This time Erickson comes back swinging. "Your Honor," he says, "Mr. Daley is intentionally mischaracterizing the circumstances surrounding this vicious attack."
Yes, I am.
He points a finger at Terrence and adds, "The defendant struck Mr. Harper with a deadly weapon."
He was doing pretty well for a while, but now he's overplaying his hand. It's a common rookie mistake-especially in front of a smart judge like Betsy McDaniel. I read the expression on her face and keep my mouth shut. She gives Erickson an irritated look and says, "What deadly weapon did he use?"
I was hoping she was going to ask.
Erickson realizes he's in trouble. He lowers his voice and says, "The chicken."
Game over. One might say Andy's goose-or chicken-is cooked. Judge McDaniel gives him a quizzical look when she asks, "Are you suggesting a chicken is a deadly weapon?"
Unfortunately for Andy, he just did. He has no choice. "Yes, Your Honor."
I say to the judge, "Your Honor, with all due respect to Mr. Erickson, when I read the Penal Code, a chicken is not a deadly weapon, and assault with a deadly chicken is not a crime."
I catch the hint of a grin from the judge.
Andy tries again. "The defendant was a professional boxer," he says. "He was known as Terrence 'the Terminator' Love."
Judge McDaniel's stomach is growling. She points her gavel at him and says, "So?"
"In the hands of a trained fighter, even a seemingly innocuous item such as a chicken can be deadly. Some states have gone so far as to provide that the hands of a licensed boxer can be construed as lethal weapons."
"California isn't one of them," I interject. "Our statute is silent on the issue and there are no California cases holding that the hands of a professional boxer are deadly per se. In fact, there are California cases that hold that hands and feet are not deadly weapons."
Erickson says, "In the hands of a former boxer, even the smallest item can be deadly."
Judge McDaniel gives me a thoughtful look and says, "There is some authority to support Mr. Erickson's position under current California law. If I hit you with my gavel, it would hurt, but it's unlikely that I could inflict serious damage. Given your client's size and strength, the same cannot be said for him."
True enough. I hope she isn't going to put her theory to a test by handing her gavel to the Terminator. I start to weave. "Your Honor," I say, "the cases have construed certain items, such as guns, knives, chains and tire irons, as inherently deadly. Other objects must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the circumstances of their use and the size and strength of the person holding them."
She isn't buying it. "Your client is a trained fighter who weighs over three hundred pounds. What's your point?"
"Other factors should be taken into consideration."
"There's a reason he's no longer boxing."
"And that would be?"
"He wasn't very good at it."
"Objection, Your Honor," Erickson says. "Relevance."
I show a patient smile. "Your Honor," I say, "Mr. Erickson's position turns on the issue of whether a chicken became a deadly weapon in my client's hands." I turn to the Terminator and say, "Would you please tell the judge your record as a boxer?"
He gives her a sheepish look and says, "Zero and four."
I feign incredulity. "Really? You fought only four times and you never won a fight?"
His high-pitched voice is childlike when he says, "That's correct."
"Did you ever manage to knock anybody down?"
"No. I have soft hands."
"What does that mean?"
From Final Verdict by Sheldon Siegel, copyright © 2003 Sheldon Siegel, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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