Monday, October 3, 2011

A Goolsby "War Story" About Sleeping Jurors, Criminal Lawyers, and The Charge of the Light Brigade!

[Depiction of "The Charge of the Light Brigade" from wikipedia]
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
   Charge for the guns,' he said,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
As a young law student, I clerked for an Athens, Georgia law firm headed by a resourceful criminal defense attorney.  Let's call him "John Jones."  I learned a lot from Mr. Jones about human nature and about trying criminal cases.  For instance, I learned that law school doesn't really prepare law students for the real world, or teach you about human nature.  I also learned from Mr. Jones that, no matter what challenges or obstacles you face, in life, or during a criminal trial, as a criminal defense lawyer, you must be willing, like Lord Tennyson's Light Brigade, to keep charging ahead!

To illustrate my points, let me give you an example of an actual criminal case.  First, it might help you to know that Mr. Jones was confined to an electric wheel chair.  But as I learned very quickly, Mr. Jones wasn't actually confined -- he never allowed this mere encumbrance to slow him down one bit.  Nor did it prevent him from winning a criminal trial!

I will never forget the Smith embezzlement case.  The evidence was largely circumstantial that Mr. Jones' client had stolen company funds.  But a problem had cropped up at trial.  One of the jurors, a middle aged man who sat near the right front corner of the jury box, kept nodding off during the trial.  Ordinarily, as Mr. Jones explained to me, a juror sleeping through a trial could be a good thing for the defense.  But Mr. Jones really wanted the juror to wake up for the next critical defense witness' testimony.  So, here is what he did to correct this problem!

First, Mr. Jones drove his chair up alongside where I sat, which was just behind the defense counsel table.  Then, he whispered, "Watch this, Richard." 

Immediately, Mr. Jones wheeled around and drove his electric wheel chair forward, full throttle, toward the front right corner of the jury box!  "Half a league, half a league, half a league onward," charged Mr. Jones!  Then, everyone in the courtroom was jolted by a loud "bam," as the electric wheel chair hit the corner of the jury box!  No real damage was done.  Somehow, Mr. Jones had managed to stay upright.  But I quickly saw the results!

Naturally, the sleeping juror was jolted awake!  Even the judge was awakened from his perch on the bench!  Mr. Jones had succeeded in his mission!  In fact, after the collision, all the jurors seemed wide awake, attentive, and watchful -- and perhaps a little bit afraid that this crazy-drivin' lawyer might hit them next!  I will never really know what role Mr. Jones' mission had played, but we won this criminal case!

I later learned that Mr. Jones knew that, because of his physical challenge, no one -- including the judge and jurors -- would blame or criticize him for "inadvertently" driving his wheel chair into the jury box.  And no one did.  That is human nature, isn't it?  I also learned that, when you are trying a criminal case, while you must always remain professional, sometimes, you must also be willing to "charge for the guns," in order to win!

What do you think?  Have you ever had to "charge for the guns?"  Wouldn't you want an aggressive criminal defense lawyer, like Mr. Jones, in your corner!?

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