On March 12, 2015, Criminal defense Attorney
John Berry spoke to University of Nebraska - Lincoln law students about current criminal
defense issues. The talk covered current criminal law issues at the legislature,
training and education, and a criminal defense attorney’s courtroom
perspective. Berry is currently the president of the Nebraska Criminal
Defense Attorneys Association (NCDAA) which provides education and training
to criminal defense attorneys throughout the State. NCDAA also monitors
legislation that may negatively impact the Nebraska Criminal Justice System.
When NCDAA feels that a law needs to be changed or that a proposed law
could have harmful unintended consequences, the Association provides attorneys
to testify at legislative hearings in order to provide committees with
the practical application of proposed laws.
Berry indicated last week that NCDAA hosted a seminar in Omaha that focused
on the use of expert testimony at trial. The seminar included mental health
professionals, a medical doctor who provided information about reading
and analyzing medical records and a cell tower evidence expert. Additionally,
Kelly Steenbach of the Douglas County Public Defender’s Office also
provided a presentation on the “Shot Spotter” which supposedly
locates the origin of gun-shot sounds.
Berry said that criminal defense is difficult work. The government often
has many more assets at its disposal than the citizen defendant. Fortunately
the defendant has powerful constitutional rights including the right to
effective assistance of counsel, the right to confront accusers, and the
right to trial by jury.
Berry’s talk also covered some of his recent trial experiences, prosecutorial
misconduct, and perspectives on the state and federal plea negotiations process.
Berry indicated that while criminal defense is challenging work, the opportunity
to defend the constitutional rights of an individual is a great honor.
He concluded the talk by speaking about making a difference in the lives
of people overcame criminal charges. “Many people believe that their
lives are over after they have been arrested and charged. They fear they
will lose their jobs, families, and futures. Criminal defense attorneys
provide hope, guidance, and resolution.”