What Should a Trial Notebook Contain?

When it comes to organizing your materials for trial, I recommend using a trial notebook. A trial notebook is nothing more than a binder with index tabs. Your binder should include the following items:

  1. Indictment
  2. Grand Jury transcript
  3. Good facts/Bad facts and notes
  4. Witness list (don’t forget to submit your witness list before the judge reads the list of witnesses to the jury venire)
  5. Exhibit list
  6. Voir Dire
  7. Opening
  8. Closing
  9. Jury Instructions (Go to the New Jersey judiciary website)
  10. Briefs/Motions
  11. Appellate Issues
  12. A section for every witness in the case (civilian and law enforcement). Each section should contain every piece of information you have about that witness. For example, if the witness is a police officer who testified before the grand jury, wrote a police report, submitted evidence to the lab, testified at a pre-trial hearing, and interviewed a civilian witness, all of these documents should be included in the police officer’s section. Similarly, if a civilian witness gave a formal statement at the police station, gave an oral statement to a different police officer at the scene, and has a criminal record, all of these documents should be included in the witness’ section. Be sure to obtain the criminal records of every witness. Insert your written direct or cross-examinations for each witness in their respective sections of the trial binder.
  13. Photographs
  14. Lab reports
  15. Defendant’s statement
  16. Defendant’s criminal history
  17. DNA reports
  18. Crime Scene Reports
  19. Legal research
  20. Stipulations
  21. Expert’s report including CV and resources relied upon by the expert

Organizational Miscellaneous

  • Be sure to have a clean, unmarked copy of any document that you intend to introduce or show to a witness at trial;
  • If there is a video-recorded statement of your client that is going to be introduced at trial, be sure to confirm that any portions that needed to be redacted have in fact been redacted;
  • If it is necessary to impeach a witness with video or audio recorded statements, make sure you know the “time stamp” well in advance so that you don’t replay incriminating parts of the statement for the jury to hear for a second time (just in case hearing it the first time did not cause the jury to despise your client);
  • If you are planning to impeach a witness with a document, such as a grand jury transcript, be sure to provide the prosecutor with a copy;
  • Make sure that your client is dressed appropriately for trial.

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