From The Storyteller
May 28, 2018, Baby Lawyer
Topeka Kansas police court, 1972. The City Attorney sits across the table. The accused is sitting next to his brand new “Baby Lawyer” - me. The case is called, and I begin defending my first DWI client. The only evidence for the City was the testimony of a very young, newly minted police officer. (Back then breathalyzers were rarely used.)
My trial strategy – go easy on the officer and point out his lack of experience. My client’s testimony would be enough. For several hours, in my office, we had gone over his story. He and his two buddies split a six pack of 3.2 beer (locally called near beer). Smell of beer on his breath – yes, however with only two cans of 3.2 bee, it was not possible for him to be intoxicated.
My client takes the stand, is sworn in, and I go straight to the big one, “Please tell the judge and the prosecuting attorney exactly how much you had to drink that day.” Long pause and my client answers, “About a case.” This is not the answer that I was expecting. The City Attorney starts to chuckle under his breath, and the judge merely smiles.
As my career as a great trial lawyer begins to go down in flames, I try a trick “leading” question, “You mean you split a case between the three of you?” Before the City Attorney could object, my client volunteers, “No, we each had our own case.” I conclude, “Your Honor, the defense has nothing further to add.”
Leaving the courthouse together I ask, “Why did you lie to me in my office?” His answer, “I wasn’t under oath in your office.” Note: Remind client lying to your lawyer is not helpful.
Moral: For some, swearing with your hand on a Bible makes a difference.