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Make sure you have taken training courses from a properly certified instructor. You do not want the prosecutor to be able to argue something like, “Ordinary deadly bullets weren’t enough for Dan Defendant! No! He had to hand load Teflon-coated hollow points to the maximum speed possible.” Or he might say something like, “Listen to what he told the police. He was not a citizen in fear for his life. He was a lone wolf Dirty Harry just waiting for the opportunity to kill.” Use factory loads, keep your calm and get a lawyer from ACLDN at your earliest opportunity.

Second, treat the case seriously. You shouldn’t be laughing it up during court proceedings or otherwise demonstrating anything that can be viewed as disrespect to the jury, the court, the prosecutor or the system. If witnesses change their story (and they frequently do), keep a straight face. Believe it or not, a changed story can frequently be beneficial to your case.

Third, do not react if the judge rules against you in objections. You will not have all objections go your way. That’s just the nature of the game. Be professional and be calm. This is the biggest poker game of your life so keep your poker face. The jury will generally view the judge very favorably so your complaints will be seen as sour grapes, not the image you want to convey when your freedom is on the line.

Finally, in any self-defense case you are probably going to have to testify. I cannot think of a case of mine involving self defense where my client did not testify. You should listen to your attorney about how to testify. Your attorney will get a second attorney to come and cross-examine you. That is, the other attorney will play the part of the prosecutor and get you ready for questioning.** Keep your composure. Being angry at the prosecution is a sure way to give the jury the wrong impression.

After all, if the prosecutor can get you mad by just asking questions, maybe you got really mad at the dead guy/accuser as well. Murray Richman, a great NY lawyer and a good friend, once said that he loved murder cases because there was one fewer witness. While that is true, it makes your own version and appearance all the more important. The jury will not have the opportunity to see the negatives of the aggressor. You need to remember that when you are in trial you are constantly under surveillance. Twelve pairs of eyes will watch everything you do. Behave as if you are at your mother’s funeral with your grandmother sitting next to you.

*The one exception if you use a pistol might be Glaser safety bullets. I say “might” because the one benefit to those bullets is that they do not over-penetrate. If you live in an apartment, or you live in an area with many people living nearby behind thin walls, such as in row housing, that may be a legitimate reason to use such bullets. I’d be prepared, though, to pay for someone from the company to come and testify about what those bullets are, how they work and why in such limited, particular circumstances, they are actually safer than a 230 grain ball fired from a .45 ACP and its risk of over-penetrating.

** As an aside, this is something you can bring up with your attorney during your first meeting. Your attorney should immediately be able to name two to four lawyers who will do this. You should check out those lawyers, as well. Good lawyers will use good lawyers. Bad lawyers will use bad lawyers if they use anybody. So if you don’t know your lawyer, one way to determine whether he’s good is to see what you know about any lawyers he would have to cross-examine you as you prepare for trial. If your lawyer says he will use lawyers who have a good reputation, it’s a pretty good bet your lawyer is good, as well. If your lawyer suggests using lawyers who have a bad reputation, go somewhere else.

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