All of my legal career involved defending someone charged with crimes or offenses against the law. I worked 20 years as a lawyer, trying more than a hundred jury trials, winning more than half of them.
But to be honest, my first taste of arguing the law came not as a defense lawyer, but as a prosecutor, one appointed by some colonel to bring charges against a buck private who broke a law and faced a summary offense for some minor infraction.
I knew the young man. He was in the company in which I served as a training officer in Ft. Polk, LA. I even liked the kid.
I disliked having to “go after” him, but I took my oath to defend the US Constitution seriously. And I zealously presented the facts before a JAG lawyer serving as a judge.
I can’t tell you how many times the judge — someone actually trained in the law as opposed to me, a Second Lieutenant with no college degree not to mention no law degree — admonished me for walking around the makeshift courtroom, pretending I was a Perry Mason cross-examining a witness. I was ordered to remain within three feet of a podium.
That restriction initially chilled my presentation, but I used my arms to wave and point into the air to get my thoughts across.
I secured a conviction. Something I fought against some twenty years later as a Philadelphia public defender.
But there was no celebration. And if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have taken the assignment but feigned an illness, if at all possible.
And, that’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God!