Friday, May 26, 2000 WRITER: Kathy R. Pharr, (706) 542-5172, email@example.com CONTACT: Ron Carlson, (706) 542-5186 LEWIS TRIAL MAY BE HEADED FOR ABRUPT SURPRISE ENDING, SAYS UGA PROF ATHENS, Ga. -- A smart move for the defense in the Ray Lewis murder trial may be to stop while they\u27re ahead, says University of Georgia trial law expert Ron Carlson, as the prosecution is faltering badly in its effort to link Lewis to his two co-defendants in the Buckhead Super Bowl murders. \u22The evidence of the scene presented by witnesses who were outside the Cobalt Lounge is one of complete confusion,\u22 says Carlson. \u22The district attorney promised that the limo driver would be able to pull everything together. That did not happen. And that raises a very good question: Will the defense put on any evidence? Perhaps not.\u22 Carlson predicts that the defense attorneys might move for a directed verdict -- asking the judge to throw out the case before it moves to the jury. Should that request fail, they could counter with an even bolder move - to decline to present any evidence at all and head directly to closing arguments. Attorneys for all three defendants - Ray Lewis, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting - must join in such a concerted, combined request, but given the remarkable level of cooperation that has marked the proceedings so far, Carlson says, it might be achieved. And the strategy would create an intriguing tactical opportunity. \u22It might signal to the jury the sort of subliminal message, \u27They haven\u27t laid a glove on any of us,\u27\u22 Carlson says. \u22It might suggest that \u27We feel so unwounded by the state\u27s evidence that none of the three of us needs to put up any evidence.\u27 Of course, if no evidence is presented, it does change the order of closing arguments: the defense gets to go first and last in the closings if they put on no evidence. This is a very, very interesting aspect of Georgia criminal practice.\u22 Carlson compares the long Memorial Weekend courtroom break to halftime of a football game, perhaps most benefitting the team that\u27s behind - in this case, the prosecution - by letting them regroup. One strategy that appears to be backfiring is the decision not to indict Ray Lewis on lesser counts. \u22In my opinion, while the evidence of murder in this case has been very thin against Ray Lewis, there has been strong evidence of the crimes of giving a false report to police and obstructing justice,\u22 Carlson notes. \u22The prosecution apparently took the view that unless they gave the jury little choice to compromise, they wouldn\u27t be able to get to where they wanted to go with Ray Lewis. I think that was a mistake. Under Georgia law, those charges cannot be added later.\u22 Carlson, a nationally recognized expert in evidence, trial practice and criminal procedure, has litigated many cases and has argued twice before the United States Supreme Court. He has written numerous books on trial techniques and provided extensive commentary for the national media in high-profile trials. For further comment, contact Prof. Carlson at his office, (706) 542-5186. #
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