chapman]; People v. Hayes (1991) 229 Cal.App.3d 12261, 1234, footnote. eleven [same]; People v. Harris (1987) 191 Cal.App.3d 819, 826 [applying automatic reversal])

In short, although the right to declare is absolute, it must be borne in mind that it is not always recommended. Sometimes a defendant has no choice but to explain his conduct in the hope that a jury will believe him. Quite often, a serial defendant has criminal convictions that a jury would not know unless the defendant testifies, or does not have proper judicial conduct in the sense that both the vernacular and the art of persuasion through skills of decent people will not be passed on to the jury. .

Given the above, a defendant may not see the tactical advantage of accepting their attorney’s choice and simply refuse to remain silent, appear humble, and not be swayed by what the state has to offer in support of guilt. However, if the accused insists on invoking his right to “tell his version of events”, the next person he can tell is his cellmate.

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