Thursday, April 21, 2011

A time and a place for everything

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.

1 comment:

  1. Haha, that's great, DAC. I was wondering if you'd be willing to write on either of the following subjects. I've gone back through most of your archives, but haven't seen anything on these topics -- though I might have missed something. I'm the soon-to-be new ADA who commented a couple posts back (and, btw, completely understand your reasons for not wanting to revisit the evidence in the cold case; thanks for responding to me).

    Anyway, here's what's on my mind...

    1. I agree with your sentiments that the work of an ADA is both meaningful and noble. But, as you've also observed, it can be almost unrelentingly sad - you constantly confront the "darker side" of the community in question. Given that, how does you and your colleagues stay grounded? Are you able to "switch off" when you go home at night/for the weekend, or take a vacation? Or are your minds always on felonies no matter what? Do "career prosecutors" tend to find better ways to manage this aspect of the job than those who leave after a few years? As this post shows, I suspect that humor is a key part of it, but I'm wondering what else you'd advise.

    2. Any tips on rookie mistakes to avoid, or advice on how to step quickly into the role/mindset of a prosecutor?

    Thanks for any thoughts,

    - New ADA


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