Legal Writing in the Context of a Complex Criminal Trial

This seminar is designed to demonstrate the progression of a criminal trial from the viewpoint of the research and writing required at every stage. In a serious felony trial, attorneys for both parties are required to write numerous documents such as motions in limine and suppression motions, responses to the same, discovery requests, bench briefs, juror questionnaires, examination questions for witnesses' testimony, requests for jury instructions, opening statements and closing arguments. Each of these documents has to comply with highly specialized rules of law like the applicable rules of evidence, constitutional law and procedure. Furthermore, drafting the documents requires strict adherence to ethical principles, the use of tactical decision-making and an understanding of what makes an effective presentation of evidence.
The course will track a hypothetical state prosecution for the crime of murder from the pretrial phase through closing argument and verdict. Class time will be spent in instruction and discussion concerning the numerous aspects of a criminal trial which require legal research and writing from both the prosecution and the defense. What effective, well-prepared defense and prosecuting attorneys should be doing and the ethical questions which arise for both parties will be considered at every stage. The students' assignments will require them to research representative legal issues in the context of the trial's hypothetical facts and write the related series of requisite legal documents from the standpoint of the party with the burden of proof— the prosecution. The conclusion of the course will be to write and orally present a closing argument.
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