REPRESENTING THE ACCUSED COP KILLER (Lessons from the Trenches) STATE OF ALABAMA VS. MARIO DION WOODWARD 03-CC TMH (Mont. Co. Cir.

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1 REPRESENTING THE ACCUSED COP KILLER (Lessons from the Trenches) STATE OF ALABAMA VS. MARIO DION WOODWARD 03-CC TMH (Mont. Co. Cir. Court) I. PUBLICITY: Joseph P. Van Heest, Esq., Richard K. Keith, Esq., 1019 South Perry Street 22 Scott Street Montgomery, Alabama Montgomery, Alabama A. Pre-Trial: B. Trial: 1.) The Shooting 2.) The Manhunt 3.) The Candlelight Vigil 4.) The Arrest 5.) The Death 6.) The Extradition 7.) The Funeral 8.) Pre-Trial Court Appearances 1.) The Media and the Prosecution 2.) The Media and the Defense 3.) The Media in the Courtroom

2 - The front row, less than four feet behind the defense counsel table was reserved for the media (one newspaper reporter and two TV news reporters sat practically in our laps during the entire trial). The media shared the row with our mitigation investigators it felt like the media was virtually part of the defense team. 4.) Feeding the Media: Needing a Sound Bite - At every break in the trial, the media was seeking a comment from one or both of defense counsel - The Need to Keep a Balance (saying something without really saying anything) - (To there credit, the District Attorney, her deputies, and the rest of the prosecution team did not speak to the media from the time trial began until the verdict was returned) 5.) The Ethical Considerations - Rule 3.6, Ala. R. Prof. C. (Trial Publicity) II. PRE-TRIAL PREPARATION: A. Indictment - Pleading Not Guilty and Not Guilty By Reason of Mental Disease or Defect has its risks: B. Discovery - The plea fiasco 1. Discovery WILL be Voluminous: a.) This was the most intensive and comprehensive investigation ever conducted by MPD according to the case agent.

3 b.) c.) 11.5 Gigabytes of discovery provided to defense The State produced in discovery DVDs and CDs containing printed pages totaling nearly 10,000 pages, hundreds of photographs, audio files and video files i.) ii.) iii.) iv.) over 800 telephone calls from the jail videos of numerous scenes INCLUDING THE ACTUAL SHOOTING as well as an ENHANCED VERSION Crime Scene Photos Autopsy Photos d.) e.) The indictment identified 111 witnesses. The State subpoenaed 165 witnesses for trial and only called 24 during the guilt phase. 2. Victim Impact Discovery: a.) videos i.) The Candlelight Vigil ii.) The Funeral (Part I) iii.) The Funeral (Part II Procession to Birmingham) b.) audio - President Bush s address at the National Law Enforcement Memorial Washington, DC c.) articles in newspaper i.) ii.) One year later Commanding Officer Looks Back Officer s Name Etched onto Law Enforcement

4 Memorial iii.) Ceremony for Fallen Law Enforcement Officers outside Montgomery Police Department C. Assembling the Defense Team 1. Two Experienced Lawyers - Lead counsel needs to recruit a seasoned criminal defense lawyer, experienced with capital trial work. (Recognize the case is likely to go to trial) 2. Mitigation Investigators: - Don t wait too late in the game or you won t find one worth the time? - Get them going quickly - Get the best (Recognize the case is likely to go to trial) 3. Fact Investigators: - Get them involved quickly - Get notes of interviews (Recognize the case is likely to go to trial) - Get someone who is interested in the work and not afraid of losing connections (Private investigators often have established relationships with the local Police Dept and may be careful not to upset those relationships) D. Meeting with the Defendant: 1. The Defendant was housed in isolation in the Montgomery County Detention Facility from his extradition to Montgomery in early October, 2006, until the trial in August, 2008.

5 2. He was held on 23-hour lockdown every day. 3. The guards were more careful than usual to keep the attorneys to the permitted visiting hours 4. The jail monitored every one of his telephone calls and the district attorney forwarded them to us in supplemental discovery even during the trial. 5. Special written permission was required to allow the defense to bring investigators (fact and mitigation) to meet with the Defendant at the jail (even when defense counsel was present), and to bring a laptop computer into the jail to show video evidence to the Defendant. E. Motion to Change Venue 1. Plan on it Being Filed from very early on 2. Keep track of records from the Newspaper, Television 3. Google the Case early and often 4. Search and monitor blogs and comment sections of online news media 5. Incorporate it all in your motion (See attached) F. Motions Regarding Jury Selection 1. Motion for Individualized Sequestered Voir Dire (See attached) 2. Motion To Permit Voir Dire on Race Bias (See attached) 3. Motion for Jury Questionnaire (See attached)

6 III. TRIAL: A. Jury Selection - Individualized - Trial Publicity - The Death Penalty - Death Penalty in General - Death Penalty for Killing a Cop - Racial Issues - Black on White - Black on Blue B. What to Do When the State Has Video, Audio, and Paper. The evidence contained video of the shooting from the officer s dashboard video camera, as well as statements by at least three associates in which he admitted having shot a police officer. Also attributed to the defendant were numerous jail house confessions including letters from the snitches once they were relocated to other facilities. - Fight Like Hell for Innocence - Pretrial - send a message that you re going to fight - Trial - fight to keep it out, fight to get it in - Trial - Make a Record: Object, Object, Object - Fight Like Hell in Mitigation - anything goes for us - not anything goes for the prosecution - Fight Like Hell to the Court after Mitigation - motions to preclude judicial override - don t quit on Ring v. Arizona C. Victim Impact - Preparing for Victim Impact

7 D. Trial Environment The Courtroom Layout: The Prosecution: - The State s table is next to the jury. - The State had the district attorney and four deputy district attorneys crowded around the small counsel table at trial and at every pre-trial hearing. - The State also had the officer s widow at counsel table (seated closest to the jury less than three feet from the jury box) - The front row of the gallery behind the State s counsel table was reserved for the officer s family. The Defense: - The defense counsel table was across the room from the jury box (a safe distance away) - The defense counsel table was able to comfortably hold two attorneys and the defendant. - The mitigation investigator sat in the front row behind defense counsel table, and next to the officer s family - The media sat behind the defense counsel table, next to the mitigation investigator, and virtually within ear-shot of the defense lawyers and the defendant. - Counsel had to be careful to keep attorney-client conversations with the defendant out of ear-shot of the media. - The courtroom was packed to capacity from the first day of jury selection through the end of trial, all day, every day.

8 - Friends and family had to wait outside the courtroom because of the overflow situation. Many of the State s subpoenaed witnesses were friends of the defendant were they subpoenaed to keep them out of the courtroom? Police Presence: - There was always a police presence in the courtroom - At sentencing time, the police presence became greater - At elected-by-the-public judge sentencing time, the law enforcement presence was overwhelming Courthouse Security: - Security at the Front Door: - the front door of the courthouse beefed up security during the trial because of the Sheriff s Office having fears of an incident - Security in the Courtroom: - Deputies in the Courtroom: At all times, there were at least five uniformed deputy sheriffs in the courtroom, including one standing directly behind the defendant. - Security Sweeps: At every break in the trial, the courtroom was cleared and a protective sweep was conducted including a search under the counsel tables and every row of seats. The protective sweep was not subtle and everyone was kept outside the courtroom while the search was conducted. - Stun Belt: Throughout every court appearance including trial, the defendant was required to wear a stun belt. Luckily, this was not visible to the public.

9 IV. FAMILY INVOLVEMENT: A. Distrust & Angry - At the early pre-trial stages, the family and the defendant were very distrustful of the defense team. (The defendant had his own ideas as to how the trial should be run, what motions should be filed, etc) He was aggressive in his dealings with us, and sent every correspondence by certified mail. - Defendant s mother filed a bar complaint even before indictment. - Defendant was insistent on our filing frivolous motions whose running the case? B. Distrust & Uncooperative - Mouse on a Wheel: The family and Defendant would provide dead ends and wild goose chases to entertain themselves with the attorney s work ethic - The family would not provide helpful information for mitigation, not documentary evidence, not names of potential witnesses, not the truth... until a few short weeks before trial C. Needy: - Shortly before trial, the family came around to Mario s defense team. They also became quite needy. We were reliant upon our excellent mitigation team to meet with the family on a regular basis hand holding under these circumstances can not be the trial attorney s job there s too much else to do. D. Cooperative and Uncooperative: - Mom s on our side, Dad s not.

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