Dream of: 13 December 1987 "Unprepared"

Somehow, (I wasn't exactly sure how) I has ended up in a courtroom and was the defense attorney for two brothers accused of murder and possession of cocaine. It was about 9 a.m. this was the first day of trial. The court was beginning to fill up with people and the case was scheduled to begin soon. But what most concerned me, was that I was completely unprepared. I hadn't even interviewed the brothers yet, I knew practically nothing about the case and I hadn't prepared any pre-trial motions. Plus, this was only the second case that I had ever tried and I had never tried a felony case before. The only other jury trial I had ever had was a driving while intoxicated on alcohol case, which (although I did win it) had only been a misdemeanor. But this was a felony case and might even be a capital felony asking for the death penalty. I wasn't even sure of that.

This reminded me so much of a case I had seen in the Dallas County courthouse. In that case, two brothers, Gary Evans and Ronnie Evans, had been accused of murder. Their court-appointed attorney had come to court on the first day of trial almost completely unprepared. He hadn't prepared any motions for discovery of evidence and he had only talked with the defendants for about ten minutes each. As far as I could tell, he had never interviewed anyone else in the case, and he didn't even know on what day the murder had occurred. When I had watched the case and the inefficient assistance of the attorney, I had told myself I would never ineffectively defend someone like that.

Here I was, however, unprepared. I asked the defendants (both probably in their 30s) a few questions and then I sat down at the prosecutor's table next to a woman prosecutor. I asked her some questions and she gave me some advice. She suggested that the judge might somehow already know something about this case or about these defendants and that I might ask him to voluntarily remove himself from the case and ask for a new judge. I was too embarrassed to ask her much else.

Finally a question arose about the questioning of the prosecution witnesses. It appeared there would be four men testifying for the prosecution and I was asked whether I wanted them all in the room at the same time, or whether I wanted them brought in individually. Unsure, I thought about it for a few moments and then I requested the witnesses be brought in individually. I thought that was a good decision because that way the witnesses wouldn't be able to hear the testimony of the other witnesses and alter their testimony accordingly.

I continued sitting at the prosecution table for quite a while until finally, realizing I should be at the defense table, I moved over there. I was only wearing a short-sleeved blue shirt and I didn't even have on a jacket. I felt ill-attired and I wished I had dressed more appropriately. But it was too late for that now. I had a few notes in front of me and a few papers that the prosecution had given me. Basically, however, I was unsure exactly what I was going to ask any witnesses.

The judge then walked in and began going over a chart about how the cases would be tried. Since there was more than one case, the question was whether the cases should be tried together or separated. And there also appeared to be a question about whether there would be any hearings to suppress some of the evidence, such as the cocaine or the murder weapon, so the evidence couldn't be used in the trial. I felt very confused by the judge's chart and I didn't know what would be best.

I also realized I should have made some pre-trial motions. On a yellow tablet in front of me, I jotted down that I was going to request the prosecution turn over to me any exculpatory evidence which they had and any evidence which would tend to prove the innocence of the defendant. I knew I was at least entitled to that. But since I didn't have written motions and I was only going to make oral requests, I was unsure the judge was going to grant the motions.

Finally the judge, walking around the courtroom instead of sitting in his bench, seemed to be ready and someone who appeared to be a bailiff shouted out a question. I felt embarrassed, but I didn't hear what the man said, and I asked him to repeat it. He asked if anyone had any preliminary motions before the trial began. I stood up and falteringly ask the judge about the possibility of his removing himself from the case so a new judge could be assigned. But even as I was doing it, I realized I didn't have a good reason for this request and I thought maybe the prosecutor had tricked me into making the request to get me on the bad side of the judge. The judge didn't seem angry, but he responded that he intended to stay on the case and he denied the motion.

Someone in the audience, (which was quite large at this point) then said some kind of little prayer. It appeared that was a signal for the trial to begin and before I knew what happened, the prosecutor began questioning someone. I listened to the questions, and it was quickly obvious they had nothing to do with the case. I thought about objecting to the questions, but since they seemed harmless, I didn't say anything. The questions seemed to be of some completely irrelevant matters and they continued for quite a while. Finally a couple families came in, stood in front of the judge (now sitting on his bench) and had their pictures taken.

Somehow I gathered that all this ceremony had to do with the judicial political process here, and this was one method the judge used to get votes so he would be elected. But finally I felt as if the thing had really gone too far and I thought I might object to the irrelevancy of what was going on. But I hesitated to do that, because I was using this time to begin formulating the questions I might be asking witnesses in the case. And besides, if it lasted all day, I might have some extra time tonight to study the case.

***

I was across the street from the courthouse (which seemed to be in Gallipolis) and I was on the other side of a park. Although was only about 10:30 a.m., it was quite dark. I was in a hurry to get back inside the courtroom and I cut across the side of the road in front of a car. In the process I stepped in a deep muddy area and sank my left foot in mud, which seeped inside the boots I was wearing. I pulled myself out of the mud and I began pulling handfuls of mud out of my boot with my left hand.

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