When I was deployed to Al Asad, Iraq, which was run by the United States Marines, every latrine featured Chuck Norris lore scribbled near a mirror or toilet. Some that I remember are:
“Chuck Norris doesn’t take showers, he takes bloodbaths.”
“Chuck Norris doesn’t flush the toilet, he scares the sh*t out of it.”
“How many pushups can Chuck Norris do? All of them.”
For many people, Chuck Norris is a mythical martial artist capable of superhuman feats of strength, courage and power. Legendary criminal defense attorneys are sometimes viewed the same way. Some people believe their criminal defense attorney can win any case. While an attorney’s talent can be a big factor in winning or losing a criminal trial, there are other factors that can play into legal success as well.
While Chuck Norris wins most of his on-screen fights with his bare hands, for bigger problems, you’re better off sending in a well-armed infantry squad or Navy SEAL team.
Let’s start with the Chuck Norris type lawyer. In my experience as a criminal defense attorney, Chuck Norris lawyers are skilled cross-examiners. These are the attorneys who can discredit law enforcement and government witnesses, even when the facts of the case look great for the prosecution. While some people may expect the Perry Mason/Mike Tyson knockout punch question, many of the best cross-examiners I’ve seen leave witness stands bleeding out with several tiny paper cuts that a witness never saw coming. This type of cross-examination is effective because it is well thought-out, well-prepared, and well-received by the jury.
A Chuck Norris cross-examiner will be enough to win a fight with one or two witnesses, but he may not win the battle for you. Courtroom work is only part of winning a criminal defense case.
First and foremost, a successful criminal lawyer has to be prepared. If you hire a private attorney, he or she needs to be paid enough to devote the amount of time it takes to be well-prepared for your case. This time should be spent investigating, researching, and in some instances, rehearsing prior to trial.
If you’re preparing for a deadly fight, you also want to have as many weapons and tools as possible at your disposal. These can be investigators, expert witnesses, or physical evidence. Even if your lawyer looks like Chuck Norris in the courtroom, these other weapons employed prior to trial can make a huge difference in the outcome. I have been involved in cases which were won at a deposition months prior to jury trial. I’ve had cases where expert witnesses were the true stars of the trial, raising enough reasonable doubt in their testimony to prevent the government from proving its case.
Finally, in larger cases at the federal level, an entire defense team working together can get the best results. Paralegals, research lawyers, appellate lawyers, trial lawyers, and experts all band together to devise an overarching strategy, focusing on individual pieces of the case and making sure their tactics all come together to support the same overarching strategy. Sometimes a very skilled lawyer will oversee the team that fights the case. In these types of cases, there are often hundreds of exhibits or thousands of pages of evidence. Even Chuck Norris would have a difficult time defending a complex federal criminal case when a truck full of documents showed up at his office few days before trial.
In short, there are some lawyers out there who look like Chuck Norris in the courtroom. They destroy witnesses with cleverly-crafted, well-prepared, and well-received questions. However, the fight begins long before Chuck Norris appears in court. It often starts with a trial preparation. Unfortunately, not every person charged with a crime can afford to have private investigators, expert witnesses, and a team of attorneys, but most people can find good representation when the stakes are high enough.
You might want Chuck Norris when choosing a criminal defense attorney, but find out whether Chuck is supported by Delta Force, SEAL Team 6, an infantry platoon, or is walking into battle alone. In some of his best movies, like Missing in Action, even Chuck Norris had a team. Often it takes an entire team to win a battle or a trial.