TLC Grad Bob Vogel (July ’13) writes the following. Congratulations to you Bob, and to your client. He was very fortunate to have you as his counsel.
I had a rape trial over the last two days. My client was falsely accused of raping a mentally retarded, autistic man for whom he was the caregiver. The State began its investigation after receiving a well intentioned, but inaccurate 911 call. A police officer was called, and the officer reported that he observed nothing out of the ordinary. However, a police detective decided that something had happened. He just had a feeling that my client was lying. After two interviews with the police in which he explained that nothing had happen and the caller was mistaken, the detective engaged the “Reid Technique”(an insidious interrogation technique responsible for thousands of false confessions) and used a polygraph to confront my client and intimidate him. They claimed they had proof they did not have and bullied him into signing a false statement. The statement was not a direct confession, but close enough that they could then leverage it into an indictment. They had no other proof – none, not a stitch, except what they had manufactured. They then set about gathering any other coincidental information that would support their position.
I used the TLC Voir Dire approach and really had a great time of interaction with the jury. We discussed under what circumstances someone might make a false confession. Which really was helpful later on when it came up during cross. We talked about many other things which then became touchstones during the trial and closing. We had a great jury, which I attribute to the TLC Voir Dire approach. From there, I told my client’s story in each of the phases of the trial, through all of the witnesses.
I had an amazing experience during the closing. I had prepared all the areas I wanted to talk about, but as my turn was approaching, I found that I had some unexplained emotions churning up inside me. I took some moments to identify what I was feeling. I finally realized that the thing about the case that most affected me was the terror I felt at the monstrous crime the state was trying to commit. They had use all of their power and resources to create a case against an innocent person based on little or no evidence. Doing that, they put my client at risk for 15 years of his life and the permanent ruin of his reputation. They’d done lousy police work and relied on coercing a false confession from my client to make their case. To me, this was terrifying. It clearly demonstrated that any of us are vulnerable to the machinations of the State if they decide to prosecute us.
The Detective did not go into the interrogation seeking the truth. He went into the interrogation seeking a confession. What he got was false, he knew it, and went ahead and pushed forward anyway. Fortunately, 12 heroic citizens decided not to let them get away with it. They came back with a not guilty verdict in less than an hour.
By the way, this makes me 4 and 0 on jury trials applying the Spence/TLC method. I’ve got a first degree murder trial coming up in a month, so keep me in your thoughts and prayers.
All the best,
Bob Vogel (July ’13)