Had a good time in Federal Magistrate’s Court. The new JAG Officer told me he wanted to learn from me so he wanted to try the case. Fine with me. He had his questions scripted as a new lawyer does, but that causes any lawyer a problem when the witness does not answer the question that was posed. The police officer in this case had his own script about how he wanted to present his testimony. The 2 scripts collided at some points and some of the scripted answers were inadmissible. The officer seemed aggravated at our having a trial and seemed like he did not know it was his lawyer who did not suggest discussing a plea. He was more aggravated when he could not say exactly what he wanted to say. When the officer finished testifying the prosecutor looked at me in anticipation of my cross and the learning experience. I had no questions. The breath test operator brought documents that were not authenticated and the test never came in. I introduced the SFST Manual and began to go through all the mistakes made by the officer. At one point the prosecutor conceded that the exercises were not done according to NHTSA, but that it did not matter. I interrupted and joked that he’d be sorry he said that and then read the portion of the manual that is in large bold print stating that if you do not administer them correctly they are worthless. The fact that my client did well under the circumstances was highlighted by the Magistrate Judge. The verdict was not guilty. Bottom line, my client had completed treatment and would have received an unsupervised probation, so there was no downside risk for either side in going to trial. A prosecutor cannot learn how to be a trial lawyer by just working out guilty pleas. When I started as a prosecutor in the District Court, I would try one case a day to hone my skills. It made 2 of my judges nuts that I messed with their lunch time. I told them both that when I got promoted to the Circuit Court and went to try a felony case it would be too late then to learn how to question a witness. The Jag Officer picked the right case. He learned the factual issues in administering SFSTs and will probably sit down and tutor the police officers at the base on how they are to be administered. If so, I bet he’ll want to try the next case as well to show me what he learned and what he taught. I look forward to it.
Tough Times Call For Tough Representation