Dream of:29 February 1984 "First Jury Case"
I was sitting in a courtroom at a county courthouse talking with someone who was apparently a judge. Another person was also in the courtroom. I walked up and sat in the judge's chair. The judge was sitting in another chair behind me. I wondered what it would be like to be a judge.
We began talking about cases. I told the judge I hadn't actually had a case yet. I said I thought maybe I should take a criminal case just to get the experience of doing it in front of a jury. The judge said he had a couple and he could appoint me to one.
He pulled out two vanilla envelopes. He said one case was a traffic accident which had resulted in a death. He said he could appoint me to that one. He didn't say what the other case was.
Another fellow walked into the room who was obviously an attorney. He took the second envelope, wrote his name down and left.
I asked the judge where the defendant was on the case he had given to me. He said he was still in jail. I saw a notation on the front of the envelope which said "MI." I asked the judge what that meant. He said it meant the defendant had been in jail since last May. I thought that was an awfully long time.
I later determined the defendant was a black fellow. I wasn't completely sure what had happened in the auto accident, but I felt as if the defendant were guilty. I didn't want to plead him innocent. I wanted him to go ahead and plead guilty and throw himself on the mercy of the jury. I thought the defendant had been negligent and his negligence had caused the death of the other person, but I was also convinced that the defendant wasn't a bad person and that if he were given another chance he would be more careful the next time.
As I planned my strategy, I decided I wanted to buy the defendant a suit to wear and make sure he had a respectable haircut. I thought perhaps I would actually buy him two suits. He could wear one the first day, the second one the second day and then wear the first one again on the third day.
I thought a long time about how I would present the case to the jury. I wondered if I should mention to the jury that prejudice shouldn't enter into this case just because the man was black. Since someone had been killed in the accident, my client could be put in jail for life. I was going to try to get a sentence of five years or less.
I wanted to impress on the jury just how long a time five years was and how a man's life could be ruined if he were put in jail for five years. I wanted to present the idea of probation to them. They could give him a long sentence but give him probation. If he committed another crime he could be put in jail for the length of the sentence. But if he straightened up he wouldn't need to be put in jail.
I finally met the fellow and I actually liked him. I thought he was a decent fellow and he didn't deserve to go to jail that long. So I worked quite hard on the case trying to defend him.
Finally we went to trial. I presented the case to the jury and the day for the verdict came. I was sitting in the back of the court room and the defendant was sitting in the defendant's chair in front of the judge. I didn't go up and sit next to the defendant in the lawyer's chair. I was only wearing blue jeans and a shirt.
Finally the jury entered the room and the verdict was written out on a blackboard. I stood up on my seat so I could see better.
The defendant was given a 20 year sentence. But he was also given probation so he wouldn't have to go to jail. He was set free. People in the courtroom began clapping. I was very happy and clapped wildly. I became emotionally choked up. The defendant looked back at me. I could tell he also was overwhelmed with emotion. He came back to me. We threw our arms around each other and hugged each other. I thought I had done something worthwhile and I was extremely happy.
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