After two weeks the jury trial I was involved in was ended by the judge declaring a mistrial. With over a hundred motions before trial and multiple motions during trial it finally just was stopped as a mercy killing. The judge decided that he should not have allowed evidence about the driver’s past driving and criminal history and that as a result he felt he had to grant a mistrial. The entire experience reminded me of a Kafka novel and and the continous defense objections with numerous motions of the Jack Nicholson classic movie scene.
You’ll remember Franz Kafka wrote a novel The Trial about Joseph K who is arrested for reasons he is never told and goes through the ordeal of a justice system that was a nightmare without explanation or reason. One passage of the novel reminds me of the lawyers involved in this trial.It reads:
“There is a story, for instance, that has very much the ring of truth about it. It goes like this:
One of the older officials, a good and peaceful man, was dealing with a difficult matter for the court which had become very confused, especially thanks to the contributions from the lawyers. He had been studying it for a day and a night without a break — as these officials are indeed hard working, no-one works as hard as they do.
When it was nearly morning, and he had been working for twenty-four hours with probably very little result, he went to the front entrance, waited there in ambush, and every time a lawyer tried to enter the building he would throw him down the steps. The lawyers gathered together down in front of the steps and discussed with each other what they should do; on the one hand they had actually no right to be allowed into the building so that there was hardly anything that they could legally do to the official and, as I’ve already mentioned, they would have to be careful not to set all the officials against them. On the other hand, any day not spent in court is a day lost for them and it was a matter of some importance to force their way inside.
In the end, they agreed that they would try to tire the judge out. One lawyer after another was sent out to run up the steps and let himself be thrown down again, offering what resistance he could as long as it was passive resistance, and his colleagues would catch him at the bottom of the steps. That went on for about an hour until the judge, who was already exhausted from working all night, was very tired and went back to his office”
The defendants exchanges with the judge were often not unlike the scene from the 1970 movie Five Easy Pieces, where Jack Nicholson plays the role of Bobby Dupea. Dupea tries to place an order modifying the menu, but the waitress enforces the “no substitution” rule:
Bobby: I’d like a plain omelet no potatoes tomatoes instead, a cuppa coffee and wheat toast
Waitress: No substitutions
Bob: What do you mean? You don’t have any tomatoes?
Waitress: Only what’s on the menu. You can have a #2, plain omelet, comes with cottage fries and rolls.
Bobby: I know what it comes with but it’s not what I want.
Waitress: I’ll come back when you make up your mind.
Bobby: Wait a minute, I have made up my mind. I’d like an plain omelet, no potatoes on the plate, a cuppa coffee and a side order of wheat toast.
Waitress: I’m sorry, we don’t have any side orders of toast. It’s a muffin or a coffee roll.
Bobby: What do you mean you don’t make side orders of toast. You make sandwiches don’t you?
Waitress: Would you like to talk to the manager?
Bobby: You’ve got bread and a toaster of some kind?
Waitress: I don’t make the rules.
Bobby: Okay, I’ll make it as easy for you as I can. I’d like an omelet plain and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee.
Waitress : A #2, chicken sal sand. Hold the butter, the lettuce, the mayonnaise, and a cup of coffee. Anything else?
Bobby: Yeah, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven’t broken any rules.
Waitress: You want me to hold the chicken, huh?
Bobby: I want you to hold it between your knees.
I think you get the idea. A very frustrating and difficult experience for our client whose husband died in the flames of his pickup truck after a delivery truck rear ended him.