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By Jon May, Carol Cohen
One of the most difficult decisions a lawyer has to make during the
course of a trial is whether to put his client on the stand. Few choices
are fraught with such danger, particularly in a close case. Since a
defendant’s testimony may alone create a reasonable doubt or eliminate
all doubt whatsoever, the choice can be an agonizing one. The numerous
factors that counsel must take into consideration can be so subtle and
so interrelated that some lawyers simply despair at making any decision
at all; some adopting a policy of never putting their client on the
stand unless the client absolutely insists. Of the myriad of factors
that enter into the decision whether to have the defendant testify, the
possibility that the client will be impeached with his or her prior
convictions or bad acts is unique. This is because under the decision of
the Supreme Court in Luce v. United States1 it may be necessary
for counsel to put his client on the stand in order to have any
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