Tuesday, October 26, 2010

So Sayeth The Tuna

The journey ends today. This morning my adversary and I shall take one final stab at doing the voodoo that we do so well (or at least that we hope we do well) and present our closing arguments to the jury. Trial is an interesting concept. It is for me very much like an athletic competition. In this matter, which is a fairly straightforward, uncomplicated case it has been a one vs. one battle. I happen to like my adversary a great deal. He has done an excellent job prosecuting his clients' case for them and to the extent that he and I have gotten to know one another over the life cycle of a case, he has consistently impressed me as a good man.

It is funny the way it works for me with some of the matters I try. When I try a case far from home - as I have been on this case working out in the western confines of Warren County (and anyone who thinks that New Jersey is nothing more than what one sees on the Turnpike while your flight is approaching Newark Airport should on your next trip to our State rent yourself a car and drive west until you reach the sign on Route 80 that says, "Warren County" to correct that misconception) - I usually encounter an attorney who I did not know prior to making the great migration West and who I shall likely not encounter again. He and I have seen an inordinate amount of one another over the course of the past couple of months - these past seven days notwithstanding - after having never known each other. I suspect that once the verdict is returned in this case and whatever post-verdict work remains to be completed (whether a motion for a new trial, an appeal, etc) we shall likely not see one another again. I have no more matters on my Warren County dance card and he rarely ventures further east than Belvidere.

There is a lot of down time while you are on trial. For instance, I live in fear of dropping mustard on my tie or having a caraway seed lodged between my two front teeth so I do not eat lunch while I am on trial. While I have dropped a fair amount of weight over the course of the past ninety days or so, once again this year I am not going dressed for Halloween as "the man most likely to blow away in a stiff breeze". Costume simply does not fit me either literally or figuratively. Thus, going a few days without lunch is not going to adversely impact me. I usually spend that hour during the middle of the court day contemplating what lies ahead that afternoon and replaying in my mind all that went on that morning, trying to be objective as I play back the movie in my head and not opting solely for the highlight package.

While I am on trial, I try to assert control over the courtroom. I want the jury to pay attention to what I am saying and what I am doing since I am doing and saying all of that stuff hoping to persuade them that it is my client's position that is correct and not the position of my adversary. Nothing revelatory there I know. What I hope to do is what every lawyer who tries a case hopes to do. For all of the confidence that I hope to project, I must confess that I try cases infrequently enough to never be certain whether the people I hope I am reaching are in fact programmed to receive the message.

This morning, all the control in the courtroom shifts from the attorneys to the jurors. By the time they are ready for their mid-morning break, they likely will have heard the final arguments that each of us has to make on behalf of our respective clients. Thereafter, Judge O'Connor shall charge them as to the law they are to follow when they retire to deliberate. Once that has been completed, they shall deliberate until they reach a verdict. Their verdict shall be announced, they shall be thanked for their service and the matter shall be concluded. After hurtling towards one another will all due speed and being engaged in the combat of trial, the parties in the case will see their time together end neither with a whimper nor a bang but rather with a pronouncement made by six strangers. This sextet shall speak but one time. And their words mean everything.

One of my favorite people in sports is Bill Parcells. I have been a fan of Coach Parcells since he was the Giants' defensive coordinator under Ray Perkins way back in the day when Lawrence Taylor was but a NFL rookie and the Giants were making their first playoff appearance since the early 1960's. Among the things I have always loved about Coach Parcells is his candor. Both players and coaches tend to speak endlessly about a team being "better than its record" when it is having or has had a less than hoped for season. Not Coach Parcells. Among the things he is noted for saying is that, "You are what your record says you are." Save the sugarcoating for your holiday cookies. So sayeth the Tuna.

Throughout trial, people in my office asked me how the case was going and my clients - who have been beside me since the beginning of jury selection this time last week - have repeatedly expressed to me how well they believe we are doing. At day's end, neither my best guess nor theirs matters. At day's end - and specifically at this day's end, what matters is what the jury tells us. I receive but one report card per trial. As of this morning, all of my marks are incomplete. By day's end I hope that what my record says I am is something that shall justify the faith that the nice folks I represent have displayed in me throughout.

I shall know soon enough.


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