3 of the Weirdest Trial Witnesses Ever Called to the Stand
Being called as a witness in court is a pretty big deal. You are legally required to appear, and what you say can make the difference between a guilty or not guilty verdict. But just because witness testimony is serious business doesn't make it can't also be completely insane. The following testimonies may not be the most ridiculous ever made, if only because it's a well-established fact that every time someone thinks they’ve seen humanity’s weirdest decision, someone else finds a way to top it, but they're certainly up there.
#3 Sending your twin into the court instead.
When accused of robbery, boring people might try a reasonable defense, agree to a plea bargain, or flee the country disguised as a llama. People with style, however, go for something with a little more of that Hollywood factor, like claiming their evil twin could've done it. And sometimes it works, too. Still, few defense lawyers would consider this a good starting point for your preliminary hearing, but Dorothy Savory, a Kansas defense attorney, was determined to open with her ace-up.
When her client, a man named Darrel White, had to appear in court on charges of street mugging, she ordered him to remain outside. She went into the courtroom herself with Darrel’s identical twin, Darion White (their parents apparently didn't want to flip the page when looking through their book of baby names). After the prosecution had placed the robbery victim on the witness stand, the court called 'Mister White' to come forward. Darion White stepped up to the stand. Savory asked the victim to identify Darion as her robber. Not suspecting any trickery, the victim claimed to recognize him.
Savory later stated she'd planned to reveal the real Darrel after the identification, but halfway through realized that her 'plan' was incredibly stupid. However, the real Darrel White was hanging outside the courtroom while this was going on and caught the eye of the arresting police officer in the case. The police officer, who was waiting for his own turn to testify, looked back, noticing that his faced looked very familiar. After checking to make sure this mysterious doppelganger wasn’t being followed by Mulder and Scully, he promptly arrested Darrel again, and notified the courtroom.
Unfortunately, judges do not take kindly to lawyers lying in court. While most TV-shows would’ve ended here with a laugh-track, the judge in the case furiously demanded an explanation. Darion White's easy-going nature ended up backfiring when he immediately answered the judge's question, stating he was present on Savory's instructions. Despite trying the 'I technically never said this man specifically was actually my client, my client was technially present in court and I presented a mister White' defense, she had a disciplinary hearing, resulting in an indefinite suspension.
Let the record show this court will not have this nonsense.
#2 Interrogating a dog in a murder case.
The police in Tours, France, had hit a bit of a rough patch in their investigation into the murder of one of the city's residents. They had identified suspect, but had difficulty tying him to the crime. They ended up turning to the only witness they had: Tango, the victim’s 9-year old Labrador.
Tango, can you please identify for the courtroom who is a good boy?
Getting a dog in the witness stand is easy, although it did require an official court summon. Getting a statement is a titsy-bit harder, but the prosecution nevertheless tried to prove that the dog recognized the suspect because he had witnessed the murder. They went about this in a most logical way: by placing the dog on the stand and having the suspect threaten him with a bat to see the dog's reaction. To make sure this experiment was properly controlled, another Labrador of equal age with no ties to the suspect was also threatened with the same bat, so the court could compare reactions. Because that is how science works.
The suspect's lawyer understandably called bullshit on the whole ordeal, probably trying to summon a hummingbird to give his client an alibi. In the end, the experiment was deemed a complete and utter failure. But given that this case came just a month after a Paris court had asked a veterinarian to judge a Dalmatian's reaction in another murder case ... let’s just say that the juveniles who killed some goldfish to avoid leaving witnesses might have been onto something.
#1 Sending court summons to Gods.
You'd think the courts would be all over Gods as witnesses: they know everything, see everything, and their word is literally gospel. Unfortunately for justice, most Gods can’t even be bothered to clean up their own legal messes.
In 1987, in the Jharkhand province, India, a dispute arose concerning about 1.4 acres of land occupied by two temples to the Hindu Gods Rama and Hanuman. The temple priest, Manmohan Pathak, claimed the land was his, while the local population believed the land to be owned by the Gods themselves. Although the locals won the first round, Pathak challenged the verdict, and the case went on for almost twenty years. Then, in 2007, judge Samil Singh decided he would settle the matter once and for all and called the seventh incarnation of Vishnu and his monkey-human devotee to the stand.
Don't think some priest was being called to speak on the God’s behalf: the summon was specifically intended for the Gods. If they were the supposed owners of the land, they were deemed a party in the case. First the judge sent out letters, but these were returned due to 'incomplete addresses'. Personally I don't see what's so incomplete about 'Royal Palace, Kingdom of Ayodhya', but the India postal service may not be the most competent.
The Royal Mounties, on the other hand, would have delivered that summon all the way into Vishnu's blue hands.
After the letters failed to finds their way to the Gods, the judge decided to write a message in the paper, calling Rama and Hanuman 'to appear before the court personally'. Unfortunately, neither showed up. But just as the aforementioned French prosecutors weren't the first to put a dog on the witness stand, this Indian judge wasn't the first to include the Gods in his case. Recognizing Gods as legal entities is not uncommon in India, and their Supreme Court has decided on such cases as to whether they can trade on the stock market. Now, I'm not a lawyer, but I am pretty sure that buying and selling shares while omniscient counts as insider trading.
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