Am I guilty? Well, that depends on how you define ‘guilt.’ What does the word ‘guilt’ even mean? And if we can’t decide what it means, can anyone truly be guilty? I rest my case!
This piece is based on an AskReddit thread. Link on the last page.
1. Argument from scratch.
Former assistant state attorney/prosecutor here.
This defendant is called up for arraignment and the judge is telling him that he’s been charged with theft for stealing a roll of scratch lotto tickets from a gas station. The judge informs the defendant that since the value of the tickets was over $300 therefore it’s a felony rather than a misdemeanor.
The defendant says to the judge “but your honor, to be fair, the tickets were all losers” implying it’s not theft at all.
I was amazed at the ingeniousness and futility of the argument.
2. Don’t quote me! I’m a liar.
We were in trial, and opposing counsel was objecting to a document I was trying to enter into evidence through one of their witnesses. The witness had identified it as one of their business records, but opposing counsel objects. Jury is in the courtroom, so the Judge has us approach.
We do, and opposing counsel argues the authenticity of the document. I was a little surprised. So my response was “Your Honor this is their exhibit. Is Counsel stating they submitted inauthentic documents to this Court?” Judge turns to counsel, “Are you submitting inauthentic documents?”
Opposing counsel stammers out a no and the document goes in. I was a little surprised they wanted to argue their own document wasn’t authentic just to keep me from getting it to the jury.
3. Til meth do us part.
I’m a lawyer. The most ridiculous argument I’ve seen was one I actually made!
One of my clients got busted cooking meth. This was a very clear cut case, they actually caught him in the middle of a cook. No way he was getting out of this one. There was no bail and he was being held in the county jail.
My client knew he was screwed. But he had been planning to get married a few weeks after he got busted.
My client asks me if he can get released for 24 hours so he can still get married. (continued…)
Keep reading on the next page!
I tell him that I’ll ask, but that there’s no way in hell they’ll let him out.
First, I ask the DA if they will allow it. Nope. They laugh.
So I file a motion with the court. Now, I knew the judge was a crusty old family values kind of guy. There was no law involved, but I put together an argument about the sanctity of marriage and how the state should encourage marriage at all times, and that sort of thing.
We have a hearing and I make the argument. The DA is totally opposed and calls it ridiculous.
And the judge grants it. The judge actually decided to allow my client out for 24 hours to get married. He had to surrender at the county jail at 8AM the next day and some other conditions, but, still, he was allowed out.
Everyone is stunned. Nobody can believe it.
The day of the wedding comes, my client gets out, gets married, then goes back to the jail. Everything went exactly like how it was supposed to, which is also pretty shocking.
4. Improbable cause.
The state tried to argue that probable cause exists simply because there is a police report alleging the crime. “From the fact that a police officer filed this report it is a reasonable inference that the crime took place as described.”
Good, allegations are self-proving now. Well, wrap up court then, I guess no need to hear any more motions to dismiss ever. I wonder why no other prosecutor in 240 years of jurisprudence ever thought of that before, 25-year-old assistant district attorney who went to the worst law school in this state.
Made a left turn on a green turn arrow, a city bus ran a red and T-Boned me. My car was a little VW rabbit so it just scooted me and I was perfectly fine. Driver pulls over, comes out and says “the sun was in my eyes.” I say, “I’m not hurt, thanks for asking.”
Police arrive, and guess what? (continued…)
Keep reading on the next page!
There was a literal bus load full of witnesses. Every one had the same story… She ran a red.
City paid for my car, etc. She denied wrongdoing and went to court, which I had to attend along with a witness or two and the officer. Her defense? She had a migraine.
Judge: so I should let you off the hook because you had a bad headache and was driving into the sun?
Driver: Yes, your honor I’m glad you understand.
She got her commercial vehicle license revoked. Should have just taken the points.
6. Take me away!
Old lady slipped & fell on an icy driveway which was not salted or maintained, so she wanted to sue for damages.
After hearing the story, turns out the lady fell on her own driveway which she did not salt or maintain. She wanted to sue herself.
7. The hybrid defence.
Traffic court, speeding ticket. “Your honor, I didn’t speed, and I can prove it with logic.”
Lady: “I drive a Prius.”
Lady: “That proves I’m responsible. Specifically in the realm of cars. So I obviously wouldn’t speed.”
She had to pay the ticket.
8. This guy has no shame at all.
He had a client, a professor in his 70s who was divorcing from his wife, also a professor in her 70s. They were both Jewish. His wife had a tattoo on her arm. It was a number, put there by the Nazis when they put her in a concentration camp in WW2 as a child. Husband was born in the US, was not German. The German government was in the process of settling a case with the survivors. She had some amount of money, a six figure sum, due to her. The husband wanted his lawyer to argue that he should get half the settlement money.
Lawyer told him that there was a special circle in hell for lawyers who ask for stuff like that and that he was not planning on ending up there.
9. The leatherman.
Defendant busted for possession of narcotics. They were in the pocket of his leather jacket. He argues the search was illegal because with his buttery smooth leather jacket, there’s no way the officer would have felt the drugs in his pocket during a pat down, so he shouldn’t have reached in the pocket to find the drugs in the first place.
Judge asks if the jacket is the one he was currently wearing in court; it was. Judge asks to feel this jacket and the pockets. Defendant hands it to the bailiff. Judge finds more drugs in the pocket.
Needless to say, it didn’t go well for him.
10. Court-ordered friendship.
Not a lawyer but was the child in a custody case between my parents. My mother’s lawyer argued for and had put in the final agreement that I had to add my mother as a Facebook friend.
11. Read between the lines.
Had opposing counsel try to argue that because a landlady had written on her eviction notice “it has been a pleasure getting to know you but…[please leave]” but had testified they were awful tenants that she hated, that she was dishonest and nothing she said could be trusted
Opened the question of dishonesty wide open. Although landlady wasn’t an angel, tenants had an enormous string of fraud priors we could tell the court about as a result.
12. Don’t judge a perp by his wife-beater.
I used to have a private practice where I did a lot of evictions. Most of the time the tenants were defiant in their non-payment, so it wasn’t difficult to not take pity on them.
Anyway, one tenant was a particularly dumb guy. He usually came to court dressed in a wife-beater and cutoff jeans. We had a trial date set and my client and I showed up. Tenant did not. At the last second before the judge entered a default, some woman comes bursting into the courtroom and yells, “Darryl’s on the phone!” The judge allows her to bring the phone up and we put Tenant on speaker. He proceeds to ask the judge to delay the trial for one week because, “My brother got his head knocked inside out and is prolly gon’ die.”
I didn’t buy it, but my client knew Darryl well enough to sense the stress and fear in his voice. I told the judge that we would allow the continuance, but only until the next available court day. The judge set it for one week out. I still didn’t believe Darryl until that night my grandfather was in an accident and we had to rush to the hospital.
As we’re walking up the hallway, I see Darryl in a room with a bunch of people who dressed like him enough to obviously be family. When we get to my grandpa’s room, the first thing he says is, “You’ll never guess what happened to the guy down the hall. Nurse told me his idiot brother dropped a tractor bucket on his head and opened it like a cracked egg. He’s in a coma now.”
I relayed the news to my client and she felt sorry enough for Darryl that we signed an agreement stating that he would clear out within 15 days and we would forgive all back rent owed.
13. The body of the law.
Defendant pro se (without an attorney) pleading guilty to a minor drug charge after rejecting a plea deal where if she took a urine test every month for a year and passed each time, the charge would be dropped.
Judge: Why didn’t you take the offer the prosecutor initially gave you?
Defendant: My body, my choice.
14. Article of faith.
Had a woman (representing herself) argue that she didn’t owe the credit card company because of Jesus.
The basic argument was that debt is a sin (or maybe not paying the debt was a sin). And Jesus died for all of our sins. Therefore Jesus died to pay off her debt. Brilliant.
15. Quite a catch.
It wasn’t the other lawyer, but his client who did this. Took the stand in a retail theft trial. Claimed he didn’t steal a couple salmon filets on purpose, he was just so flustered by a phone conversation with his girlfriend that he accidentally slipped them into the pockets of his jacket (in a part of the store the loss prevention officer called “shoplifter alley” because it’s a blind spot for the cameras) and walked out without realizing it.
It’s not like it was a candy bar or something small, it was two salmon filets! I asked him, “have you ever done that before?” Him: “No.” Me: “Have you ever seen anyone, anywhere, ever put fish like that in their pocket in your entire life?” Him: “…..No.”
Mercifully, the jury did not buy his ludicrous story and found him guilty.
16. Drink drank drunk.
It doesn’t matter if you were sober or not. You jumped out of a third story window with a beer bottle and threw it at a cop. The jury is going to think you were drunk. Also, I think you were drunk.
17. Woman of steal.
I had a former employee fired for rampant and blatant stealing. (She actually quit when presented with the evidence.) She sued me for $10,000 for lost wages, since she couldn’t find a job because she was scared I would badmouth her if she put me down for a reference. She had also been turning tricks right from the office for extra cash.
18. Cruel intentions.
I am a lawyer. Colleague argued that it wasn’t animal cruelty to shoot a dog because the dog didn’t suffer. This wasn’t like a euthanasia situation, rather a robbery gone bad. The judge entertained it for a second and then came to her senses.
19. Be Prepared.
Several years ago I was doing a civil trial (personal injury), defending a woman who (allegedly) hit a bus matron with her car.
We had offered to concede liability and just try damages (in other words, the jury wouldn’t hear the circumstances of how the injury happened, just that we agreed my client caused the injury, and they would only decide the amount of damages – we had evidence that the plaintiff was significantly exaggerating her injuries). The plaintiff’s attorney refused to agree to our concession, thinking that if they jury heard the circumstances they’d want to give even more money to punish my client.
So we went to trial on liability. The plaintiff called one witness, her client, who testified that an older woman in a green car hit her. They rested and I moved for a dismissal for failure to prove a case. There was literally no evidence connecting my client to this incident, just an older woman in a green car. The plaintiff never bothered to call my client to the stand.
The attorney told the judge that the bus driver had written down my client’s license plate and gave it to the police. They never bothered trying to find the bus driver. The attorney asked if she could just put the police report in and I objected that it was hearsay.
The attorney then actually said “please just let me put this in, I haven’t had work in a while and I got retained by a firm to try this case, I really need to win this.” Of course I didn’t agree, and the judge dismissed the case. I felt a little bad for her but that was maybe the worse presentation of a case I ever saw.
I spoke with the jury afterwards and they all said they hated the plaintiff, didn’t believe a word she said, and likely would have found in my favor anyway.
Moral of the story, BE PREPARED IN COURT.
20. But… the flag.
Am a lawyer, but this happened a little prior to me starting my current job so this is second hand. A friend of mine is an AUSA and last year prosecuted several chiropractors for insurance fraud. Turns out, they were sovereign citizen types who insisted on representing themselves. At one point, a defendant got up to the lectern and started lecturing the federal judge that because there was fringe on the flag in the courtroom, the court was an admiralty court lacking jurisdiction over him. Bizarre. Later pled out and all are serving time.