Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury...

"Yadies and yentlemen of the yury--dis man is not guilty. Peas let him go home and see his ittle boy and gull." When I was 2 years old my daddy used to stand me on the table and parties or when anyone would come over and ask me to recite the above closing argument. I LOVED doing my closing (isn't it kind of sad that even as a 2 year old I thought closing arguments were super fun?) and performing for a crowd. My dad took me to court for the first time when I was 4 and I remember what I was wearing and I remember that I was NOT allowed to talk. It was pretty inevitable that I was destined to grow up and become an attorney. I practice in many facets of law, including criminal work. I passed the Bar Exam and started practicing with my dad and uncle nearly four years ago this month (April 30th), and this week was my very first jury trial. Now, I have done plenty of "trials", just not a jury trial. Of course, I have lost track of the number of jury trials I have been a part of with my dad, even before I was an attorney, so I always felt like I was totally ready to handle a case on my own. However, I'm sure that any lawyer will tell you that trying a jury trial is a BIG deal--it's like the performance you practice all year for, and there is no dress rehearsal. As excited as I was that my time had finally come (my dad tried 3 jury trials in his first year of practice and won every one, so I had a lot to live up to), I was also really really REALLY nervous. What if I mess up and my client gets sent to prison because of me? What if I fall down or trip in front of the jury? What if I sound like and idiot/lose my place in my argument/forget my argument/have no argument? What if I miss an objection or object and then have the judge ask me why and not be able to say (other than "I just don't like it" which isn't a reason). What if, what if, what if. There is a LOT of pressure when trying a jury trial, and it doesn't help that I grew up in the legal community and EVERYONE knows me, from the Judges to the lawyers to the clerks--they all are excited for me and are going to be WATCHING me!
You typically know about a month ahead of time that your trial is next up on the docket, and I think I knew for at least that long. I was TOTALLY prepared--that's something I can control, so that is something that I want to control. For a control freak, a trial as a defense attorney is very unsettling because you don't have as much control as you would like. My job was going to be reacting, but I had to anticipate their evidence to have my own so I could use it in my reaction--ahhh! I make it sound like a big unknown but after you have been a part of enough trials, and really after you have just been a lawyer for a while, you kind of figure out what you need to be ready for. Still, that doesn't make it any less nerve wracking! I went into court totally prepared on Monday--or at least as prepared as I could possibly be. We struck the jury that afternoon and I brought my assistant with me as well as my brother in law Davis who is an attorney--I didn't want to sit at the table by myself looking like a loser! Before striking the jury you get to question them through the voir dire process. The State goes first so usually by the defense's turn, there really aren't many questions to ask. I kind of feel like Will Ferrell in Old School when he answered that really hard question during the test, and afterwards asks what he says because "I kinda blacked out". After I completed my voir dire everyone was telling me how well I did and that the jury really liked me and that they responded well. I was so focused I almost couldn't remember what I had even said! After the jury was selected, we went home for the night. I stayed up until 1 getting myself together, even more so than I already was. Forrest even pretended to be a witness so I could practice. I don't like to have anything memorized because then I worry about it when I miss a word, but I do like to have a direction and a general idea of how I am going to control the testimony. Once we got to court however, things happened really fast and I can't really talk about it, but a deal was made and my client couldn't refuse it. Although it was the very best decision for my client, I was a little sad that I didn't get to finish the trial! All that work is for the client though and he was overjoyed, so everything I did had a purpose. I know that sooner rather than later, I will get to try an entire trial, start to finish, and this week's experience shows me that I can and will be ready!
Where was my dad, you may be asking? Outside the door. Dad decided that I needed to do this all on my own and without his help. He knew I knew exactly what to do because I've been helping him for so long, and I kind of thought that having him with me would make me more nervous than anything. He was really really calm about the whole thing and I honestly didn't think about him much when I was striking the jury, until I could tell that someone was standing outside of the double doors. In between the double doors that open into a courtroom is a crack, and through the crack is a really bright light because there are windows in the lobby in front of the courtroom. I could tell someone was walking back and forth while I was talking because the light coming through the crack kept coming and going and then it went away for a while--because someone was standing there listening. That someone was my dad. I kind of figured that it was, and it made me feel so good that he was there. He couldn't help, but he was there. Apparently he called the judge's office several times to check in on me as well and I mean how sweet and precious is that?? After my case settled that morning, his case was next, so I resumed my post next to him as we struck a jury that afternoon. There is nothing like trying a case with my daddy, but I know that there will be nothing like the satisfaction of trying one all on my own!
Dad (the one to the right of me in the center of the pic, blue shirt, yellow tie) and me with our team of lawyers in a huge case we tried in the fall. 

8 comments:

  1. This is such a sweet story! How great that you get to work with your dad and follow in his footsteps. That is something that will always be so precious to you!

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    1. Thanks Bonnie! I am very honored to follow in my dad's footsteps. It's a great sense of achievement and pride!

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  2. Congrats! I'm an attorney too and I was raised by lawyers also. I remember going to court as a kid and thinking about how cool it was. It is crazy how time flies and its suddenly you up there!

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    1. Thanks Katie! I totally agree--sometimes I look around and have to remind myself that this is MY job now. It's so cool to meet another attorney! You should join our Legally Blogging series! We'd love to have you!

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  3. Love this post! I know very well how much preparation it takes to go in front of a jury. My mom gets the same butterflies and nervous thoughts when she has to do it. It sounds like you were/are fantastic at your job and have nothing to worry about!

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    1. Thank you for those sweet words Whitney! I didn't realize your mom was an attorney too! Cool!

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  4. Aww girl, that's great! I'm really happy for you, what a great experience. xo

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    1. Thanks Allison!! Hope you are gearing up for Iceland! Can't wait to hear all about it!

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