It is good to read a letter from a prosecutor to the defense lawyer that says, “Since meeting with you and your client I have personally undertaken a thorough review of this matter and am dismissing the charges against your client…Please find enclosed the Nolle Prosequi.”
Last month, about four cases cleared from my personal expert witness docket without having to go to trial. This one, in the Southeast, involved a murder charge against a woman whose estranged husband had pounced her from the back seat of the car and was strangling her from behind when she drew the handgun she was licensed to carry and fired over her shoulder, ending the assault. The charges had been brought by a senior prosecutor infamous for her obvious dislike of armed citizens. That prosecutor lost the last election. A highly competent defense lawyer sat down with the prosecutor from the new administration, who took her role as minister of justice seriously. Kudos to the defense lawyer and prosecutor alike.
Out West, an idiot show-off bully wielded a gun to intimidate a professional rival. He claimed it “went off accidentally” and that he had never fired it before. The bullet inflicted a grievous, personal injury. I was retained by the plaintiff. The defendant’s insurance company caved and settled for the max of the policy, a couple million dollars. Case closed.
In the heartland, a burglar attacked an armed homeowner who caught him in the act. Bad move: the armed citizen shot and killed him. His survivors sued. For much less than cost of trial, the case was settled. How much? I figure after the plaintiff’s lawyers take their cut, their clients will get enough money to buy a nice lawnmower. Full trial might have gone over $100,000; my fee as expert witness for the homeowner’s side would have been among the least of that.
Not far from that one, a manslaughter charge against a homeowner who’d killed a burglar was dropped in return for a plea to a misdemeanor, again saving the ordeal and six-figure expense of trial. The respected defense lawyer who had retained me had shown all his cards to a respected prosecutor, and the latter had made a decision both sides were happy with.
There’s an analogy between gunfights and court fights. History shows that when a stalwart, competent cop or civilian alike point a gun at a violent criminal and make it clear that if the assault continues, the criminal will die, the criminal generally surrenders or flees. When a stalwart, competent legal defense team faces an unmeritorious allegation with facts, the lawyers on the other side often have the same epiphany: realizing they can’t win, they either offer an acceptable compromise or drop the matter entirely.
For the most part, the system works. Thus the old saying among lawyers: “In the halls of justice, most of the justice is in the halls.”