Friday, June 26, 2009

Perry Mason's Last Case

"Sonia Sotomayor's (SS) ascent to the nation's highest court began in a Bronx housing project, fed by Nancy Drew, inspired by Perry Mason and encouraged by her hardworking mother. ... She got her first taste of the law as she buried herself in Nancy Drew books, but it was an episode of Perry Mason [PM] that provded the defining moment in Sotomayor's childhood. Watching the camera settle on the judge at the end of an episode, she immediately realized that 'he was the most important player in that room,' [SS] said in a 1998 interview", Larry Newmeister, at the Houston Chronicle, 27 May 2009, link:

"Jeffrey Deskovic heard a TV talk show host announce Preident Obama's nomineee for the Supreme Court last month, and his mind raced. That name; he remembered that name. He emerged from bed and riffled through the boxes of motions, appeals and letters he had accumulated in the 16 years he spent in a New York prison for rape and murder he did not commit. ... The court denied the request because the paperwork had arrrived four days late. ... Deskovic spent six more years behind bars, until DNA found in the victim not only cleared him, but connected another man to the crime. ... Habeas corpus petitions are rarely granted. ... A 2007 report by Vanderbilt University Law School and the National Center for State Courts, for example, showed that out of 2,384 randomly selected habeas corpus petitons filed by state prisoners in noncapital cases in 2003 and 2004, only seven had been granted", Fernanda Santos, 10 June 2009 at

I don't know what PM, 1957-66, show SS watched, but it was a show I didn't. PM's first episode was aired 21 September 1957 at 7:30 PM in New York on CBS, Channel 2. I was hooked, seeing about 267 of the 271 shows made. What did I see? A PM judge was the room's least important person. Who or what was most important? An abstraction, the TRUTH. PM judges were "truth-seekers". I estimate the typical PM judge made six evidentiary rulings, thus I saw about 1,600 "PM bench" rulings, disagreeing with about three of them. PM judges knew their Wigmore, backwards and forwards! I once read, "The most intelligent people discuss ideas. Less intelligent people discuss facts. The least intelligent people discuss people". SS is a member of the last class. Full disclosure: My father was an attorney and pointed out obscure PM features 99+% of its viewers missed. As he said many times, "Number One, you can learn more about how to practice law by watching three episodes of Perry Mason, than spending three years at Harvard Law School". To which I would respond, "Father, you only say that because you didn't attend Harvard Law School". About 30 years ago, I concluded my old man was right having met many Harvard and Yale Law School grads who can't think and don't know the law. I do not want SS confirmed. She's an intellectual lightweight. The "evidence" of SS's intellect is her Ivy League degrees. So? PM link:

Earle Stanley Gardner (ESG) created PM. He was a Ventura County, California criminal defense attorney from 1921 to 1933, a real lawyer. ESG even represented Chinamen in the 1920s. Here's an ESG story. He defended about 20 Chinese laundry owners accused of various misdemeanors. ESG awaits trial. He hears the various arresting policemen testify. Chinaman 1 did this. Chinaman 2 did that, etc., etc., ad nauseaum. ESG asks one question of each arresting officer, pointing, "Is that the man you arrested on XXXXX date"? With a yes, ESG said, "no further questions". When the prosecution rested, ESG moves to dismiss all charges. The judge asks why? ESG says, "incorrect identification". The judge asks, "How do you know? Each officer clearly identified the defendant when you pointed". ESG responds, "Precisely". The judge, "Go on". "About two weeks ago I had each Chinaman change laundrys with another Chinaman. So the Laundry 1's owner ran Laundry 2, 2's owner 3, etc. Believing the police figure 'all Chinamen look the same', I figured the cops would go to the laundries incognito, each to refresh his recollection before trial. They did. Now Chinaman 1, stand. Which laundry do you own, 1 or 2?". Pandamonieum breaks out. The DA is furious, the cops are stunned. ESG says, "I can have each Chinaman testify as to which laundry he owns, and where he was last week and produce dozens of witnesses as to the switch". All 20 Chinaman stand and on cue and face the judge, who says, "All charges dropped". This happened in about 1922 or 1923. Yeah, the PM judge was the most important person in the room. Sure. That's how it's done, "commit and confront". Book suggestion, The Art of Cross Examination, by Francis Wellman, 1904. A classic. A gem. Imagine, you don't even have to go to law school to read it.

Some day make the time, go to an appellate court and listen to cases being heard. You may be shocked with the questions you frequently hear. Many times when judges cannot comprehend a case's substantive issues they find a procedural basis to decline to rule. Note to SS, no PM judge would have made your ruling. The PM judge would have said, "I'm interested in this. I'll allow it. Proceed Mr. Mason". What show did you watch as a kid? I have long thought 99+% of habeas corpus petitons were denied. We recently had a doozy of a Fifth Circuit ruling in such a case. A beaut. Why did our "wise Latina Judge" ruled as she did? Most likely: she saw the defendant's name was not "Jesus DeJesus" and thought, "Privileged white male. Let him rot". This case stinks. It's a "mini Duke Three". SS, may Raymond Burr return from the great beyond and smite you down for defiling his alter ego's name.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Ars longa, vita brevis

Veritas longa, vita brevis

Although maybe they are about the same thing.