For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 36

12. If possible, have a smooth stone or nonsharp object on hand to offer your client for
comfort or calming.

Planning for the Courtroom
The big day is approaching. Your client needs
to appear in court before the judge. The client has
never been in courthouse or a courtroom. He or
she has no clue what to expect and is very anxious
and scared. As he enters the courthouse, he is told
to proceed through the security area, remove his
coat and place all his belongings on the conveyor
belt. The client refuses to part with his phone
and starts shrieking. This can be the first sign of a
meltdown, which is a complete loss of behavioral
control.17
Assuming the client is calm, he or she will
proceed to the courtroom. As the client enters,
he or she does not know where to sit or what to
do. After taking a seat at the counsel table, the
client starts laughing and making strange gestures
or facial expressions. Unusual facial expressions
are often a symptom of autism.18 When asked to
address the judge, the client may again exhibit an
off-putting facial gesture.

Practical Advice

1. Familiarize your client with the courthouse
and the courtroom by visiting before the
scheduled hearing date. That way, your client
knows what to expect. Explain what will take
place in the security area and that he or she
will need to put belongings, including a cell
phone, on the conveyor belt. Tell the client
where all the active participants-the judge,
prosecutor, you and your client-will sit.
2. Write out the rules of the courtroom, give
them to your client before the scheduled court
date, and have your client refer to them while
in the courtroom.
3. Emphasize to your client that there is no
talking and that he must direct all questions to
you.
4. Explain to your client how to address the
judge and write out what to say.
5. Explain to the judge that your client may make
unusual or inappropriate facial gestures.
While the tips provided here are not exhaustive,
they provide a view into the unique challenges faced
by attorneys representing clients with ASD. If the
client is to testify, that entails additional challenges
and very specific pointers not covered here. The
client with ASD is relatively new and generates the
growing need to educate professionals, judges,
attorneys and prosecutors engaged in the criminal
justice system.
PANTONE

In an effort to prevent the undesired behavior
described above, the following suggestions have
proven to be helpful.

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About the Author

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Carol S. Weinman has been a practicing criminal attorney for over 20 years, Certified
Autism Specialist, autism legal expert, international speaker, author and parent of a
child with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Ms. Weinman has testified in Pennsylvania state
and federal criminal courts as an autism expert. She consults with attorneys on autism
nationwide, providing insight and guidance on trial strategy, witness preparation,
and jury selection. Ms. Weinman conducts legal trainings on autism and presents
internationally on Autism and the Criminal Justice System. She also has conducted
webinars and CLEs on autism. In 2010, Ms. Weinman founded Autism Advisors & Advocates LLC
committed to assisting professionals and families. More recently, she appeared weekly as an on-air Legal
Analyst for the CBS affiliate station WHPT Talk Radio, speaking on autism. Also, Ms. Weinman's twopart interview on Autism and the Criminal Justice System may be found at differentbrains.org. She is
passionately committed to piloting projects regarding autism and crime, and to training lawyers, judges,
prosecutors, law enforcement, professionals, educators and parents about autism. Ms. Weinman is
currently collaborating on autism training publications and books on autism.19

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For The Defense

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For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2

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