Dream of: 19 July 1995 "Unprepared"
I had been appointed as a defense attorney for a fellow charged with murder. However I wasn't the only defense attorney, and I wasn't even the lead attorney. There were two other defense attorneys, the lead one being a tall, thin man (about 50 years old) with black hair and black glasses.
Our client was a thin, frail fellow (probably in his mid 20s). Although I had talked with the client before trial, I was unprepared to find myself in the courtroom with the trial actually in progress. Before I was able to collect my thoughts, I realized the prosecution had almost finished presenting its case.
I heard the prosecutor ask a witness whether the defendant had ever been convicted of a felony. The defendant, obviously agitated by the question, made gestures to indicate he had never been convicted of a felony. And indeed the witness could offer no proof that the defendant had ever been convicted of a felony. I thought to myself the prosecution had unfairly asked the question to prejudice the jury, even though there was no evidence of a previous felony.
Before I knew what had happened, the prosecution had rested its case, and now it was time for the defense to present its case. The defense case, however, was to be presented in a different courtroom, and without further ado, everyone rose to move to the other room.
Once we were in the courtroom where the defense was to present its case, everyone took their seat. I sat down at a counsel table with the lead defense attorney to my left and the other defense attorney on the other side of him. The judge was a portly woman (probably in her 50s) was dressed in a black robe and sitting behind the high bench. I indistinctly saw the jury off to my right; but I thought the members of the jury might also be the witnesses, and it would be the witnesses who would determine guilt or innocence.
Without anything further being said, the lead defense attorney began questioning the defendant, who was on the stand. The first question which the lead defense counsel asked the defendant was whether he had committed the murder. The defendant answered that he hadn't. The questioning then proceeded. As I continued to try to gather my thoughts, I slowly realized I knew hardly any of the facts of the case. I tried to listen to the questions to see if I could piece together the story of the murder; but it was all so vague.
A question was raised of whether the defendant had ever committed a misdemeanor. From the answer it was clear that the defendant had been convicted once or twice of misdemeanor fraud. That surprised me because I thought the defendant had previously told me that he had never been convicted of a misdemeanor. But I couldn't recall exactly whether he had told me that or whether I had just inferred it. If I were questioned about it, I would simply have to say that I was under the impression that he had never been convicted of a crime.
Again, before I could think, the next witness was brought to testify. Gradually I began to remember that my only role in this trial was to question one witness. However I couldn't specifically remember which witness I was supposed to question. And was I to be allowed to question any other witness if I had a question? Was I going to be allowed to give a final argument? As I tried to understand my role in the trial, my thoughts seemed slow. I was basically calm; however I was concerned by my lack of preparedness and my lack of knowledge of the case.
I didn't even know the basic facts, such as when and where the murder had taken place. What could I do now? The only thing I could do was pay as close attention as possible to the witnesses to try to get the facts and piece together the story of the murder.
The person now testifying was a middle-aged woman. I thought I would like to ask her some questions also, but I was unsure whether that would be permitted. Although unclear, it began to sound as if the woman had found the body of the murder victim in her basement. But as the testimony continued, it became evident that the murder victim's body had been found in a river. Film clips were even shown, and I saw the leg and foot of the murder victim lying in shallow water near the shore. His whole body wasn't shown. Another film clip showed a man and woman swimming in the area where the body had been found. The woman was asked a question and she said she thought the whole murder had been stupid. It was also mentioned that someone's name was Steve, although I was uncertain whether Steve was the victim or the defendant.
More and more I realized how unprepared I was to question my witness when my turn came. Although I had a notebook with lined paper in front of me, I hadn't even prepared the questions which I was going to ask. I flipped through the notebook and noticed some of my writing in red ink, but the writing had nothing to do with this case. Thinking that it might still not be too late, I picked up my red ink pen and decided to start preparing some questions.
I then heard the judge make a statement which I thought might later be helpful, especially if I were able to give a closing argument. The judge told the jury that it was more likely that the defendant had committed the murder than two other fellows. I thought I could later point out that the jury wasn't supposed to determine guilt simply because it was "more likely" that the defendant had committed a crime, but according to a much stricter standard.
I could see the trial wasn't going to take long – probably just a day. I could also see that the main defense attorney was hardly better prepared than myself: he likewise seemed to know few of the facts and he didn't have his questions written down. The third defense attorney, like myself had also said nothing. I wondered whether the judge was concerned by our lack of preparation. I thought when my witness came I would have to ask questions which would go back over the entire crime from beginning to end, and hopefully I would be able to piece together enough facts to present a defense.
Another film clip was shown and a news commentator said, "I don't know what his motive for suicide would have been at all."
That gave me a new idea: perhaps the victim hadn't been murdered – perhaps he had committed suicide. This was a possible defense which I might pursue. Perhaps the victim and the defendant had had some kind of gay relationship and then the victim had been ashamed and killed himself.
The theories mounted in my mind. It really looked as if the case against the defendant was very weak, and that the only evidence against him was simply that he had known the victim. But this court seemed so irregular, perhaps that was all that would be necessary here. What could I do to help? And would it make any difference what I did? My role appeared to only be incidental and I wasn't even certain that I would be able to give a final argument?
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