Overcoming Tough Issues in Trial, a Series


Where should the lawyer begin?

People are asking questions like, “How did you overcome a .14 breath test?” I want to give them an answer, but I can’t do it quickly because it involves a combination of my life experiences. Many of which involve many other lawyers and friends along the journey or what Greg Westfall refers to as the “Process of Life”.

Why do I write this for anyone to read? Why spend the time to get this right? I feel a need to share what others have given me. With it, comes my need to fight the knaves that surely will come. I thank my friend, David Guinn, for sharing the poem “IF” by Rudyard Kipling. I especially relate to the part about “If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken, Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools”. Sometimes, the truth will strike a chord in us that will cause a reaction. It could be that any reaction is better than none. We can all learn from each other in this world, but we have to be open. Open to the possibility that there is more to this life than just going through the motions and merely existing until we die. Similarly, there can be, and should be, more to a trial than just going through the motions. I’ve learned from so many lawyers over the years and, at 50 years old, I still know there is much more to learn and that I don’t know it all. We, as lawyers, have the opportunity to make change in this world even if it is only one jury at a time. We have the ability to change clients, judges, prosecutors, jurors, and ourselves.

It is a little embarrassing to admit that this case was only my second trial with a breath test result above .14 in twelve (12) years. Well, admittedly, I’m not one of the self-proclaimed DWI Kings, or Dudes. Yes, I struggle with sarcasm, but truth is also important to me. Lawyers like Gary Trichter and Troy McKinney have paved the way and taught many of us how to win these, as well as other types of cases. They did it with passion and hard work, not slogans. As with respect, they’ve earned it and don’t have a need to demand it or sell anyone. For me, trying only, or mainly, DWI cases would become dull and boring, and I would lose the passion required to be effective. If it is only about the money, then we probably ought to do something different with the life given to us. To be effective, we have to invest ourselves, which requires our heart. As Gerry Spence says, “To win, you have to put it all in”.

When I first heard the phrase, they were just words that sounded good and right. Just like when he said, “It all begins with me”. I struggled with the phrase. It sounded so cocky and arrogant to me, until I realized it wasn’t “about” me. It begins with me, or us, because we have to know ourselves. I have to know why I am the way I am before I can be self-aware of what is happening with me and why. Knowing ourselves is also necessary in understanding others (the jury). I know that where it begins is probably deeper, but let’s begin with us. We have to find a way to explore or examine ourselves.

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One Response to “Overcoming Tough Issues in Trial, a Series”

  1. patrick r norha Says:

    When we try to discover or examine our true selfs we often feel like we failed, fell short, or are still being less than honest with ourselves. I attribute this to self-examination being mainly a 3rd-person, rather than 1st-person approach [walking in my own shoes, and then asking myself how I feel, or felt when I did this or that, and why do I suppose this is the case]–maybe its a lack of thoroughness, laziness, or of just being aware. In any event I think a start is just asking these simple questions of myself, of being in the 1st-person.

    When I try to put myself in an other’s moccasins and imagine how s(he) feels, given the circumstances, I realize the feelings and experiences that I bring to the table and are used to create feelings, emotions, and empathy are mine and not those of the moccasins’ owner.

    If only it was so easy when my own moccasins are the ones needing filling. Psychodrama helps to get the job done–but as I understand it, there is no one big circumstance, if solved or illuminated by psychodrama, that will open once and forever how to travel all future paths, which the mocassins happen to choose–but it will be a start.

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