When I was a rookie deputy district attorney (D.A.) one of my colleagues quickly grabbed a case file and rushed off to court for his first jury trial. He wanted to make a good impression.
The judge explained that the defendant waived his right to an attorney and insisted on exercising his constitutional right to represent himself. Normally, the defense would question (“voire dire”) the jury first. But since the defendant in this case had no legal experience, the judge asked the D.A. to go first.
The D.A. stood erect and addressed the jurors:
D.A.: “Ladies and gentlemen, would it offend you if you heard the term **** ?” (Whereupon the D.A. blurted out a disgusting slang term for a sex act.)
Judge: “Counsel, is this necessary?
D.A.: “Yes, Your Honor. It will be part of the testimony.”
Judge: “Very well. Go ahead.”
D.A.: “Ladies and gentlemen, will you find it reprehensible to hear the phrase ***** ****** ?” (Whereupon the D.A. used even more disgusting sexual terms.)
D.A.: “Would it make you angry to hear the word ***** ?” (Another slang sexual term.)
Judge: “Mr. Prosecutor, please approach the bench.” “What have these disgusting terms got to do with a drunk driving case?”
Oops! The D.A. could have “died.” He had accidentally grabbed the wrong case file from the office. He picked up a prostitution case file. This was a DUI case. How embarrassing!
Of course, a sharp experienced prosecutor would continue, without skipping a beat:
D.A.: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s focus on your opinions on drunk driving.”