Yesterday, I watched a criminal jury trial: a lady accused of passing a counterfeit bill. The trial was unusual from the start–A veritable feast of femininity: Female defendant, female judge, female court reporter, female prosecutors, female public defender; and (as usual) most of the jury were women.
The give and take was . . . let us say . . . spirited. Meow.
But that wasn’t the best part. I was allowed to observe one of those rare phenomena, like witnessing a plane crash or the birth of a volcano, which many will never encounter except on television.
The defense attorney was taking the state’s witness to task for his perceived shortcomings and those of the state’s evidence. She bullied. She ridiculed. Rhetorical questions riddled the poor cop like machine gun bullets, as her remorseless cross-examination morphed into a closing argument. And it went on and on, until the prosecutor finally broke in:
- “Objection. She’s badgering the witness.” [Did I hear that right? Tell me she said “Badgering the witness!” I was in heaven. I had never witnessed the use that colorful arrow from the prosecutor’s arsenal, at least not in front of a jury]
And with that official encouragement, the able public defender ratcheted up the abuse. We were all suffering now. I was afraid the witness might turn his gun on himself if it didn’t stop soon. I suspect that even a two-second ride on the taser would have done him in at that point. Again, the prosecutor:
- “Objection. She’s badgering the witness again.”
Gutsy, I thought. The court takes an extra moment to consider. Reasonable persons would agree–I think–that “badgering” is an umbrella term covering more specific objections such as:
- “Objection: argumentative,”
- “Objection: asked and answered,” and even:
- “Judge, if she’s going to testify, why don’t we just swear her in!”
And so the court ruled, this time the other way:
But it did not matter to me which way it went, for I had experienced a real, live “badgering the witness,” objection not once, but twice. I couldn’t be more delighted if I’d discovered the last living dodo.