Preparing Your Case.
1. Avoid Assumptions--Prove It. When putting together the proof, do not assume the
elements--prove them. Avoid saying "I know that is true," or "of course that is true, everyone knows
that," or "we can assume that." This may not be true. The judge may not share your outlook, or your
Do not rely on conclusions, rely on evidence and proof. Do not say "I know it's true because
witness X told me so the other day." If that is what happened, get a statement from witness X. Make
your own statement, as to what witness X told you. In cases where you interview people over the
telephone, write up Memorandums for Record (MFRs) or reports reflecting the substance of the
conversation. The prosecuting attorney will want statements and evidence on all of the elements. Six
months to a year later, at trial, the witness may "forget" ever having talked to you, or may contradict
what you say he said earlier. You may be the government's only evidence to substantiate what really
happened. Do not rely just on memory.
Where you have a case involving illegal possession of a firearm, the prosecutor does not
necessarily want to carry around two World War II submachine guns. Take pictures of them and write a
statement describing them and their condition. Are they operable? Find out and say so. Do not
assume they are. Are they even real? Find out, and avoid some real embarrassment at trial. Check
them out and write a brief MFR stating they are in good mechanical working order. The key is
documenting what you do. Similarly, if your case involves a museum curator who has allegedly stolen
some 100-year-old dresses, photograph them. Also, determine their value. Don't assume they're
valuable just because they're old. Remember, don't assume--prove your case.
2. Document Everything.
WHAT IF YOU INTERVIEW A WITNESS WHO SWEARS HE KNOWS NOTHING?
THIS CAN BE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS ONE WHO DOES KNOW SOMETHING. GET
HIS STATEMENT SAYING HE KNOWS NOTHING. TWO MONTHS LATER, HE MAY
SHOW UP IN COURT AS A WITNESS FOR THE OTHER SIDE CLAIMING TO KNOW A
GREAT DEAL ABOUT THE CASE. IF THIS HAPPENS, YOU WILL HAVE TO BE ABLE
TO IMPEACH HIM. AGAIN, DO NOT RELY ON MEMORY.
WHY ELSE IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO DOCUMENT EVERYTHING?
ANOTHER REASON FOR CAREFULLY DOCUMENTING EVERYTHING IS THAT THE
INVESTIGATION MAY GO ON OVER SEVERAL MONTHS. YOU MAY HAVE TO
TURN IT OVER TO ANOTHER INVESTIGATOR. THE NEW AGENT WILL NEED TO
KNOW WHAT YOU DID AND WHY. WHAT WERE YOU GOING AFTER? WHERE
WERE YOU HEADING? WHAT WAS YOUR PLAN OF ATTACK? WHAT DID YOU
DO? WHAT REMAINS TO BE DONE? DO NOT JUST TURN OVER BOXES OF
DOCUMENTS TO HIM. THERE IS NO NEED FOR HIM/HER TO REDO WHAT YOU
ALREADY HAVE DONE. LET HIM KNOW JUST WHERE YOU WERE GOING, WHERE
YOU HAVE BEEN, AND WHY YOU WENT THERE. OTHERWISE, ALL OF YOUR
EFFORTS MAY BE WASTED.