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Prosecutor: Did you kill the victim?
Defendant: No, I did not.
Prosecutor: Do you know what the penalties are for perjury?
Defendant: Yes, I do. And they're a hell of a lot better than the penalty for murder.
Judge: Why did you kick Mr. Smith in the crotch?
Defendant: How was I supposed to know he was going to suddenly turn around?
Mary Louise Gilman, the venerable editor of the National Shorthand Reporter has collected many of the more hilarious courtroom bloopers in two books, 'Humor in the Court' (1977) and 'More Humor in the Court', published a few months ago. From Mrs. Gilman's two volumes, here are some of my favorite transquips, all recorded by America's keepers of the word:
Q What is your brother-in-law's name?
Q What's his first name?
A I can't remember.
Q He's been your brother-in-law for years, and you can't remember his first name?
A No. I tell you I'm too excited. (Rising from the witness chair and pointing to Mr. Borofkin.) Nathan, for God's sake, tell them your first name!
Q Did you ever stay all night with this man in New York?
A I refuse to answer that question.
Q Did you ever stay all night with this man in Chicago?
A I refuse to answer that question.
Q Did you ever stay all night with this man in Miami?
Q Now, Mrs. Johnson, how was your first marriage terminated?
A By death.
Q And by whose death was it terminated?
Q Doctor, did you say he was shot in the woods?
A No, I said he was shot in the lumbar region.
Q What is your name?
A Ernestine McDowell.
Q And what is your marital status?
Q Are you married?
A No, I'm divorced.
Q And what did your husband do before you divorced him?
A A lot of things I didn't know about.
Q And who is this person you are speaking of?
A My ex-widow said it.
Q How did you happen to go to Dr. Cherney?
A Well, a gal down the road had had several of her children by Dr. Cherney, and said he was really good.
Q Do you know how far pregnant you are right now?
A I will be three months November 8th.
Q Apparently then, the date of conception was August 8th?
Q What were you and your husband doing at that time?
Q Mrs. Smith, do you believe that you are emotionally unstable?
A I should be.
Q How many times have you committed suicide?
A Four times.
Q Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?
A All my autopsies have been performed on dead people.
Q Were you acquainted with the deceased?
A Yes, sir.
Q Before or after he died?
Q Officer, what led you to believe the defendant was under the influence?
A Because he was argumentary and he couldn't pronunciate his words.
Q What happened then?
A He told me, he says, "I have to kill you because you can identify me."
Q Did he kill you?
Q Mrs. Jones, is your appearance this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
A No. This is how I dress when I go to work.
The court: Now, as we begin, I must ask you to banish all present information and prejudice from your minds, if you have any.
Q Did he pick the dog up by the ears?
Q What was he doing with the dog's ears?
A Picking them up in the air.
Q Where was the dog at this time?
A Attached to the ears.
Q. When he went, had you gone and had she, if she wanted to and were able, for the time being excluding all the restraints on her not to go, gone also, would he have brought you, meaning you and she, with him to the station?
Mr. Brooks: Objection. That question should be taken out and shot.
Q And lastly, Gary, all your responses must be oral. Okay? What school do you go to?
Q How old are you?
Q What is your relationship with the plaintiff?
A She is my daughter.
Q Was she your daughter on February 13, 1979?
Q Now, you have investigated other murders, have you not, where there was a victim?
Q ...and what did he do then?
A He came home, and next morning he was dead.
Q So when he woke up the next morning, he was dead?
Q Did you tell your lawyer that your husband had offered you indignities?
A He didn't offer me nothing; he just said I could have the furniture.
Q So, after the anesthesia, when you came out of it, what did you observe with respect to your scalp?
A I didn't see my scalp the whole time I was in the hospital.
Q It was covered?
A Yes, bandaged.
Q Then, later on.. what did you see?
A I had a skin graft. My whole buttocks and leg were removed and put on top of my head.
Q Could you see him from where you were standing?
A I could see his head.
Q And where was his head?
A Just above his shoulders.
Q What can you tell us about he truthfulness and veracity of this defendant?
A Oh, she will tell the truth. She said she'd kill that sonofabitch, and she did!
Q Do you drink when you're on duty?
A I don't drink when I'm on duty, unless I come on duty drunk.
Q ...any suggestions as to what prevented this from being a murder trial instead of an attempted murder trial?
A The victim lived.
Q Are you sexually active?
A No, I just lie there.
Q What is the meaning of sperm being present?
A It indicates intercourse.
Q Male sperm?
A That is the only kind I know.
Q (Showing man picture.) That's you?
A Yes, sir.
Q And you were present when the picture was taken, right?
Q Was that the same nose you broke as a child?
Q You say you're innocent, yet five people swore they saw you steal a watch.
A Your Honor, I can produce 500 people who didn't see me steal it.
Q At the time you first saw Dr. McCarty, had you ever seen him prior to that time?
JUDGE: I rarely do so, but for whatever purpose it may serve, I will indicate for the record that I approached this case with a completely open mind.
Q Did the lady standing the driveway subsequently identify herself to you?
A Yes, she did.
Q Who did she say she was?
A She said she was the owner of the dog's wife.
Q Please state the location of your right foot immediately prior to impact.
A Immediately before the impact, my right foot was located at the immediate end of my right leg.
Q Where were you on the bike at the time?
A On the seat.
Q I meant where is the street.
Q Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, in most cases he just passes quietly away and doesn't know anything about it until the next morning?
Q Was it you or your brother that was killed in the war?
Q The youngest son, the 20-year-old, how old is he?
Q Were you alone or by yourself?
Q How long have you been a French Canadian?
Q Do you have any children or anything of that kind?
Q So you were gone until you returned?
Q You don't know what it was, and you didn't know what it looked like, but can you describe it?
A Texas attorney, realizing he was on the verge of unleashing a stupid question, interrupted himself and said, "Your Honor, I'd like to strike the next question."
Q She had three children, right?
Q How many were boys?
Q Were there girls?
Q You say that the stairs went down to the basement?
Q And these stairs, did they go up also?
Q Have you lived in this town all your life?
A Not yet.
Q I hate to be nosy, but how old are you?
A Forty-three. That's okay. You're nosy enough. You might as well put that in.
Q Did she appear to be in any pain? In other words, just looking at her, did she look like she was hurting?
A She's so ugly it looks like she hurts all the time.
ATTORNEY: I object to that as being a question impossible to answer; outside this person's expertise; and I don't know what it means.
DEF ATT: I object to that as being an improper question and this man cannot answer the question.
PLTF ATT: Go sit on it.
Q What happened in that accident?
A I was going around the corner and it was wet and rainy outside, and I kind of slid down an embankment and went into some bushes.
Q Were the police called out to that?
A A state trooper came out. And he gave me a careless driving ticket because he told me he had to give me a ticket. I didn't fight it, because it was my word against the bushes, I guess you could say.
WITNESS: The relevant question here is --
ATTORNEY 1: Well, why don't you let her ask a question?
ATTORNEY 2: Let her ask --
WITNESS: I thought you did. Okay.
ATTORNEY 3: I thought I did, too.
ATTORNEY 1: Well, I don't know what it is.
ATTORNEY 3: The witness does, and I do.
WITNESS: What's your question?
Q Dr. Smith, how are you --
A Just fine.
A Just fine. I'm ready to go.
Q Okay. Great. How are you employed?
A You've got to figure I'm a pretty conservative lady. This is the first concert I had ever been to.
Q Of any kind?
A Well, I take that back. I went to Jerry Lee Lewis when I was 16 years old.
Q There was no shooting at that concert, was there?
A No. A whole lot of shaking going on, but no shooting.
Q What was your attorney's name?
A It was John Smith, right here in Tampa.
LAWYER 1: Right out the window.
WITNESS: Right. So what I'm getting --
LAWYER 2: Let the record be clear that Mr. Smith is not hanging out the window.
WITNESS: I don't know. Knowing John, he could be.
Q Is that the only license you hold?
A I have a marriage license.
Q You're not a realtor or a plumber or anything else like that?
A No. They don't require a license to have children, which they should.
A Well, I have never heard of anything like that, but I suppose any help at the time would have been a help.
Q And the serratus anterior nerve that -- or the nerves that go to it, where do they come from?
A The neck, the cervical region.
Q From the cervical region?
Q And did you do any examination of his cervical -- of his cervix -- to determine if there was any problem with his nerves going through his neck?
A He doesn't have a cervix, but, yes, I examined the biceps.
Q How long have you been married to her?
A Nineteen years.
Q Is that your only marriage?
A Yes, it is, that I know of.
Q Do you recall discussing with John Smith that if you were in a deposition or anything like that and you don't want to give the right answer, all you have to say is, "I don't know. I don't recall"?
A No. I don't remember.
Q No one went with you from Foobar to assist you. Correct?
A It seems to me -- not from Foobar. Like I said, it was a long time ago. I mean, my memory is as short as my peter.
A Obsessive-compulsive symptoms: Sometimes checks his own activities. Suicidal and homicidal ideations: Sometimes he has suicidal ideations regarding his car or truck every couple of days, particularly following contact with his attorney.
Q Do you recall if you had any alcohol or anything to drink prior to the concert?
A Yes, I did.
Q What did you have, if you remember?
A I think I had a Fuzzy Navel.
Q You ought to have a doctor look at that. Just kidding.
Q Do you consider him to be competent in that area?
A I don't know. I don't have any basis to remark about the competency of his engineering. I do know he's dead.
A There are very few production places in North Dakota.
ATTORNEY: Generally speaking, there are very few places in North Dakota.
Q And where does sandblasting fit in your scale of being a prestigious job? Do you think that's a prestigious job?
A Yes, sir.
Q Okay. More so than working in a factory, I guess.
A Yes, sir.
Q Everybody's entitled to their opinion, I guess. I don't know. Maybe you're right.
MR. JONES: Ranks above lawyers.
MR. SMITH: Yeah, I bet.
MR. JONES: Because everybody does that.
MR. SMITH: Yeah.
MR. SMITH: If I could just have a one-minute break sometime, whenever you feel you're --
MR. JONES: This is a good time.
(Recess from 2:41 p.m. to 3:03 p.m.)
Q Do you have any reason to believe that the decision to have Mr. Jones, Mr. Brown and yourself work on Foobar products to the exclusion of the EMS products listed in group 3 and 4 of Exhibit -- of the December 5 chart was made or --
MR. SMITH: Can you read that back, and maybe I can try and figure out what I wanted to ask.
Q Oh, okay. So you had a conversation with Mr. Smith about the SeaTower at some point --
Q -- prior to his death?
Q And what is it about that particular night that you recall that you didn't eat at the Holiday Inn?
A What is it that I remember that I didn't eat?
Q What was Linda drinking, if anything?
A She was drinking one of them -- one of them lady drinks. I don't know what it was.
Q She had about the same as you?
A No. Huh-uh. She doesn't drink much. She'll just have one drink, and she'll suck on it all night long.
Q Next time you saw him?
A August 12, 1991. Checked tonsils -- no, I'm sorry, checked testicle. Must be mother asking. But I didn't find anything wrong with testicle. On the contrary, I noticed there was an ear problem.
Q And Detroit Murphy -- what is that? Is that a school or --
A It's Mercy, not Murphy.
Q Oh, Mercy?
A I'm sorry. Yeah, Mercy.
Q Oh, I'm sorry. Mercy.
A Yeah, Detroit Mercy is a college, and they do it like through the Jesuit priests program. They do things with young boys.
MR. SMITH: Let me ask you, sir, to identify what I am going to have marked as Defendant's Exhibit No. 1.
MR. JONES: Okay.
(Exhibit No. 1 marked for identification.)
A He has nice big ones.
MR. JONES: I have got the same ones, and I had them blown.
Q Could you please, in your own words, describe where you're touching on your body?
A Right here.
Q All right. Now, where is "right here"?
A Right here.
Q Is that your leg?
A No, sir. My leg is here. That's my stomach. I got two stomachs right here. But he was --
Q All right. You have two stomachs.
Q Why do you handle the family finances?
A Because my mom and sister ain't that bright.
Q Did you notice any differences in the plaintiff during the fishing trip after the accident and the times you had been with him before?
Q Can you tell the jury about that?
A After a long period of time holding his rod, you could see he had to sit down for a period of time.
Q How far apart are the rungs on the ladder?
A They're usually about 12 inches to a foot.
Q What did you do for Johnson & Sons Formal Wear?
A I was a presser.
Q Who was your boss there?
A I forget his name. He's the owner.
MR. SMITH: Johnson.
A Yeah. It's a father-and-son operation.
Q You don't have any intention of dismissing Jane Smith anytime soon, do you?
A No. Sometimes I wish I could eat her, and other times you want to hug her up and kiss her nose.
A Mr. Jones and I had had a disagreement, the exact nature of which I don't remember, but it was over some aspect of my work that he wanted me to perform in a manner different than, I guess, I was performing it. And Mr. Jones's -- excuse my language coming up -- Mr. Jones said, "If you fuck with me, I'll kill you."
Q When he said, "If you f*** with me, I'll kill you," how did you interpret that?
Q Has anybody else ever threatened to kill you?
A No. Somebody put a gun to my neck once, but I don't think he threatened to use it.
Q Was that in an employment contact or not?
A No. It was a social contact.
Q Is there a difference between a reconditioned and rebuilt piece of equipment in your mind, if you have one?
Q So the first thing that you heard was the one that you overheard with Mr. Jones stating that he didn't want any women in his department. And then second time when you were in this exact conversation would have been after the first time?
Q Have you tried any type of rehabilitation or work retraining?
A No. No, sir.
Q Why not?
A Because I ain't too bright.
Q And, Doctor, are you a member of the profession? Correct?
A What profession?
Q The medical profession.
A Oh, yes, sir.
Q And what profession are you a member of?
A The medical profession.
Q I would like you to turn to the next page, dated June 9, 1993.
Q Do you recall this incident occurring?
A Yes. The night before that I had eaten at Beachcomber's Restaurant. And I had crab. And I had vomited in the --
Q I assure you on this question a simple "Yes" or "No" will do.
Q Anything else you like to do a lot?
A Look out the window.
Q Have you got a good view?
Q You just like to look out there?
Q What can you see from your window?
A The apartments in front of us.
Q I guess there's usually a lot of activity out there.
A Not no more.
Q How come?
A The drug dealer moved away.
Q Okay. Did it become a shouting match at any time?
Q It did?
A A big one.
Q And what was the net result?
A I left, was the result. I left. I basically told him that I didn't care how big his dick was.
Q How did that comment come up?
A It just came out.
Q Okay. Why did you make that comment? Does he talk about, you know, his penis a lot?
A Yeah, he always talks about his penis. He thinks it's the greatest thing that ever walked on earth.
Q And what was the reason given to you for the fact you were let go?
A The reason given to me was garnishing a knife and arguing with the supervisor.
Q Is the south boundary of the north half of the southeast quarter of the northwest quarter the same line as the north boundary of the south half of the southeast quarter of the northwest quarter?
Q Do you currently have normal bowel movements?
Q In what way have they changed?
A I have a lot more gas that I -- I fart a lot more; and when I do, they're much stronger than the normal person.
Q Isn't that true, Jane?
A I know it's not funny, but it's true.
Q: You say you had three men punching at you, kicking you, raping you, and you didn't scream?
A: No ma'am.
Q: Does that mean you consented?
A: No, ma'am. That means I was unconscious.
Here are a few lines spoken by people in county court during the last year:
The stolen car fairy? - judge to a lawyer who said his client didn't know how a number of stolen cars had ended up on his property.
Fortunately for you sir, there's not a section for gross dumbness in the Criminal Code. - judge to a man who reluctantly obeyed police orders to leave an area, yelling "sieg heil" and goose-stepping away.
He is a consumer of judicial services. -- judge explaining the politically correct way to refer to a criminal.
So how old is your twin brother? - judge to a man who had stolen a car with his twin brother, and who had just identified himself as being 18 years old.
This isn't "Let's Make a Deal." Do you see any doors up here? - judge to a man who, when asked to choose between a large fine and a short jail term for an impaired driving conviction, wanted to know the range of each to compare them and then decide.
The following is a courtroom exchange between a defense attorney and a farmer with a bodily injury claim:
Attorney: "At the scene of the accident, did you tell the constable you had never felt better in your life?"
Farmer: "That's right."
Attorney: "Well then, how is it that you are now claiming you were seriously injured when my client's auto hit your wagon?"
Farmer: "When the constable arrived, he went over to my horse, who had a broken leg, and shot him. Then he proceeded to go over to Rover, my dog, who was all banged up, and shot him. When he asked me how I felt, I just thought under the circumstances, it was a wise choice of words to say I've never felt better in my life."
Q: Mr Slattery, you went on a rather elaborate honeymoon, didn't you?
A: I went to Europe, yes.
Q: You took your new wife?
- Nita Sarver, Golden CO
Q: Now, at the time you married Mr. Smith in December '78, did you love him?
- Edward N. Hawkins, Dover DE
Q: You say it's Miss Jones. I take it then you are unmarried?
A: Yes, twice.
- December 1958 National Shorthand Reporter
Q: When did you begin to plan your wedding?
A: Well, actually, i didn't plan my wedding; my mother did.
Q: Did you participate in your mother's planning of your wedding?
A: No. My family is Italian.
Q: When did your mother begin to plan your wedding?
A: When I was born.
-Ben Rogner, Chicago, IL
Q: What is your name?
A: Ernestine McDowell.
Q: And what is your marital status?
- Caroline R. Castle, Pittsboro, N.C.
Q: I take it that before this accident happened you lived with your brother-in-law and sister for about six months?
Q: You got to know him quite well?
Q: You saw him interact with your sister, and I believe they had one child?
A: I didn't see the actual interaction, but they did have one child.
-Gail McGilvray, London, Ontario
Q: What were you expecting from your marriage that never occurred?
A: Well, somebody to help shoulder the burden of being married.
-Janet Fuszner, Pacific, Mo.
Q: Did you tell your lawyer that your husband had offered you indignities?
A: He didn't offer me nothing; he just said I could have the furniture.
- Frances J. Fitzpatrick, Jacksonville, N.C.
Q: From what you're telling me, you don't own any moving vehicles, motor vehicles, trailers, cars, or trucks?
A: I'm telling you I don't own one sanitary thing.
Witness's wife: or unsanitary thing.
A: Or insanitary thing either. The only thing I got control over is my wife, and I haven't got very good control over that.
- Donna Weiss, Amarillo, Texas
Q: Are you married?
A: No, I'm divorced.
Q: What did your husband do before you divorced him?
A: A lot of things that I didn't know about
- The Informant (L.A.)
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