Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A trial lawyer moment ...

I had a trial recently, and there was one short bit of the trial that really stood out. I was cross-examining the principal witness for the prosecution, the following exchange occurred - note that Q is a question from me, and A is an Answer from the witness ...

Q. Okay. So, it's your position that she does not
know how to spell her own last name? Is that what you're
telling this Judge?

A. It could have been a trick, just like everything

Q. I see. Okay, let's talk about tricks, turning
tricks. Isn't it true, Ms. [name omitted], that you were arrested
last year for prostitution?

Well before trial I had become aware of the witness' criminal history, including a prostitution charge. I was planning at some point to attack her credibility on this issue, and then she handed me that moment on a silver platter. In my memory of this moment I paused and looked up at the sky (through the ceiling of course) and thanked god for this moment - which is really unusual since I'm pretty close to being an atheist. Somehow it doesn't read as good in the transcript as it was in person.

There was another good moment in the trial ...

Q. You didn't want the people you were asking for a
loan to know about your financial situation, correct?

A. If you have ever done a loan, they want a
fifty-fifty debt to income ratio. There's no one in this
world -- I'll say there's very, very few people that I do
business with that can reflect a fifty-fifty debt to income

Q. Aren't you telling the Judge that your purpose in
having Ms. [Defendant] register the vehicle in her name, as you
claim, this was to deceive the Small Business Administration
so you could get a loan?

[objection overruled]

A. Yes

Q. It was a lie?

A. Yes. If that's how you want to see it. I don't
believe you're in my business.

The witness actually admitted that her scheme was a lie. So I've got her admitting to prostitution and to lying. Now how often in life do you get to call someone a lying whore and be accurate?

I should add a further caveat here that prostitution should not be illegal, but that goes with my whole nutty libertarian thing.

I am wondering what business she's referring to ... the business where it's apparently okay to purposely deceive federal agencies for financial gain. I thought that was, in the popular misperception of our profession, exactly what some lawyers do (i.e. tax lawyers, not us criminal defense and personal injury lawyers - we're the good guys :-) ).

Or maybe she meant the prostitution business?

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