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The Champion

July 2016 , Page 53 

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Practice Points: Themes and Theme-Related Defenses in Sexual Assault Cases

By Keith Belzer

Read more Practice Points columns.

Trial themes are memorable and can be used as teaching tools. Thematic development allows defense attorneys to provide a universal understanding to jurors about how a false accusation can be made.

Theory of the Case

In discussing the use of theme development in sexual assault cases, it is useful to begin by discussing the theory of the case. It is no longer persuasive to defend criminal cases with the strategy of simply attacking the government’s case for being weak. While the occasional case arises in which this might be a sound strategy or even the only strategy, it is generally more effective to present a theory of the case explaining why the client is innocent rather than simply arguing the government has failed to prove the defendant’s guilt. The “house of cards” defense does not satisfy. That is not to say the government should not be held to an appropriate burden of proof, but rather it is recognition of the fact that most jurors show up in court with some exp

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