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The Halls of Justice - Part II
by Andy McNeil

Enjoy more cases from Judge Andy McNeil’s halls of justice!

CASE #13 In another courtroom incident, an out of town attorney appeared in court to represent his client in a “show cause” matter for failing to pay child support as ordered in an earlier hearing. The attorney was not freshly shaven, his tie bore gravy stains and was loose about his neck, his shirt was wrinkled and his suit looked as if he had slept in it. By contrast, his young athletically built client was dressed in what appeared to be a tailored three piece suit and carried his own briefcase.

During the hearing the bailiff was sitting on the opposite side of the courtroom and had fallen into a deep sleep. At the end of the hearing the Judge found the offending litigant to be in contempt and ordered him confined in jail until he purged himself by becoming current on the child support obligation.

After several attempts, the attorneys in attendance aroused the Bailiff from his sleep, and in a confused state, the bailiff mistook the attorney for the offending client and began placing handcuffs on him. The attorney naturally resisted and the more the attorney argued with the bailiff the rougher the bailiff handled him. It took several efforts from the by-standing attorneys to convince the Bailiff that he was taking the wrong man into custody. It was later reported that the Judge was attempting to conceal a huge grin during the entire incident.

CASE #14 The Respondent/father’s first wife, and the mother of their four children, filed a petition to obtain custody very soon after the Respondent terminated his fourth marriage. In addition to the mother of the children, two of the Respondent’s former wives were present in the courtroom to support the mother and one of them was taking shorthand notes for the former wife who could not attend.

During her testimony, the first wife, and mother of the children, raised the issue of fitness for custody because the Respondent had three unsuccessful marriages after their divorce. Later, the same issue was raised during the Respondent’s testimony.

The Respondent began by testifying that the mother of the children abandoned the family relationship for her present husband and willfully gave him custody of the children so that she could be free to follow her new husband to his out of state location.

The Respondent went on to testify that his pastor and friends suggested that he seek a good “church going” woman to marry and help him raise the children. As he was concluding his answer he raised his arm and pointed toward the two former wives sitting side by side in the courtroom and stated that he had followed the advise and sought good “church going” women to mother his children and those ex-wives were what taking the advise had gotten him.

CASE #15 Court reporters use very sensitive recording systems to make their records and most of those systems are capable of picking up conversations at a great distance from the microphones. It is the general practice of the reporters to leave the recording systems operating from the time the system is set up until it is removed because the reporters never know when something will be said, or done, that is important to the record.

During a pre-trial deposition in an attorney’s conference room, the parties took a break and the court reporter left the conference room to make copies of several documents that had been submitted.

While the reporter was absent, one of the persons in the room began telling the others about a rumored affair that the court reporter was supposedly having and went in great detail. A few days later the reporter was preparing a transcript of the proceedings and heard the entire conversation. The reporter did not file the threatened lawsuit but a few weeks later was observed driving a new automobile.

CASE #16 During another court recess, a married attorney quietly eased up to the desk where an attractive young female court clerk was sitting and the two of them began to quietly discuss the amorous relationship that they had the night before, then continued to make plans for their next tryst. They were unaware of the fact that the reporter’s microphone was immediately next to them and that the system was recording their conversation.

CASE #17 One of the stranger criminal cases involved the sexual assault of a young woman where the assailant wore a ski mask that completely concealed his face but the victim was able to tell the criminal investigator that the assailant had a “tweety bird” tattooed on his penis.

Word of the unusual set of circumstances got out quickly in the legal circles and the investigator was quizzed unmercifully as to how he planed to conduct an “identification line up” if he did find a suspect. Finally, an arrest was made and after the Prosecuting Attorney obtained a court order for a photograph of the “bird” the suspect confessed his guilt.

CASE #18 Female attorneys have added a new dimension to courtroom situations and this event is worthy of relating. While most female attorneys dress in business type attire, there is one attractive young female attorney who always wears feminine clothing and usually ankle length garments.

During a trial she was seated at the counsel’s table with her client when something happened that caused to rise quickly to voice her objection. She had failed to notice that her skirt had become penned under the front leg of her chair and as she rose and started toward the bench a loud ripping noise was heard and the skirt was torn from her waist and lay openly on the floor.

As she stood red-faced before everyone in the courtroom in her slip, she calmly turned to the Judge and asked permission to retire long enough to repair the damaged garment. The Judge, along with everyone else in the courtroom, was laughing so hard that the recess was necessary for them to regain their composure.

Case #19 Nobody can predict what a jury will do on any given day or under any given set of circumstances. One of the best examples was an “open-and-shut criminal case where the father of a needy family was accused of sealing and butchering one of his neighbor’s pigs.

The jury was selected and seated and the State easily proved the case. The Defendant sat quietly in the courtroom in his clean, but tattered, overalls. His wife and children were present throughout the proceedings and the concern and closeness of the family was obvious. The Prosecuting Attorney had little trouble providing the jury with a solid case but it was obvious that he, along with everyone else, pitied the defendant and his family.

The jury deliberated for a short period of time and announced that they had reached a verdict. Once the jury was seated, the Judge asked if the jury had selected a Foreman and when he received an affirmative answer ascertained that the jury had reached a unanimous verdict.

The Foreman was then asked to hand the verdict form to the Bailiff who in turned delivered it to the Judge. The Judge checked the item for form and returned it to the Bailiff who in turn handed it to the Foreman to be read aloud for the record. With the Defendant standing, the Foreman read the verdict stating that the jury had found the Defendant not guilty.

The Judge freed the Defendant and turned to the jury to thank them for their service and to dismiss them when he noticed considerable whispering and discussion among the still seated members of the jury panel. It appeared that all of the activity was directed toward the Foreman and it was obvious that the remaining jury members were not through with the case and that they were directing the Foreman to do something. The Judge waited until the activity settled down then asked the Forman if there was more.

The Foreman responded by telling the Judge that the jury had something that they wanted him to say to the Defendant. The situation was unusual but the verdict had been delivered and the trial was over so not harm could come of it. After ascertaining that neither attorney objected, the Judge gave his permission.

The Foreman stood proudly erect and looked the Defendant straight in the eye and said, “We let you off this time but you ain’t going to be this lucky if this jury every catches you stealing another hog.” As the Foreman concluded the admonition, the remaining jurors were looking directly at the Defendant and nodding their heads as if in complete agreement.

CASE #20. There was a child custody case in which the Respondent had three “co-wives” and each wife had born children by him ranging from infants to early teens. All three of the “co-wives” were heavily insured with policies payable to the Respondent. One of the “wives” died in a single car accident where she, as the driver, intentionally or accidentally, struck a bridge abutment at a high rate of speed. The insurance company paid the death claim without hesitation.

A second “co-wife,” pregnant at the time, died in an almost identical accident a few months later where she too was the driver and the only person in the automobile. The insurance company did not pay the second claim as quickly as the first, citing the unique similarities. While attempting to collect the insurance proceeds, the Respondent filed suit against the deceased “co wife’s” estate on behalf of the unborn child in a wrongful death action.

The third “co-wife” quickly decided to leave the family unit and return to her parent’s home in the New England area where she sought both legal and psychiatric help. She later returned to obtain sole custody for the protection of her children and for visitation for her children with their siblings. The Respondent was notified of the hearing but absented himself and did not appear. The mother’s psychiatrist, at his own expense, traveled from the New England area to testify in the hearing.

Among the things that he testified to was the fact that the children that he had counseled were highly intelligent and well educated, but they all had the same speech dialect causing him to believe that they had absolutely no contact with anyone other than immediate family members. He also testified that the case was so unusual that he was preparing a learned article of the facts and his findings for his association’s journal.

CASE #21 In a not-too-bright family, one brother traded his wife to another brother for a used automobile. The trade went sour when the brother, who gave up the vehicle, found that he received a pregnant woman in the trade and insisted on setting the deal aside.

CASE #22 In another family unit and during a family gathering, the Alpha male became so angry at one of his son-in-laws that he decided to do away with him. The Alpha male picked up his loaded shotgun and went outside the house with the intention of ambushing the son-in-law through one of the home’s open windows. As he stood outside the house aiming the shotgun at the intended victim, one of the Alpha male’s sons, still inside the house, unknowingly stepped between the muzzle of the gun and the intended victim thus receiving the full fatal blast of the shotgun.

CASE #23 One bright sunny afternoon law enforcement agencies received a report advising them that a young adult male was perched on the rail of a bridge spanning a lock and dam of the Arkansas River threatening to jump. Entering the river at this point would have certainly been fatal because of the hydraulics of the waters passing through the gates.

Among the officers dispatched to the scene was a very experienced and attractive female officer. When she arrived at the scene she found the young man on the rail of the bridge and another officer, who was a marital arts expert, trying to talk him down from the rail without success.

The female officer slowly moved to the far side of the other officer and engaged the intended jumper in conversation. As she talked, she began to slowly unbutton the blouse of her uniform exposing a bit of cleavage. Within a short period of time the young man was so engrossed in what she was doing that he forgot about the officer behind him who managed to snatch him from the railing and throw him onto the safe area of the bridge.

CASE #24 In a small town in Northern Arkansas, a young mother had divorced her husband and given him custody of their children so that she might leave the area and marry a man on active duty with the United States Army. At a later date the custodial father sought child support from the mother and the mother responded by filing a petition to obtain custody of the couple’s children.

On the day of the hearing, the mother’s new husband brought several of his fellow non commissioned officers with him to testify on their behalf. They appeared very neat in fresh starched uniforms in the courtroom.

When the custodial father’s female attorney began her cross examination of the first uniformed witness she concentrated on the location of the witness’s duty station and what type of documents he carried to permit him to travel such a great distance from his assigned post. She went on to question the witness about specific military travel regulations, their applicable forms and their uses.

It quickly became apparent that the father’s attorney was knowledgeable of the subject and within a short period of time the witness admitted that he was in violation of Army travel regulations punishable by monetary fines, confinement and reduction in rank.

As the father’s attorney continued her questioning of the witness, the mother’s remaining uniformed witnesses slowly and quietly eased out the back door of the courtroom and were never seen again. Some time later the mother’s witnesses discovered that in this small town Arkansas courtroom they had run into a Reserve Field Grade Officer with the Judge Advocate Branch of the United States Army.

Case #24 A very tall patrol officer, in uniform and in a well marked patrol car, made a traffic stop of an elderly female driver one sunny afternoon. When he approached the car on the driver’s side he noticed that both the driver, and her passenger, were obviously dressed for an afternoon social function but also noticed that both ladies were extremely reluctant to look in his direction and continued to look away from him.

The officer conducted his business and issued the driver a “warning ticket” which did not impose a financial penalty.

He was concerned about their apparent shyness but assumed that it was a result of the traffic stop until he returned to his patrol car to sit down when he noticed that the fly to his trousers was completely unzipped.

CASE #25 A very attractive and intelligent fourth year female college student was irate over the fact that her grandfather had not provided for her to receive a portion of his estate on his death and employed the law firm where she was working part-time to contest the distribution of the assets of the estate. The young lady was planning to apply for entrance to the University’s law school upon graduation from college.

Things did not go well for her in the Court’s distribution of her grandfather’s assets and without the knowledge of her attorney/employer she prepared a phony order of distribution vesting a sum to her and forged the Judge’s signature to the order. The forgery was so similar to the Judge’s signature that it was taken for authentic and not discovered until after one of the attorneys called the Judge to inquire as to why he had signed and had filed an order contrary the ruling he had delivered in open court.

A State Police investigation was initiated and the document expert from the State Crime Lab determined that she had committed a forgery. She had received nothing from the estate at that time so theft was involved. Her attorney/employer fired her and withdrew as her legal counsel in all matters.

She was charged with the criminal act of forgery and a jury trial date set. No one in the legal community wanted a person of this type to obtain a license to practice law and one sure way of preventing it was to convict her of the forgery felony.

During the trial the Prosecuting Attorney became concerned that she was making a sympathetic impression on the jury and might receive an acquittal.

His tactics changed, and in his closing arguments, withdrew all requests for fines and imprisonment and simply asked the panel to find her guilty of the crime of forgery to prevent her from ever practicing law.

The jury willingly complied.

Wait! Have you read Part I of this article?
Click here to read page 1 of Andy McNeil’s “Halls of Justice”!

Be sure to read Andy's account of his service in the Korean War.


Andy McNeil served as Chancery Judge for the Twentieth Arkansas Judicial District and now acts as a Retired Judge on Assignment. He is a Life Member of the Arkansas Judicial Council.


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