The joys of trying a case...at the last moment: a trial diary story
This morning am in a bright red ruffled shirt with the obligatory black. Here is my confession. Want to wear an old favorite pair of heeled Franco Sarto boots. They will look great with the outfit. There is just one catch. You see, they have been up on the back top shelf patiently waiting for me to take them to the repair shop. For over a year. The toes are a bit pointed and the soles have partially rubbed off at the tips. Looking up at them as they hang over the shelf, you can see the white rubbed away part. No holes. Not quite. But still a bit shoddy. Yet they would be perfect. So (and this is the confession part), pull down the boots. Pull out a black magic marker. Scribble all the white away. And presto. The outfit is now complete.
Judge D has forewarned us she has a criminal matter that will take a little while in the morning. We cool our jets until 10:30. Then the court needs to take a break. Which means we start day 2 at 10:50 a.m. Which means we finish the last round of voir dire. Choose the jury. Then it is time for lunch.
According to our completely useless trial flow chart we should have already put on three witnesses.
Do not yell, roll eyes, pull hair, or cry. Gather black bags and hole up in hallway cubicle. Eat bland lunch and put the finishing touches on the opening.
Steve invited me into the case a month ago. Before ramping up, first waited to see if it would settle. When it didn’t, there was still two weeks to get it all ready.
How can this be. Right? We have cases, like the last one tried, where we spent 3.5 years getting ready for it. How can we ever do a good job coming into a case on basically the eve of trial.
My favorite program on Netflix is Drop Dead Diva. There isn’t enough time in this diary to explain this show to you. But blog entry http://www.karenkoehlerblog.com/2013/02/drop-dead-diva-rules/ gives you an idea.
Here’s what I like about Drop Dead Diva. You get the client in the morning. And by afternoon you are trying the case. How cool is that.
No focus groups. No written discovery. No depositions. Just bang – you are in trial.
There is a lesson to be learned here. Even though a case can take years to investigate, prepare for and build up; it doesn’t take years to try.
Steve has done all the prep work. He could try this case by himself. But there is a synergy that comes with having two very different lawyers. We share the load. The stress decreases exponentially. He knows all the details. I see big picture and first impressions. We have a broader perspective.
Plus this all really bugs Jodi. Yesterday she asked Steve if he would change seats with me (I’m sitting right next to her). Apparently she doesn’t like my whispers. Today I mispronounce her name at least twice. She finally gets irritated enough to correct me on the record. I’ll probably forget it again by tomorrow.
But I’ve digressed… In fact, I was going to tell you my trial tip. About staying in the moment, preparing for the moment, and not obsessing about tomorrow.
Back to the story.
We do our openings. I finished the PPT on Sunday. After all these delays, use version #5. Version #1 would probably have been just fine. But give a lawyer more time and we’ll keep fussing with it until the very end.
Jodi or is it Joni… Well, she does opening the same way she does voir dire. Monotone. Halting voice. No visuals. No particular theme or train of thought. It’s just another recycled version of the - she isn’t really injured storyline.
Her unimpressive performance doesn’t give us confidence. Just because Allstate is being sued directly doesn’t mean the jury is any less jaded about people who are injured in car crash cases. They believe insurance companies need to only pay worthy claims and that people try to milk the system.
We have some challenges on this case. And Jodi spells them all out. Including that P had back surgery on the adjacent level of her spine, just four months before this crash.
We put on the police officer. Just in case the jury doesn’t believe the crash actually happened. A coworker. Just in case the jury doesn’t believe P actually was working at the time and was unable to return to her former position. Then Dr. G the chiropractor. Except Dr. G is really Nic Bacetich (trial lawyer from Everett). You see, Dr. G wanted us to pay him $900 per hour to travel, wait and testify. And by gosh, we just couldn’t quite stomach that. So Steve deposed him. And Nic is playing him. Let me just say this – Nic is one of the best chiros have ever seen testify. Has a great voice and aura. Have to squint at him from time to time because it doesn’t even sound like he is reading a script. It all flows so naturally. Steve is displaying the exhibits via his ipad which he has wirelessly hooked up to an apple tv device which is hooked to my projector. It is all really quite lovely.
Despite the monotone, Jodi does a darned good cross.
The day ends with the ex husband. He’s bought a new jacket to testify in. He wanders a lot. But is charming and so very earnest. Jodi objects half a dozen times. Which comes across as quite petty. The best is when she objects to his answer that she asks during cross. Uh, you can’t object to your own question. She struggles a bit before figuring this out. Then moves to strike the answer. Which is granted.