John Grindrod: Humor in the courtroom, from a local ‘Deep Throat’


By John Grindrod - Guest Columnist



Recently while reading Carl Sandburg’s definitive biography on Abraham Lincoln, I read something that struck me as funny. It seems in Abe’s lawyerly days, at social gatherings, he often regaled others with entertaining tales from his courtrooms. One relayed by Sandburg was an anecdote about a convicted murderer who happened to be a political ally of the judge. Sympathetic to the convicted, when it came time for the sentencing, the judge, according to Lincoln, adopted a benign demeanor when asking the ill-fated, “When would you like to be hung?”

Aside from the usage error involving the two words “hung” and “hanged” and the accompanying memories of English lessons taught long ago when I told my troops by means providing them a mnemonic device that “pictures are hung, but people are hanged (at least some),” the ironic use of the word “like” lends an air of absurdity to the query that resonates with me on the humor scale.

That prompted me to go out into our community and seek some moments of either unintended or intended legal levity from a couple of my favorite local barristers, one retired and choosing to remain anonymous and another anything but retired or shy or retiring who’ll you’ll know soon. I asked these law practitioners to come up with what they thought were their funniest moments.

As for our local Deep Throat, who had some experiences both as a lawyer and from behind the bench, he offered anecdotes about those accused who were accompanied to court by their moms, with the first anecdote coming from a traffic court session when a young man stood charged with failure to maintain reasonable control when he drove off the road, over a curb, across the sidewalk and into a tree.

Since the weather that day wasn’t adverse and the driver wasn’t impaired, all waited with breaths bated for some sort of explanation.

That explanation came when a peeved mother glared at her offspring and prompted, “Tell the judge!” The young errant motorist dropped his head and recounted dropping something else, a lit cigar in his lap, saying, “I took my eyes off the road to grab the cigar before it burnt the leather upholstery in my dad’s car.”

Our Deep Throat recalls another burlesque instance that occurred when Mom again accompanied her son to court to face charges. During a misdemeanor arraignment one morning, there was the recollection of a muscle-bound mature-looking 17-year-old who entered an admission to the charge he’d solicited an undercover police officer for sexual favors.

As soon as Mom heard the account of her pride and joy’s offering $10 for a certain service rendered, she became enraged yet again, perhaps because the story she’d already heard had to be told to a room full of others, and with the great swing of a weighty arm, knocked her son backward with such force that he bumped into the side of the counselor’s table and hit the courtroom deck.

It took two uniformed police officers to prevent her from, adopting the parlance of mixed-martial-arts fighting, taking it to the ground to continue her progeny pummeling in a room filled with equal parts gasps and guffaws.

A final story my source told me from his long career involved a middle-age man he referred to as Benny, not his real name.

The mid-30s Benny, who had a pretty good job, came to court seeking a reduction in child-support payments. It appeared he was quite active in his carnal activities and actually was paying support for 16 children born to a dozen different women, leaving him with not much in his bucket by month’s end.

Several of the dozen women were more than willing to come to testify that they in no way felt there should be any modification in their amounts, unless, of course, that meant increasing them. However, some other mothers didn’t appear, and it took 18 months to subpoena the rest so judgment could be rendered.

Finally, when all the testimony was heard, the ruling was that there be no reduction of payments. Before one of the hearings during a recess, Benny’s mom was heard to grumble about the injustice of her son’s having to pay so much, telling anyone within earshot in the hall that there were a few other women in other towns and states who also had Benny’s children but were raising their little Bens without child support. Asked how may total children Benny may have fathered, my Deep Throat went philosophical when he said, “Well, as far as real numbers, the nearest we could determine was 24, but if you’re talking about the true meaning of “father” as a verb, I suppose the answer would be none.”

Next week, I’ll let the other shoe drop in search of legal humor, compliments of local attorney Brad Kelley, who’s been practicing in Lima for the past 37 years. Stay tuned for his best!

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By John Grindrod

Guest Columnist

John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at grinder@wcoil.com.

John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at grinder@wcoil.com.

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