To be a good lawyer you need to develop a number of skills. The ability to research is one, the ability to say “pay me you parasite!” is another. But mostly, a lawyer needs to know how to think on his feet, or his back if he’s feigning injury in a close friend’s (with lots of insurance) house.

The reason this latter skill is important is because you never know what question is about to be asked or when the Judge will say “Wake up Mr. Leach, and put that sandwich away.” The point is, no matter how bad your case is, you always have to have something to say. I’ve tried blurting out “Jeez, your honor, my opponent appears to be right. I hadn’t thought of that before. I guess taking my client’s house and, as learned opposing counsel suggests, ‘throwing his ass in the pokey’ is a good idea after all,” but it hasn’t gotten me a lot of repeat business.

Today my ability to think fast was put to the test. I had a preliminary hearing for a client accused of shooting off a neighbor’s hand with a shotgun. We’ll call my client Ralph (although his real name was Todd!). I knew this would be a difficult case when I met Ralph.

Ralph
Ya know what I am?

Me
A misunderstood innocent guy?

Ralph
No, no. The other one…

Me
A Homicidal Maniac?

Ralph
Yeah! That’s the one.

This was compounded by the fact that Ralph looked like Charles Manson, only angry. His long, greasy hair and menacing eyes were helpful only in that they distracted from the “I SHOT MY NEIGHBOR IN THE HAND” tattoo across his chin. But I still had the presumption of innocence on my side. That, and the possibility that the judge could theoretically be on heroin and not thinking clearly. Before the hearing started, I demanded to know what evidence the district attorney had. Much to my horror and chagrin, she had some.

Me
Judge, I make a motion to dismiss.

JUDGE
But we haven’t started yet.

Me
So, I understand it’s granted then.
(to courtroom) OK, we’re out of here! Chalupas for everyone!

JUDGE
Sit down, Mr. Leach.

Me
Judge, I am entitled to know the evidence the state
intends to introduce.

JUDGE
And what citation are you offering for that?

Me
Uh…The…Uh…The Book of Laws.

Notice how I whip out the cites like pop tarts at a firehouse!

JUDGE
Will the DA please humor Mr. Leach and describe
the evidence you intend to present.

DA
Surely, your honor. First we have the testimony of the
victim.

Me
Objection! Speculative!

Compared to me, Clarence Darrow was a moron.

JUDGE
How is it speculative? The victim was there. He’s got
the missing fingers.

Me
Says who??

JUDGE
Says him! That’s the point!!!

Me
Well…then I’d like to object on the grounds that it’s
irrelevant, immaterial, and immoral. Further, it is
hearsay, double jeopardy, res ipsa loquitur, and violates
the doctrine of Escheat!!

JUDGE
Do you even know what any of those words mean?

Me
Couple of ’em.

JUDGE
Will that be all the evidence we can expect today?

DA
‘Fraid not. We also have the testimony of the 36
eyewitnesses from the “Her Mother of Immaculate
Conception” convent across the street.

Me
Ha! Nuns?? They wouldn’t know the truth if
it bit them on the ass!

Notice how I never give an inch! I make Johnnie Cochran look like a barn owl at a fish fry. (I have no idea what that means. It’s sort of a tribute to Ross Perot.)

DA
Further, we have testimony that it was the
defendant’s gun that fired the shot.

Me
Coincidence.

DA
We have the defendant’s fingerprints on the gun.

Me
Happenstance.

DA
And we have powder burns from the gun on the
defendant’s hand.

Me
(yawn) Will someone wake me up when she
presents some real evidence?

A clever diversion. Everyone’s head is reeling now.

DA
We also have videos, from three different directions,
of the defendant shooting the victim.

Me
Three ya say?

DA
Three.

Me
I’ll be damned.

A brief lapse. But I recover quickly:

Me
DUCK!!! PIGEONS!!!!!!!

DA
What?

JUDGE
Just continue, he does this all the time.

DA
Finally, we have the written and verbal statements of
the defendant.

Me
A person’s words can be twisted.

DA
Not here. First we have a booklet written by the
defendant and published under his own name on
the Internet. It’s called: “How I Plan to Shoot My
Neighbor.” It’s got maps, diagrams, and several
photographs of the victim with bullseye on them
and the words “Na Na Na Na Na, Your gonna get
sho-ott” written underneath.

Me
Maybe he changed his mind!

Man, I’m like a Gatling Gun.

DA
Unlikely, as the defendant himself writes in his
second book–“Why I Will Never Change My Mind
About Shooting My Neighbor”–which he published
both on the Internet, and in paperback throughout
Europe. Also, it was an Oprah book.

Me
But does he ever say he went through with it?

DA
Yes, he said so many times in his verbal confession.
In fact, I should say confessions, plural. When he was
arrested, he confessed so often that the officer finally
had to tell him to “Knock it off” and “Stop confessing
already.”

Me
Is that it? Is that all you have?

Never act impressed!

DA
Not quite!

Ralph
SWEET JESUS. I SHOT MY NEIGHBOR!!!!

DA
There is the fact that the defendant blurts that
out every ten minutes or so.

ME
Well that’s not gonna help.

JUDGE
Well, not you at least.

Me
Your honor, this is a travesty!!

Judge
No it’s not.

Me
Uh…. did I mention the pigeons?

The case was bound over for trial. But by now I’m guessing the prosecution is so intimidated that I can make a sweet deal for Ralph. Life in a nest of angry hornets maybe, something like that. I’m just happy to show the younguns coming up how it’s done.

Tomorrow: A preview of Ralph’s new book “I’m Not Gonna Pay My Lawyer.”

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