Trev collapsed into the cushy chair and exhaled a long satisfied pillar of smoke from his cigar. And while it formed a cumulus cloud of contentment over his exhausted, shaved head he simply uttered: “Well, I did my job…”
When a lawyer says something like that, after a ‘successful’ week-long trial, fire drills generally go off in my head. You know you gotta wonder: Who got screwed? Like the old joke about some guys eyeballing a tall leggy woman sashaying down the street, and declaring: ‘I’d like to screw that.’
And the lawyer retorts: “Outta what…”
Needless to say, by and large, I disdain these venal, vapid, vile legal representatives. They seem to spend a great deal of their time shoveling smoke. Not to mention that the rule of law in the U.S. has become the unbearable rule of lawyers. You know: The trouble with the law ‘is’ the lawyers.
They think because they are successfully making good money they can do nothing wrong. They set the lucrative, yet contradictory rules. They set the fees. And, unfortunately, what many people forget is that judges ‘setting’ on the bench ain’t nuttin’ but lawyers wearing robes.
But I know Trev. We are cigar buddies. And to tell you the truth he works hard. And undeniably the former Philadelphia assistant DA turned defense attorney is, like most of us, rather human – unlike many of them.
And no matter what ill feelings some of us may harbor towards these scoundrels – especially those of us who have lost even more than the house, the cars, the kids and our clean underwear — it is unfair to believe everything bad we hear about lawyers.
Indeed some of it may not be true…
For the truth is in today’s world nothing important is done in the United States without lawyers.
Damn! Forgive me for admitting that. I’ll have to recite three Hail Marys and pledge my next paycheck to trees in Israel.
But it’s reality, salient, the truth and nuttin’ but… And the truth is, if bad and devious folks didn’t lie, cheat, steal and murder there would be no need for lawyers – good, bad or otherwise.
But as Trev unfolded his just completed murder case to me, I have to admit I was having a few personal, layman issues — moral, ethical and just plain-old-simple-common-sense wise. On the other hand, common sense ain’t so common no more. Especially when lawyers are involved.
You know, it’s as if someone kidnapped justice and hid it in the law.
But I was also getting the feeling that even Trev, skin-deep or down deep in his marinating bones, might have thought his client was guilty, guilty, guilty…
Then again, as some crusty old lawyer once espoused: Justice has nothing to do with what goes on in a courtroom. It’s what comes out of a courtroom.
It turns out Trev’s client was found both innocent and guilty. The jury found him guilty of the robbery, but innocent of the murder.
‘But he was there, at the scene,’ I wondered.
‘Definitely,’ offered Trev. ‘There is no doubt about that. The prosecution had two corroborating witnesses.’ Although Trev did point out that he had managed to trip up one of the plea bargainer’s stories in about thirteen or fourteen contradictions.
‘Was anybody else charged?’
‘No, they never found him.’
‘Okay,’ I said in pursuing the obvious, ‘then who fired the shot that stopped the dead guy’s heart from its Timex ticking?’
‘I don’t know,’ postured Trev, while leaning forward with a furrowed forehead. ‘But what I can tell you… the most pertinent piece of evidence…’
‘Oh-no!’ I snorted before he finished getting it out.’ Is this where the Mother jumps up hysterically sobbing in the courtroom, swearing that it wasn’t her sweet son’s fault. That he was psychologically scarred when he failed to make the high school chess team because of his height.’
Trev offered a tired smile and leaned back with an exhale of smoke in my direction.
In continuing, Trev said the gun was never found. But forensics determined the bullets used were the wrong caliber for the apparent 9mm murder weapon. I think he said the bullets were on the order of .380s. And that they became distorted from being fired in a 9mm.
Hmm… I donno, that’s above my non-union marksmanship.
However, Trev went on, 13 months almost to the day that very same gun with the same wrong bullets was used in another robbery. The victim was shot but didn’t die. And the crème de la crème was that Trev’s client was in jail at that time awaiting trial.
Hmm… the client didn’t get a trial for 2 years?
“No bail on a murder charge,” explained Trev.
‘You mean no bail for the poor. Not Trump’s friends.’
Trev waved away my jaded remarks like bothersome smoke.
So I merely offered: ‘Ah-ha! The plot sickens.’
And in the end, as Trev noted, there was reasonable doubt. Or enough for the jury to be out for two whole days. That was good. He knew they were thinking that something was amiss in the case.
Yeah, like what stupid idiot would use the same wrong bullets in the same wrong gun to do practically the same wrong crime?
On the other hand, Trev said his concern was that “if the jury was only out a few hours I knew it would be bad.”
Or perhaps, as I posed, ‘they were out so long because they wanted another free lunch. After all, what do jury members get? Something like a dollar an hour – to usurp divine providence?’
Hmm… And it is my distinct understanding that lawyers get paid much, much more to keep their client’s neck from the jury’s noose.
“The family did pay me,” intoned Trev.
In the end, Trev’s client got sentenced to 8 years, with two already served.
“But he could have gotten life.”
At that, I pointed out, somewhat smugly, he also could have testified.
“No way,” insisted Trev. “No way.”
But of course!
As we all are aware from ‘Perry Mason’ to ‘Law & Order’ there are many misdirections and strategies a lawyer pulls out of a hat in the courtroom. Not allowing a client to testify is often, simply, to prevent cross-examination where he might say or reveal something really-really stupid.
I mean, lawyers are, after all, the first refuge of the incompetent. Most of them, at least. And whether we agree or not is irrelevant. You get what you pay for. It’s a magic show. And, undeniably, a lawyer’s job is to defend his client with every trick up his very long sleeves.
In any case, from their first day in law school lawyers learn only how to win. They are not there to solve problems. As a result, unfortunate as it may seem, and whether we like it or not, trials are no longer about freeing the innocent, punishing the guilty, and making restitution to the injured. They have devolved into a contest over who will win.
Likewise, everyone thinks defense lawyers must believe their clients are innocent, but that’s seldom true. Most of the time they believe their client about as much as O.J. Or less.
Which brought me to asking Trev, straightforward, if he thought his client was guilty. Or, at least bears a lot of responsibility for his actions.
Trev twisted slightly in his over-stuffed chair, tipping off a fit-body language that more than suggested he thought his client was as guilty as my father of siring me. And as I was about to posture – perhaps more than a tad sardonically — that it is better to risk saving a guilty man than to condemn an innocent one, Trev offered:
‘I don’t know if I really believed my client. I have serious doubts… He wasn’t exactly innocent… But he did get 8 years… I just did my job…’
Absolutely. For it was just a job. And done well – at least considering his client’s limited options. And, all in all, that’s how jobs go. Just as grass grows. Birds fly. Politicians lie. People dig graves. Cattle get slaughtered. Victims get killed. And lawyers… well lawyers defend bad people, and other clients.
Or, at least, do what they’re supposed to do.
And, as our smoke drifted away with our thoughts I offered a bow to Trev: ‘He was
lucky to get you as his attorney. You must be good.’
And Trev, with a composed smile, offered back: ‘I like to think so.’
And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…