Monday, September 23, 2013

Trial and Travail

Trial.  It is always a wonderfully bad experience.  Sweet bitterness.  Beautiful torture.  Horrific….well, you get the idea.  Trial is one of those things like High School or Basic Training.  When you’re in it, you can’t wait for it to be over.  When it’s over, you love telling the stories and wouldn't mind being back there again.  I mean it wasn't really THAT bad was it?

A trial is the apex of our judicial process.  It is a modern take on the gladiatorial arena.  We indulge the almost mystical belief that when information is thrown in to the crucible of two adversarial attorneys testing every fact with the fire of passionate advocacy, the truth alone will sit glowing and refined in the ashes of all falsehood.  While there may be no final death blow, lives definitely hang in the balance.  It is not just the defendant, but the victim, the families of both and the friends who love them who will be forever impacted by what happens.

Trial can also be funny.  In jury selection I've had jurors discuss everything from breaking and entering in the Philippines  to having their hot air balloon stolen (in what must have been the sloooowest getaway ever).  In our last trial, counsel ceased being adversaries and became professional colleagues for long enough to swear in the former law clerk now lawyer who’s Bar exam results had just been released… and then resumed waiting for a verdict.  Misplaced exhibits, lawyers getting the flop sweats, technology never working like it did two minutes ago before the jury walked in; all of it adds to the drama that is a trial.

My co-counsel and I had one go our way last week.  It was a tough case, but in the end, the jury did the right thing and convicted.  A trial victory is always a great feeling.  It is perhaps even more so when you think the lawyering might have actually made a difference (likely a rarer occurrence than we lawyers like to think).  Even then it is hard to wax triumphant.  Justice has been served, the victim is safer, and the defendant is headed for a much deserved prison term, but the family is still a wreck, the crime still happened, and all are left to deal with the aftermath as best they can.

Thus are the vagaries of trial.  On to the next one, we go.  The crucible awaits.

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