By "you people," I refer to nonlawyers.
So I spent my morning slumming it in state District Court, which is reserved for divorces, small claims appeals, and civil actions with a value below $15,000. I'm there to defend Eastside Grocery (all names changed) in the case of Owens v. Eastside Grocery.
First I have to hang out through motions. Plaintiff sues the Durham County sheriff's department for tossing him through a window in the course of an arrest. It seems plaintiff waved a gun at the deputies as they were charging into his crackhouse, but throwing him out the window was a violation of his civil rights. The judge remarks that she's surprised the plaintiff is still alive. I have to agree. Summary judgment for the sheriff.
Then a couple of quickie divorces. Then me. We're on the "rocket docket." No jury. I've promised the judge that Owens v. Eastside Grocery can be tried in less than a day.
I've made this promise because I've chased Owens' lawyer off of the case. He filed a motion to withdraw when I showed him some damaging evidence about Owens. It seems Owens has a habit of pulling knives on people with whom she disagrees. For reasons to be explained below, this is important.
Owens will be trying the case by herself.
The court asks us what this case is about. Owens says I slandered her when I shook her hand. I used a racial epithet. The bailiff shakes his head.
"What does the defense contend the issues to be, Mr. _______."
I explain that the plaintiff contends that she sustained a battery at the hands of Van…
on the premises of Eastside Grocery…
that Eastside was negligent in allowing Van to be on the premises…
"Ms. Owens, he's just explaining the issues. This isn't an opening statement, so please stop objecting."
that Eastside maintained inadequate security, and that Owens was injured…
"Do you want me to direct a verdict in his favor? Because that's what I'm inclined to do if we can't proceed in an orderly fashion."
as a result of Eastside's negligence.
The defendant contends that it breached no duties owed to Owens, and moreover that Owens was contributorily negligent in inviting the battery upon her person.
It turns out that was the opening statement, because Owens doesn't have anything to add.
Owens testifies. Patrice testifies. Kahless testifies. Though a party to the action, Van does not testify. Van is in prison. (For brevity's sake I'll tell Owens' story without breaking it down by witness or into direct and cross examination).
It seems that sunday morning last year Owens' sister Patrice was in town. Owens needed to go to Eastside, to buy her daddy a bottle of wine. Owens asks Patrice to give her a ride, because Owens' license is suspended.
They drive to Eastside. Owens buys her daddy his bottle of wine, then waits for Patrice to make up her mind whether she wants to buy one of those cheeseburgers they have at Eastside.
Meanwhile Van walks in. Everybody in the neighborhood knows that Van is not the man you wanna be fuckin' with. Van is here to ask Kahless, the clerk, if Kahless wants to buy a tv from Van.
Patrice walks up to buy that cheeseburger. Van continues to occupy Kahless' attention, so Patrice tells Van to quit his jawin'.
Van turns to Patrice. "I'm not the man you wanna be fuckin' with."
Patrice: "Get out of my way man. I'm tryin' to buy this cheeseburger."
Van: "Why's everybody lookin' at my goddamn mouth?"
(I'll interject here to state that I have no idea what this means, but all witnesses agree Van said it.)
Owens intervenes: "You can't talk to my sister that way!"
Van moves toward Owens: "You're a fat, green, collard-green-eatin' bitch."
Owens: "Don't you be callin' me a female dog. I'll cut your hand off."
At this point Owens extracts from her purse what she describes as a pocket-knife (a pocket-knife with a five and a half inch blade, I'll add) to show she's serious.
Van tells Owens to wait, and walks out the front door. Kahless urges Owens to leave through the back exit.
Now right about now, you're thinkin' them Duke boys are in heap of trouble, and maybe they ought to leave. Matter of fact that's what I'm thinkin' myself. But Owens is not a Duke boy. Owens stands her ground.
Van returns, bearing the shotgun that Van evidently carries in his car.
Van shoots Owens. At close range. With a shotgun. In the groin area.
Van leaves. Kahless calls 911. Owens is taken to the hospital.
Amazingly, incredibly, against all odds, Owens can walk today without difficulty. Owens has no reproductive troubles. Owens, though blasted at close range by a shotgun, sustains no permanent injuries.
Owens forgot to bring her medical records to court. I know this because I have them. I've deposed her doctor to confirm that she is unhurt today. I suspect that the reason Owens sustained no permanent injuries is that she weighs 280 lbs. Her fat absorbed everything.
An older lawyer once told me that after a sufficient time engaged in the practice of law, attorneys lose the ability to think the way that normal people do. If this is the way that normal people think, he was probably right.
But I love you anyway.
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