Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Courtroom Drama

Nothing was quite this contentious in the sentencing hearing in which I participated..

We've reached Catalina and are having lunch while waiting another half-hour or so for our hotel rooms to be ready. The boat ride was uneventful, which is the way I want my boat rides to be. We did spot a few dolphins about two-thirds of the way to the island.  My mom says that spotting a dolphin in its natural habitat will bring a person good luck good luck. It sounds like an Irish version of an old wives' tale to me, but I'll take good luck in any form and for any reason.

Yesterday's sentencing hearing was a bit more exciting than I had expected it to be.  I'll spare you the complete play-by-play, as if you were that
interested, you probably would have found a way to have been there in person. Still, a couple of incidents are worth recounting.

First, and most important to me, I did have actual participation beyond sitting in the second chair while attempting to look lawyerly. My main reason for being there was to look as though I was a legitimate legal representative of some sort. My PseudoAunt would have been better served in that regard by using her younger brother Timmy in that capacity, as he is old enough to be an attorney and actually looks almost old enough. On the other hand, he has less courtroom experience than I, and in the event that one of us were actually called into service, I was the superior choice.

My first opportunity for action came when PseudoAunt bolted out of the courtroom right in the middle of a defense witness' statement to toss her cookies. She's pregnant and isn't quite through her first trimester, so throwing up isn't unusual for her at this stage. I immediately raised my hand. The judge halted the witness' reading of her statement and called on me. "The people request a brief recess," I announced.

The judge granted a fifteen minute recess. I remained at the table with the court documents. It's against protocol to leave documents unattended, and I didn't want to mess with the order in which papers were laid out. The judge and others followed to determine the seriousness of the situation. Fourteen minutes later PseudoAunt returned after having brushed her teeth, touched up her hair, and freshly applied her makeup. She sat at the defense table smiling and  perfectly poised, as if the recess had been for the benefit of someone else.

I could print the entire transcript here and it would be almost interesting enough to read, but this is my blog and not PseudoAunt's, so I'll mainly retell the parts that pertain to me.

One of the defense witnesses, as she read her statement, opined that the convicted defendant should be sentenced to probation or house arrest at the very most, in part because she was very charitable and had annually purchased at least one hundred dollars' worth of Girl Scout Cookies for the past several years. Without consulting PseudoAunt or anyone else, I grabbed my wallet and rushed out of the courtroom. Once outside the courtroom, I took off my heels so that I could run without tripping.

On the way to the courthouse that morning, we had seen, maybe a block from the courthouse,  a makeshift kiosk where a lady and some Girl Scouts were selling cookies. It caught my attention because the Girl Scout cookie sale should have been over months ago. There must have been some extra stock that needed to be unloaded. I ran at my racing speed in my bare feet to that kiosk.

I told the lady in charge, as I really didn't have time to deal with children, that I needed to purchase as many boxes of cookies as I could easily carry. The lady had generously brought plastic grocery bags for the convenience of the customers. We decided I could easily carry four bags while running. I told her I didn't care what variety of cookies she gave me, but that I needed an assortment. She hurriedly shoved what ended up being twenty-eight boxes of all various incarnations of Girl Scout cookies in the bags.
The price was four dollars a box or six boxes for twenty dollars. I pulled out five twenties, told her to keep the change, and ran back almost as fast as I had run there, carrying both the cookies and my shoes. I quickly made it through the security checkpoint, up the stairs, and down the hall. I very nearly forgot to put my shoes back on before entering the courtroom. I'm sure the judge would have been most unimpressed, and I'm glad I remembered in the last minute.

I walked briskly but quietly down the aisle to my chair, stuffing the bags under the table. PseudoAunt  look down, then smiled at me.

Other witnesses made various excuses for the defendant's actions or praised her character, but nothing was terribly exciting. mostly it was redundant and boring.

Then came the closing statements. The prosecution went first. PseudoAunt began in typical formal fashion, addressing the ladies and gentlemen of the jury, and thanking them for their time and attention. She said the stuff that's always said. She rebutted a few routine excuses, and blew holes in the attempts to extol the lady's virtues.

Then she segued into what she referred to as "The Girl Scout Cookie" clause. She had me hand her all 28 boxes, which she promptly dropped all over the courtroom floor. Incidentally, she stole that move from Sidney Sheldon's Rage of Angels. The defense attorney objected. The judge said, "I think you've made your point with the visual, counselor. We now all now know what a box of Girl Scout cookies looks like. Move along."

PseudAunt deftly stacked the boxes of cookies and moved to set them on our table. She then turned and headed to the gallery to a man she recognized as a representative of the bank from which the lady embezzled. "I'll donate these to your bank," she announced, "since your bank actually paid for the hundreds of dollars of cookies Ms. S. purchased over the years. it's only a token reimbursement, but it's better than nothing. " she handed him the 28 boxes of cookies. Bewildered, he, handed some of them to those sitting on either side of him.

She went on to talk about how charitable giving is virtuous and is what we should be doing, but A) not with someone else's money and B) not for the purpose of avoiding punishment for a crime.  she pointed at me and said, "Alexis, my assistant, purchased nearly a hundred dollars worth of Girl Scout Cookies. Does that give her the freedom to park in a handicapped only space without paying a fine, or to be in possession of a controlled substance? No, of course it does not! I'm sorry Alexis, but if you do either of those things, you're on your own."

She went on to discuss the Twinkie defense, which happened sometime around 1980 when a man who shot the mayor of San Francisco and a county supervisor, then blamed the crimes on having eaten too many Twinkies and making his blood sugar excessively high. He was acquitted largely on that defense. She told the jury that it wasn't a perfect analogy because the defense attorney had not blamed the defendant's crime on blood sugar issues from eating the Girl Scout cookies -- yet, anyway. He still had his opportunity for a statement, and it might very well be a mitigating circumstance in his repertoire.

She said, though, that it was a legitimate analogy in the ludicrosity of both excuses. She talked about how recommending  light sentences for a serious crime based on purchases from charitable fundraisers would be, in essence, sending a message to all future criminals that all they need do before committing a crime would be to generously buy Campfire Girl mints, Cub Scout popcorn, or Girl Scout cookies. She told the jury they would essentially be giving a "Get Out of jail Free" card to up-and-coming criminals across the nation. she reached into her pocket and pulled out a Monopoly game "Get Out of jail Free" card, held it up, then passed it to juror number one, instructing him to pass it down to the others. She waited patiently while they each took the "Get Out of Jail Free" card. "I'll need the card back, " she told the jurors. "We occasionally play the game at home."

She told the jurors that she would have liked to send the Girl Scout Cookies into the deliberating room with them but !) that would be considered jury tampering, and 2) she didn't expect that they would have to deliberate for long enough to make it through a single box.

She concluded as eloquently as always. The judge gave his instructions and sent the panel off to deliberate. they were back in fifteen minutes with a decision, which was to recommend the maximum penalty of seven years plus restitution and punitive damages. The judge concurred and it was over.

PseudoAunt's husband reimbursed me the $100 I spent on the cookies, so I didn't have to raid the ATM on the way to the boat.

Hotel rooms should be ready. We're now a party of six, and everyone's a happy camper. For the record and in case my dad reads this, girls are in adjoining rooms, and the guys are in two other rooms that do not connect with ours. that doesn't necessarily guarantee anything, but we at least went through the motions of being pure and chaste.



  1. Life in your world is very exciting!

  2. Knotty, my life is mostly one long and boring stint of studying and staring at either my TV or the ceiling of my bedroom, interrupted only occasionally by bursts of excitement.