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The Lawyer is In

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The ancient Egyptians were known to use amulets and other forms of magic in order to obtain favorable results in litigation.  Over the succeeding millennia, nothing has really changed. As a lawyer, you want to do more for your client; you are always looking for an edge over the opposition. Boys, at least, are taught how to “game” systems from an early age. This used to be called “cheating,” but as Lao Tzu said, “there is no war without deception” so too can there be no litigation without lies. This may seem counterintuitive given that the courts are dedicated to the pursuit of truth, but nothing can be further from the truth. No one wants to the truth. Litigants only want to win. It used to be that the prosecutor had the additional duty of “doing justice,” but this idea long ago fell into disfavor. When the post of prosecutor became a career in and of itself rather than part of a career the temptation to win at all costs became paramount.

With these thoughts in mind, I once found myself at five am on a cold December morning at the federal court on Fort Street in Detroit. In a plastic bag I carried a cow’s tongue which had been wrapped in barbed wire. The santeria priest had assured my client that this amulet would prevent any witnesses from testifying against him. All we had to do was place it somewhere near the entrance to the courthouse. While I placed the tongue, my client went around the courthouse spreading a powder that had also been endowed, so we were assured, with magical properties. I am not sure exactly what the powder was supposed to do, but I figured that it couldn’t hurt.

There is no mystery to the drug deal. All drug deals consist of only three components: price, quality and terms of delivery. Despite this simplicity, we were in trial for a month. Despite the bound cow’s tongue and the powder made of ground up bones (or so it was said), the witnesses came and testified against my client. The key witness later changed his story, so I suppose the tongue had some effect after all. But it was harder to explain a phone call from the master bedroom of my client’s residence to Medellin, Colombia. The jury was out for one week, deliberating. On the fourth day of deliberations, the prosecutor offered my client a five-year prison term. He said “no.” The orishas, his deities, would not fail him. Of this he was absolutely sure.

The jury was out for one more day. He was convicted. In retrospect, his gods hadn’t failed him; they were simply unwilling to give him as much as he wanted. He was offered a gift, and he refused it. The judge sentenced him to twenty years in prison, as if that would have any affect on the narcotics trade at all.

Later, I visited him in prison in Milan, Michigan. I asked him if he still practiced his religion.

Ya no creo en esto, he said. I don’t believe in that anymore.

Written by mokane

December 10, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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