Criminals Aren’t the Only “Dumb” People in Court

My criminal law professor started each class by bellowing: “Criminals Are Stupid.”  He then shared a dumb-criminal account from the media.

This is one reason criminal defense attorneys are reluctant to put their clients on the witness stand during trial.  The experienced prosecutor can’t wait to cross-examine them. 

As a young prosecutor, I was prepared for “dumb” criminals, but not “dumb” victims and witnesses.

I prosecuted the case of a felony burglary. The defendant had broken into the victim’s home and stolen her jewelry.  When the defendant was arrested the jewelry was recovered by the police, and the victim later identified that jewelry at the police station. 

My direct examination of the victim witness:

DA: When you returned home the day of the break-in was anything missing?
            Witness: No.
            DA: (Pause) Were you missing any jewelry?
            Def Attorney: Objection, leading.
            Judge: Sustained.
            DA: When you returned home that day did you find anything gone?
            Witness: No.
            DA: Was anything stolen from your home that day?
            Witness: No.
            DA: (Pause) I am showing you some items of jewelry. Do you recognize them?
            Witness: Yes.
            DA: What is it?
            Witness: It is my jewelry.
            DA: Was the jewelry ever missing?
            Witness: No.
            DA: (Pause) When was the last time you saw the jewelry before today?
            Witness: At the police station.
            DA: Did you take the jewelry to the police station?
            Witness: No, the jewelry was already there.
            DA: Do you know how the jewelry ended up in the police station.?
            Witness: Yes.
            DA: How?
            Witness: The jewelry was stolen during the break-in of my house.
            DA: [Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord!]

(In conclusion, criminals are not the only “dumb” people in court. There are also “dumb” witnesses, “dumb” lawyers, and heaven forbid, even “dumb” judges.)


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