THE “DELIVERANCE EXPERIENCE!”

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(Today, for a change of pace, I want to share another one of my true “war stories”

from my unpublished memoir about my early days as a Southern prosecutor).

THE “DELIVERANCE EXPERIENCE!”

We were waiting on the jury’s verdict.  It had been a long day.  And I had to go to the bathroom badly!  I had not peed since lunchtime and I was about to burst.  So, I quickly told old Mr. Jones, the bailiff, where I was going.  I then turned to go to the men’s restroom, located just outside the back entrance to the courtroom.  The men’s restroom at the Timmons County courthouse has an interesting looking urinal.  It appears to be a turn-of-the-century model and resembles a long, porcelain horse trough.  It’s located on the left, just inside the restroom door. As I pushed the bathroom door open, I immediately started to turn to the left, while simultaneously unzipping my pants.  But then, I stopped, cold, in my tracks, with my fingers still poised on my zipper!  There, surrounding me, all along the walls of the men’s restroom, was the defendant’s clan.  To my left, I saw a toothless redneck who was a dead ringer for the mountain man who had assaulted poor Ned Beatty’s character in the movie “Deliverance.”  And out of the corner of my right eye, I could have sworn that I saw the odd banjo-playing boy from the same movie.  To this day, I do not know why, on that day, these “men folk” from the defendant’s family chose to congregate in the men’s restroom.  Had they never before seen such fancy indoor plumbing?   Or did they have a special surprise in store for me?  I’ll never know.  But I didn’t wait around to find out either.  Almost mid-zip, and before I could hear the first chords of “Dueling Banjos,” I wheeled around and left the restroom.  As I left, I heard laughter emanating from the clan inside.  But I didn’t care.  They could have their laughs, as long as they didn’t have me, exposed and vulnerable at the porcelain urinal horse trough!  Suddenly, my urge to pee had vanished!

One lesson I learned from this harrowing experience is that a trial lawyer should avoid eating or drinking a lot during a trial.  What goes in must come out.  I also learned that you need a huge cast iron bladder, if you wish to be successful in the courtroom.  But most important, I learned to never, ever, ever go alone into the men’s restroom at the Timmons County courthouse!

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A True “War Story” From the Courtroom

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A True “War Story” From the Courtroom

Being a good trial lawyer involves skill and experience, but sometimes a little luck helps, too!

My first jury trial as a young state prosecutor involved the armed robbery of a south Georgia convenience store. The store had been held up by a lone gunman at about 7:30 one evening. The store clerk and a customer had positively identified the defendant as the gunman. The customer had even gotten a good description of his vehicle, along with a partial tag number.

The defendant offered an alibi defense. He contended that he couldn’t have robbed the convenience store, because he was at home at the time of the robbery. He claimed that he and his family were all gathered around the television set, watching the old game show, “Name That Tune.” The defense attorney also put the defendant’s sister on the stand. She likewise testified that her brother had been at home, with the rest of the family, watching “Name That Tune.”

As a struggling young trial lawyer, I had no clue about how to cross-examine the defendant’s sister. Law school had clearly not prepared for this situation. I stood up and, as I approached the lectern, I still had no game plan for my cross-examination. Then the idea hit me. Throwing caution to the wind, I simply asked her, “Ma’am, you say that your brother was at home at 7:30, can you tell this jury whether he robbed the store BEFORE or AFTER “Name That Tune?” Incredibly, before she could think it through, the defendant’s sister stupidly blurted out, “Before!” I was shocked. The defense lawyer was shocked. Everyone in the courtroom was shocked. Then the laughter began. First, it was just a few scattered giggles. But then it spread, like butter on a hot biscuit. Soon, everyone in the courtroom, including the jurors, was laughing! Everyone laughed, that is, except the defendant and his attorney! The jury promptly “named the defendant’s tune” in one note, with a guilty verdict! I won my case! I was so happy that I could have jumped a stump backwards!

I learned from this case that God looks after not only drunks and fools. God also looks after inexperienced trial lawyers! But if I try cases until I am one hundred years old, I will never again be this lucky in cross-examining an alibi witness!