NBC News
updated 2/20/2004 1:06:09 AM ET 2004-02-20T06:06:09

I know that Martha Stewart probably wants to testify.  She wants to be able to convince this jury that she may have made some mistakes, but that she never received any inside tips. 

For years, Stewart has been a persuasive advocate for everything from her own company to window treatments.  But now, she almost certainly wants to prove to the jury that she is not the petty, insulting, demeaning person that some have claimed.  I'm confident she has now endured tens of hours of mock cross-examination by her attorneys and that she is convinced she is ready. 

But all defendants feel that way.  Almost all high-profile defendants beg their attorneys to let them testify, but it's risky business. 

O.J.  Simpson wanted to testify in his criminal case.  His lawyers convinced him against it.  He was acquitted in less than three hours.  When he testified in the civil case, he was caught in numerous inconsistencies, ranging from with whether he had ever worn the same type of shoes or gloves as the killer to whether he had small cuts on his hands.  The jury didn‘t believe him, slapped him with a $33.5 million verdict.

Last year, in the trial of investment banker Frank Quattrone, charged with obstructing an SEC investigation, Cartone took the stand. Prosecutors caught him in some inconsistencies and the case ended in a hung jury.  One juror said later if Quattrone had not testified he probably would have been acquitted.

Robert Blake lost at least two lawyers over his insistence that he be able to defend himself on TV.  No question he, too, will want to testify. 

It's not to say that Martha Stewart is somehow comparable to O.J. or Robert Blake.  But as in any case, if she testifies, the whole case will likely come down to her credibility.  Even the smallest inconsistency can weigh heavily on jurors' minds. 

And so Martha, I know it may seem like an easy call to you, but remember this time, you can't say “I just want to focus on my salad” as you did when asked unwanted questions about the case on national television. 

It's a close call as to whether you should testify.  I think you will, but if your lawyer says no, trust him. 

Dan Abrams is a lawyer, and is the host of the legal show 'The Abrams Report' which airs weeknights, 6 p.m. ET on MSNBC. 'Closing Argument' is Dan's take on the news of the day.


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