Friday, September 30, 2011

Baby Lawyers

My temp assignment for Thursday was playing both a juror and a witness in a mock murder case at the UT law school to help law students practice their courtroom skills. (Dear god, WAY beats the mind-numbing data entry crap I've been offered lately!) :)

My witness character was "Morgan," a friend of the murdered girlfriend, Nancy, of "nice-guy" Don, who was on trial for hiring his friend/bad-boy (and on-the-side lover of Nancy) Frank to kill Nancy after she left him.

About 20 of us temps got various character scripts and evidence packets to review an hour before the mock trials. My packet to learn consisted of Morgan's 2-page sworn testimony that Don was a really cool guy. We met on the docks years ago, and every time we'd gone fishing together, he'd been so laid back. But that Frank! What a loser! He hung out with drug dealers, and even bragged about getting off on an assault charge back in Joisey. But Nancy seemed to like him. Yeah, so what if I gave Nancy Frank's number and got them together, even though I was Don's friend. She liked the bad boys. If that's what she liked, then...

Beforehand, I thought that I was just reading over all this stuff, but... when I got into the mock courtroom, I actually had to BE that character and give testimony without my script, with the student lawyers objecting for "hearsay," etc., and the judge either sustaining or overruling and instructing me on how I could or could not answer! If I forgot a fact, the lawyers approached and showed me the transcript of my former testimony to refresh my memory -- just like in real life! (Or at least on trials I've seen televised!)

There were two student prosecutors and two student defenders. I was a defense witness, with one defending lawyer responsible for prepping me ahead of time. The info packet that I'd received made me believe that my character's friend, the defendant "Don," was guilty, but when I met with my "lawyer" for a few minutes before the trial, he explained that I needed to focus on Don's good qualities, even reinterpreting the e-mail that I'd received from Nancy on Christmas, saying why she was leaving Don for Frank... (In the reinterpretation, she wasn't really leaving Don at all, though in actuality she might have been.) My Baby Lawyer was also interested in who the hell we role-players were -- were we hired actors? :)

The whole process was frigging interesting! The "judge" was a UT law professor who was also a former state prosecutor. And he was hard-core with the student lawyers, calling them on every mis-step, making them blush and freeze on occasion (though they all eventually recovered adequately). I was scared for the students, putting myself in their places and wondering how in the hell, verbal as I am, I would ever respond to what the judge had just said to me.

I loved seeing how the training of our country's future trial lawyers was done. This time with babies, but give 'em 20 years, and they'll be out there actually doing the real thing. And this is where they learned...

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