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The Legal Process

My Learned Friend

Why are we all continually fascinated with the legal process. Outrageous courtroom moments, be they violent, comical, infamous, or shocking, are often downright interesting. These are courtroom moments from some of the most noteworthy trials of the recent past.

Attacked by the Mob - In 1997, an outraged Jacksonville, Florida community reacted to the kidnapping and murder of three-year-old Robert Keith Sparrow III. While the suspect, Jason "Psycho" Stephens was in court signing documents, members of Sparrow's family rushed towards him, throwing punches and screaming insults as authorities scrambled for control.

Bench Brawl - In another Jacksonville case, four men were convicted of the 1994 murder of five-year-old Shelton Lucas Jr. During an appeal, Lucas' grandmother took the stand to give the victim impact statement, a speech which became so emotional that relatives and friends descended upon the defendants with punches and purse-flogging. The killers were ultimately sentenced to life in prison.

Colonial Kevorkian - In 1996 right to die advocate Jack Kevorkian arrived in a Michigan court to answer charges related to assisting with a pair of 1991 suicides. He was dressed with a Colonial-style costume complete with powdered wig. Facing up to five years imprisonment if convicted Kevorkian asked the horde of reporters, "if Thomas Jefferson justifies and endorses and advocates suicide for cancer, why am I in this courtroom?"

Control Lost - A Florida courtroom exploded into emotional chaos as Larry Parks stood trial for murdering Sherry-Ann Brannon and her two young daughters. Unable to contain his rage, Brannon's husband, Dewey, leaped from his seat and rushed towards the suspect, but a team of sheriff deputies struggled to wrestle him to the floor.

Cussin' Canoeist - In 1999, a Michigan courtroom turned into a profanity circus during the trial of Timothy Boomer, who fell into the water while canoeing and then unleashed a tirade of curses, which was overheard by a nearby sheriff's deputy. A witness, Michael Smith, was called to the stand and gave a memorable re-enactment of the foul-mouthed incident. Boomer was found guilty, but a higher court later overturned the conviction.

Robert Blake Sings the Blues - A seemingly carefree Robert Blake, on trial for the murder of his wife Bonnie, wandered outside the Los Angeles County Courthouse to munch on a hot dog, grab a guitar and serenade the crowd with a rather touching version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

His Brother's Keeper - The family of 15-year-old Edward Hall waited in an Alabama courtroom to hear the sentence of Doug Gonzalez, who had shot and killed the teen. But after the judge declared the case a "negligent homicide," a lesser conviction than they hoped for, the victim's brother leaped over a court bench and attacked Gonzalez with officers scrambling to separate them.

Kenneth Kimes Takes a Hostage - In 2000, Kenneth Kimes and his mother were convicted of killing Manhattan millionaire Irene Silverman. While being held at a correctional facility in upstate New York, Kimes agreed to an interview with Court TV, only to hold producer Maria Zone hostage for four hours by holding a pen to her neck and demanding that his mother not be extradited to California for trial on another murder. Correction officers ultimately restrained Kimes and he was subsequently sentenced to eight years in solitary confinement.

Judge Thompson Pumps it Up - In 2000, Oklahoma court reporter Lisa Foster noticed some strange noises coming from the bench of Judge Donald Thompson. Turns out the judge was simply using his… penis pump. Thompson was later convicted of indecent exposure.

Larry Flynt's Disorderly Deposition - In 1983, Hustler magazine ran an ad parody featuring a fake interview with evangelical pastor Jerry Falwell in which he acknowledges losing his virginity to his mother. Falwell sued the magazine's infamous publisher, Larry Flynt, alleging invasion of privacy, libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress. During Flynt's deposition, taken while he was incarcerated on a separate case, he proceeded to mock opposing counsel's questions, pick his nose and refuse to provide even the semblance of straight answer.

Lawyers, Guns and Money - While taking a lunch break outside the Robert Blake trial in Van Nuys, CA, a cameraman working for Court TV captured the horrific moment as William Strier shot his lawyer, Gerald Curry, five times in the neck, arms and chest as Curry struggled to shield himself behind one slender tree. The lawyer survived and Strier was ultimately sentenced to two life sentences.

Manson's Parole Rant - Charles Manson, the infamous cult leader and killer, is currently serving life in prison. During his 1997 parole review, the homicidal hippie lectured the board using such odd words as "mother goose," honeybuns," "ding-dong," and "goopity-goop." After Manson's admission that if granted parole he'd go "poof," the board, not surprisingly, denied his request, to which he replied "that's cool."

Peppered - Charged with stalking an ex-girlfriend, a bitter defendant named Antonio Cobb burst into a screaming rage and banged his head up against a wall phone in a Florida courtroom. Officers were left with no choice but to pin him to the floor and deploy their pepper spray, which left Cobb screaming and rather unhappy.

Hit Man Takes the Stand - Professional football player Rae Carruth was on trial for conspiring to commit the first-degree murder of his pregnant 24-year-old girlfriend, Cherica Adams. The accused hit man, Van Brett Watkins, took the stand in 2000, only to intimidate the courtroom by boasting of his life of crime and telling one surprised attorney "I could kill you with my hands." Watkins received 40 years in prison for pulling the trigger while Carruth was found guilty and sentenced to up to 24 years.

Tigger on Trial - A Florida courtroom turned comical when attorney Jeff Kaufmann defended his client, a Walt Disney World employee, who had been charged with fondling a 13-year-old girl while he was wearing a Tigger costume and posing for a photo with the teen and her mother. In an effort to prove that moving in the outfit was difficult, Kaufman donned the defendant Michael Chartrand's animal suit and two large orange mitts. The jury found him not guilty.

Verdict Vendetta - In 1996, Frank Valdez was on trial for the hit-and-run of young Calvin Smith. Members of the victim's family were outside the courtroom when they heard the judge's shocking sentence of just nine months in jail, a decision which led them to force their way back in to the courtroom to attack the defendant.

Authorities Catch (Faux) Osama - Democratic activist and lawyer Tom Connolly disrupts traffic on Halloween by wearing a bin Laden costume and carrying plastic dynamite, fake grenades and a toy assault rifle on a highway overpass. Passing motorists surely didn't think his stunt was 'da bomb.

Courthouse Shooting - David Hernandez Arroyo Sr. shows up for his child support hearing...in a suit of body armor and wielding an AK-47. That's when he opens fire on his ex-wife and son. Love turns deadly, and a high-stakes shoot-out and a high-speed chase make for an unforgettable end to a day of terror in Tyler, Texas.

Things People Actually Said In Court

Most language is spoken language, and most words, once they are uttered, vanish forever into the air. But such is not the case with language spoken during courtroom trials, for there exists an army of courtroom reporters whose job it is to take down and preserve every statement made during the proceedings.

These are from a book called Disorder in the Court, and are things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and now published by court reporters - who had the torment of staying calm while these exchanges were actually taking place. Some of these are excellent - don't miss the last one.
  1. What is your brother-in-law's name? Borofkin.
    What's his first name? I can't remember.
    He's been your brother-in-law for years, and you can't remember his first name? 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!

  2. And who is this person you are speaking of? My ex-widow said it.
    How did you happen to go to Dr. Cherney? Well, a gal down the road had had several of her children by Dr. Cherney, and said he was really good.

  3. Officer, what led you to believe the defendant was under the influence? Because he was argumentary and he couldn't pronunciate his words.

  4. Mrs. Jones, is your appearance this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney? No. This is how I dress when I go to work.

  5. 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.

  6. Did you tell your lawyer that your husband had offered you indignities? He didn't offer me nothing; he just said I could have the furniture.

  7. The truth of the matter is that you were not an unbiased, objective witness, isn't it. You too were shot in the fracas? No, sir. I was shot midway between the fracas and the naval.

  8. What can you tell us about the truthfulness and veracity of this defendant? Oh, she will tell the truth. She said she'd kill that sonofabitch - and she did!

  9. ...any suggestions as to what prevented this from being a murder trial instead of an attempted murder trial? The victim lived.

  10. So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy? No.
    How can you be so sure, Doctor? Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
    But could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless? Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law somewhere.

And if you thought the Lawyers were bad ... listen to the doctors.

The following quotes were taken from actual medical records dictated by physicians. They appeared in a column written by Richard Lederer, Ph.D., for the Journal of Court Reporting.
  1. Patient was released to outpatient department without dressing. I have suggested that he loosen his pants before standing, and then, when he stands with the help of his wife, they should fall to the floor.

  2. Discharge status: Alive but without permission. The patient will need disposition, and therefore we will get Dr. ????? to dispose of him.

  3. The patient's past medical history has been remarkably insignificant with only a 40 pound weight gain in the past three days.

  4. She slipped on the ice and apparently her legs went in separate directions in early December.

  5. The patient experienced sudden onset of severe shortness of breath with a picture of acute pulmonary edema at home while having sex which gradually deteriorated in the emergency room.

911 Call Chaos - As he listens to his daughter's screams played from a 911 tape, a father loses control and attacks defendant Deric Allen.

A Father's Fury - Convinced it was a frame-up, the father of teenage murderer Edward O'Brien, sentenced to life in prison for killing his best friend's mother, rants about the verdict.

All That Glitters - British former rock star Gary Glitter enjoys his last few moments before being thrown in a Vietnam jail by proclaiming his innocence.

Berserk on the Chain Gang - During a parole hearing, David Wilson's actions throw the courtroom into chaos as he tries to escape from his chains. Unfortunately, four other inmates are attached.

Bible-Spewing Scrap - Decordova Palmer just couldn't keep his mouth shut after a judge demanded he stay quiet. After repeatedly ignoring the judge's requests to stop yelling religious rants, the deputies showed him how pepper spray can be the best muzzle.

Double the Dukes - An Ohio courtroom turns into a boxing ring when two family members of victim Jameila West, a young mother killed along with her three children, attack Jameila's ex-boyfriend, defendant Jason Howard.

Ex-Marine Goes Ballistic - After a judge implies that a 12-year-old suicide could have been due to the boy father, Geoffrey Wells, leaving a gun around the house, Wells lashes out and takes on nearly a dozen court officers.

Have a Seat - Who needs fancy weapons when perfectly good objects just right for a battery exist right there in the courtroom? A chair is the weapon of choice for a victim's son when he uses it to bash the defendant, accused sexual predator and serial killer Alfred Gaynor.

I Fought the Lawyer and the Law Won - In 2004, two lawyers re-affirm the public's low opinion of the legal profession by engaging in fistficuffs. The court's surveillance camera caught attorneys Oscar Desper and Dave Culbertson shoving and punching each other in a barrister brawl.

Killer's Cruel Kiss - Before being escorted from a courtroom, Octavious Wade blows kisses to the parents of his teenage murder victim. The smug action sends the victim's mother into a rage, screaming she hopes this "animal" will someday burn in hell.

Loopy Lawyer - Seemingly tipsy Las Vegas attorney Joseph Caramagno shows up to court after "a car accident". It seems by "whiplash" he meant "intoxicated" as a breathalyzer test reveals a high BAC. What happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas...but out of court.

Middle Finger Protest - On trial for murdering a Savannah debutante who refused to hand over her purse, defendant Kevin Huckabee responds to his guilty verdict with a middle finger aimed squarely at the Judge.

Pen Mightier than the Sword? - He was accused of burning down a church and placing a wooden cross with a baby doll nailed to it in its courtyard. So was it any surprise that during his interrogation, Henry Drevermann attacked a detective with a pen to the chest?

Puppy-Eyed Witness - Young teens Joshua and Justin Moulder were on trial for torturing and killing a dog by baking it in an oven. That's when the prosecution introduced its adorable star witness: a puppy.

Silence of the Battered - When Esteban Carpio, accused of fatally shooting a detective, arrives for his arraignment bruised and masked beneath an eerie, Hannibal Lecter-ish spit shield, screams of "police brutality" cause relatives of the defendant to get booted from the courtroom.

Taser 'Cop-Killer' - After the murder of one of their own, Wichita police officers give the seemingly mild-mannered defendant, Greg Moore, quite a shock. Literally.

Tasteless Taunts - At a trial of a man charged with killing a veteran in Tacoma, Washington, a woman teases the victim's family with an insensitive question: "The man was 69, did you think he was going to live forever?" This comment sparks a brawl between families of the victim and of the convicted murderer.

Wayne's Water Fight - Just as a judge is about to read Wayne Coffin's verdict, the defendant panics and rampages towards the prosecution, screaming and throwing a pitcher of water at the district attorney.

Disorder in the Court. Court TV.

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