Monthly Archives: September 2009

So How Many Cameras Are Actually On You?

For the love of all that’s holy, have you ever had to watch three videos of yourself a week? Don’t. Or, only if you must. My classes are tailored to trial law this semester. I have CFI: Counseling, Fact Investigation, and Interviewing (dealing with clients); Trial Advocacy: study of trial practice and one night per week simulations at the county courthouse; and Trial Team, that competitive team thing. Each of these classes record me. Practical Shelle is enthused at the prospect of getting better and having the tape to prove it by semester’s end. Shallow Shelle is practically in pain watching the videos.

Perfectly frank: people tell me I’m good at this. My classmates have said I’m “great,” “totally believable,” and “You handled that rape victim so well – you were so soothing, credible – it sounded like ‘Honey, you’re just mistaken. It wasn’t my client, but some other monster.'” I sincerely appreciate it. What they mean though, I think, is that I will be good at this. Because right now, watching my past three video assignments hurts.

What am I doing with my hands? Did I just nod in response to that witness’s BS answer?!? Whatever I’m doing with my head looks like a tic. I’m rushing my questions. Me in a suit – The Ghost and the Darkness. Am I wearing make-up? I’m washed-out. I’m not convinced I have a chin anymore. I think of Friends, The One with the Prom Video: Monica: “The camera adds ten pounds!” Joey: “So, how many cameras were actually on you?” Ally McBeal was invisible. The cameras created all thirty pounds of her.

My videos, thus far:

(1) New client intake: you think the fact that my client was naked with her paramour on the living room couch while the welfare worker walked in and her two and four year old daughters played on the floor might come out at the custody hearing? Yeah, me too. That would have been a handy bit of information to elicit. But, Ms. Jones said she really trusted and liked me. w00t.

(2) First closing argument: “You don’t have to believe the veterinarian’s testimony that the dogs were not abused and in fights. It’s not reasonable to believe Micah Victor didn’t know about the dog fighting operation. You don’t have to believe her testimony because she stands to lose 75% of her business, her pro-bowler boyfriend, and her professional license. She has a stake in the outcome of this trial.”

We’re going kind of strong here for a first argument, yeah? That can be remedied.

“You don’t have to believe her. You aren’t going to lose your license. At the end of the day, you’ll get to keep your license to be a . . . juror.” We have minor internal WTF? moment. I’d like to tell you I stopped there.

I’m not going to be entirely too hard on myself – this closing argument was eight minutes long, had to be given without notes, and was on a case I’d looked at for a couple of days. Hard to do. I did manage to work in a Cat Woman analogy which Coach liked: “Your neighbor has six cats? You think she likes cats more than you. Your neighbor has 16 cats? You wonder where she keeps them. Your neighbor has 26 cats? Does she moonlight? How does she pay for the kitty litter? Your neighbor has 66 cats – you call someone and complain. And that’s exactly what happened. Sixty-six dogs on the Micah Victor compound – the neighbors complained.” Emphasizing “it’s not reasonable” was also effective.

(3) Cross-examination of rape victim: The One Question Too Many. My theory? She’s mistaken. The victim only “named” him after being attacked and given drugs at the hospital to help her relax. She says it was the man who made an improper advance on her the night before in a bar. I theorize he may be inappropriate, but he’s not her rapist. She only identified him when she was asked to come to court to identify a potential suspect and saw him standing next to the bailiff and sheriff. Bias confirmation. I get going on the identification only coming hours after the attack and after the administration of drugs. I add (which was particularly effective, the attorney tells me, or was, until I refused to stop):

Me: You’re a student at NITA University? Do you have student privileges? Library? Cafe?”

Witness: “Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.”

This is good.

Me: Are you aware that my client is a student at NITA University?”

Witness: “No.”

This is bad.

Later, our Trial Advocacy class watched the Irving Younger classic on cross-examination. Brilliant.

Favorite take-away: “Sit down; shut up. Why? Because every minute you’re standing up, you’re f—ing up.”

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