A MURDER CASE I DIDN’T WANT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES: A true story.
After I left the District Attorney’s office I was sought out by many persons that I had prosecuted.
A man came to my office once asking me to defend his son who was in the County jail charged with a homicide. From the facts I thought it was a perfect case for the death penalty. He had no defense to the charges.
The man said, “I’ll pay you $10,000 to defend my son.” That was tempting but I still declined to take the case. The man, sorely disappointed, left.
I had business at the courthouse and when I returned, I checked the fee ledger and I saw: “John Doe – paid $10,000 for James Clark to defend John Doe, Jr.”
I learned that my partner had taken the money on my behalf when I was gone. So, I was hooked. It terrified me.
Jury trial started and I was so incredibly worried since I had no defense to the charges. I noticed a newspaper reporter nearby who I knew was friends with the prosecutor. So, within her earshot, I loudly asked a friend of mine who was an attorney: ”Bill, how many rebuttal witnesses will the judge allow in this case?”
I then saw the reporter hustle down to the prosecutor’s office no doubt to tell him what she had heard me ask my attorney friend. So, the prosecutor decided on a new trial strategy: Call one or two witnesses and then rest the state’s case. Anticipating that I would call a passel of witnesses for the defendant, he’d then hit me with critical witnesses who would convince the jury that the defendant was guilty. (He had qualified the jury for the death penalty.)
Sure enough, he called only a couple of witnesses who didn’t really testify of any incriminating evidence against the defendant.
So, when he rested the state’s case, I did the same. He turned to me and whispered, “Damn you! You just walked him!”
Sure enough, the jury, with no credible evidence, acquitted the defendant.
So, I damned sure earned that $10,000.
-james a clark