Step 6: Never Dress Nice For Court

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

Most people are shocked when they hear me say that a criminal defendant should never dress nice for court. I cannot tell you the number of times in the last few years that I’ve heard lawyers say, “Now remember we have trial and jury selection on Monday. Make sure you dress nice for court.” I’m cringing when I hear this. My insides are flipping and flopping. Every time I hear it, it’s all I can do to restrain myself from shouting because that’s the worst advice in the world. Never dress nice for court. Am I recommending you that you come to court in a bathing suit with flip flops? No, absolutely not. What I’m suggesting is that logical reasoning, strategy and sound tactics be used in every aspect of your case, right down to the articles of clothing that you wear in the courtroom.

Think back to when I asked you this question: Have you ever met somebody in your lifetime that you automatically had a liking for or that you automatically disliked but you couldn’t really put your finger on why? Everybody’s had that experience. We would like to believe that in a courtroom, the truth and the facts are what matters, rather than someone’s race, gender, clothing or socio-economic background. But in reality, everyone judges everyone else all day long. We judge them based on the bumper stickers on their car, what type of music they’re listening to as they drive by, and a whole host of other factors- many of which we’re not even consciously aware.

In order to examine this more deeply, trial researchers have hired psychologists for long periods of time. They will take 12-person mock juries and hold mock trials with fact patterns that are specifically designed to be as close to fifty-fifty as you can get. They then have actors perform these trials over and over again, changing one or two variables so that they can test how people react. This type of research has produced startling and stunning information that is horrifying and useful at the same time. It’s horrifying because of the judgment aspects that have nothing to do with the factual evidence presented. It’s useful because if done correctly, you can use this information to benefit you.

In these trials, one of the most striking examples was when they had a series of cases in which a male defendant would testify. They got the highest acquittal rate with a neat, trimmed haircut, no facial hair and a navy-blue suit. Naturally, they started experimenting. They took the same suit, same cut, same make and changed the color. They also put facial hair of different types on the testifying actor posing as the male defendant. They found that in a suburban or rural area if you took that male defendant out of that navy suit with the white shirt, black belt and black shoes and you put the facial hair of any kind on that defendant, the conviction rates sky-rocket to 28%. None of the facts of the case had changed. The outfit and the presence of facial hair alone increased the risk of conviction by 28%. It’s horrifying in that it’s not fair, and it’s morally wrong. But it’s useful because the science tells us it is what it is.

Each and every client that retains me is going to get dress instructions that are custom-tailored to their environment and their location. Men have proven to be the most difficult when it comes to following the dress instructions. Many a man has told me, “Yes, I will be there wearing navy,” only to show up in black. Black just happens to be the most damaging color possible for the court in rural and suburban areas. Women, on the other hand, tend to give me the most grief about it, although they’re usually better at complying. The concern seems to be that the recommendations contained in dress instructions for court look outdated, aren’t very fashionable and just don’t look attractive. However, I tell each and every person the same thing, whether they’re male or female. I tell them that they can put up with it for a few hours because it’s going to make a big difference for the next several years. If you are given dress instructions for court by your legal team, follow them exactly. Do not substitute colors. Do not say to yourself, “Well, I had a full beard, so now I have a real trimmed beard and that’s okay,” because it is not. This isn’t a fashion show. This is your future or the future of someone you love.

I would extend dress instructions for court to anyone who is going to be sitting with you. It’s not uncommon for people to have their spouses, partners or family members with them. If this is going to be the case for you, then each person who is sitting in your vicinity needs to be following dress instructions for court. If you have court and you are a man, you can wear any color in the world that you want. However, I would highly recommend that you wear a navy suit, unless you’re told otherwise. I don’t care if it costs $25,000 on Fifth Avenue in New York City or $25 at the local store, as long as it’s the right color combination and fits you well. Dress instructions for court are critical to our system for success. No lawyer can guarantee an outcome in any particular case, but if you have the opportunity to try and stack the odds in your favor, and if I am your legal counsel, then I am going to highly recommend that you do so.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

For more information on Dressing Nice For Court, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (850) 669-5882 today.

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