April 1990 - Recalling & Recollecting
Terry L. Belt
of Austin submits this excerpt from the deposition of the father who was seeking to modify the child custody terms of the divorce.
Q. Do you remember the incident on the day that you came running up from the basement and explained to your wife that you were going to kill yourself?
Q. Have you blocked it out of your mind or are you saying that it never happened?
A. Never happened
Q. You didn't go behind the shed there with your gun?
Q. Do you remember what year it was that it didn't happen?
A. 1980, I believe
June 1987 - Did I Really Hear That?
JUDGE (scolding prosecutor): You cannot ask that witness what he was told by someone else. If you want that evidence in, you will have to get it some other way.
PROSECUTOR: Very well them, Mr. Davies. Without telling me what he said to you, what did he tell you to say?
From Joe Werner
of Dallas (Haynes and Boone), this excerpt from the interrogatory answers of one Blondene Williams:
Q. Have you been admitted to any hospital, clinic or medical institution for the examination or treatment of any physical or mental injury, illness, disease or complaint?
A. I was robbed and suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the neck in the process.
Joe adds: "We are pleased to report that Blondene, although not yet back in tip-top form after her fatal injury, is at least well enough to sign interrogatory answers."
May 1987 - Did I Really Hear That?
In a murder trial, the policeman testified, "When I arrived, the victim was still alive and he said ..."
At this point, the witness was abruptly interrupted by the judge, with stern warning that the witness should not say anything else until it was determined whether the evidence was admissible. The jury was excused and, for the next several hours, the attorneys argued subtle legal points as to whether or not the victim's statements were within the "dying declaration" exception to the hearsay rule. The prosecution, of course, contended that they clearly were; however, the defense argued that there was no showing that the deceased victim actually knew he was dying when he spoke to the policeman. Finally, the trial was recessesd and, after hours of his own research, the judge announced the next morning that the testimony was admissible as a dying declaration. So, the policeman returned to the stand for this exchange:
Q. Now officer, yesterday you were about to tell us what the deceased said when you arrived on the scene. Please tell the judge and the jury what he said.
A. Well, he just said "Ugh!" and died.
February 2000 - The Medical Charts
From Joseph V. Crawford
of Austin (Wright & Greenhill), this entry in a patient's medical report by a chiropractor in Lake Charles, La:
Patient complained of headaches, neck pain, left forearm and thumb, right lower leg, left ankle, ringing in both ears and both hips.
January 1992 - From the Trials of Buchmeyer, Too
Again, these are Q & A's that actually happened in some of my trials during the past six months:
Q. Now, shortly after this, Mr. F. drowned?
A. That's what I understand.
Q. So he's dead, now?
Q. So he's not here to tell his side of the story?
U.S. Attorney: Objection.
The Court (wisely): Sustained!
- Is This Column Really Part of the Problem?
And from James W. Paulsen
of Houston (Liddell, Sapp, etc.) comes this excerpt from the deposition of a CPA:
Q. Did you inform [the defendant] at any point in the proceedings up to today that the dispute might possibly have some effect upon the estate?
A. Well, he ... had the same awareness as I did. And we did not compute it, the amount. But he had that awareness, too.
Q. How do you know that [the defendant] had this awareness?
A. What awareness? You're going to have to restate it.
Q. Okay. Do you understand ... that you're the one who used the phrase "awareness?"
A. I don't think that matters. I'd like to have the word defined so I can know what I'm saying.
Mr. Gibson: Tag that.
Q. [H]ave you ever heard of a person by the name of Jerry Buchmeyer?
From James Showen
, an assistant city attorney in Tyler, comes this excerpt of deposition testimony by a witness who had never been arrested (although he had spent six months in the Smith County Jail for bootlegging):
Q. Now, these statements that you gave to the police department and Mr. Clark, were these typed out for you and written out for you?
A. Yeah, he typed, he writ them out.
Q. You didn't write any of them out?
A. I didn't do any writing at all.
Q. All you did was sign them?
Q. Do you use the word "foregoing" much in your every day speech?
A. Say what is that?
Q. Do you use the word "foregoing" in your every day speech much?
Q. Do you ever use the word "foregoing?"
A. No, not too much.
Q. Do you ever use the word "therein?"
A. "Therein" — no, not too much.
Q. Do you ever use the word "incident?"
A. Yes, I use that sometimes.
Q. What about the word "reside?"
A. No, I don't do that.
Q. Do you ever use the word "disturbance?"
A. Yes, sometimes.
Q. Sometimes. Do you ever use the phrase, "in connection with?"
Q. Never use that. Do you ever use the word "acknowledge"?
Q. None of those are words you ordinarily use?
Q. Were these statements that they took, did they take them down the way you told it to them?
A. Right. Right you are. There's not anything added to them, there's not anything taken away from them.
April 1990 - You Can Take My Word For It
This trial excerpt comes from the Decker Lake eminent domain case tried years ago by Charles Dippel and Robert L. Burns of Houston (Sears & Burns).
After Burns completed the direct of the witnesss, victory seemed assured for the Burns/Dipple Duo — "unless our opponen somehow destroyed the witness on cross." In brilliant desperation, the opposing attorney decided "to divert the attention of the jury from the devastating testimony by making the witness his witness — stand on a chair "in front of a gigantic aerial photograph of the Decker Lake area, and write down" information on other sales that the witness (who had lost everything by relying on his ex-partner's advice) knew absolutely nothing about. And...
Q. Now that property is located right here. Would you step up in the chair and write, "October 1962 value — "
A. Well, now, let me see. Is this it?
Q. That's it. Yes, sir. You can take my word for it. That's it.
A. Okay. Now, well did it go over to here?
Q. No, it didn't come that far north. It is outlined in the black.
A. I would like it understood I am not sure it was October.
Q. I understand that. Put down October '66." [The witness wrote on Exhibit No. 1]
Q. If you will write it a little bigger.
A. Ok. I'm sorry. [The witness wrote again on Exhibit No. 1]
A. Is that all?
Q. No. "$160 an acre."
A. What do you want me to write that up there for?
Q. Because that's what you figured it was a trade.
A. If I was going to go out and buy it. Is this all permissible to write that up there?
Q. Yes. It's permissible to take my word for it.
A. I have gotten into trouble before by doing what people told me.
Q. I believe I pass the witness.
Charles concludes: "The laughter lasted a full two minutes. The judge turned his chair to the wall he was laughing so hard. He had to excuse the jury, it was laughing so long. Our opponent turned red and almost had apoplexy. Of course, Burns and I did absolutely nothing to descourage the opponent's disaster."
May 1989 - How Did The Accident Really Happen?
From Larry Newman of Dallas and Harold J. Delhommer of Houston sent me slightly different versions of a collection of quotations from insurance accident forms.
A. As I approached the intersection, a stop sign suddently appeared in a place where no stop sign had ever appeared before. I was unable to stop in time to avoid the accident.
A. An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my vehicle and vanished.
March 1990 - Did I Really Hear That?
This excerpt from a sentencing hearing comes from District Judge Henry Braswell of Paris (6th Judicial District):
Judge: Mr. [Defendant], you are hereby sentenced to five years in the Texas Department of Corrections.
Defendant: Yes, sir.
Judge: And to pay a fine of $5,000.00 ...
Defendant: Yes, sir.
Judge: And to pay costs of court.
Defendant: Court costs? Court costs? Why do I have to pay court costs? Your Honor, I didn't even want this trial.
April 1991 - I'm Glad We Cleared That Up
These trial excerpts are from cases tried before a certain federal judge in Dallas:
Q. When did you last hear the "Star-dust" music format on the radio?
A. I haven't heard it since the last time I heard it.
Q. Please state the location of your right foot immediately prior to impact.
A. Immediately before the impact, my right foot was located at the immediate end of my right leg.
Q. Where we you on the bike at that time?
A. On the seat.
Q. I mean where is the street.
Q. Just what did you do to prevent the accident?
A. I closed my eyes and screamed as loud as I could.
May 1989 - What Was That Again?
Judge Leon F. Pesek of Texarkana (102nd District Court) sends this testimony "which occurred during our Friday 'pots & pans' hearings" — when an elderly lady was explaining why her marriage should be annulled:
Q. Now, would you like to tell the judge what really happened when you married him?
A. First of all, I didn't marry him, he married me. Secondly, he went with me to the courthouse to check on the title to my property. When we got through he said, "let's stop by the County Clerk's Office." I said, "What for?" He said, "well, you said you ain't going to have no one lolling around your house without some legal papers."
Judge: Is this the reasons you want an annulment, because he was lolling around your house?
A. That's the trouble Judge, he just couldn't loll.
February 2002 - Did They Really Do That?
This contribution is from Vanessa Boyd, who is a legal secretary for the Exxon Mobil Law Department in Houston. It involves an incident which happened when Vanessa was a deputy district clerk in Walker County, Huntsville, in a felony criminal court — and involved "a female inmate brought in for an arraignment hearing."
Judge: Do you waive your right to a jury?
Female Inmate: She turns and waves her right hand to an empty jury box.
From Philip R. Russ of Amarillo. The father is being cross-examined during the trial of an oil and gas lease case:
Q. Well, I mean why should we believe anything that's coming out of your mouth as you sit here right now?
A. Well, I don't suppose you have to believe any of it. All I'm trying to do is convince the jury.
January 2002 - On The Lighter Side
Q. This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory?
Q. And in what ways does it affect your memory?
A. I forget.
Q. You forget. Can you give us an example of something that you've forgotten?
This sentencing excerpt from Judge Vickers L. Cunningham, Sr. of Dallas (County Criminal Court 8):
Judge Cunningham: Mr. Jones, I have checked the box on the probation order which will allow you to be off of supervised probation once you have completed your fine, court costs, community service hours, and the family violence counseling. What I have just done is put the ball in your hands. So that if you can take care of your business in six months, you are off the reporting probation in six months. Do you understand what I'm talking about here?
Judge Cunningham: If you are going to drag it out, you are going to be on probation for two years. So I put the ball in your court...do you understand?
Defendant: What I don't understand is what you mean by getting the ball. That's the part I don't understand.
January 1992 - Were You in the Military?
From Al Ellis of Dallas ("Al Ellis, Lawyer"), this deposition excerpt which, as the saying goes, shows that while "everybody has to be somewhere, that doesn't necessarily mean that they have to be doing anything":
Q. All right, sir. You told me that your two children live with you; is that right?
A. My daughter and her husband are having problems, and she has been staying with me for about a month, just for the time being.
Q. I see.
A. My son has been with me always. He never married, and he's been with me always.
Q. He's lived with you from birth?
A. That's right. I've kept him. He's 28 years-old.
Q. All right, sir. Is there anything wrong with him? Is he all right? He's not sick or anything like that?
A. No. Lazy.
Q. Lazy? Okay. Thank you
January 2002 - Did They Really Say That?
From Al Ellis of Dallas (Al is of counsel with Howie & Sweeney), this excerpt from "a routine personal injury deposition" in which he received "the final answer as to why the divorce occurred."
Q. What was the reason for your mom's first divorce, if you know?
A. My dad.
May 1997 - Did I Really Hear That?
Q. Have you ever appeared as a witness in a suit before?
Q. Please tell the jury what suit it was.
A. It was a blue suit, with white collar and cuffs and white buttons all the way down the back.
October 1993 - Be Careful With Experts
From Roger A. Berger of Houston (Glover, Anderson, etc.), this excerpt from his deposition of the plaintiff's expert witness — who was from Omaha, NE — in a dental malpractice case.
Q. Do you know how [the plaintiff's attorney] first learned that you were a person who was available to give testimony in cases against dentists?
A. Probably through the Texas Lawyer. I advertised for about four months.
Q. You advertised in the Texas Lawyer? Do you know what sort of publication that is?
A. Well, it's a defense and plaintiff publication.
Q. Well, it's a lawyer publication, right?
A. Well, that's correct. It's more like — almost like the National Enquirer, I guess, of attorneys.
January 1992 - Working & Trouble with the Law I
From Ray A. Weed of San Antonio (Ball & Weed), these excerpts from the very first deposition he took — some 28 years ago — in a personal injury case. Ray explains that the witness (the plaintiff) wore a "plastic name tag over his left pocket that simply said 'Paul,' much like you would find on an employee working in a retail establishment. I knew it was a dead give-away that he was working somewhere.
Q. Have you worked any place since your accident?
A. No, sir.
Q. You're saying you have not worked at all since your injury?
A. No, I haven't been able to work.
Q. Then why are you wearing that name tag?
A. Oh, this? I wear it for purposes of identification.
Q. Have you ever been arrested?
A. Yes, but I can't be arrested anymore.
Q. Why is that?
A. Because I have a card that says I can't.
Q. May I see it?
At this point, the plaintiff hands Ray a card "issued by the San Antonio Police Department with the plaintiff's name on it. Apparently this guy had been arrested on enough vagrancy charges that the polic felt they had seen enough of him
October 1993 - Did I Really Say That?
From David H. Jones of McAllen (Jarvis & Kittleman), this excerpt from the deposition of his client, "an 18 year-old male who, when he was approximately 16 years-old, was wrongly committed by a local mental hospital":
Q. During this period, did — I take it from your testimony, today, it appears that Dr. Smith did not tell you that you would commit suicide if you were released; is that correct?
Q. And, in fact, you haven't done that; is that correct?
Feburary 1996 - Did They Really Say That?
This deposition excerpt from Robert W. Weber of Texarkana (Atchley, Russell, etc.):
Q. His former wife, not his current wife, the one he was married to in Marshall and his son?
Q. How did you happen to know them?
A. Okay, follow me, her father was married to my mother' sister.
Q. To your aunt.
A. They had twins, she died at childbirth, he remarried had other children, she was a half-sister to my first cousin and a half-brother to my first cousin. No relation to me.
July 1989 - Did I Really Hear That?
From Kenneth Baron of Tyler, this excerpt from the deposition of his client, "an 82-year-old gentleman with a fifth grade education" and "a retired farmer [who] weighs about 100 pounds soaking wet."
Q. How old are you, Mr. J?
A. Pretty old.
Q. You're not old.
A. Not old, just been here a long time.
Q. Did your father have any other children?
A. I didn't know about them, I weren't borned yet.
Q. If you don't know, just say, "I don't know." Now, Mr. J., you don't know much about your family, do you?
A. I don't know.
Q. How long have you lived on this land?
A. All my life.
Q. And where did you live before then?
April 1990 - Did I Really Hear That?
Two contributions from Sterling W. Steves of Fort Worth (Simon, Anisman, etc.):
Q. How far did you go in school?
A. Two or three miles.
Second, from the deposition of "a very attractive young lady who was the girlfriend of a debtor in a bankruptcy case" – taken by Steve's partner, Henry Simon, Jr. — because it "was suspected that the debtor had conveyed valuable assets to her" before the bankruptcy was filed:
Q. Had the debtor given you anything of value?
A. Yes, he has.
Q. What did he give you?
A. A Mercedes Benz.
Q. Was it free and clear?
A. No, it was green and white.
With the sage observation that "what begins badly usually ends badly," Charles R. Watson, Jr. of Amarillo (Culton, Morgan, etc.), submits "the first and the last questions asked by a young assistant district attorney in a recent Amarillo murder trial."
Voir Dire: First Question
Prosecutor: Ladies and gentlemen, have any of you ever been the victim of a homicide?
A. (No response was received from the jury panel.)
Trial: Last Question
Prosecutor: What do you recall exactly occurring that night that stands out in your mind?
A. Well, first of all y'all got the wrong man on trial. My brother's not the one that shot him. I did. That's all I'm gonna plead now. I'm going to plead the Fifth Amendment. Anything I say might and can — will be used against me in a court of law.
Prosecutor: I object. Nonresponsive to the question. I would ask that, if we could, have a recess and the jury be removed at this time, Your Honor.
Charles adds: It was fortunate that "the first question on voir dire elicited no response from the jury. The last question asked of the prosecutor's star witness resulted in an indefinite postponement of the proceedings."
June 1987 - Did I Really Hear That?
Q. And did you bear arms, Constable?
A. Yes, it was a short-sleeved shirt.
Q. I'm sorry. Were you carrying a weapon?
A. No, I was not. I had no side arms on, no, but I had bare arms.
This definitive order was entered by Judge Bob McGrath of Fort Worth (342nd District Court):
On the 26th day of March 1999 the Court met with the parties and determined that it is in their best interest that they resolve this dispute outside of the court setting. To that end, understanding that there is a period of time to vacate this Order of Dismissal before it becomes final, the Court does hereby make the following ruling,
THIS CASE IS OVER
February 2000 - Subjective Complaints
From Nancy Doherty of Dallas (U.S. District Clerk of the Northern District of Texas), these "actual, unedited notes written by doctors on patients' medical charts".
The patient has no past history of suicide.
The patient is numb from the toes down.
The patient refused an autopsy.
The patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.
The patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.
The patient's genitalia exam reveals that he is circus sized.
The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears depressed.
The patient, while in the ER, was examined, x-rated, and sent home.
The patient stated that she had been constipated for most of her life until she got a divorce.
March 1990 - A Few Quick Shots
Michael P. O'Reilly of Corpus Christi sends this excerpt from a recent deposition which was taken by Mike and Mark Giles.
Q. Well, when you say "family" are you limiting it to his brother?
A. The rest of them won't have anything to do with me. They act like that I got the bluebonnet plague.
Mike suggests that this "strain of plague" may be one that "only infects Texans ... during the time of the year that Spring Fever is contagious."
April 1987 - Did I Really Hear That?
After granting a divorce to a very elderly couple — he was in his eighties, she was in her late seventies — the judge just had to ask why they had waited so long to get a divorce.
A. (By husband). Because of the children. We didn't want to embarrass them, so we waited until they were all dead.
March 2000 - Did They Really Say That?
From Joe Werner of Dallas (Haynes and Boone), this excerpt from the recent deposition of an insurance adjuster — who was "asked to speculate on setting an appropriate reserve for an insurance claim."
Q. Well, if there was a fifty thousand deductible on the entire accident and if we assume that is all units of equipment that moved, then we'd be talking about setting a reserve of nine million nine hundred fifty thousand dollars, would we not?
A. Well, sir, if a frog had wings he wouldn't bump his butt so much. I'm not prepared to speculate on what we might assume.
March 1990 - Did I Really Hear That?
And from Donald W. Rogers, Jr. of Houston, this excerpt from the sentencing of a defendant he was appointed to represent.
Q. So, then, Mr. [Defendant] in all honesty the place were you belong is in the penitentiary for a long time?
A. I never denied that. I told them not to let me out in the first place. I never asked to get out.
Q. Is it true you want to go back to the penitentiary?
Q. For a long time?
A. Yes, forever
Q. We can only send you for 20 years. Is that acceptable?
A. I don't care.
Mr. Glaser: I pass the witness