Monday, April 25, 2005

The Defense Rests

They say that an attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client. I've always wondered who 'they' are and how the hell they know so much about everything, but at the moment I had no time to worry about that. I was too busy fighting for my life.

As I prepared for my closing argument, I couldn't help but to reflect on the brilliance of the defense I'd presented. It was with no small sense of pride that I realized that 'they' were wrong, for I would have been a fool to have hired an attorney to represent me.

I stood and addressed the court. "I respectfully submit" I began, "that I have proven beyond a reasonable doubt and, dare I say, beyond any doubt whatsoever that I could not possibly be found guilty of murder." I knew that it was arrogant to throw in the part about "any doubt whatsoever," but what the hell, I was feeling invincible.

"Allow me to summarize the facts of the case, your Honor," I continued. "I've shown that I never met the victim, was never observed near him, and, in fact, had never even heard of him before reading about the tragic killing in the newspaper." My momentum built as I played to the packed courtroom, knowing I held them in the palm of my hand.

"The coroner's report that I submitted as Defense Exhibit 'A' places the time of death as between 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on February 27. However, as my plane ticket stub submitted as Defense Exhibit 'B' and my flight itinerary submitted as Defense Exhibit 'C' prove, I was on a flight from San Francisco to New York at that time. I also call your attention to Defense Exhibits 'D' through 'G', sworn affidavits from my fellow passengers confirming that they saw me on that flight."

My confidence was soaring and I could have gone on forever, but I thought it best to wrap up my closing quickly. Besides, I had saved the best for last and was anxious to get to it. "Most importantly," I concluded, "there is not one ounce of DNA evidence linking me to the murder. In fact, there is no evidence at all that I was at or even anywhere remotely near the crime scene!" I couldn't resist glancing at the police officer next to me as I delivered this last jab, and I noticed a look of utter confusion and dismay on his face. I smirked at him before continuing. "Your honor, I believe that this court has no choice but to find me not guilty of this murder and to allow me to go free."

Satisfied with my performance, I took my seat at the defense table. The judge stared at me for a moment, his mouth agape. I met his gaze with a sense of confidence born of a job well done. It appeared that he'd never been in the presence of an orator as skilled as myself and he was probably wondering how I, a man with no formal legal training or trial experience, had masterminded such a brilliant defense. He seemed barely able to restrain himself from stepping down and offering me his position on the bench in deference to my mastery of the judicial system.

The crowd in the courtroom began murmuring, forcing the judge to bang his gavel and demand silence. He glanced at the police officer next to me and shook his head in exasperation. I actually felt sorry for the poor bastard as I watched the judge silently fume over the police department's ineptitude.

Finally, after reviewing the charges before him for a moment, he looked down at me and began to speak. "Let me begin by saying that the court was entertained by your defense. You've submitted incontrovertible evidence to support your contention that you are not guilty of murder. However..."

He paused for a moment. The courtroom grew deathly silent in anticipation of the forthcoming crescendo to our little drama. Meanwhile, my heart sank and my mind began to race. In my mind, I replayed every detail of the trial, wondering what could I possibly have missed. Was there some legal protocol that I'd failed to observe, thus dooming my case? Had I somehow overlooked a key piece of evidence that was about to come back to haunt me?

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't think of a single thing I'd done wrong. After what felt like an eternity, the judge sighed and concluded his thoughts. "However," he repeated, "As I've told you a hundred times already, this is traffic court and we're here to talk about your speeding ticket. Now let's try this again. All I need is a simple plea of guilty or not guilty."

"Oh," I replied. "Guilty."