•  •  Dark Mode

Your Interests & Preferences

I am a...

law firm lawyer
in-house company lawyer
litigation lawyer
law student
aspiring student

Website Look & Feel

 •  •  Dark Mode
Blog Layout

Save preferences
An estimated 9-minute read

Winning cases using quick wit & Rules of open ended questions - Case 1 - Exorcism & the witty chap.

 Email  Facebook  Tweet  Linked-in
I wish to state in the beginning itself that any references to films, characters, comments are not intended to hurt, defame or otherwise cause pain to any person, natural and legal or even ... you know the undead, or to hurt their feelings, economic, religious or otherwise.

   After a long week of staying up at nights, for those things that are called as exams, while some prefer calling it eggjams, I went to television after a long time. Quite strangely, the first thing that I watched was a programme on supernatural/paranormal phenomena. After that I decided to watch a scary movie staying up all alone. I still don't understand the logic behind this decision, but maybe it seemed to be exciting, trying to be scared by something other than, 'Would I be able to write the exact difference between a "Copyright" and "Copyright in Design" and elabourate on their similarities, if any? Also one of the contributing factors might be, being sleep deprived for some time (weeks of preparation) and an information overload - considered by some, to be equivalent of being drunk without the drinks - being teetotaller, I can't compare the two, but it has been scientifically proved - source, an unreliable news article Sealed.

 The movie is named as 'The Exorcism of E!%ly R0*e'. (To those who have not watched the movie, it's a story on the demonic possession of a girl, who dies ultimately, shown through a court trial of a priest on the charges of 'Negligent Homicide'. It has elements of both scary part and Court-room drama).  (I think there was a discussion long time back, state your favourite law movies, anyone wants to state this movie? Wink ) As the title of this blog suggests, how can someone win such a case?  Here's my take:

 Case 1 - Exorcism

   Scene 1
  The Defence lawyer trying to suggest an alternative approach to the legal one, of whether the girl had medical problems or not, pleading in a dramatic way on exorcism for quite some time, asked this open ended question, "What is Possession?" The prosecution mischievously interrupted to say, "Possession is Nine points of Ownership". 
(Rule no. 1 and perhaps the most important one; Do not ask open ended questions, especially those for which do not know all the answers or generally have answers that you are not prepared to reconcile with.)
Some people, mostly the other lawyers in the court start smiling, the judge doesn't do so, but does not say anything. If I were the Defence lawyer and in the correct state of mind, my next quote in reply to this joke would be, "Also, Possession is prima facie evidence of Ownership!" Immediately followed by the next question as a defence lawyer, "What then, is Demonic possession?......" Immediately closing this open ended question by continuing "Couldn't it be prima facie evidence of Demonic ownership, whether legal or otherwise, of one's mind?" "And if the Defence thinks it to be a case of mere possession and wrongful eviction, then this was not the right forum for this case to be heard. The defence should have objected to the jurisdiction in a better & formal manner and with better arguements!"   
(Rule no. 2 If you can't resist asking an open ended question for any reason, be ready to defend and/or to ward off such attacks by the opposition. The quick thinking & the reaction above, is rarely done, of shifting from the joke intended to dilute, the emotions, generated after a few minutes of emotionally charged speech attempted at convincing the Court of the existence of the supernatural in this case. Perhaps, this is called the cardinal rule of good lawyering, 'Always be detached emotionally from your client and his case' or atleast do so, when arguing. Also, observe the more specific question the second time around stating it to be 'Demonic Possession'.)
(Rule no. 3 Damage control after the defence has introduced some humour is a serious matter, it is to be handled step by step, first go to an acknowledged legal point, its best if it is on the similar lines, of those used by the Defence. It's a very important step, as it needs composure of mind, but as said above, it is rarely done, most people will snap out at the comment itself and start an ugly fight or let the momentum shift. Then second step is, to try to salvage the case; use another open ended statement quickly followed by a closing answer to reinforce your points, Step third, only if you are going good, it suits the situation and you feel confident; counter-attack the opposition, with the same medicine they tried to use.)  

Scene 2
  The Defence is playing the exorcism tape record, the priest asks to the possessed "What's your name? The demons reply with "one, two, three, four, five, six". Once again the same question from the priest "What's your name? The demons come up with the same reply with "one, two, three, four, five, six". The tape being dramatic, with scary background sounds, like people talking in scary voices, often in unknown languages and events rapidly being narrated spookily, everybody in the court is engrossed in it and unless something is done, the defence is winning the case. The prosecution interrupts after the reply for the second time, with the same intent as earlier and says, "Maybe it's a barcode number! - Isn't it? 123456" pointing out to the priest says, "Did you try that?" Nobody laughs or smiles this time but the job is done, the charged atmosphere is suddenly discharged, breaking the flow. 
(Maybe the priest was guilty of asking an open-ended question)

  The tape is continued; the priest asks the same question one more time commanding the demons to tell it to him, this time the answer comes, "Rebecca Walker!" Now understanding the tense situation in the court and the flow generated once again, the prosecutor decides to give it one more shot and as they say, 'Fortune favours the Brave', he receives a message/sms which rings out. So he musters some courage and interrupts the tape once again by laughing loudly, acting to have read the sms. The judge, by now frustrated, asks him, (what most of us, in our student lives might have been asked in the class room by the professor after being caught), "Would you like to share the joke with the Court? We all are all ears for it!" The prosecutor now understands the risk of being charged with contempt, for interrupting the Court for a sms, which was not even a joke in the first place. Looking at everybody's grim faces, comes up with a brave face to say, "It's an invite to a Johneee Walker party and says the do expects great girls in it." The grim faces now become blank, with no expression. An explosive situation is successfully neutralised, but the Defence council persists and says, "You think that's funny in this circumstance." "No, wait a minute,....", with the defence itself straying away, the prosecutor boldly takes out his little black book from his pocket, flips a few pages and continues to say, "Are you sure the demon was Rebecca Walker, I had gone for a date with a girl with the same name, last week, she looked to be healthy, fine and at least alive". Some smiles again. The winning march of the defence is brought to a screeching halt and the Judge and/or the Jury is, without their knowledge, given some time to think rationally and more importantly, in prosecution's favour
(Another step-by-step rule - when caught in an awkward position - neutralise the situation first and then slip in a witty one-liner.
Note - Generally, mobiles are not allowed these days to courts in almost all countries, an advocate/attorney attending a call or smsing could mean lots of trouble.)


  What is important to understand and learn, is that humour and quick wit are an asset in arguing difficult cases. KEEP YOUR MIND OPEN!!! An open mind is the only thing that will help you in difficult times and make that time more bearable. Especially where the public opinion is heavily stacked against ones case, more so, in these difficult days of 'Media trials and judgements'. With practice, experiences and time, one can start to use the above qualities very easily to create winning situations. Also, after one reads the above blog, he/she needs to understand the risks involved in the use of open ended questions and also more importantly, skills that are needed to come out of difficult situations created by open questions. In short, how things can go bad, while one, in an emotional moment, throws up an open ended question and also how to prevent it, from turning from bad to worse.    
  The reason for the above story format description of the rules, is that, this is how in all types of cases, whether criminal, civil, constitutional or any other, the lawyer/advocate/attorney who is not only legally correct but also connects well with Judge or jury wins most of them. And this is not some claim out of thin air, many may have witnessed this happen in the Courts and Tribunals quite a number of times. One of the personalities, whom I have seen personally use humor, witty nature and some more positive qualities to win in arguements and cases, is Mr. Nikam. Apart from him, if one considers separating the 'best' from the 'good' practitioners of law in any forum, of any country, I think one of the factors differentiating them is humour and quick wit.
  The rules stated above, are neither fixed, nor the only options available and someone may even defy them and be successful. The point is, that considering the over-burdened judicial system that we have today, all over the world, there are chances that there are tiring days of hearings (or even a number of such tiring days at a stretch, for weeks, if not months), which are so technical and devoid of any novelty or logic, that they seem to be factory-made. Logically, no one is to blame if the Judges have no good reason apart from legal conscience, to give a verdict in your favour, and don't do so, especially, if the other side has an emotionally overwhelming story to tell and a media trial that has already held your client(s) guilty. One may try different ways to rise up to such a situation and succeed, I've suggested one and it may or may not work. Like I've said, its one of the ways, some legal luminaries use these qualities with extreme ease to their advantage. I'm sure it needs lots of practice and presence of mind at every moment, to, not to offend the Court or more specifically the Judge/Jury, but if one can do it with perfection there's nothing like it.  

  I hope most of the readers like this attempt. Comments are welcome. 
Click to show 5 comments
at your own risk
By reading the comments you agree that they are the (often anonymous) personal views and opinions of readers, which may be biased and unreliable, and for which Legally India therefore has no liability. If you believe a comment is inappropriate, please click 'Report to LI' below the comment and we will review it as soon as practicable.