Alex Teach Image
I was up in that little box, next to the judge but below him, near the jury, but up from them. And directly across from practically everyone.
The defense attorney was pacing nearby, the cold fluorescent lights making him appear as sickly neutral as everyone else in this room where air didn’t seem to move and the possibility of a fart was, alas, no longer funny, but rather a source of fear at its mere possibility. (My cheeks remained rigid “just in case”, even though there wasn’t the first sign of bodily eruption; such was the pressure of it possibly happening.)
The attorney’s pacing stopped, and he rounded on me with one hand held in the small of his back, the other caressing his chin with two fingers. “Your name, officer?” he inquired.
I looked into the audience for my partner (an officer I’d known since the academy and one with whom I’d shared many adventures) and upon making eye contact, he slowly nodded, prompting me to quite distinctly lean forward and utter my name into the thin, “Price is Right” microphone. “Officer Alex Teach,” I said, leaning back. I glanced back at my partner for approval, which was granted with the slow blink of his eyes.
The attorney observed this wordlessly, and continued. “And how long have you been with the police department?” I paused and again sought my partner’s face before I slowly leaned forward again and answered, “Three years.” Another slow blink on his part. The attorney noticed, and again said nothing.
“OK,” he said, this time shifting an unintentional glance back at my partner as he walked towards me. “So you were assigned by dispatch on the night in question to answer a call at my client’s address in the Winterhaven subdivision. Is that correct?” I paused, made eye contact with my partner, and now counted to three before leaning forward, glancing both left and right before I ultimately said, “Uh, that’s correct.” My partner again slowly closed his eyes.
The defense attorney now looked from my partner to me and squinted. “Had you ever been to this address before?” he asked. I looked over, subtly nodded, and paused again before leaning forward, counting to three, and saying, “Uh…that’s correct.”
“Officer,” the defense attorney said. “Is there something of interest in the audience we should know about? Something you’d maybe like to share?” I allowed my eyes to grow large, then again sought out my partner’s gaze (he showed nothing) and leaned forward, counting to three, before saying, “Uh…that’s negative.” I said this uncomfortably close to the mic as I had been doing all along. My voice sounded incompetent, but it was awkwardly booming; the attorney again squinted his eyes and his jaws now visibly flexed.
Success. The hook, as they say, had been set.
Any question, no matter how mundane (and of course the more mundane, the better), needs only a subtle pause to throw off someone’s pace. A good attorney knows what he or she is going to say, how to get you to give them that opportunity, and he or she is prepared to capitalize on any opportunities that present themselves during the course of questioning.
A bad attorney also knows what he or she is going to say but isn’t so good with this seizing of opportunities because they are so focused on their script, and as such are often victims (if not slaves) to it. And in this? I considered it an opportunity. (For what, I had no real idea.)
Being a charitable fellow and also an eternal teacher at heart, I believed I was pre-determined to “help” them by destroying any semblance of rhythm on their part. Best-case scenario, I help them; worst case, I don’t, but at least leave amused as shit. And in reality, I usually left amused as shit either way. (The goal of course being to get them to be less reliant on their script, but now that I look back on it…it was clearly just another way of f#%*ing off and in the boldest of areas.)
“Officer, are you screwing around with me here?” the attorney said, and now the judge finally showed signs of life at this aggression.
I paused, looked into the audience…then leaned in, and said, “Uh, that’s negative.” This time I looked over at the judge, frowned, and shrugged my shoulders…the epitome of innocent-stage-struck-new-cop, which solicited compassion from the judge who now intervened…but on my behalf, to the further annoyance of the defense attorney who by now couldn’t remember what he’d eaten for breakfast, much less his strategy.
Three minutes into testimony: I was, indeed, amused.