Do you remember this Schwab investment TV advertisement? It is comparing a bad stock company to Schwab by portraying some boiler room stock-selling company in a unfavorable way. Their manager is telling all the sales people to get on the phone and pitch some crummy stock to customers by “let’s go out there and put some lipstick on that pig”.
When I watch it, it still makes me laugh. It also reminds me a little bit about what sometimes happens in some of our cases. A thought on the evidence. (Practice Alert) I am going to tell you a blog secret between you and me! Defense lawyers… your eyes are getting very sleepy. You better go catch a nap.
This involves why we video the depositions of the opposing party (defendant) on most of our cases. I am not insinuating that the other side is a pig. Just whether a jury perceives someone trying to be something that they are not. The defense attorney making their client get all “dressed up for court”.
This past week, I drove to Wytheville, Virginia, for my scheduled depositions. I was taking the defendant’s and the opposing attorney was questioning my client. We also had the deputy who had investigated this 2010 crash. Because the defense attorney’s office was about 50 miles from the county, we agreed to have the depositions at the courthouse where the trial is scheduled.
I showed up a little early so I could also get a look at the courtroom. Then, I was shown back to the law library where the depositions were scheduled. Soon, my client, the court reporter and videographer arrived. I had noticed the deposition for video and court reporter. The defense deposition notice was for transcription by the court reporter without any video.
The defendant arrived before his lawyer. He was dressed in a T-shirt and jeans. Like he would normally dress everyday. Soon, his lawyer arrived. The depositions proceeded. After I had completed the first deposition, the videographer packed up and left.
Generally speaking, I think that people should basically dress comfortably. My grandfather was a farmer. He would always dress the way he wanted to… in overalls like a farmer.
In court cases, I believe that clients should basically dress in something that they normally and comfortably wear and not wear something that they would normally never wear. I think that some lawyers believe that their clients should always be dressed in their Sunday best; and if they don’t own dress clothes, they should buy some. To me, I think people act differently in clothes that they never wear.
That takes me to why I like to videotape depositions. In many cases, I will show the video deposition during trial. The jury usually begins watching the deposition. Then, I will sometimes notice when they look over at the defense table where the defendant is now all dressed up. Consciously or unconsciously, I think that it sends the message that the opposing party is trying to project something that they are not.
After one trial, I even had a juror come up to me with a smile and comment on how “dressed up” the opposing party came for trial. Maybe it’s just my crazy thinking. I also think that videotaping keeps everyone more alert during the deposition and even captures the tone and pauses of the questions and answers.
As to last week’s deposition,, it will be interesting to see if the opposing party shows up in his usual clothing or if the defense lawyer will decide to make him get “all dressed up”.
Hopefully, the defendant will do something to make the jury ask “why”. Then, maybe that will carry over on to the evidence. In every trial there is a truth-giver and someone who is perceived as less. I think being real about appearance might be part of that. There has to be a reason that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. What do you think?
For pic o’ day, I stayed with blame and evidence!!