Saturday, August 02, 2008

Another Kentucky story

Back in 1978, another KY Assistant Attorney General, Sarah W, and I were detailed to a county in Central/Eastern Ky to clean up the docket. The Prosecuting Attorney had been killed in a car accident over the July 4 weekend and things had backed up and the Circuit Judge, Billy Lewis, was riding through. We did mostly misdemeanors in the gymnasium of the local school as the court house was under construction. The cases were tried one after another, and we had a number of spectators watching, sitting on folding chairs and fanning themselves against the heat. No air conditioning, no fans, no jury box, no dais for the judge to sit on, just metal desks and folding chairs for us as well. Sarah was a vegetarian but the only restaurants in the town (there were 3) were deep fry this and deep fry that, so she also suffered from diet restrictions.

In the morning of the second day of trial week, Sarah had a case (with me sitting second chair) that involved a charge of selling a small quantity of marijuana. The complaining witness testified that he met the D on a bridge in the community and purchase a nickel bag of dope from the D. The D, who was representing himself cross examined the complaining witness thusly:

D: Isn't it true that you 'n me have had bad blood b'tween us?

W: W'al ah don't rightly know 'bout that

D: Isn't it true that you tried to set mah porch on fahr?

W: Ah don't recall that.

D: What time o' day did you an' me meet?

W: Ah dunno.

D: "N whut color of'car wuz ah driving when ah sold you that marijuana?

W: IAh don' rahtly r'member

D: How much did that nickel bag cost you?

W: A nickel.

So, the jury came back quickly with a 'not guilty' verdict. Sitting in the audience was a guy named Odell who came up two or three trials later. Odell was charged with assaulting his mother. She testified that lately she'd been taking to see another man, since Odell's daddy was out of the picture and that this man had been so good to her--took her all the way to Fort Wayne--which was the furthest she'd ever been from home. Well, Odell didn't like this and one day he drove to her house, jumped up the steps and burst into her house, grabbed her by the arm so hard it left bruises and said that there would be no one takin' the place of his daddy. She had to call the police to get him out of her house.

Odell was representing himself too, and here were his first questions after I had finished my direct of his Momma:

D: Momma whut time o' day wuz it when ah drove to yer house?

W: [I don't recall what she said]

D: And Momma, what color o car wuz ah drivin when ah drove to your house?

W: !

At this point the members of the jury were laughing, and the judge motions me up and tells me that he thinks I should amendthe assault to driving without a license, as he knew that Odell did not have a driver's license. So, I do as he suggests, amend the charge and the judge directs the jury that they have to find Odell guilty of that. They jury is not happy--I think I heard a few groans but they troop off to the jury room and are back quick as a minute with the guilty verdict--and a $2 fine!

Judge Lewis later writes a letter of recommendation for the job Sarah and I did that week. I think it's still in my KY box of memorabilia. But I heard that the Judge was later taken off the bench for some sort of offense. Seemed to have to do with money, but it's been now, 20 years ago.

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