Lawyers and Other Legal Professionals Share Their Strangest Case
by Nabeal Twereet Follow Me on Google+
We reached out to attorneys and other individuals in the legal profession from across the nation. They were asked what their strangest or most important case was, and we wanted to share their experiences with our readers. We hope you find these cases as interesting as we did when we read them.
I am a criminal defense attorney in Virginia Beach and have 15 years of experience. The most interesting case I have ever tried is a case involving marital rape. After learning about his wife's alleged extramarital affair the estranged husband was alleged to have forced himself on his wife. He was charged with forcible sodomy, strangulation, rape and forcible object sexual penetration. The defendant admitted to having committed the acts, told the detective that he was sorry, and that all sexual contact on the evening of the event was unwanted. The wife testified that the relations during the course of the marriage were standard and ordinary. On cross-examination she denied having a history of role-play, having a history of rough sex including strangulation, anal sex, use of sex toys, and video. We brought in evidence that she had purchased sex toys in the past, evidence that she had sex toy parties, and had the defendant testify about the rough sex role-playing they had in the past. All sex counts were dismissed and the strangulation was reduced to an assault and battery.
- Dan Miller, The Law Offices of Daniel J Miller
The strangest case I ever pursued was the death of a Florida father of eight who was found drowned in a river in Colombia. He had been operating a bulldozer, clearing land alone at the time. Nobody saw it happen, even though workers had been supposed to maintain a buddy system. His buddy had been borrowed by co-workers going into town to pick up bags of cement. There was no water found in his lungs. As it turned out he dry-drowned when killer bees stung his throat. His bulldozer had disturbed a hive in some of the brush he was clearing and he had run to the river in an effort to survive the attack. Because the entire operation was run from a U.S.-flagged dredge, he was technically a sailor--which made the case a Jones Act case. The good news was that the case could be heard in a U.S. court. The bad news was that the Jones Act limited the damages that could be recovered, although liability is relatively easy to show under the Act. Essentially the question was whether the dredge became "unseaworthy" when protective gear obtained after a prior killer bee attack was allowed to fall into disrepair and disuse. Although we were threatened that the small-time dredge company would declare bankruptcy to avoid its insurance deductible, we were able to negotiate a sizable settlement for the family.
-Mark Hankins, Mark Hankins, P.A.
My strangest case was the time I found myself representing Schatzel the poodle. (Or at least the trustee in charge of Schatzel.) In true 1960s family-film style, a wealthy widow had left a million dollars to her beloved poodle. $15,000 was to be payed right away to the caregiver, and the remaining million to be used to provide a "comfortable living" for Schatzel until he passed away and any remainder to the humane society.
As a recent graduate of law school, and only making a few dollars an hour, I happily volunteered to take care of dear little Schatzel. However the court decided to grant custody to the owner of a local dog shelter. In a way I'm glad I didn't get the dog, since apparently it was cursed. 15 days after taking custody, the new caregiver died unexpectedly. We called it the case of the poodle's curse.
Jared R. Richards
Partner at Clear Counsel.
I represented a deeply religious, middle-aged Hispanic businesswoman charged with first degree felony grand theft following a real estate purchase gone bad.
My client signed a real estate purchase agreement for her manufacturing business, and began making improvements to the property prior to closing (replacing windows, landscaping, etc.). The seller had some old manufacturing equipment left over from his closed business that needed removal prior to inspection. After multiple delays and the seller's unwillingness to remove the equipment himself, my client asked for and received permission to remove the abandoned, vandalized equipment herself to expedite the closing.
My client spent several days hauling the equipment to the junkyard. Afterwards, the seller called the cops on her claiming this 30+ year old equipment was worth over $250,000.00. After fighting like my own life was on the line for over a year, the State agreed to drop the charges.
-Shane Fischer, Attorney at Law
Although I am not an attorney, I have worked for 13 years as a Guardian ad Litem who represents children in the worst divorce cases imaginable. I am appointed to the case by the judge to represent the child's best interest. I am also a Licensed Private investigator who specializes in family law.
One case that illustrates the point is a case in which CPS removed an infant from a parents' home here in Austin under faulty reasons. An infant sustained a spiral fracture of the leg which in most cases is a pretty good indicator of child abuse. Basically, one would have to grab the limb, pull and twist, and is not something that generally happens in a fall. A relative placed the infant in a motorized swing (the kind that rocks back and forth) and placed it on top of a kitchen table as she turned her back to wash dishes in the kitchen. She claimed that the infant somehow fell off the table while in the swing. Because of the spiral fracture and the child being an infant, essentially being unable to move causing the fall, CPS accused her of child abuse and removed the child. However, when CPS came to investigate they never turned the swing on. If they had they would have noticed that one leg of the swing was just a little bit shorter than the other legs. When the swing would swing back and forth it caused the swing to "walk" very slightly on a hard surface. Over time, the motion of the swing gradually moved the swing backwards with one leg of the swing leading the other 3 legs. I then approximated the weight of the child by putting potatoes in the swing and then put a timer next to the swing and videotaped the result. Depending on what speed the swing was set on and how the potatoes were position it would take from 5 to 20 minutes for the swing to walk right off the table. However, with one leg leading the other 3 legs the swing took a violent tumble, first flipping into one chair and then bouncing into another chair before it hit the tile floor. It was overwhelming to actually see this happen and I consider the violence of this fall akin to a car accident. My clients at the time actually cried when they witnessed this. Additionally, it was shown that the swing's seat flipped in an upwards motion and that the infant's leg could have easy been caught between the seat and the body of the swing which would have accounted for this pulling and twisting action that caused the spiral fracture, not from intentional child abuse.
After a very heated discussion with the County Attorney explaining I had videotape evidence and questioned why CPS did not at least turn the swing on to see for themselves, the County Attorney dropped the case and reunited the parents with the infant. Maybe it was not the best idea to place the child in a swing on top of the table but certainly this was not a case of child abuse where an individual purposely set out to harm or physically injure a child. Case Solved!!!
-Tom Ware, M.Ed. Licensed Private Investigator and Guardian ad Litem
Probably the most important cases I have handled in my career are federal habeas corpus appeals for death row inmates. First, it is both an honor and a privilege to be appointed by a federal judge for this representation, not just any lawyer can even get the appointment in the first place. You have to be qualified under the dictates of The United States Code. The appointments are necessary because neither of these individuals could afford to hire an attorney on their own and the Sixth Amendment requires counsel for the accused.
I was appointed to represent two different people, Ernest Eugene Phillips Jr and sterling Williams. Mr. Phillips case was based on a conviction and capital sentence that came out of Bryan County, Oklahoma. Mr. Williams's case occurred in Tulsa County.
For each case I spent over ten years working through the federal court system in defense of their rights. This entails many hours of research and writing, and eventually arguing the case orally in front of three Federal Court Judges. In both, I eventually won relief from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals located in Denver, Colorado.
In both cases, the Tenth Circuit determined my clients' constitutional rights were violated by the trial court judge when he gave the jury unconstitutional instructions regarding the law to be used in each case.
Over the course of the ten years plus, I had several face to face and telephone meetings with my clients and I have become friends with each of them. On the day each judgment came down, I was thrilled to tears to know I had saved my friends' life and upheld the constitutional rights of the Indigent. Those two victories are truly the most important of my career.
- Greg Laird, Laird Hammons Laird