Courtroom Comedy

The other day, I ran into Albert King.

Bert King is my old adversary—a highly-respected and learned defense lawyer with a Harvard degree (Mensa fellow) and an honest, ethical, and realistic streak—a treasured leftover from my detective days when we civilly duked it out in the courtroom.

Bert and I stood on the street corner and BS’d. Here were two retired legal foes reminiscing the times—who’s still in jail, who finally made parole—bitching about a stupidly screwed system and the hopelessly dysfunctional new breed of Woke cops and counsels. Then our stuff turned to hilarious things we’d seen and heard within the hallowed halls of honor.

One of the great moments Bert and I remembered took place in our city’s historic courthouse. It’s a beautiful stone building with maple woodwork and regal red carpeting. It was a hot summer day, and the ancient sheriff nodded off during a jury trial. He snapped awake, then gawked—the prisoner dock was vacant.

“M’Lord!” he exclaimed. “The prisoner has escaped!” “Relax, Mister Sheriff,” the judge replied, looking over his glasses. “The accused is in the witness box and has been testifying on his own behalf for the past twenty minutes.”

Then there was the time I was in that witness box during one of the most vicious double murder trials of my career. I was under cross-examination by this big-shot, downtown lawyer (not Bert) who was grandstanding—waving his hands like a traffic cop on meth.

Smack! He whacked his water pitcher, dumping the jug over his files and down the front of his pants. The guy looked like his daughter caught him with porn. He stared open-mouthed as Kay, our wonderful lady sheriff, calmly got up, grasped a roll of paper towels, and purposely approached the spill. The mouthpiece looked mighty relieved.

Then Kay stopped. She winked at the jury, and Kay handed Mr. Barrister the roll. The entire courtroom broke out laughing, and the judge wisely declared a recess.

I’ve seen melt-downs and make-ups, mockeries and manhandlings in the courtroom. I’ve heard a judge slurring words, seen a prosecutor quit in a toddler’s tantrum, a clerk split his pants, and an accused do an impressive stand-up comedy routine acting in his own defense. I’ve seen and heard some crazy, funny things in that public place of prosecution and protection of personal rights. No, it’s not always pomp and pious.

So, I thought I’d lighten up the Kill Zone today and share some courtroom comedy I’ve dug up. Hewe whar whacky woowds from whondeful whizads of wegal wisdom. (Said in a Porky Pig voice. Or Barry Kripke, if you’re a Big Bang Theory fan.) They may be true. And they may not be true. Typical of what you’d hear in a courtroom comedy.

— —

Judge addressing the jury: “Now, as we begin, I must ask you to banish all present information and prejudice from your minds, if you have any.”

— —

Lawyer: “Now sir, I’m sure you are an intelligent and honest man.”
Witness: “Thank you. If I weren’t under oath, I’d return the compliment.”

— —

Lawyer: “This myasthenia gravis…does it affect your memory at all?
Witness: “Yes.”
Lawyer: “And in what ways does it affect your memory?
Witness: “I forget.”
Lawyer: “You forget. Can you give us an example of something you’ve forgotten?

— —

Lawyer: “Doctor, did you say he was shot in the woods?
Witness: “No, I said he was shot in the lumbar region.”

— —

Lawyer: “Do you know how far pregnant you are now?
Witness: “I’ll be three months on November 8.”
Lawyer: “Apparently, then, the date of conception was August 8?
Witness: “Yes.”
Lawyer: “And what were you doing at that time?

— —

Lawyer: “Have you lived in this town all your life?
Witness: “Not yet.”

— —

Lawyer: “So, after the anesthesia, when you came out of it, what did you observe with respect to your scalp?
Witness: “I didn’t see my scalp the whole time I was in the hospital.”
Lawyer: “It was covered?
Witness: “Yes, bandaged.”
Lawyer: “Then, later on…what did you see?
Witness: “I had a skin graft. My whole buttocks and leg were removed and put on top of my head.”

— —

Lawyer(realizing he was on the verge of asking a stupid question) “Your Honor, I’d like to strike the next question.“

— —

Lawyer: “You say that the stairs went down to the basement?
Witness: “Yes.”
Lawyer: “And these stairs, did they also go up?

— —

Judge addressing the accused: “How do you plead before I find you guilty?

— —

Lawyer: “Now, do you know if your daughter has been involved in voodoo?
Witness: “We both do.”
Lawyer: “Voodoo?
Witness: “We do.”
Lawyer: “You do?
Witness: “Yes, voodoo.”
Lawyer: “Who do…you do…voodoo…I seem to be confused…

— —

Lawyer: “Did he pick the dog up by the ears?
Witness: “No.”
Lawyer: “What was he doing with the dog’s ears?
Witness: “Picking them up in the air.”
Lawyer: “Where was the dog at this time?
Witness: “Attached to the ears.”

— —

Lawyer: “Now, sir, what is your marital status?
Witness: “I’d say fair.”

— —

Lawyer: “Are you married?
Witness: “No, I’m divorced.”
Lawyer: “And what did your husband do before you divorced him?
Witness: “Apparently a lot of things I didn’t know about.”

— —

Lawyer“You don’t know what it was, and you didn’t know what it looked like, but can you describe it?“

— —

Lawyer: “What was the first thing your husband said to you when he woke that morning?
Witness: “He said, ‘Where am I, Cathy?‘”
Lawyer: “And why did that upset you?
Witness: “My name is Susan.”

— —

Lawyer: “Sir, what is your IQ?
Witness: “Well, I can see pretty well, I think.”

— —

Lawyer: “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?
Other Lawyer: “Objection. That question should be taken out and shot.”

— —

Lawyer: “What happened then?
Witness: “He told me, he says, ‘I have to kill you because you can identify me.’”
Lawyer: “And did he kill you?
Witness: “No, he did not.”

— —

Lawyer: “Now, Doctor. Isn’t it true that when a person dies in their sleep they wouldn’t know anything about it until the next morning?
Witness: “Did you actually pass the bar exam?

— —

And no courtroom comedy post would be complete without a lawyer joke.

A Mafia Don discovers his bookkeeper ripped him for ten million bucks. His bookkeeper’s deaf—that was the reason he got the job in the first place—the Mafioso assumed a deaf bookkeeper wouldn’t hear anything that he might have to testify about in court. So when the Don goes to confront the bookkeeper about his missing $10 million, he brings along his lawyer, who knows sign language.

The Don tells the lawyer, “Ask him where the 10 million bucks he embezzled from me is.”

The lawyer, using sign language, asks the bookkeeper where the money is.

The bookkeeper signs back, “Don’t know what you are talking about.”

The lawyer tells the Don, “He says he doesn’t know anything about what you’re talking about.”

The Don pulls out a handgun, puts it the bookkeeper’s temple, and says, “Ask him again.

The lawyer signs to the bookkeeper, “He’ll kill you if you don’t say.”

The bookkeeper signs back, “Enough! Money’s in a brown briefcase, buried behind the shed in my cousin Enzo’s backyard in Queens!

The Don asks the lawyer, “Well, what’d he say?

The lawyer replies, “He says you don’t have the balls to pull the trigger.”

— —

Kill Zoners – Over to you. Share your courtroom comedy stories!

37 thoughts on “Courtroom Comedy

  1. Forwarding to my two sons and brother – lawyers all – what did I do to deserve that?

    They do make for good stories at family gatherings… and of course, I take notes (being unable to get a word in…)

  2. Thanks so much, Garry. Every word is golden this morning.

    I heard a story about a pretrial conference that I cannot verify as true (though I am sure it is). The judge was sitting in chambers with the attorneys from both sides and inquired where matters stood with regard to possibly settling the matter without a trial. It quickly became clear that such an outcome was unlikely. The judge said, “Well, I can tell without even having to look at the evidence that Mr. So-and-So is the agreiviad (sic) party in this here matter.”

    The case, as legend has it, was quickly settled.

    Hope you’re having a great week, Garry.

  3. Thanks for the laughs this morning, Garry. Perfect way to start the day. The Hubster’s current default choice for our nightly tv hour has been the old Perry Mason reruns.

  4. “Lawyer: “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?“
    Other Lawyer: “Objection. That question should be taken out and shot.”

    When I think I’m having a bad writing day, I need only re-read the above to remind myself it’s not such a bad writing day after all. LOL!

  5. I was sitting in the jury box for voir dire questioning. One charge against the defendant was statutory rape, so, as a single man under thirty, I was very unlikely to be empaneled.
    The prosecutor was a rather self-important chap, pacing back and forth in front of the jury box. He asked me several preliminary questions, each so long and convoluted that I was a bit unsure at the end whether to answer, “No, I do” or “Yes, I don’t.” I decided to listen very carefully, and just answer his exact questions. After a few of these, the conversation went like this:
    PROSECUTOR: Mr. Guenther, did I ask what you do?
    JUROR: No.
    PROSECUTOR: May I ask what you do?
    JUROR: Yes.
    PROSECUTOR: (exasperated) All right, what do you do!?
    I had to wait for the laughter to die down to answer. Fortunately, the judge was also laughing. I ended up serving on the jury as foreman.

      • Yes, I believe we did. Guilty of statutory rape (She was 17 years, 10 months old). Not guilty of rape by drugs. (potentially a very long sentence). Giving a minor a dangerous drug was dropped when the “victim” changed her testimony during the trial after having dinner with the boy’s mother and his attorney. (Hoo-boy!)

        Later, the prosecutor told me he’d wanted me on the panel because I revealed in voir dire that I’d been a subject in one of Dr. Sidney Cohen’s drug experiments. He’d wanted Cohen as his expert witness.

        On the more serious count, the first ballot was 8 to 2 for conviction 2 not voting. I read the statute to the jury about four times. When we got stuck at 10 to 2 for acquittal, I took the next vote going around the table away from one hold-out. The other hold-out swung over, so it was 11 for acquittal when we got back where we’d started. She gave in, and we got to go home.

    • I was always stunned that I was always accepted as a juror, even for felony crimes, when I told them I wrote mysteries. Someone who can think like a criminal and a detective with more than a modicum of knowledge about how crime stuff works isn’t someone I’d choose as a juror if I were a defense attorney. So, in jury deliberations, I happily explained things about guns, etc., to the clueless jurors and managed to debunk some of the nonsense or clarify information. The defense really should have passed on me.

      Note: I grew up around guns. My dad sold guns and collected historical guns. Heck, we had a small gun range below the house. He also was a gun instructor so I really knew about guns. It wasn’t just book knowledge.

  6. From actual transcripts:

    Q: I show you Exhibit 3 and ask you if you recognize that picture.
    A: That’s me.
    Q: Were you present when that picture was taken?


    Q: The youngest son, the 20-year-old, how old is he?


    Q: Mrs. Jones, do you believe you are emotionally stable?
    A: I used to be.
    Q: How many times have you committed suicide?


    Q: Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?
    A: All my autopsies are performed on dead people.

    Young prosecutor in DUI case qualifying his expert witness:

    Q. Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
    A. Yes.
    Q. And how long have you been so qualified?
    A. Since I was a baby.

  7. Knowing you’re a lawyer, Jim, I didn’t know how you’d take the lawyer-pokes, but you one-upped me with these! Thanks for the laughs!

  8. Garry, you put me on the floor with this. Thanks for a hilarious start to the day.

    How many lawyer jokes are there?

    Only two. The rest are true stories.

  9. Garry, This is priceless. I didn’t know a courtroom could be so entertaining. You put a big smile on my face to start the day. (And I don’t hold it against you that I was laughing so hard I choked on my coffee.) 🙂

    I served on a jury once, and I was surprised at some of the things that were said in the jury room.

  10. Garry, this is pure comedy gold and started my Thursday off in fine fashion. I’ll be chuckling for the rest of the day–if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to channel some of that hilarious vibe into my own writing. Thank you!

    My court stories aren’t nearly as hilarious, but there was true absurdity.

    Back when I was college in the early 1980s, my best friend was assaulted when he attempted to verbally stop a man from hitting his girlfriend at a bus stop late one night. I went to court during man’s trial for assault and battery. Now, the defendant was a huge, hulking figure with fists the size of anvils. My friend looked like a taller version of Woody Allen. The defense attorney claimed her client was in fear of my skinny, nebbishy looking friend who had no weapon and had merely told the defendant to stop abusing his girlfriend.

    The second was back in 2015, my only time on jury duty. I wound up being the presiding juror (what we call foreman here in Oregon). The defendant was accused of “operating a vehicle without the owner’s permission,” driving while drunk, and essentially hazardous driving. The slender reed in the defense attorney’s case was that the defendant claimed he was in a bar after work, having only had a drink or two (turned out to be a half dozen beers and a few shot of hard liquor) and wanted to drive to his girlfriend’s but didn’t have a vehicle.

    A random stranger at the bar offered to drive him. This was manifestly not the actual owner of the vehicle, who had testified earlier that he’d parked it in front of his house that evening and that it was missing when he got up the next morning to go to work.The random stranger took the defendant to the vehicle, started it, and then told the defendant, “you go ahead and drive it, I don’t need to go with you.” I guess having a stranger start a vehicle meant the defendant was *not* operating it without the actual owner’s permission 🙂

    The hazardous driving charge couldn’t really be refuted, since it had been filmed as it happened by a passenger in another vehicle. The blood alcohol test was disputed, but it was administered by a state trooper who had given the test over a hundred times. Full credit to the defense attorney, who did her job with a straight face and tried to make the best of what in the end was another conviction for her client.

  11. I can’t think of any stories to tell, Garry, but this is so funny. Thanks, sir, for the coffee-snorting.

    And, er, I don’t think I’ll be hiring an attorney any time soon . . .


    • Actually, Deb, I’ve met a lot of lawyers over the years and the vast majority are intelligent, down-to-earth, and have great senses of humor. Kinda like writers 🙂

  12. I’ve enjoyed my few stints on jury duty–writing fodder abounds–but don’t have any humorous memories. Many times, we never got beyond entering the courtroom. The lawyers would talk to the judge, who would ask us to return to the jury room, and shortly thereafter, we’d be called back and told we were no longer needed. We must have been scary looking to the defendant, who apparently realized this was no joke.
    The most memorable case was in Orlando, where we were hearing a case about a man who’d been accused of stealing a stereo system in another county, but he’d tried to pawn it (or have his “lady friend”–his words) in our county. His story was almost credible until he took the stand and we all agreed nobody was that stupid (after deliberating long enough so we got to go for lunch). We’d been told that the man from whom the stereo had been stolen, but he was now deceased, but his wife had flown in to testify–from Boston. She vehemently asserted that she’d seen the defendant around her street on the night in question.
    When we got back from lunch, agreed on a guilty verdict, and returned to the courtroom, I was surprised to see a local news anchor in the audience (or whatever it’s called). Figured it was a really slow news day. We gave the judge our decision, and he set a date for sentencing, at which point the defendant’s lawyer stood and said that date wouldn’t work because the defendant would be in Broward county on trial for murdering the man who’d owned the stereo.
    We were glad we’d given the guilty verdict.

  13. I’ve only been in the jury box. Some of those dignified judges and attorneys would not be amused by some of the things we said about them and their competence. One defense attorney was gobsmacked by a plot twist everyone else saw coming because of the pointed questions of the District Attorney during cross-examining the person on trial. (The defendant crawled through a woman’s window and raped her, but he claimed they were friends, and she’d invited him in. He gave a long description of a boozy date he’d had with her. Plot twist: She was allergic to alcohol and couldn’t drink.)

    The only laughter I’ve heard in the jury box during a trial was one of the jurors raising his hand and telling the judge he couldn’t hear the defendant. The problem wasn’t the volume, it was the defendant’s thick local Southern accent, and the juror’s lack of one. One juror whispered, “Yankee,” and the other jurors snickered.

    • I’ve seen and heard of many cases where the defendant/accused took the stand and got blown apart for lying.

      Speaking of accents, Marilynn, we have a Canadian sub-species called Newfoundlanders whose accents are almost impossible to understand – especially if they’re drunk which they usually are.

  14. Thank you, Garry! I now have my blog post for next Tuesday–getting my readers to guess which one of the four stories in the post is not true. My problem will be coming up with one as good as the true ones! Actually, I’ll be able to get two posts out of this. 🙂
    And thanks for my morning laugh!

  15. Thanks for the humor. Sometimes you wonder how these people function.

    I’ve sat on several juries, but the first time I was called ended up in the humorous category.

    My husband of six months was a Patrol Sergeant for the Sheriff’s Dept. Being a small town, all the judges and lawyers knew him. Some fondly, some not. In the case I was called for, the defense attorney wanted me off the jury, big time.

    He asked me, “Do you believe you can be impartial and judge only on the evidence?

    ” I Can.”

    Unhappy with that response he continued to grill me in a similar manner for over 20 minutes.

    Finally in exasperation he asked, “If you were in my client’s place, looking at yourself as a potential juror, how would you feel”

    Told to be honest, I replied, “Nervous.”

    When the laughter subsided, the Judge thanked me for appearing and excused me.

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