All trials are intense. Some more than others, of course--the transvestite prostitute trial is probably going to have more moments of levity than the debit card abuse case. But even the hardest trial, the most paper-intensive one, even the most emotional of cases, all will have flashes of humor, moments where the jury, the judge, the defendant, and all us stiff-necked lawyers can crack a smile.
We had a couple of those in my latest trial, a week-long affair that, of course, was deadly serious the vast majority of the time. But, as anyone who knows me will attest, if a door cracks a little giving me a chance at humor I will kick it open the rest of the way.
The defense witness, a friendly, jolly fellow, took the stand to say he'd not seen the defendant at a particular club on a particular night. He also mentioned on direct he'd been drinking that night. Here's roughly how it went:
Me: Is it possible the defendant was there and you just didn't see him?
Witness: Well, I guess it's possible.
Me: I think you mentioned earlier that you'd been drinking, is that right?
Witness: Sure, yes. Quite a lot. Well, not that much, I wasn't totally wasted. I mean, I managed to drive myself home so I couldn't have been that drunk.
A few raised eyebrows from the jurors. I wait a beat.
Me (smiling): I see. Sir, you do realize you're talking to a prosecutor?
The witness, like others, laughed. At moments like these you can feel the pressure lift just a little. And we all need that in a big trial.