The law isn't about what's true; it's about what you can prove. And as these lawyers of Reddit know, it's possible to prove entirely too much if you open your mouth in a courtroom without thinking. There's a reason you have a right to remain silent.
1. The fraud squad.
I had a hearing where the opposing party offered an "updated" contract that my client supposedly signed. Except it was a horrible copy and barely readable.
Then he assured the judge that the new contract was exactly the same as the old contract, except for the party name at the top (the original contract was in his mom's name, the new one in his name) and the date of the contract itself. He made that assurance multiple times.
After he exhausted himself saying how everything was the same, I then pointed out to the judge that half the provisions were different and that my client had never signed that form. The judge asked if we were really accusing the opposing party of forging my client's signature, since that's a serious accusation. I held up the guy's prior conviction for contract fraud and said, "I absolutely am, Your Honor."
We won. Hands down. No further argument needed.
2. Alternative facts.
This happened in a DUI case I was defending.
It began when my client showed up a his own house. His wife was in the house, and at the time they were separated, but she had agreed he could come over to pick some stuff up. When he got there, she refused to let him in the house. The client got pretty emotional and upset and went to his garage to get some of his tools. He also grabbed some liquor from his stash out there and started drinking.
Well, he gets annoyed that she won't let him in the house, so he calls the cops. He told her that he was calling the cops, so she then called them too and informed them that he was drunk and he drove there that way.
The cop shows up and does the most bogus DUI investigation ever. He properly administers the field sobriety tests but his police report mentions nothing about him checking to see if the engine was warm, asking how long ago my client had been driving, etc.
So I am hammering this cop on cross, and he starts making stuff up and reciting facts that were not in the police report. He states that he asked the guy how long ago he was driving, and that my client advised him, "20 minutes ago." The cop said that my client made that statement 10 minutes after he arrived on the scene. He then said he checked the engine and it was warm.
So the prosecutor tries to salvage the case by introducing the 911 call logs to establish a timeline. That's when everything fell apart. (continued...)
He starts going through the timeline and it essentially went something like:
6:15 - Call received from client. 6:18 - Call received from wife. 6:28 - Officer en route. 6:32 - Officer arrives. 6:42 - Client purportedly states he was "driving 20 minutes ago."
Well, the prosecutor didn't realize what he had just done for some reason. So on my re-cross, I questioned the officer again based on this timeline. The officer was forced to admit that there was no possible way my client was driving 20 minutes before 6:42, since he had called the cops at 6:15.
My favorite question I asked: "Officer, do you know if the defendant is able to time travel and are you aware of any argument which takes negative amounts of time to occur?"
The case got tossed and my client walked. After the trial, the cop came up to me and screamed that he was an honest man, that my client was guilty, and that I was a piece of trash for making him look like a liar in front of the judge. I just responded with, “Well, next time put it in your police report."
3. That case is an outrage.
My client was driving his mom's car. He got pulled over for playing the stereo too loud. There were pills in the center console, in a prescription pill bottle. The bottle has his mom’s name on it. My client got arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance without a prescription.
The case was obviously nonsense, but the dumbest DA I've ever met in my life won't dismiss it, so we have to go to trial.
During closing arguments, the DA says, "This case is a circumstantial evidence case."
During my closing, I slap the jury instruction on the projector. It says that if a case is based on circumstantial evidence, and there is one factual scenario that points to guilt and one that points to innocence, the jury must find in favor of the defendant and acquit.
My client was acquitted. Idiots.
4. Loose lips sink ships.
My uncle is a retired prosecutor, but this story is amazing.
He was was working misdemeanors in criminal court. Cases get called in alphabetical order, and two women named Catherine Smith and Kathryn Smith were scheduled to have their hearings before the judge. (Those aren’t their actual names, but you get the point.) Both had similar crimes, but were slightly different.
So the bailiff announces the next case to the courtroom: "Catherine Smith, for one count of possession of cocaine with the intention to sell, and one count of prostitution." That’s when Kathryn Smith stood up. (continued...)
So Kathryn Smith stands up and indignantly cries, "Whoa, whoa, just WAIT a second. Where the did the prostitution charge come from? I may deal crack, but I am NOT a sex worker!"
It was the easiest drug dealing case my uncle ever prosecuted.
This one is from my "fool for a client" file.
I was interning at Legal Services, doing discovery work for family law. My supervisor invited us to observe a hearing for our client to get a restraining order against her husband.
At the hearing, the client discussed various times her husband had threatened to kill her. The man, representing himself, interrupted and said, "Judge, I never said any of those things. If I had, she wouldn't be standing here now.” Restraining order granted.
I watched a pathologist win a case in court by destroying the defense's credibility. The question was over whether or not carbon monoxide poisoning could have caused certain signs of death in an individual. The defense didn't study their chemistry very well and kept asking the pathologist whether "carbon DIoxide" could have caused these signs.
After thoroughly frustrating the defense by answering his questions "incorrectly,” the pathologist said very loudly, "Oh I'm sorry, did you mean carbon MONoxide? Because that's a completely different thing." He completely destroyed the defense's credibility in front of the jury. They were done with him after that.
6. The truth will out.
My favorite is a story from Gerry Spence. For those who don't know, he is a famous trial attorney.
A witness on the stand was claiming that he had suffered injuries to his arm because of a city bus accident. Gerry asked him to demonstrate to the jury how far he can lift up his arm after the accident. The witness makes a feeble effort of lifting his arm. Then Gerry asked the witness to demonstrate to the jury how far he could lift up his arm before the accident. He lifted his arm much higher. The jury laughed.
7. Selfie incrimination.
My client was accused of harassing his ex and not leaving her alone. Our defense was that the ex really wanted him around, but then called the police on him whenever she thought he was cheating. (continued...)
The prosecutor introduced the ex's cell phone to show a photo of my client sitting on ex's porch, apparently to prove he was coming around without her consent. I asked the judge permission to check the photos before and after the porch photo, in order to establish context.
Her phone had dozens and dozens of photos of my client in her house, in her bed, wearing her undergarments. She really was inviting my client over and then calling the police on him when she got mad.
8. I'll never date again.
I am a Certified Paralegal. I went to court and spoke for a friend at a hearing. He was fighting a restraining order against him by his vindictive ex-girlfriend.
She wanted some stuff back that she had given him, and he refused to let her into his apartment to get it when he wasn’t home. She became furious and made a scene in his front yard, resulting in a visit from the cops. Next thing you know, she's got a restraining order on his mom (who lived right next door to him) and is trying to get one on him and sue him for his stuff.
So when he's on the stand, I'm questioning him about the incident where she showed up and tried to break in. His mother called him the moment she saw her banging on the door, so he beat the police there. She had broken in, and was in the living room. I asked him if he was in fear of her, and he says absolutely, because upon waking in, she slid an iron bar from her sweatshirt sleeve, telling him to back off.
Then it was her turn on the stand. I asked her if she had broken in. She insisted she had entered using a key, which we knew was a lie; she never had a key. So then I asked her about the iron bar. Why did she have it? Where did it come from?
"My cop friend gave it to me to protect myself from road rage. It's in my car all the time so I just brought it with me in case anyone was inside who wanted to mess with me."
"And did you have it up your sleeve?"
"Yeah, because I didn't want neighbors to think I was breaking stuff!" She was bawling and slamming her fists into her thighs and pulling her own hair, wailing.
I rested after that. She admitted to trespassing while carrying a concealed weapon. Both restraining orders were rescinded. She was asked to stay after court was adjourned, and the judge handed her mandatory therapy and committed her for observation.
9. My lawyer needs a lawyer.
When I first started, my firm had me on a case where the client claimed he had lost because of ineffective assistance from his previous counsel. He was basically saying that his old lawyer hadn’t done his job. So we prepared an argument based on not asking the right questions, not communicating, etc. We think it's going to be a tough case, but not unwinnable.
Then we got an incredible response to our complaint from our client’s old lawyer. (continued...)
He argued that he was only ineffective because he didn't have time to prepare for the case. In fact, he only reviewed it the morning of the original trial. (He had known about the case for months, by the way.) The judge saw this, and during the trial we essentially asked "isn't this the definition of ineffective counsel? Not giving enough time to your client?" The silence from his side of the court was amazing.
Needless to say, the trial didn't last much longer than that. Thanks, opposing counsel! I guess you were ineffective for the both of you!
10. Concealed weapon.
It wasn’t my case, but I was in the courtroom watching the trial. The defendant was representing himself. He was accused of flashing a security guard and pleasuring himself.
The prosecutor was doing well proving the case. When the female deputy was on the stand, the defendant asked her one question: "If you saw me do what you claim I did, then how big is my penis?”
The deputy responded by raising her hands and estimating about 15 inches. The guy grinned, turned to the jury, nodded, and said "Yeah, that's right.” And then he sat down.
Obviously he was convicted. He was already doing a 10-year prison sentence, so this conviction wasn't of much consequence to him, but I'll never forget it.
11. My dog ate my contract.
My client sued a trucking company for underpayment of wages. They claimed they paid by route and not by the hour (despite doing their payroll by the hour) because they had a sub-contract that supposedly told them to pay by the route.
The defense called the owner of the business to the stand, and questioned her about the contract, which was clearly incomplete. She explainws that the company gets a new sub-contract every four years, without fail.
On cross, I flipped to the first page of the contract and read the date, which was in the spring of 2011.
Q: Did I read that correctly?
Q: And you get a new contract every four years?
Q: So you got a new one around the same time in 2015?
Q: And why you haven't produced that contract today?
A: I haven't seen it in years. But it says the same thing.
Q: Where does this contract tell you to pay your drivers by the route?
When she couldn’t answer, I followed up with, "And the 2015 contract that we don't have says the same thing?"
My client started working for them at the end of 2015. Their whole argument was based on a contract they couldn't find. We won.
12. American pie.
My dad's ex-girlfriend took us to court over his estate after he kicked her out. Her claim was that she was entitled to half the pie because they were de-facto married. Our claim was that she was only in it for the money from the beginning, and had planned this all along.
She had mountains of evidence of her contributions to my dad's company and how she had helped run his private estate. We’re talking expense reports, receipts, dates and times, combined spending etc.
She had so much evidence, that the judge took four days to look it all over. When he finished, he came back and basically said, "Why on earth would you have all of this if it wasn't your plan to use it against him whole time?"
The case was very downhill from there. She'd done the same thing to her ex-husband, providing precedent. He and her children said so in their testimonies. One of her children even inadvertently admitted she'd told them what to say and had paid them to say it.
This case took four years to settle, including two elevations of appeals. She finally gave up because she'd run into about a quarter million dollars of court fee debt, on top of being forced to pay us $40,000.
13. Discovering yourself.
I am a lawyer who handles a lot of a very specific contract issues.
The other side argued they were entitled to work. We said we hadn't decided who was going to do the work and were reviewing what we wanted to do. They sued for an injunction to block us from contracting with another party. In discovery, they asked for our contract with this other comp
any, all the emails about our decision to go with the other company, etc. We came back and gave them nothing except a couple emails to them all saying that we hadn't made any decisions and weren't purchasing anything from either company anytime soon. Which was accurate.
They paid thousands of dollars for their lawyers to get them their own emails that proved they had no basis for a claim. Fortunately they just dropped it there.
Edited for clarity.