December 2013 - Pg 11-President’s Message
by Marty Hayes, J.D.
I received the following email shortly after our last issue of the eJournal was released. Because it raised interesting questions, I wanted to share it and the answers with you. Eric from New York asked:
"Several recent articles in the member’s journal have discussed the importance of maintaining a ‘low profile’ regarding anything (t-shirts, bumper stickers, social media posts) an aggressive DA might use to portray you as some kind of dangerous gun nut. I agree with all of these suggestions, however, if one maintains that same train of thought, it begs one additional question: Will this same aggressive DA wave my Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network membership card to the jury, and ask aloud, “Why did this individual, each year for X number of years, feel it necessary to renew membership in an organization dedicated to discussing his legal defense after a shooting? Has he been planning/anticipating this shooting all this time?”
I wonder if they would use the very name of your organization as a tool to attack a defendant’s motives and mindset prior to the self defense shooting? Would we, perhaps, be better served by renaming our organization to a less suggestive name, such as “Sport Shooting Legal Information Center,” or something similarly bland and non-suggestive?”
Those are a couple of great questions, Eric. Let's take them in order.
Yes, I believe a prosecutor could attempt to use membership in the Network against you.
In fact, in several of my recent expert witness cases, the prosecutor attempted to use my role as President of the Network to discredit me, since these cases involved self-defense claims.
Collectively, the questioning went something like this. “Isn’t it true, Mr. Hayes, that you are just a paid expert for self-defense cases? That you testify to try to stop ANY prosecution against ANY armed citizen?”
My collective answer for this kind of question has usually been something like this, “While it is true that I do serve as an expert witness in trials for armed citizens, it is ONLY when I feel the person is being wrongfully prosecuted.”
At this point, typically the prosecuting attorney objects, and usually the objection is overruled because the prosecuting attorney “opened the door,” to this type explanation. Furthermore, since the prosecution attempted to discredit the witness (in this case, me), the defense attorney then gets to explore the nature of the Armed Citizens' Legal Defense Network with me on re-cross, and a full explanation of the Network and why it exists is given in court.
As far as the individual who is a member going to court, your membership will be out in the open anyway, because of the training materials we introduce. We turn the whole issue into a positive for the member, by telling the jury that the member’s concern over being wrongfully prosecuted was certainly validated in this instance.
As to your second question regarding a more benign name for the Network, it has always been my belief that the name of a business or organization should include in it, exactly what the business or organization does. Hence, the name Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network. I do not believe the firearms industry is actually doing armed citizens a favor when they equate “sport shooting” with self-defense firearms and their use.