I was fortunate to grow up in a household of readers, and not long after they got me past Dick and Jane I discovered the Reader’s Digest. It had a monthly section entitled “Laughter: The Best Medicine,” and those brief items always brought smiles to my face. I still love humorous anecdotes and seek out books filled with them.
Here’s a strong dose of the best medicine for the summer blues, courtesy of the legal profession. These items have been paraphrased from transcripts of actual court cases.
Definition of Terms: “You are now under oath. Do you know what that means?” “Yes, sir. That I am under eighteen.”
Presumed Innocent: “Judge, you said I was presumed innocent, right? Then what am I doing in jail?”
Setting Goals: While standing before a judge, the defendant stated that prior to his arrest for the present offense he had hoped to attend medical school and become a physician. However, he believes that with a felony conviction he will be precluded from reaching that goal. He added; “I am now considering becoming a lawyer.”
From a federal indictment: At approximately 9:00 a.m., the three defendants entered a Coldwell Banker office and attempted to commit a bank robbery. Upon learning that Coldwell Banker is not a bank, the defendants left the premises and drove away looking for a bank to rob.
Self Defense: Upon hearing a defendant state that he wishes to fire his lawyer and defend himself, the judge responds: “All this attorney is doing is trying to see to it that you get a fair hearing.” The defendant replies: “Hey, man, I can send myself to the pen just as good as he can.”
Probation Report: The police report states that the minor sold marijuana to another student at his school. A search of the minor’s home revealed that he was growing marijuana in his bathroom, having told his parents that it was a “science experiment.”
Ignorance as Excuse: “You are charged with receiving stolen property, but you claim there were mitigating circumstances?” “Yes. Somebody brought me a safe they wanted to have opened. I had no idea it was stolen.”
Strange Behavior: “I entered the restaurant to place an order. When the lady asked me for my order, for some reason I just jumped to the window, and I told her to give me the money and she didn’t; so I had a knife and I wasn’t going to hurt her, but I just tried to scare her and she took off running. So I unplugged the cash register and I ran out of the place with it.”
Witness List: “Mr. Prosecutor, do you have a short witness?”
“No, Your Honor, I don’t even have a tall witness.” “Okay, we’ll take our evening recess.”
Time to Prepare: The burglar in this case left behind a black cap, which contained a number of hairs. A search warrant was obtained for a sample of his hair, but the defendant had completely shaved his head. Therefore more time is necessary in order for his hair to grow sufficiently to produce a sample for comparison. This evidence is necessary because the main issue in the case is the identity of the burglar.
Profiling: “You described the defendant as having the appearance of a marijuana cultivator. How do you correlate scruffy hair and marijuana cultivation?” “Well, I’d say the overall appearance of somebody that grows marijuana is normally somebody that’s scruffy.”
While sitting in the waiting room of one of my doctors last week I happened to notice among the magazines I could browse a recent issue of the Reader’s Digest. This was a large print version, and it didn’t take me long to find the section called “Laughter: The Best Medicine.”
Jerry Lincecum is a retired Austin College professor who now teaches older adults to write their autobiographies and family histories. Email him at email@example.com.