Friday, January 23, 2009
Lawyer should get an "F" in History for his Closing Argument
This case has some age on it but I think it is still worth a blog post.
In a convoluted libel case, the appellant argued on appeal that the appellee's trial counsel delivered a prejudicial and inflammatory closing argument. But the bigger problem was that the argument—which invoked Jesus Christ, Julius Caesar, and the Mennonites— was about as wrong on the facts as you can get. Here’s an excerpt:
"You may remember when Christ was preaching the gospel, in the Holy Roman Empire that Julius Caesar was Emperor of Rome. As Christ was making his way toward Rome, the Mennonites and the Philistines stopped him in the road and they sought to entrap him. They asked Christ: ‘Shall we continue to pay tribute unto Caesar?’ And you will remember, in the Book of St. Matthew it is written that Christ said: ‘Render ye unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's."
Inspiring perhaps, but the lawyer made a few historical errors, including his timeline, which was a bit off. Not that much, just eight centuries or so. The appellate court pointed out folowing the faux pas:
The Holy Roman Empire did not come into existence until about 800 years after Christ. Julius Caesar, who was never Emperor of Rome, was dead before Christ was born. Christ was never on His way to Rome and the Philistines had disappeared from Palestine before the birth of Christ. The Mennonites are a devout Protestant sect that arose in the Sixteenth Century A.D. This phrase is noteworthy only because of the ease with which the speaker crowded into one short paragraph such an abundance of misinformation.
From Hall v. Brookshire, 285 S.W.2d 60 (Mo. Ct. App. 1955).
Obviously, the problem here is that this case was tried in the Dark Ages BW (Before Wikipedia).
Thanks to Judge James Barlow.
Posted by Have Opinion Will Travel at 2:17 PM