Dream of: 07 May 1995 "The Witness"

I was in a courtroom where I was the defense attorney for a man on trial for a criminal offense. Although I didn't see my client in the courtroom, the trial had already begun and the prosecutor (a slender man probably in his early 40s) was conducting his direct examination of a witness.

The scenario of the courtroom was unusual. The jury was to my left, and the witness was sitting straight ahead of me. The prosecutor, however, was seated on a high bench behind me to my right. The judge (whom I could only vaguely see, but whom I seemed to recognize as a judge who knew me), was sitting off in a corner to my right.

The witness was a pudgy man (about 40 years old) wearing a white tee shirt. It was soon obvious to me that the man probably only had an IQ of about 75 and that he was practically mentally retarded. I began to realize that he was the only witness against my client, and that indeed the prosecutor's entire case rested on the testimony of this one witness.

I also realized I was unprepared to question the witness. On a pad in front of me I had written down only one question. How could I have come to court without having my questions ready? I quickly began trying to think of what I was going to ask. I knew I wanted to quickly find out if the witness had ever been arrested, and I put that down as my second question. But as the prosecutor continued with his questions, I became sidetracked and began numbering and writing down the answers which the witness was giving to the prosecutor's questions. I was writing with a red ink pen and wrote on every other line. When I had reached the bottom of the page, I was startled to hear the prosecutor pass the witness to me.

Even though I wasn't well prepared, I quickly regained my composure. I knew basically the kind of questions I needed to ask, and figured I would be able to do my job. I jumped right into it and asked the witness if he had ever been arrested. He seemed friendly and said he hadn't. I then asked him if he had ever been in jail. He said he hadn't, except for five years in jail while he had been in the military. I could hardly believe my ears. I quickly pursued that line of questioning, trying to find out more about his having been in jail. I immediately saw the importance of this. First he obviously must have been arrested in order to have been put in jail, so he must have lied to my first question. I would later trap him into admitting he had indeed been arrested. Second, if he had been in jail, his credibility would be undermined. It would be his word against the my client's word, and in such a contest, my client would probably win.

The prosecutor also saw the problem. He jumped up and said something to the witness. I in turn stood and told the prosecutor it was improper for him to be addressing the witness directly since I was the one now doing the questioning. I made a short speech for the jury's benefit in which I told the prosecutor that he had had his chance to go into this area on direct examination, but that he hadn't. I knew it was improper for me to be saying that in front of the jury, but since I was able to get away with it, I did it anyway.

I could tell the prosecutor was upset. Obviously he was surprised to learn his witness had been in jail. Clearly the prosecutor hadn't prepared as well as he should have. The prosecutor turned to the judge and asked for a ten minute recess. The prosecutor said he needed some time to check on some airplane tickets. I didn't know what that was about, but thought it was some desperate tactic of the prosecutor to connect my client with some kind of flight. The judge didn't allow the recess.

The prosecutor also said he needed some more money. Apparently the prosecutor received his pay and expenses through the judge, and the prosecutor now realized he needed more money to prosecute the case. But the judge refused, and when the judge called out "Steve," I thought he was addressing me. But then I realized that the prosecutor's name was also Steve and that the judge was talking to him. The prosecutor sat back down and I proceeded with my questions. I was now determined I would spend as much time as I could on this one subject. The longer I could concentrate on the witness's having been in jail, the better I thought my case would be.

But it was difficult to get a straight answer from the witness because he was so stupid. He didn't know when he had been in jail, and in fact he didn't even know when he had been born. Only by deduction was I finally able to determine he had been in jail from 1937 to 1942. I therefore concluded he had been in jail during World War II, but I erroneously concluded it had been at the end of the war instead of the beginning of the war. It wasn't clear why he had been in jail, although it sounded as if it had something to do with dressing like a woman. He also pointed out he was wearing white socks, which had something to do with his jail experience.

As the witness was answering a question, I realized my attention had lapsed, and I hadn't heard what he had said. I apologized and asked him to repeat his answer. I felt rather foolish and determined to pay closer attention.

I wanted to ask some questions about the kind of people who had been in jail with the witness. I recalled I had once been in jail in Iran and I remembered the wide variety of people whom I had encountered. I wondered to myself if on final argument I should mention to the jury that I had spent time in jail.

Suddenly all the jurors stood and began walking out of the room. There were 25-30 of them. It appeared they had all decided to go to the rest room. I was a bit surprised by the interruption, but saw there was nothing I could do about it except wait for them to return.

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