After years in the courtroom, you know you haven’t heard it all. There’s always another story, which makes you say: “Amazing!” This one comes from a law student’s courtroom observation. Students in my semester-long Comprehensive Trial Advocacy course go to court, watch a day of trial and write a report about what they saw and learned. The students select from federal, state or municipal court, and they can choose either a civil or criminal share their observations.
A student viewed a Driving Under the Influence trial at the King County Courthouse, in Seattle, and the following is the they-were-doing-what! excerpt from the student’s report:
“The case concerned a man who had been driving erratically. A trooper on his way home from work spotted the man weaving all over the road. The trooper pulled him over and asked him to step out of the car. The defendant took a really long time to get out of the car, and almost fell over when he stood up. The trooper asked the defendant if he would be willing to take some voluntary field sobriety tests. The defendant said yes. After the trooper finished explaining the “walk and turn test,” the defendant stated that he was too drunk to take that particular test. The trooper carried on to explain the “one leg stand” test. Again, the defendant stated that he was too drunk to take the test. At this point, the trooper chose to place the defendant under arrest.
There was a female passenger in the car, and during the trooper’s entire exchange with the defendant, she had been standing outside, banging on the top of the car, and yelling that the defendant should not take the field sobriety tests. Once the defendant was cuffed, the female was also cuffed because she was drunk and disorderly.
There was no other patrol vehicle available to transport the female to the jail separately, so the trooper had to place both the male and female in the back of his car for jail transport. During the five minute trip to the jail, the woman turned to the defendant and said “Thanks for all the partying!” They then began to make out (still handcuffed) in the back of the patrol car. . .
“The only witness called was the trooper who made the arrest. He was a twenty year veteran of the Washington State Patrol, and he had extensive training in detecting DUI’s. The prosecution was able to show the in-car video of the stop while the trooper narrated what was occurring. The defendant’s statements all came in.
“The absolute best part of the whole trial was when the trooper was explaining about the defendant and his female passenger making out in the back of his patrol car. The trooper was an older gentleman, and came across as a very steady, dependable person on the stand. When discussing the make out session, the trooper got a look of horror on his face, and said “Never, NEVER in my twenty years of law enforcement experience have I ever seen anything like that. Never!” I could clearly see some jurors covering giggles.”
The student reports that the jury was back in a half an hour with a guilty verdict. A courtroom lesson: trial work will give you a treasure trove of anecdotes.