August 31, 2006
June 1992 - A Bill Reid "Two-fer"

From William (Bill) Reid of Austin (assistant district attorney, and chief of appellant division), this excerpt from a sentencing hearing before Judge Jon Wisser of Austin (299th District Court).

The Court: The State of Texas v. Nathaniel Brown, before the court today for sentencing, the defendant having been found guilty by a jury of the offense of burglary of a habitation.

The Defendant: Can I say something now? Excuse me your honor, I would like to say something. I want you to know that I feel like it wasn't no fair trial and I would like to have another trial because I don't feel like I've been treated right on this case. You know, really I do have a drug problem and the night that occurred, I did not burglarize the woman's house, you know, and when I first got out of TDC I was asked to get into some kind of treatment and I couldn't get in there. Your honor, I stayed sober for 10 years in Alcoholics Anonymous in the state of Texas. The only thing I can say [is] I did not do it and the good Lord in Heaven know I didn't.

The Court: The good Lord may know you didn't do it, bu he didn't speak to the folks on the jury, I'm afraid. They all thought that you did it.

Also from Bill Reid, this contribution to my still-growing "Unbelievably Dumb Questions" files - which Bill discovered in the portion of the record quoters in Combs v. State, 643 S.W.2d 709, 718 (Tex. Cr. App. 1988).

Q. Okay. After he got her out of the bathtub, was she alive or was she dead?

A. Dead.

Q. And after she was dead, was she saying anything like that?

A. No.

Bill adds: "The court was merciful enough not to disclose who asked this question."

August 30, 2006
July 1991 - Did I Really Hear That?

From J. Michael Weston of Dallas (Alexander & Weston), this "objection, ruling and aftermath" from a case tried before Judge David Brooks (191st District Court):

Q. Mr. Tafacory, on that morning, did you see cars pull into the parking lot at the premises?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Did those cars slow down and then drive through without stopping?

Plainttif's Attorney: Objection. He's leading.

The Court: I will overrule it. You may answer the question.

Plainttif's Attorney: I didn't hear the question. I'm sorry. I was busy objecting.

August 29, 2006
March 1995 - Did They Really Say That?

From Jim Lombard, CLA of Austin (Jim is a legal assistant with Small, Craig & Werkenthin), this excerpt from the medical records of a plaintiff who was claiming his head was injured in a "slip and fall":

Past History: As stated above, the past history is otherwise negative or non-contributory.

Family History: Likewise negative or non-contributory.

The patient denies any previous head injuries and only remembers the fact that he was hit on the head as a small child with an ax.

August 28, 2006
March 1994 - Did She Really Say That?

From Larry Blount of Sulphur Springs (Powers & Blount), this excerpt from a bond reduction hearing before Judge Lanny Ramsay (Eighth District Court). Assistant District Attorney Al Smith is cross-examining the defendant's wife - who has "justified that, in spite of the DWI, her husband's drinking problem is not as bad as it used to be."

Q. Now; - you're telling this judge that your husband doesn't drink as much as he used to, yet he has been charged with his eighth DWI?

A. He doesn't drink as much as he used to. Why, he only has one case of beer in the refrigerator right now.

August 25, 2006
February 1993 - Child's Play

From Steven R. Rosen of Houston, this excerpt from his closing argument in a capital murder trial in the 268th District Court of Fort Bend County. Steven explains that "I often quote philosophers during many of my final arguments" and that "when I read the transcript...I was quite surprised that Ed Meaux, court reporter (and one of my closest and dearest friends) did not understand that I meant to quote the famous Greek philosopher, Plato."

...This is not a barbaric society. This is not a society that has been based on anger and violence and hatred. I have suffered just like you have suffered the past two weeks, and I'm no great philosopher, but I went back because I wanted you to think about what the argument is on. What in the world is this attorney talking about, where could I say something that will have some influence and it was Play-Dough that I found...

August 24, 2006
May 1992 - I'm Glad We Cleared That Up!

From Judge Robert J. Vargas of Corpus Christi (County Court at Law No. 1 Nueces County), this testimony from a "car-wreck" case:

Q. And do you recall generally what you did [on Dec. 15, the date of the accident]. ... not, I mean, we don't need every detail but generally speaking, what you had been doing that day?

A. I cleaned house and got ready to buy a Christmas tree and put it up, which I did.

Q. Did you decorate the tree that day?

A. I started to.

Q. And was - were you alone or did you have other than your dog, I don't know -

A. Yes, by myself.

Q. There were no other humans helping you?

A. No humans.

August 23, 2006
November 1991 - Verbal Typo's (Sic or Otherwise)

From Joe Riddles of Dallas (Riddles, McGrath & Greenberg), this selection from a deposition taken by Carroll Trout of his firm; Carroll is attempting to get some information about the plaintiff's recent trip to Mexico:

Q. When you went to Mexico last week, how did you get there?

A. On the bus.

Q. Did anyone go with you?

A. No.

Q. Did someone pass away?

A. A family member.

Q. Who was that family member?

A. A non-related family member.

August 22, 2006
September 1991 - Freudians & Slips

From District Judge George M. Thurmond of Del Rio (63rd Judicial District), a "Trifecta" which occurred during the closing arguments in a civil "Negligent Entrustment" case - in which a "minor had taken his parents' car without their knowledge or permission," and was then "involved in a collision with the female plaintiff. Unfortunately, at least for the attorneys involved, the plaintiff was eight and-a-half months pregnant when the case eventually came to trial, and this fact obviously had a Freudian effect on [the arguments] of all three attorneys:"

Mr. Jones(1): By leaving the keys on the counter in plain view, where he had easy access to both them and the car, these parents were essentially playing Russian Roulette, gambling that this sort of thing might happen. This was just an accident waiting to happen; fortunately, it happened to our client.

Mr. Smith(1): Now, you've all observed the plaintiff as she's sat here throughout the trial, and as she testified from the witness stand. It's obvious she's in a great deal of pain and discomfort. That's only natural; you'd be uncomfortable, too, if you were fixing to become pregnant.

Mr. Doe(1): You'll have all these exhibits before you, and you can examine them at your leisure once you get up to the delivery room.

Judge Thurmond adds: "Curiously, not one of the three attorneys caught the others' faux pas. The quizzical expressions and subsequent guffaws from the jury room indicated the jurors, at least, had been paying attention."
1. Not their real names.

August 21, 2006
January 2000 - Did They Really Say That?

From W. Marc McDonald of Fort Worth (Bourland, Smith, etc.), this "classically confused" statement made by one of his partners, William R. Korlo, Jr. during a recent deposition.

Mr. Korlo: All right. Let me turn your attention to Plaintiff's Exhibit No. 3. I'm sorry. For purposes of the record, I've been messing up. I keep saying Plaintiff's Exhibits and I'm actually Defendant's.

So let the record reflect that I don't know who I represent.

August 18, 2006
February 1993 - The Drunk Chemist Case

From Ed McConnell of Amarillo (Smith, Jarrell & Associates), this excerpt from the trial of a workers' compensation-death case - which Ed and the defendant's attorney, Phil Johnson of Lubbock (Crendshaw, Dupree * Milam) still refer to as "The Drunk Chemist Case."

The insurance company's defense was that the decedent was intoxicated ("just because he had a 0.26 blood alcohol test and was coming home from a Christmas party") . Phil's "expert" was the DPS chemist, "who actually ran the blood alcohol test." However, on cross, this "expert" testified that he had been requested to "resign" from the DPS, and that "for a person to have an 0.26 blood alcohol level after three hours, that person would have had to consume at least 20 beers." On redirect Phil tried to rehabilitate his expert just a bit:

Q. [Now] another question: How much do you drink on a regular basis, alcohol?

A. Well, to tell you the truth, it's been a little bit more here lately.

Q. Do you find ... I'm sorry.

A. Well, my wife didn't like me to drink and -

Q. I'm not trying to get into - personal stuff.

A. You know ... I went a long time without drinking any beers at all, you know.

Q. I don't want to get into your personal stuff and I'm not.

A. And so, here lately I - you know, she's gone and this - this weekend I - I had a pretty good little party for myself. I - I got a pint of Jack Daniels and a half a case of Budweiser Tallboys and I went at it and I woke up Saturday about 11:30, maybe it was in the afternoon because I went to bed to sleep pretty late, and I had a lousy hangover and I think I just, you know, kind of tapered back a little bit because I don't like hangovers.

Q. ... Does your familiarity as a chemist, does the amount of alcohol over a period of time change a person's tolerance to the alcohol or do you have any knowledge to that?

A. Oh, I - I think I have some first-hand knowledge to that.

Ed concludes: "The jury found that the deceased was not intoxicated, and judgement was entered for the plaintiffs. Since that time, Phil and I have referred to the case as the 'Drunk Chemist' case."

August 17, 2006
May 1992 - No Knowledge, Period!

From James P. Wallace of Houston, this excerpt from the deposition of his client (Stephanie) in a personal injury case, and this explanation: Stephanie "was one of six teenage occupants in a car" that collided with a large sign in a shopping center parking lot; She "traveled some distance" to a very early deposition, where "she inadvertently raised the [collective] eyebrows of all the attorneys" with this exchange:

Q. Were you there when they put up the beam or the bar that connected the two poles that you-all ran into?

A. No, sir, I had no carnal knowledge of it.

Mr. Wallace: (helpfully): No knowledge, period.

A. No knowledge, period. Just let me go back to sleep.

August 16, 2006
July 1991 - Did I Really Hear That?

From Richard Virnig of Houston (Hirsh, Glover, etc.), this excerpt from a deposition he took of the plaintiff in a "minor auto accident case." Richard explains that "the plaintiff had been driving his father-in-law's car at the time of the accident, and his father-in-law, a local attorney, was present at the deposition":

Q. You don't have any current complaints of pain or injury that you relate to this accident, do you?

A. Related to this accident?

Q. Yeah.

A. No.

Q. There's nothing you can't do today that you could do before this accident?

A. (Pointing to his father-in-law) I can't borrow his car.

August 15, 2006

September 2005 - Transquips from Lynn Brooks

Lynn Brooks of DeSoto, who is a certified shorthand reporter, sent me a number of transcript excerpts — which she calls “transquips.” Here is one of them:

Q. Do you have any relatives in a nursing home anywhere, or have you ever?

A. Yes.

Q. Who was that?

A. My wife’s stepmother.

Q. Is she still living?

A. She died a week ago Monday.

Q. I’m sorry to hear that. How was her health when she was in that nursing home?

Mr. Smith: Objection: Form. She died, Steve. Come on.

August 14, 2006
July 1989 - Did I Really Hear That?

Jim D. Bowmer of Temple (Bowmer, Courtney) sent me a couple of stories "about our great friend Percy Foreman." One time when Percy was questioning a prospective juror of German heritage in Comal County, which is not noted for its leniency against criminal defendants. It wa a murder case. The questioning had been centered on the venireman's concept of reasonable doubt." Finally, Percy asked:

Q. What would you do if you thought the defendant was innocent?

A. (After a long period of silent deliberation) Oh, about two years.

August 11, 2006
March 1995 - What's In a Name?

From Judge Wallace Bowman of Fort Worth (County Criminal court No. 4), this excerpt from the trial of an assault/bodily injury case:

Q. All right. Well, let me stop you there. What were you arguing about?

A. It started more or less in the car after we left the Way Station. But the argument got started about a girl [who] came into the Way Station and Joanne and myself know that had been robbed; that she had opened up her home to somebody that we both know and he had come into the home and had stayed there for a number of days and when they'd left, and left him at the house by hisself [sic], he had robbed them; stole money, jewerly, one thing and another. And the man's name - it's "Useless," is what he goes by.

August 10, 2006
March 1994 - Penitentiary Stories

From Judge Lee Waters of Pampa (223rd District Court), this excerpt from "a divorce case where the elderly gentleman had recently discovered that his previous wife had not completed the divorce proceedings 20 years earlier":

Q. Is there any reasonable expectation of reconciliation between you and Mae Jean?

A. Not that I know of.

Q. Are there any minor children of your marriage to Mae Jean?

A. Three.

Q. Are they minor children, or are they adult children?

A. They're all in the penitentiary or going to jail, so they've got be grown.

Q. Then are they all above the age of 21?

A. Yes, ma'am. The youngest one is 32.

August 09, 2006
February 1993 - Show Me An Honest Man

From Robert K. Pace of Wichita Falls, this excerpt from a case he tried "in the early 1960's" in Wichita County involving an oral agreement for the sale of material to the defendant, a contractor. Robert's client testified that the agreed price was $1.60 per yard, and the defendant testified it was only 50 cents per yard. On cross-examination, Robert asked the defendant "about problems he had with city inspectors checking on his construction jobs."

A. That's what inspectors are for, to make honest men of us.

Q. If it wasn't for inspectors, you wouldn't be an honest man?

A. I'm a contractor. You figure it out. If you can show me an honest one, I would like to hug his neck.

Q. You are sitting on the witness stand saying that if you can get by with paying 50 cents a yard for material you agreed to pay $1.60 for, you would do that?

A. Sure; wouldn't you?

Mr Pace: No, sir. That's all.

August 08, 2006
May 1992 - Bit of Red Tape

From Jim Mapel, criminal district attorney of Brazoria County (Angleton), this excerpt from a deposition in a divorce case involving one husband (Earl) and two wives - wife no. 1 (Fredel and "wife" no. 2 (Kay); Fredel's attorney is giving Earl the opportunity to explain why he married Kay without getting a divorce from Fredel.

Q. Why did you do it? Why didn't you get your divorce [from Fredel] first and then marry Kay afterward?

A. It was the one request Fredel had made, but I decided I was going to continue my life the way I wanted to because in my mind [and for all practical purposes] I was divorced.

Q. You know it's a felony, what you've done, don't you?

Q. Okay. (Obviously not too impressed with Earl's "Mormon explanation.") Then you had lied to [Kay, too]?

A. It appears that way.

Q. Where does Kay work?

A. She works at Exxon, downtown Houston.

Q. When is the first time that Kay realized you never obtained a divorce from Fredel?

A. Approximately 10 o'clock yesterday [morning].

Q. Okay. Was she surprised?

A. I would imagine. Upset, angry, surprised - pick; probably all of them.

Jim (did you forget he's criminal district attorney?) ends his letter with this simple note: "Earl is under indictment for bigamy."

August 07, 2006
April 2002 - Did They Really Say That?

From David A. Lawrance of Fort Worth (Kirkley, Schmidt & Cotten), this excerpt from an asbestos case deposition.

Q. What you have in front of you is what has been marked as Exhibit A to your answers to interrogatories, and this is a list of, by my count, close to 300 different jobsites. I think we have got 296 different jobsites. Have you seen this list before?

A. Yes, I’ve seen something that looks kind of like it. I didn’t read it through, or whatever.

Q. How was that list put together, do you know?

A. Stapled.

Q. Ask a stupid question —

A. I’m sorry.

August 04, 2006
March 1998 - Did They Really Say That?

From Keith D. Lemons of Fort Worth, this excerpt from his deposition in an automobile accident case where the defendant - who allegedly had "been drinking and strongly smelled of brew, not Brut" - offered a rather odoriferous excuse.

Q. Had you done anything or been anywhere that would cause anyone to believe that you had been drinking?

A. No.

Q. Were you nervous enough at the time of the accident to act like you were drunk or do you think you were?

A. I don't think I was acting drunk.

Q. Okay. Were you tumbling?

A. No.

Q. Okay. Did you smell like alcohol?

A. No. I smelled like cologne.

Q. What kind of cologne do you use?

A. Brut

Q. But you hadn't dashed yourself that much to where it was, I don't know how to say it, odoriferous?

A. It may have been intoxicating to someone else, the amount, but not to me it wasn't.

Q. Okay. So if anybody smelled you that night, your opinion would be they smelled Brut?

A. Yes, sir.

August 03, 2006
March 1997 - Did They Really Say That?

From Barry Casey of Dallas, this excerpt from a deposition taken in Lafayette, La. by his "LSU law school buddy" Dan Shapiro (of Gordon, Arata, etc.).

Q. Did you take any medicine yesterday?

A. Not yesterday, no.

Q. Day before that?

A. No sir.

Q. When is the last time you did take some medicine. If you don't remember that's fine. If it's been a long time, just say that.

A. Well, I'm not programmed to answer that question because I don't have it on paper in front of me.

August 02, 2006
March 1996 - What's Happening in Lufkin?

Judge David V. Wilson of Lufkin (217th District Court) "felt compelled" to submit these two excerpts from recent hearings in criminal cases in his court. The first, as Judge Wilson explains, "was a rather feeble attempt to have a formal arraignment" of a non compos mentis defendant "who twice invoked all the rights and privileges extended to him by Roe v. Wade. "

Court: Mr. Defendant, I've asked your attorney to go over your indictment with you, and has he done so?

Defendant: Roe v. Wade. I was mugged by Alton Allen.

(Long pause.)

Court: Okay. Has -

Defendant: I was onto a check-cashing racket going on at Polk's. So when they figured out I was onto it, they called the law on me. Alton just walked up and hit me in the fact. [sic] They threatened to shoot me with a gun and everything else.

Court (wisey): Okay.

Defendant: And when I lived at the Lufkin Donut Shop - the crack salesman living beside me -

Court: Excuse me. Would you be quiet, please? This is not a time for you to make a statement to the court, okay? This is a time for you to be advised of what you're charged with.

Defendant: I'm really not charged with anything. They just made it up. ... He hit me first and mugged me for 300 bucks.

Court: I understand that. He may very well have done so. And if you're found guilty of that offense ... it carries a range of punishment from two to 10 years in the penitentiary and up to a $10,000 fine.

Defendant: Roe v. Wade.

Court (wisely): Okay.

Defense Attorney: It's a plea of not guilty.

Judge Wilson's second contribution involves a defendant he "thought was playing games with me. I later found that he had four years of college and is now a twice convicted felon."

Court: To the offense of possession of a controlled substance, cocaine, how do you plead?

Defendant: No contest.

Court: Okay. Do you understand, by your plea of no contest, that you can still be found guilty?

Defendant: Yes, Your Honor. ...

Court: Has anybody else promised you anything else to get you to plead no contest?

(Long pause.)

Defense Attorney: Have you been promised anything other than the plea bargain and dropping that other [count and the old charges]?

Defendant: No.

Court: Nobody's promised anything else to make you plead no contest?

Defendant: No, but I'm still open for it.

August 01, 2006
March 1995 - A Letter of Character

From U.S. District Judge James R. Nowlin of Austin, this marvelous (!) letter of recommendation the defendant submitted just before he was sentenced for food stamp fraud:

Dec. 2, 1994
Treasure Island Bingo
2410 E. Riverside Dr.
Austin, Tx 78741

To whom it may concern:

We have known T--- B--- for about three years. He is a regular player in our hall and sometimes he wins.

____ ____

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About the Judge

In Memory of Judge Jerry Buchmeyer, 1933-2009
Real life Texas Courtroom Humor.
From 1980 to 2008, U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer entertained lawyers far and wide with his "et cetera" column in the Texas Bar Journal. For this page, we've reached into the vault to bring you classic material spanning two decades of courtroom humor, most of which comes straight from actual depostions and trials.

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Buchmeyer's First Podcast

In June 2006, Judge Buchmeyer was interviewed by the Legal Talk Network.

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Classic Articles

Labor Relations: The Wututtut Review Brimelow v. Casson (& A Strike)
June 1983

Jurisdiction: Serving Satan Mayo v. Satan & His Staff
February 1984

Judicial Reasoning: "The Law Is A Ass"
December 1983

'Tis the Season
December 1984

A Fable
March 1985

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