Not A Classroom
“Two guys were being tried for robbing a gas station. A customer who saw the robbery was now on the witness stand. The prosecutor asked him to describe what he saw. He said that he saw two guys robbing the store and then running out, and one of them bumped into him. Then the prosecutor looked at the two perps and said, ‘Are those two men in the courtroom today?’
At which point, the two idiots raised their hands.
It’s the wording. It’s subtle. The prosecutor didn’t ask the witness ‘Did you see the defendants at the store?’ He asked him to describe what he saw. He told the witness to say something like, ‘On that day I saw two men….’ He didn’t ask ‘Do you see those men in this courtroom today?’ He turned around to face the accused to ask, ‘Are those two men in the courtroom today?’ as if it was a roll call, like when a judge asks ‘Are all the parties present?’ The prosecutor sensed that these were idiots, and would fall for this trick.
I think that’s pretty impressive.”
Barn On Fire
“I’m on jury duty; we have to sit. The charge is arson – supposedly a farmer burned down his barn for insurance money.
The prosecutor outlines what they will prove: the farmer moved most of the stuff out of a barn into a second barn, then burned down the first barn by pouring fuel around the base and setting it on fire.
The prosecution calls as witness a neighbor in a subdivision that backed up to the farm who testifies the farmer moved stuff out of the barn over about a week. The neighbor noticed the unusual activity because he was outside building a deck on his vacation.
Next, the neighbor saw the farmer walking slowly around the outside of the barn pouring something from a ‘blue gas can’ on the lower part of the barn walls.
The farmer goes out of sight to the front of the barn, and flames erupt all along the base of the barn. His neighbor calls 911. We hear the recorded 911 call in which the neighbor says the farmer has set fire to his barn.
The defense had no questions for the neighbor.
By the time fire department arrived five minutes later, the barn was fully engulfed and they just acted to contain it, which was essentially just standing by since they note the nearby ground has been closely mowed, evidently to prevent the spread of flame. The firemen said the flames spread with a rapidity that was out of place even in a wooden barn, and they smelled petroleum.
The defense had no questions for firemen.
The fire investigator employed by the fire department, who came along on the response specifically because of the ‘he set his barn on fire’ 911 call, says it was definitely arson because of the clear marks on the ground where accelerant burned, which still smelled of fuel after the fire died down.
The defense had no questions for the investigator.
The police arrested the farmer and take him down to the station.
More investigators said there was virtually nothing in the burned barn (ruined tools or equipment) but that there was a good supply of items in the other barn that appeared to have been recently placed there, including some sitting on the grass that was still green underneath.
The insurance company representative says the barn was insured.
The defendant’s lawyer still says essentially nothing, there is no cross-examination of any of these.
The prosecution is done. The Defense is up.
The defense calls the farmer, and their first question is, ‘Let’s cut to the chase. Did you burn your barn down?’
‘Why did you do it?’
‘It was old, and rotten, with termites. Going to fall down. Not safe.’
‘Hm. Do you usually burn down old farm buildings?
‘Yep and my daddy did before me, and his before him. It’s a farm.’
‘Are you aware that you need a permit to burn debris in this county?’
‘Been doin’ it that way on this farm since we had dangerous injuns, never had no permit.’
‘The fine is up to $50. Oh, wait, I forgot, you are zoned for ‘active agriculture,’ and are exempt. So, no permit needed. But, why didn’t you tell any of this to the police?’
‘They didn’t ask me no questions till after they put handcuffs on me and took me to the police station. They told me anything I said would be used against me, and said I had the right to remain silent. THEN some lawyer guy came in and told me I was going to prison for insurance fraud, and HE asked me questions. I remember Perry Mason said don’t talk to anyone but your lawyer. So I didn’t.’
‘Did you file an insurance claim?’
‘What for? The barn wasn’t worth nothin’ in that state. That’s why I burned it in the first place.’
‘I suggested we explain all this and try to talk them out of a trial. You said you wanted your day in court. What’s up with that?’
‘They came on my land, arrested me without telling me what for. Told me later it was for arson and insurance fraud, and put that in the papers. All my friends, relatives, and neighbors know about this. They made me look dishonest. I want to make sure everyone knows the real facts. I figure this is better than them just dropping it, and everyone wondering whether they just decided not to send an old man to prison.’
‘The Defense rests.'”
The Drive-Thru Queen
“I evicted a tenant for being a small-time dealer. She disputed it, and we had a tenancy arbitration.
I submitted a video of people walking up to her window like a Burger Crack drive-thru, plus brought in her neighbor as a witness. These kinds of hearings are conducted over the phone.
The witness testified that she could smell the illicit substance being smoked, and she had seen a constant stream of addicts buzzing her intercom and knocking on her door, looking for her neighbor. As in, 5-10 per hour sometimes.
The tenant got a chance to cross-examine the witness and her first question, in an excited ‘gotcha’ type voice was: ‘So, how do you know what crack smoke smells like?’
Witness response, without skipping a beat:
‘Before we had our baby, my husband was a user. He also bought some from you and smoked it in your apartment, so that’s how we know what it smells like.'”
Someone’s Always Watching
“I was working as a paralegal. It was a divorce case, and I was hired by the wife. Her husband insists he never had an affair with their female friend.
Several days later, the paralegal in charge asks me to show the paralegal intern how to do a property search. The last address in mind is the possible mistress. We type in her address, look at the deed, get a parcel, even get a satellite photo. It was just sheer luck the image was taken around the time in question. This is important. I print up the satellite photo.
The attorneys meet. Our boss ‘L’ asks, ‘Mr. Husband, you insist you never had an affair with Ms. Woman, correct?’
H: ‘That’s correct.’
L: ‘Did you ever go to her house for anything?’
H: ‘No. I can’t remember where she lives.’
L: ‘Mm-hmm. So between the dates of x and x, you never visited her residence?’
H: (annoyed) ‘No, never.’
L: ‘What vehicle do you drive?’
H: ‘Ford’ (something big like F-350).
L: ‘What color?’
L: ‘Anything in that truck bed?’
L: ‘Is it silver, the kind that’s bolted in place?’
L: ‘Do your truck and toolbox look anything like the ones at Ms. Woman’s house in this satellite photo taken on such-and-such date?’
So the husband swears he never visited the house of his alleged mistress, only to be caught by an easily available satellite photo.”
Tattoos 4 Life
“My wife was the attorney and this occurred during sentencing for a local gang boss, who insisted he was not part of a gang.
W: ‘Mr. Defendant, you stated you are not and have never been in a gang.’
GB: ‘That’s correct.’
W: ‘Do you have any tattoos?’
GB: ‘Yeah, I have a tiger on my calf and one on my chest that says GD 4 Life?’
W: ‘What does GD stand for’
GB: ‘Gangster Disciples…but, I mean….’
W: ‘No further questions, your honor.’
Ironically, the local gangs now tell the cops they are rival rap groups. And they do hang out and put on shows sometimes. They do this in addition to the rest of the organized crime they do.”
“When I was in law school, I clerked for a criminal defense legal clinic. We had an assault and battery case where there was only one witness to the crime, which was the victim. I was sitting at the defense table with the actual attorney, another law student that worked on the case with me, and the defendant. We were all in similar looking suits as a matter of unplanned coincidence.
The victim was asked to identify the person who committed the assault in court and she pointed to me and not the defendant. Our attorney asked several times if she was really pointing to me and if she was sure, and she said yes. The prosecutor was visibly upset and the trial pretty much ended there as this was a bench trial and not with a jury. It was never discussed or admitted to, but I suspect our attorney purposefully had me there at the trial because I did have a passing resemblance of the defendant.”
“I practice immigration law. We had a woman come in and explain that she was from Canada, and she had been living and working in the US without permission for decades. Her boyfriend had beaten her up to the point where she was hospitalized. She pressed charges and the boyfriend basically let her know through mutual friends that his lawyer was going to call her credibility into question since she was an illegal immigrant.
It turns out that her mom was born in the US and met her father in college, which meant that she could gain dual citizenship via her mom. She had no idea that, under the law, she had been a dual citizen since birth. All she needed to do was to essentially submit her birth certificate, that of her mother, and proof that her mom had resided in the United States for x-number of years before turning age 18. We got her citizenship certificate expedited and I made her promise not to tell anyone.
Sure enough, at the trial, the defense attorney asks, ‘Isn’t it true that you are a Canadian citizen who has been working illegally in the US for decades?’ to which she replies, ‘No. In fact, here’s my certificate of citizenship. I’m a dual Canadian and US citizen.’ She said the lawyer looked like a puppet when someone cut the strings. Boyfriend became a guest of the state for a long time.”
Don’t Make A Rookie Mistake, Judge
“I was hired late one day in a traffic case set for a jury trial the following morning. Usually, the court will say, ‘no worries,’ and reset the case to give you time to prepare. I showed up expecting just this. When I told the judge I’d just been hired less than 24 hours ago, she announced aloud in court, and in front of the jury panel, that my client ‘knew what she did,’ and we were going to have this trial right now. I looked at the prosecutor, expecting him to agree that we should reset for a future date, but he was afraid of the judge, and not a very good prosecutor anyway, so he just shrugged.
I got mad but what could I do? I hadn’t even seen the police report yet. I only knew my client was accused of passing a stopped school bus on the right side shoulder, which is about as dangerous a move as you can do and not end up in jail.
The fairly incompetent prosecutor calls two police witnesses who say they saw the car pass the bus improperly. The prosecution rests.
When the judge looked at me to see if I wanted to call any witnesses, I said: ‘I’m going to need to Court to direct a verdict of not guilty from the jury.’
This angry judge was losing her cool. ‘What are you talking about, Counsel?’
‘Judge we’ve just heard from two witnesses about someone passing a school bus, but neither one of them indicated that my client was anywhere near there.’ The prosecutor had made a rookie mistake, forgot to check in-court ID off his list, twice.
The state has to prove to the jury that the person accused is the person all this testimony is about. In-court identification of the defendant is a necessary piece of evidence.
There are a few questions on the prosecutor’s list that he or she must get in with a witness with knowledge: identification of the defendant, the place the offense occurred (to prove the jurisdiction of the charging authority), and the time of the event (to establish that the Statute of Limitations has not run). These are boilerplate, every-single-trial questions for prosecutors.
The judge sighed. She had bullied me into this nonsense trial, a total denial of my client’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel, and had prejudiced the jury with her, ‘she knows what she did,’ remark, and had wasted a couple thousand taxpayer dollars in doing it.
‘The Court directs the jury to return a verdict of not guilty,’ the judge reluctantly groaned.
I didn’t even wait for them to do it. I grabbed my client by the arm and got out of there fast, pausing to wink at the jury on the way out the door.
Someone who had watched the entire thing from the gallery followed me out to the parking lot and hired me for a serious felony on the spot.
I’ve appeared in front of that judge dozens of times since then, and she has not messed with me once.”
“I was on the jury for this trial.
The defendant attempted to rob a tip jar from a barista, and the barista fought back. He ran, and she tossed the empty jar towards him, possibly attempting to stop him from getting away.
The defendant claimed that he was hit on the head and injured by the metal tip jar.
Even though we’d already watched the video, and I already caught this detail, the prosecutor asked to play the video of the robbery again for the jury. After watching it again, she says, ‘How could the barista have hit him in the front of the head when she was throwing it from behind? And he’s wearing a HAT.’
The prosecutor was so annoyed she had to point that out, I almost laughed.”
“There was a case I witnessed about a disputed will. Basically, it looked like two sisters fighting over their mom’s house. One sister (sister A) was a mooch that lived with her mom. The other lived a bit away but seemed to be a loving, caring daughter (sister B).
When the mom died a will appeared. A will that sister B had no knowledge of until sister A produced it…after they got into an argument about what to do with the house. Sister B wanted to sell it and split the proceeds. Sister A just wanted it for free all for herself.
Apparently, Sister A had also left dozens of angry voicemails on sister B’s phone.
This wasn’t submitted evidence by the defense (sister B’s attorney’s). So sister A’s attorney didn’t know about it in discovery. On the stand, sister A made a whole bunch of comments about how her mother was lucid and clear-headed up until she died. That she wrote the will right beforehand.
Then the defense attorney made her repeat what she said and reminded her that she was under oath. She stuck to that story.
The defense introduced the voicemails into evidence as perjury– the plaintiff’s attorney objected but was overruled when the defense explained that procedural rules permitted adding evidence in order to prove perjury.
The voicemails, played in court, were sister A ranting and raving at sister B telling her she would never get the house, their mom had lost it completely and sister B wasn’t there for her, she (the mom) couldn’t do XYZ, wasn’t there mentally and had bad dementia, and she would do anything to keep sister b from getting the house.
The plaintiff’s attorney groaned so hard. Sister A turned white as a sheet.
Sister B won, the judge ordered sister A out of the house as it was to be sold and the proceeds split. The will was thrown out as illegitimate.
It was a great strategy by the defense that paid off big time. You could tell the judge was impressed.”
Model Boy Abuse
“The case was about a mother who had raised her son into a play toy. It was awful. She got him hooked on substances, twisted his mind with shame, and because he was an up-and-coming model she was hiding her abuse by claiming she wasn’t doing anything but trying to break him free of his dangerous lifestyle. It was absurd and disgusting – and it was working because the better the lawyer played with his head the worse he reacted. Shaking, sudden tone changes, the poor kid was losing it in the face of his bravest and scariest moment.
Then his brother turned everything on its side by speaking well out-of-turn. He went way off the rails on an answer, turned directly to us and starts calling out behaviors of hers that neither side had presented, including how she went after him and has now started in on the youngest sibling. The judge instructed him to stop but with no effort, volume, or authority. It’s like he wanted it to happen. We were instructed to erase that from our minds.
Then there was the moment that defined the case. The defense attorney was clearly upset at the turn of events and went extra hard at the primary victim: (the eldest, the model boy on substances). It’s getting very heated – shouting, rough language, all being allowed by the judge. Somewhere in this verbal beaches of Normandy, the defense attorney screams, ‘Admit it! You went there (his mother’s house/ his own home until he ran away) LOOKING FOR A HOOKUP!’
We, the jury, just looked at each other as if Rush Limbaugh was the new star of Hamilton. Why in the world would he go there to sleep with her if she never hooked up with him? I’ll never forget the look on the prosecutor’s face, it was like a coach after a game-winning play… that the other team ran for him.
It’s worth noting that after the trial, which had a guilty verdict, the judge had a Q&A with the jurors because of how crazy things had been. He said he was certain she was guilty after he reviewed the notes pre-trial but was getting concerned that it wouldn’t be proven. He never said it, but he totally let things slide so the truth would get out. Very interesting couple of days.”
“A few weeks ago, I had a juvenile armed robbery trial. It was a stupid case where a guy took his cell phone to some shady guys to get unlocked and they allegedly pulled a piece on him and kept it.
The problem is, I had friends all over the courthouse. One of them familiar with the case walks up to me and tells me that the victim was asking around the courthouse for people to point out who my client was.
I hit him with it on the cross and he admitted only IDing my client because he was at the defense table and that he couldn’t ID him from the scene.
The easy judgment of acquittal there.”