By Phoenix Attorney Nick Alcock
Sometimes art imitates real life. In the case of video games usually fantasy plays a much bigger role than reality. However, there are some interesting concept games that mimic real life. One of these is Phoenix Wright Ace. This is a game that replicates what it is like to be a criminal defense attorney. In this post, we seek to review it and see how the real-world courtroom is similar or dissimilar.
How is the Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney game like in real life? You may not know about the game, but there is an interesting video game concept where you get to play the role of a rookie attorney. The name of this attorney is Phoenix Wright, and he defends homicide cases. Players get to talk to the police and witnesses and interact with their clients. It is entertaining, to be sure. But is it anything like practicing law in real life? The answer, surprisingly, is yes.
As you start to play the game, evidence can be gathered. The attorney, Phoenix, can manipulate evidence to examine it. Crime scenes can be investigated. For example, in certain scenes, a player can spray Luminol, to detect the presence of bodily fluids. Generally speaking, this part of the game is the least like real life. Criminal Defense Attorneys are usually prohibited from participating in evidence collection at crime scenes. As an attorney, I am not familiar with a case where a defense lawyer was allowed to spray Luminol. However, once the evidence is collected by the authorities, it can be examined by defense attorneys at the experts that work with them. Such an examination can be done with supervision by the police and prosecutor’s office. For example, in vehicular cases, defense attorneys and accident reconstructionists oftentimes will go to the impound lot to examine the car belonging to their clients and/or any victim vehicles.
A good defense attorney should take advantage of the fact, however, that many times the police and their investigators are short on time. Detectives need to process crime scenes relatively quickly. As such, it is possible for them to overlook vital evidence in a case. In Phoenix Wright Ace, a player can find evidence that can help establish the innocence of their clients. In real life, we have worked on cases where evidence was uncovered that showed our client was innocent. In real life, however, skilled defense attorneys often times focus not on the evidence that the government has in their possession but on the evidence that could have been collected. Imagine, if you will, a DUI case where the suspect is found outside the vehicle. The police question the suspect who is impaired by alcohol. The suspect confesses to driving the car and is quickly charged and arrested.
A good criminal defense attorney should focus a great deal of time on the evidence that the state does NOT have. For example, where are the keys to the car? Was the “confession” video or audio-recorded. Did the police take pictures of the position of the driver’s seat, paying particular attention to the height of the suspect. Also, in cases involving injury did the police swab any part of the vehicle for blood to establish the position and identity of the suspect.
You would be stunned to see how uncommon it is for police to fully investigate crime scenes. As such, there usually is a great deal to talk about as it relates to the ABSENCE of evidence. It is possible to win a case showing that the police jumped to conclusions at the outset of an investigation and chose not to follow leads and collect the evidence necessary to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Phoenix Wright Ace shows how important evidence collection is, but the bread and butter of our trade oftentimes are to show how little evidence there is in a case.
Where Phoenix Wright Ace is most like real-life lawyering, however, is in the courtroom. The object of the exercise for most defense attorneys is to challenge the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses. Imagine, if you will, what would happen if defense attorneys were not allowed in the courtroom. A prosecutor would call up a police officer to the stand. The judge would hear a story and nobody would be ready to challenge it. In Phoenix Wright Ace, there is a very interesting way to successfully cross-examine a witness to help prove that they are either lying or are confused about evidence. A good criminal defense attorney uses the process to confront witnesses with prior inconsistent statements or other evidence that shows that they lack credibility. The game does an excellent job of portraying how important this process is. Without effective cross-examination, it is very hard for a criminal defense attorney to gain traction and punch holes in the government’s case. Phoenix Wright Attorney does an excellent job at this.
One footnote, however, regards the notion that a rookie attorney would handle homicide cases. While it’s possible that an attorney with very little experience could handle such a case, in general, it would be a bad idea. That is why the criminal defense attorneys who handle cases for our firm have decades and decades of combined experience. While we credit our fictional character Phoenix Attorney with bravery. It is usually the best practice to find criminal defense attorneys who are more like the attorneys at our firm. In summary, however, if you are an aspiring legal eagle, check out the game. At a minimum, it is a great ride.
Alcock and Associates, PC is a law firm dedicated to handling criminal defense matters for its clients. Licensed in Arizona, we handle criminal defense matters statewide. More information? Contact us at 602-989-5000
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