Dumb quote of the day--nobody is that stupid, so it must have been obstruction of justice edition

>> Monday, September 10, 2012

I think Johnnie [Cochran, O.J. Simpson's defense attorney in the trial over the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman] tore the lining. There were some additional tears in the lining so that O.J.'s fingers couldn't go all the way up into the glove.
- Christopher Darden, as quoted by Terry Baynes,
explaining why the glove that must acquit didn't fit;
"Ex-prosecutor claims O.J. Simpson attorney
tampered with glove"
Reuters, September 8th, 2012.

Or it coulda been elves. We're not talking J.R.R. Tolkien six-foot-tall elves with silver hair and longbows, I mean little tiny Keebler elf mofos who sneak into evidence rooms after the clock has chimed twelve times for midnight, when all the world is asleep, to steal drugs and then while they're high they use elf magic to shrink articles of clothing bagged for ongoing homicide investigations.

No? Would you buy space aliens? Okay, well what about moisture?

I don't write about the courtroom all that often, for all sorts of reasons. But I will tell you a secret: one of the first things you learn if you take Trial Advocacy in law school is you don't ask a question you don't know the answer to. Rules are made to be broken: e.g. you might ask a question you don't know the answer to if there is no answer, or at least no good answer (that is, any possible answer is going to damage the witness one way or the other). But as a general thing, you just don't do it. It's a bad idea. And a corollary to that rule and the mentioned exception would be that you don't ask a question you don't know the answer to but any possible answer is likely to suck for your side.

For instance, if you ask a criminal defendant to try on an article of clothing, what do you think is going to happen? Do you really think he's going to say, "Oh, wow, you really got me counselor, yep, that's my glove and it fits me like a... oh, yeah, hey I really walked into that one! Oops!"? Or d'ya think he might go into a big production number where he can't get it past his knuckles and looks irritated and annoyed, and meanwhile his lead attorney is quickly jotting down on his legal pad, "Note to self: find word rhymes with 'doesn't fit' for closing arg."

The Simpson prosecution was atrociously done. I was in law school at the time, and we talked about it. Specifically, we talked about it in the context of what a crappy job the L.A. District Attorney's office was doing trying the case. I remember joking with Professor Ken Broun, who taught me Evidence back in the day, about why wouldn't you call a dog to bark on the witness stand, and he shot back, "You'd probably let the defendant try on the glove, too." Or something like that. But these were jokes: I wouldn't have called a dog to the witness stand, and I wouldn't have let the defendant handle a chief piece of evidence in the courtroom like that, and I was only a second-year law student at the time; matter-of-fact, I (a) still wouldn't do that now, and I'm a defense attorney, and (b) if I had to choose, I'd rather call the canine as a witness.

But, you know, if you made a total ass of yourself on national television in the midst of a murder trial that captured the nation's attention and imagination, what better way to make amends than wryly acknowledging your mistake dropping quasi-slanderous hints that your now-deceased opposing counsel engaged in shenanigans that could have caused a mistrial, gotten him disbarred, and charged with a felony?


You know what? If you didn't want to come right out and say you really, really screwed up your presentation and made a rookie mistake, and you don't know what you were thinking at the time but let it be a cautionary tale for all trial attorneys, etc., you'd probably just be better off blaming the space aliens. No, I mean, you have as much evidence for that, first of all, and, secondly, you don't sound like quite as much a dumb choad and at least might get people to peg you as being mentally ill, which would be a step up. "Oh yeah," you could say, "those Greys have a thing for quality foot-and-hand-wear. They see a glove lying there, it's like when they see a cow in a field, man, they just have to get those creepy long E.T. fingers all up in there, and it totally tears everything up, because their fingers are all long and triple-jointed and shit, man, and it messes up the stitching but good. 'S'why I wear oven mitts when I go outside, so they can't mess with my stuff." And then you just stare, sorta wide-eyed and unblinking, at a point just over the interviewer's shoulder, and he asks you a couple more questions and you don't say a word until he starts hand-signaling the cameraman to pack it up and is getting up to leave, and that's when you say, sort of in a husky whisper, "Ovvven miiiiiiitts."

(H/t Slate.)


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