By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
In the criminal justice system, there are two separate but equally important groups: the attorneys, who prosecute or defend people accused of crimes, and the crooks themselves, some of whom are really stupid. These are their stories.
I got them from Michael D. O’Donohoe, commissioner of jurors in Suffolk County, N.Y., where I live. I met O’Donohoe in his office a few weeks ago to find out why I wasn’t selected to be on a case after receiving a summons for jury duty. After regaling me with funny juror stories, O’Donohoe said that if I wanted to make another appointment, he would tell me about some of the dimwits who have gone to court in Suffolk County.
It was an offer I couldn’t refuse, so I recently went back to see O’Donohoe for a follow-up. All of his stories are true. The names have not been used to protect the guilty.
"My favorite story involved a guy who was on trial for attempted murder," O’Donohoe told me. "The detective on the case was called to the stand and the prosecutor asked him what happened. The detective said the victim appeared to have been shot three times. The defendant, who had pleaded not guilty, turned to his attorney and, in a loud voice, said, ‘He’s lying. I only shot the guy twice.’ The attorney said, ‘Will you shut up!’ But it was too late. His client was convicted."
What did the defendant in, aside from blatant stupidity, O’Donohoe said, was that he actually did shoot the victim twice, but because of an exit wound, there were three bullet holes.
"I think the defendant had a hole in his head," O’Donohoe said.
So, apparently, did the guy who stole a car so he wouldn’t be late for court on a charge of grand auto theft.
"He pulled into the courthouse parking lot with a stolen vehicle," O’Donohoe recalled. "A check was run on the plates and it showed that the car had been reported stolen. Now this guy had stolen the car a couple of days earlier. If he had stolen it a couple of hours before he was due in court, it wouldn’t have shown up on the report yet. So when he went in front of the judge on a charge of grand auto theft, for another car he had stolen, the judge asked him why he had stolen this one. The guy said, ‘I didn’t want to be late for court.’ He was taken away in handcuffs." O’Donohoe chuckled and added, "You can’t make this stuff up."
Another strange but true case involved a thief who ought to consider another line of work.
"This guy was charged with petty larceny," O’Donohoe said. "The assistant district attorney saw the police report and asked him why he stole the merchandise. Instead of saying he was needy or it was for his family or something like that, the guy said, ‘I always steal things because I never get caught.’ He wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer."
Neither was the idiot who tried to pay his bail with the money he had used to bail himself out a couple of days earlier.
"I was down in arraignments when this guy was brought before a judge," O’Donohoe remembered. "He didn’t have an attorney, so he was assigned one. The guy was charged with disorderly conduct, I think, and his attorney pleaded not guilty for him. The judge set bail at $250. Then the guy turned to his attorney and whispered something. The attorney told the judge that his client had already paid the $250. The judge said it was impossible since he had just set bail a moment ago. The attorney said his client wanted to know if he could use the $250 he paid for his bail two days before on another charge. The judge said, ‘No, you can’t use old bail money,’ and then doubled the guy’s bail to $500, which of course he couldn’t pay, so he went to jail."
O’Donohoe said that while criminal stupidity certainly isn’t limited to Suffolk County, he has enough crazy stories for a TV show.
"If the producers of ‘Law & Order’ want some funny storylines," O’Donohoe said, "they ought to come here."
Copyright 2008 by Jerry Zezima