A roommate for Bubba
One of the young lawyers in our office had her first jury trial last week, and she was asking around for pointers. We've got some excellent criminal lawyers in the office, and she wanted to take advantage of that resource.
She figured she might as well ask me, too, so we talked about jury selection. "What kind of juror do you think I should look for?" That kind of question invariably leads to the Search for the Fantasy Juror, in which you conjure up a juror who possesses the attributes and attitudes that make him so pro-defendant he'd rather open a vein in the jury room during deliberations than vote to convict your client. As might be indicated, that's pretty much an exercise in absurdity. A month ago another lawyer and I tried a rape case involving a 31-year-old defendant and 13-year-old victim, who were strangers to each other, and our defense was consent. ("Gee, Russ, how'd that go?" "Not so well, but thanks for asking.") We spent a little time on jury selection, and gave it up when we decided that our ideal juror was a single male in his 40's who spent at least $300 a month on pornography and phone sex.
I nodded sagely at her question. "One who will acquit your client," I responded. This Delphic response didn't go over so well; she rolled her eyes, mumbled something about being sure to hurry back the next time I had a fire sale on philosophical drivel, and left the room.
I dropped by to see how she was doing a couple days later, and wound up riding down on the elevator with her and her client on the lunch break. It was a drug case, and the state had just rested. The guy was also charged with having a weapon under disability, due to a prior misunderstanding about an armed robbery the police insisted he'd been involved in. My friend had bifurcated the trial, so that the judge heard the weapons disability charge; that way, the jury wouldn't know about his prior conviction.
Unless, of course, he testified. Which, apparently, he was pretty much intent on doing. "I don't think you should hide things from the jury," he said, a noble, if decidely foolish, sentiment.
"Hiding a criminal record from a jury is generally a good thing," I said.
"Well, man, I got a way to explain that, though, see? What I'd tell the jury is --"
"Hold it," I interrupted. "Let me tell you what you'd tell them. You'd tell them that in that other case you pled guilty, because you were guilty, and in this case you're innocent, so that's why you're taking it to trial. Right?"
"Right," he mumbled grudgingly.
"Yeah, well, I've seen lawyers try that routine about a hundred times. I'm still waiting for the time that it works."
My friend tried to sit on him, but he insisted on testifying. The jury came back with a guilty verdict forty-five minutes later.
Like the old line: Q. What do you call someone who doesn't listen to his lawyer? A. An inmate.