If you’ve recently been charged with a Southern California white collar crime, insurance fraud, credit card fraud, or any other non-violent offense, you might not immediately see any parallels between your situation and the war on terror. But the blogosphere was literally inflamed this past week with news about Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of US commandos, and it may be useful for us to examine how the ways in which we think about crime influence our potential legal defense strategies.
The basic point is this: We often construct “just so” stories or narratives to justify our opinions about events and people.
The manhunt for Osama bin Laden, for instance, ended successfully from the United States’ point of view. Now, when we look back, historically, things will look all tied up like a neat little bow. One can almost think about Osama being gunned down by snipers in the daring 40-minute raid in Abbottabad Pakistan as the third act of a movie (guessing there probably will be one pumped out by Hollywood soon enough). Thus, our ì20/20 hindsightî makes it seem like the deliverance of justice upon Osama was a forgone conclusion. If history had proceeded along another path – what’s technically known as a counterfactual – we would have constructed a different “just so” story, and that, too, would have seemed like an inevitable product of history.
Thinking about history in terms of its counterfactuals is incredibly useful – and it is useful not just in an abstract sense, but also if you are trying to concoct and execute an appropriate defense to charges, for instance, of Southern California white collar crime.
Other counterfactual examples: everyone assumes that President Ronald Reagan “spent the Soviet Union to death” and thus precipitated the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism and all that. But had events transpired slightly differently — if the Soviet Union reacted by engaging in preemptive war against the US, instead — then President Reagan’s strategy would not have looked so keen!
Indeed, you can look at basically any event in history that we think of along the lines of: “of course it was inevitable that XYZ would happen” and question that thinking. We create “just so” stories because human beings naturally gravitate towards narratives. But these narratives don’t necessarily correlate to any fundamental objective “truth.” They are perceptions — and often warped perceptions, at that.
So, how is this all relevant to your potential Southern California white collar crime defense?
Think about what you’ve been charged with (or will be charged with). As soon as prosecutors (and friends and family) even hear the charges, they will begin to construct artificial scenarios in their minds about how you did it, why you did it, etc. Before even engaging analytically with the evidence, they may either convict you in their minds or declare you innocent in their minds. You may even do this yourself, believe it or not! It’s a variation of the well-known psychological phenomenon of Stockholm Syndrome – where a kidnapping victim begins to develop defensive feelings for his or her kidnapper.
It’s important to remember to fight back against these ìjust soî stories that crop up in the minds of prosecutors, judges, juries and other people who might judge you in the future (e.g. friends, peers, employers). For help, turn to an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, such as Michael Kraut of the Kraut Law Group (6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, California 90028). Mr. Kraut worked for over a dozen years (14 to be specific) as a prosecutor, so he can come at white collar crime matters from both sides and develop more creative and strategic approaches to building defenses.