I was reminded the other day of my very first felony trial, some years back. My client was charged with aggravated assault upon police and he decided to waive his right to a jury.
Unbeknownst the District Attorney (but knownst to me), my client’s right hand was paralyzed due to a prior car accident. Now, the police officer in his report stated that my client punched him in the face – that was the assault – and of course my client denied it.
The trial begins for Aggravated Assault Upon Police. The DA leads the cop through the incident, culminating in the officer testifying that my client had punched him in the face with his right hand! Well, at this point, I was pretty darn excited and couldn’t wait to begin my cross-examination.
Officer, you said my client punched you in the face? -yes
And that was with his right hand? -yes
When you say punch, do you mean a slap, or do you mean a punch? -a punch
So, he made his hand into a fist? -yes, that’s what a punch means, counsel.
Did you actually see his fingers curl into a fist? -yes, yes, that’s what I said
By this time, the officer was getting frustrated with me. Little did he know what was about to happen.
I asked no more questions, the government rested, I called my client.
Show the judge your right hand, I said. When my client complied, I saw confusion cross the judge’s face, her eyebrows knotted, and she cocked her head to say: “it looks like he doesn’t have knuckles!”
Why does it look like you don’t have knuckles, I asked.
Well, my client said, my hand has been paralyzed for ten years. I can’t make a fist or move it in any way, so the lines that normal people have on their knuckles, I just don’t have ’em.
Do you have any medical proof of this?
Why yes, Your Honor. Here are five hundred pages of medical records.