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Clothes Make the Defendant: Dress for Acquittal: Telling a Book By its Cover

There is that saying that you can’t tell a book by its cover. … but in criminal defense work, that is not true.

There is that saying that you can’t tell a book by its cover. … but in criminal defense work, that is not true. In criminal defense, though, how your client looks and behaves in the courtroom makes a profound statement. Clothes do “clothe” the defendant… for better or worse.

My comments here come from 44 years of slugging it out on criminal defense cases. Recently, I sent this to a lawyer who went to trial  with a messy homicide case. When her client walks into the courtroom every juror will look at him and wonder if he “looks like” a killer. Do you want this man at your dinner table?

Trial is a “play,” a movie set… (Twelve Angry Men…) and you must create an impression; dress for acquittal. What I am advising you here, in my experience, is very effective. Please get Mr. Client a (Goodwill… or anywhere….) nice suit; haircut; nice WHITE (purity) shirt and muted tie, but not solid. He MUST be “tarsorially tidy.” I recommend clean shaven. NO Tattoos showing… no ear jewelry; nails trim; nail beds clean… evoke lots of soap… no goo in hair… I recommend short, ear-length, hair… not longer. No jewelry other than a watch and wedding ring.

PLEASE instruct him NOT to “face down” the jury, total supplicant… NEVER look “dead-on” at jurors… DON’T; DO … pleasant natural smile… no nose picking or any other vulgarity… This is really important. (If you were at Denny’s how would you feel if the Defendant sat next to you in the adjacent table?) Also, if he doesn’t wear glasses, get him non- prescription “nice” Harvard (or Stanford) looking glasses. He needn’t wear them but it enhances the impression that he’s a nice guy. He should hold them periodically…

Visible “prison” tatts? Wear a turtle-neck; tie is not that important…  Definitely, long shirt, cuffs to the wrists…

He is to sit “relaxed” (or as relaxed as one can be…), never make ugly faces or in any way reflect ire, disappointment… etc. Grimace, thee, not. He must be 100% respectful and under control. It is important that if the judge makes an adverse ruling, that D does not reflect chagrin or disbelief or incredulity.

Unfortunately, people do form impressions and “run with them.” It is said that you can’t undo a “first impression.” I have heard jurors talk and have spoken with them after trials. One comment remains in my mind and led me to these thoughts: “He looks like a murderer.” Once a juror has that impression, as objective as he tries to be, it is most challenging to change that impression.

On the other hand, “He could never have done that! Just look at him.” Dress can be a negative; a neutral; or an advantage, a positive. Which choice is best? How a client “looks” may be the best evidence for not guilty.

I custom-write questions for you to cross-examine scientific witnesses and I believe that you give your client the best defense when you dress your client for acquittal.


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