“What high school did you go to?” I asked him in front of the jury.
This defendant didn’t go to Kamehameha, I knew that. No one from Kamehameha calls it “Kam”, they’re trained to call the school by the full name. He’s lying to the jury, I told him he’s not allowed to do that. If I catch him saying something I clearly know is untrue, I think I have to report him.
Pause. Jaw drop. Look at him sternly.
Campbell High School. Beat. Jury laugh. Everyone fell for it. He smiles.
What’s he thinking, *I* tell the jokes here. But now he has a taste for it…
He was a large Hawaiian man. Many kids of his own. His new wife brought a few of their own to their blended family. He worked during the day and she worked at night, and while they rarely had time together, they found time to make sure people were always home with the kids. They lived on old family land and the kids had enough space to run and play. Homework always got done first. No one was getting straight 5’s on AP tests, but no one was getting arrested before they were 18, at least as far as my defendant was concerned.
So when his 14 year old son (who could easily passed for 21) got questioned by the police at the local mom & pop market for stealing, that wasn’t allowed. Now compound that by hiding in from the father. Now mix that up with the father finding out by going down to the store and getting thrown out, “Get out of here! Your son steals ‘Girlie Mags’ from my store! Your money is no good here.” And then the boy lies when confronted with the facts:
Not only did he steal, but he stole pornography. (Which was probably as much the reason for the secret from dad.)
Someone’s getting hit.
So when the student was sent to the school nurse for limping, he didn’t mention
4. Talking back.
All he mentioned was:
“My father beat me with a bamboo stick”. He didn’t mention the father told him the purpose of the stick was to limit the strength of the giant ham hocks at the end of the Defendant’s arms. He didn’t mention that Defendant was aiming for this boy’s rear end, but he kept moving, causing other bruises.
“How many kids do you have”.
“Nine, or ten, I’m not sure.”
An uncomfortable laugh, now we’re on the wrong side of the jury. He breaks the first rule of testimony: “Don’t answer more than you have to.” The more you answer, the more ammunition they have. Get in, say the facts, say the feelings, get out. If there’s a second rule its “don’t be flippant in front of a jury”. This is about as serious as a situation gets. There’s a jail sentence hanging over your heard.
I suppose I should say here, there’s an exception to the second rule: I have a full presentation on “The use of Humor for the Lizard Brain: Comedy in Courtrooms” that is beyond this post here. And really only for attorneys. The purposeful sublimation of perceived Court customs (but never court rules) is just about the second most important tool we have to make jurors listen.
But that one line flipped the momentum of the trial from us to the prosecutor. And the Prosecutor seized on it in closing:
This is a man who wants you to think he cares about his children. He doesn’t even know how many he has!
Hard to come back from that. Good thing the jury never heard about his prior Abuse convictions on two of these ten children. Explainable, but better left unsaid.
Now, even if the boy had mentioned WHY he got punished, School’s often have mandatory reporting. Police still get called, still make arrests. Prosecutors are given the duty to dismiss these cases. Often that duty is taken away by their supervisors. Often these cases just aren’t dismissed. Overcharging is the number one reason cases go to trial. Overcharging and over arguing for punishment.
They should. They just don’t.
So we go before the jury, and we explain. Everything. Tell them everything. Lay bare the the home life and the discipline plan of these nine or ten kids. Then the judge reads the law and they all go to the jury room to deliberate.
But they walk past something that I couldn’t plan or predict.
Outside, on the bench the jurors have to pass on their way to the jury deliberation room, the jurors walk past the two boys who testified. They’re taking a nap. The larger boy is using a rolled up jacket for a pillow, the smaller boy is using the larger boy’s lap.
A picture of boys raised correctly.
And no matter who wins on points or pontification, spilling guts or speechifying before the jury. The jury seeing that these kids are raised to love and protect each other. Raised to do the right thing when their father isn’t there. The jury realized this was real honest discipline meant to guide the children to do right by each other, themselves, and their family. Not for simplistic, sadistic reasons.
And you can’t beat that with a stick. Not Guilty. (And I don’t think he ever came back.)