Check Out This Cross Examination
Officer, have you ever attended FLETC?
Tell the jury what FLETC is.
So you're familiar with Sally's Cop Shop located right at FLETC's entrance?
It's a retail store that caters to local and federal law enforcement, correct?
You wouldn't shop at a business you thought advocated unethical or illegal conduct, would you?
Showing you defense exhibit A, what does it say?
[Officer reads t-shirt - "BADGES? WE DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' BADGES!"]
This item is prominently displayed and sold at Sally's Cop Shop, isn't it?
Showing you defense exhibit B, what does it say?
[Officer reads t-shirt - "OFFICER, WHAT DID YOU FEEL WHEN YOU SHOT THAT MAN? RECOIL." shown with armed SWAT guy in tactical dress and riot shield.]
Explain to the jury what "recoil" means, officer.
Please read defense exhibit C.
[Officer reads t-shirt, "TACTICS ARE NICE, BUT... VIOLENCE RULES THE DAY." shown with SWAT guys in tactical dress before a waving American flag.]
All these items are prominently displayed in a store that you support with your business, isn't that correct?
A store that caters to the tastes of law enforcement officers?
No further questions for this officer and Sally's Cop Shop customer, Your Honor.
More Clever Quips
Don't get me started on the additional cross examination the defense could do on the Constitution and the American flag in Exhibit C.
Here's more ammo for the defense:
- TWO TO THE CHEST, ONE TO THE HEAD. WE LIKE 'EM ALIVE BUT WE'LL TAKE 'EM DEAD, circling a silhouette target.
- THIS AIN'T MY FIRST RODEO shown with officer in tactical dress.
- WE'RE THE BIGGEST STREET GANG IN AMERICA. WE'RE THE POLICE. [When Cultures Clash – Strategies for Strengthening Police-Community Relations, Daniel P. Carlson, p. 72 (2005).]
- HAPPINESS IS... A GREEN LIGHT. [On a SWAT team’s t-shirt. "Green light" in this context usually means authorization to use deadly force. When Cultures Clash at 72.]
- WE DON'T LIKE YOU! WE DON'T TRUST YOU. WE NEVER HAVE. WE NEVER WILL. circling a silhouette target.
- The "WE" in this statement is law enforcement, isn't it, officer?
- And the "YOU" isn't limited to people who have been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury, is it?
- So this "YOU" could include people like the ladies and gentleman of this jury?
Don't expect a "relevance" objection to save an officer here. Federal and state case law has long established that a witness can be impeached on the issue of bias. [Trials: Strategy, Skills, And the New Powers of Persuasion, Thomas A. Mauet, p. 214 (2004).] Judges allow wide latitude in this area.
The defense attorney is going to be allowed to cross examine an officer about beliefs or attitudes he might hold or have expressed which the defense can argue might have affected how he conducted himself or an investigation. How do you think Mark Fuhrman got crossed at length on his use of the "N" word?
And don't expect a prosecutor to touch this on re-direct. What's the officer going to say? "Just kidding"?
Funny Is As Funny Does
Gallows humor arises from stressful, traumatic or life-threatening situations. It can have a liberating effect amongst folks who share the stressful situations. But context is everything. Minorities can poke fun at themselves or refer to themselves in racial terms that when used by others are incendiary. We can gripe about our family, but heaven help the outsider that disrespects our Momma.
This isn't about fairness. It's about people's subjective realities. I once worked as a live-in group home counselor in a community residence for mentally retarded (an acceptable term back then) adults. At a party, I joked about writing a book called, "Blood, Sweat and 'Tards." After the laughter, a young man quietly remarked, "My sister's retarded." Ouch.
You're right - citizens don't understand your job, and a defense attorney is going to be arguing to a citizen jury,