Law

a few of my favorite mistakes

I’ve written before about trying a case with my zipper unzipped, but today I’d like to disclose some of my favorite verbal blunders during cross examinations the last 4 years, just in case I ever start getting cocky about never losing at trial.

1)  Plaintiff is on the stand, and I’m wanting to impeach her credibility with a prior inconsistent statement from her deposition.   She’s just testified to something that conflicts with her deposition testimony.  I smile.  I have her.  I have flagged the page on which she has given conflicting testimony, as I have anticipated that her story will change.

Me:  May I approach the witness?
Judge:  Why?
Me:  (pause for a good 3 seconds) I’ve actually never been asked “why” before.  Usually, I just walk up as I wait for the “you may.”  Um, so I can show her page 45 from her deposition testimony?  Please?

2)  I have a witness on cross.  Witness is a blue collar sort of fellow with an 8th grade education.  I am not thinking about my questions so much as I am just trying to get the answers I want.

Me:  Now, Isn’t it true that prior to your agreeing to cease working with Company X, you were engaging in behavior that could be construed as sabotage?
Witness:  ?
Judge:  Mr. Daniels, while your diction and grammar are impeccable, the witness doesn’t know what you just asked him.  Can you rephrase please?

3)  The plaintiff was fired for refusing a drug test.  I want the fact that he’s been convicted of narcotics abuse in the past to come into the record.  I’m fairly sure the plaintiff’s attorney will object and that the testimony will be disallowed.  I try anyway.

Me:  Isn’t it true that you’ve been convicted before of narcotics possession?
P’s atty:  Objection, irrelevant and unduly prejudicial.
Judge:  Sustained.
Me:  So, following your conviction for drug abuse, was finding a new job difficult?
Judge:  Counsel!  Did you hear me say “sustained”?

4)  Slip and fall case.  Plaintiff acknowledged no foreign substance on the floor in her deposition and during my initial cross earlier in the day, but she’s changed her story a bit on redirect.

Me:  Now, earlier on direct, you told your attorney you thought there may have been a foreign substance on the floor.
Plaintiff:  I said I saw a foreign …
Me:  No, you said you thought you saw a foreign substance, which is funny, because in your deposition…
Plaintiff:  That’s not what I said.
Me:  Well, we’re both in luck–there’s a court reporter sitting right there who has taken everything we’ve said down, so we can just ask her to…
Plaintiff:  I know what I said.  I don’t have to have it read back to me.
Me:  Oh, I think you do.

I think I like this exchange so much, because it reminds me of Kaffee and Jessep in A Few Good Men.

5)  Opening statement:

Me:  Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, what we have here is a failure to use common sense.  We… I’m sorry; it appears there are no gentlemen in front of me today.  I’ll start again.  Ladies of the jury, what we have here…

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  1. oooooo, me first!!

    1. Goat got. Golly.

    2. Grammar good, grade-8 guy glum.

    3. Joker jibber-jabs at junkie, judge joins ‘jection.

    4. Glib gab/girl.

    5. Gent-less jury-box jolts judicial genius.

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  2. Avat G, you’re quick on the draw tonight! Not sure about the “genius” part, but I’ll take it!

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  3. i couldn’t find any other words that sounded right.

    yeah, i’m up late, wound up from stitcher’s gathering – – the gossip is soooo good. So i come here, lurk a bit, play some mah jong and finally wind down.

    if it makes you feel better, as i posted it i was using a sarcastic tone regarding you as genius!! but generally i think you must have some good brain power to do what you do – – lawyering, fathering, husbanding, that warrior thing you do and blogging.

    having alliterated your blog now for almost 2 months, i now am comfy with general words. after the alliteration, of course.
    still don’t like capital letters. what makes them so special??

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  4. I got drunk at an early voting party this week by accident. I added tequila to a margarita mix that already contained tequila without realizing. Then I told the Speaker of the House (CO state house) that I thought the ballot should have a box to check “FUCK NO” on ballot issues instead of just “no” to show emphasis.

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  5. Doug, I respect your honesty. Most of us can’t handle the truth.

    SwedishSkier, So, did the Speaker agree? I think an “F No” vote should count twice!

    AvatG, I agree on the caps most of the time, especially in comments!

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  6. You’re a lawyer? How did I miss that?

    funny stuff.

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  7. Bro, next time I catch a case I am so going to hire you.

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  8. Nice reading. Its nice to know that smarty-pants people, such as yourself, make mistakes too!

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  9. These were ALL great, but LOL @ #3 … 🙂

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  10. I disagree with Lobo and say that #2 was ROFLMAO. “Mr. Daniels, while your diction and grammar are impeccable…” I’ve read your blog. I bet you don’t get to hear that much. 😉

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  11. unfinished, What?! It’s always perfect!

    Lobo, Thanks…I’m not all that proud to say these are all true stories.

    Sassy, I don’t know about my pants, but the rest of me is often lacking in intellect.

    PunkRock, I have a feeling you use criminal lawyers…I’d have to refer you to someone!

    ThatGirl, It’s true. Hope we can still be friends.

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  12. I’m glad these stories are true. It makes me like you more! Plus this stuff is funny as hell.

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  13. Sadly no, he did not agree. He just looked at me like I was that crazy, hammered voter that he still has to be nice to, like even if I’m spitting food on him (which I wasn’t.)

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  14. damn man, youse way better than da Matlock!

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  15. It is in fact crazy that your writing exhibits such impeccable grammar and diction, because your speech is some weird amalgamation of Mandarin, hillbilly jive with occasional snorts, wheezes, and whistles. It’s pretty tough to understand for the untrained ear. You sing like an angel, though.

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  16. Great snippets of courtroom humor!

    I think I can probably forgive you for being both a Bama alum and a lawyer.

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  17. Wait, Bama? WTF!? Who ARE YOU?!

    Well, at least he didn’t say LSU..I’m sorry, but if he’d have said LSU, all contact would’ve ended right there..Dammit.

    p.s. whoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo pig SUEY!!!!!!!!!!

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  18. After that “common sense” opening, this totally tops your downed fly! Maybe you can leave gender out of your address bit in the future with something like, “Honored panel”, or “Esteemed members of the jury”, or possibly just, “Yo, jury, listen up”. But definitely keep these gems comin’, barrister!

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  19. Appropos of the topic, wouldn’t that have been that your “fly was unzipped”?

    Great and funny post.

    Cheers

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  20. that’s funny stuff. it’s rare that i come across a fellow atty blogger who writes about the funny stuff in court (versus the serious shit out there).

    a favorite of mine is this; i was in an elevator w/ one of my defendants:
    defendant: the judge will be back at 1:30, right?
    me: yes
    defendant: you have pretty hair
    me: uhm…thanks.
    defendant: you think you can get me probation?
    me: i don’t think so.

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  21. It constantly amazes me how lawyers ask the canned question when it’s wildly not called for.

    I had one ask HIS OWN quadaplegic witness,

    “And what is your occupation?”

    [Reply]

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