This is from the eleventh chapter from my best-selling book, Bryson City Tales. I hope that you’ll enjoy going back to Bryson City with me each week, and that if you do, you’ll be sure to invite your friends to join us.
THE TRIAL (PART 2)
So for the next twenty minutes I was in my element. I was prepared for all the questions and performed for the jury my role as professor. Photographs and charts, records and certifications were all expertly identified and explained. I could almost feel the jury in the palm of my hand. I was imagining that most of these folks and virtually the entire gallery would be leaving the courtroom to call the office for new patient appointments that afternoon—or, at the very latest, tomorrow morning. I was imagining the need to call the phone company at the first morning break of the trial just to have them install another phone line or two. I was even wonder- ing if people might not travel from other towns just to see such an expert as myself.
Then it was over—or so I thought. Mr. Buchanan, smiling at me, the jury, and then the judge, proclaimed, “No more questions, Your Honor.”
The judge looked at Fred, who was still studying his mountain of papers. Mr. Moody didn’t move.
“Mr. Moody!” exclaimed the judge. Fred looked up a bit. He seemed to be perplexed. Almost surprised.
“Do you have any cross-examination, Mr. Moody?” queried the judge. Once again Fred raised himself up, shaking down his rather baggy pants. He picked up a folder of papers as he approached the witness-box. I saw a twinkle in his eye as our eyes momentarily locked. He placed the folder on the railing in front of the jury, reading something and slowly shaking his head from side to side.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” he announced, “I must tell you that in all my years as an attorney and in all my years of law school and as a law clerk, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more brilliant display of medical expertise and knowledge.” Now I really couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The DA already had me both looking and feeling pretty good. Now my friend Fred was putting some extremely sweet icing on the cake. I could begin to imagine the news headlines: “World-famous medical expert provides stellar testimony in Bryson City courtroom.”
He went on. “Not only will I never be able to object to his qualifications as a medical expert in this court, I hope to never have to oppose his outstanding expertise or testimony ever again. To do so might well end my career.” He smiled at the jury and then at me as he turned to the gallery. Now my suspicious juices began to boil. Something suddenly seemed wrong. Really wrong.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, for an attorney to venture even one question after such complete and compelling testimony might seem both pretentious and egotistic. Nevertheless, I feel compelled, even at the risk of ridicule or embarrassment, to ask Dr. Larimore one small question—if you will allow me.” Now not only were my suspicions up, but so were the hairs on the back of my neck. I was beginning to feel nauseated.
Mr. Moody slowly turned toward me. The twinkle was still in his eye, but now it looked more like the eye of a tiger. “Dr. Larimore, would you be so kind as to tell the jury just how many medical examiner’s cases you’ve performed in your long, illustri- ous, celebrated, acclaimed, and fabled career?”
I thought I heard the audible hiss of air escaping from my rapidly deflating ego as I felt the blood rushing from my head to my feet. As Mr. Moody, head down, reading his sheaf of papers, slowly walked back to the defense table, I replied, “This is my first case.”
He jerked to a stop, and his folder dropped to the floor, slapping the hardwood with a sound that caused those eyes not yet glued to him to so glue. A bunch of loose papers—all amazingly white, with no writing or typing or drawing or marking of any kind on them—flew in all directions around his feet. The eyes of the young attorneys and the spectators were wide with trepida- tion. Gasps echoed throughout the room.
As the gasps and the papers quietly settled down, Fred slowly turned toward me with the most amazing look of shock I had ever seen. Even to this day I still don’t know how he did it, but his face was white and his hands were trembling. He knew this was my first case. Yet no one in sight, except me, knew that he knew. He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket, wiping his forehead as he approached the jury.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I must offer you my most sincere apology. As you know, my client’s life is on the line. Yet, even so, I have made one of the most grievous mistakes of my career. I have, without objection, allowed our esteemed district attorney to qualify to you, as a supposed expert, an extremely young man with no experience as a coroner or a medical examiner. He has, it appears, never, ever, been part of a coroner’s case. He, it appears, has never, ever, investigated a petty crime—much less a capital crime.”
The DA was quiet. Where was the objection? My reputation was going down like the Hindenburg. I needed help—and fast!
“So, ladies and gentlemen, please forgive my certification of this man as an expert. I can’t take that back now. But now we all know the truth. He’s never done this before! And this is a mis- take I will never make again. But, ladies and gentlemen, please, I implore you, don’t hold my inexperience and poor judgment against the man I represent.”
By now I was resigned to my fate. A shrewd country lawyer— experienced in the substance of law and the art of the theater, had trumped both my inexperience and the DA’s bravado. “I have no further questions, Your Honor.”
My admiration for my friend soared as he walked back to his chair. I had observed an Oscar-level performance—the demonstration of a remarkable skill. Here was a simple man, pulling out every trick he could in order to do the best job he could for his client. He would continue applying his various and copious skills for the rest of the week—and I dropped by on several occasions to sit in the back of the courtroom and observe his expertise. He would be paid very little for his work—apart from the immense admiration of the young attorneys and one young physician, who were blessed to have seen both his amazing per- formance and his consummate skill.
Fred’s legacy lives on in those he taught—by word and deed—that success in life is not defined as just being excellent at what you do, but as doing the excellent in an excellent way, even when there is no obvious reward for doing so. Fred taught me early in my career that the difference between extraordinary and ordinary is the “extra.” And I was able, in the end, to get beyond the fact that this important lesson was learned at my expense!
I was new to this small town. But the town and its ways were certainly not new. I had so much yet to learn.
(TO BE CONTINUED NEXT FRIDAY)
- Bryson City Tales — The Murder (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — The Murder (Part 2)
- Bryson City Tales — The Murder (Part 3)
- Bryson City Tales — The Arrival (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — The Arrival (Part 2)
- Bryson City Tales — The Hemlock Inn (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — The Hemlock Inn (Part 2)
- Bryson City Tales — The Grand Tour (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — The Grand Tour (Part 2)
- Bryson City Tales — The Interview (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — The Interview (Part 2)
- Bryson City Tales — The Interview (Part 3)
- Bryson City Tales — Settling In (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — Settling In (Part 2)
- Bryson City Tales — First-Day Jitters (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — First-Day Jitters (Part 2)
- Bryson City Tales — Emergency (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — Emergency (Part 2)
- Bryson City Tales — The Delivery (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — The Delivery (Part 2)
- Bryson City Tales — The “Expert” (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — The “Expert” (Part 2)
- Bryson City Tales — The Trial (Part 1)
- Bryson City Tales — The Trial (Part 2)
© Copyright Walter L. Larimore, M.D. 2016. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.