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EXERCISE 18. Read the story THE NEW LAWYER by Mike Wiecek. Do the tasks and answer the questions given below.
The New Lawyer
Tom Baker passed the bar only three month back. He wasn’t exactly working late when the phone rang, but everyone else had left.
“Baker Law Offices”, he said, trying to sound professional.
The man on the other end was whispering and panicky. “I think I need a lawyer,” he said. “I had a little car accident… I might have killed someone.”
Tom’s heart leaped. A criminal case at last!
“Ok, go slow,” he said. “What happened?”
“I was driving along and this guy ran out and it was dark, and I didn’t see him, and there was this awful crunching thwacking sound and when I looked back he was just lying there –“
“Take it easy,” said Tom. “Let’s think about this. He ran in front of you, no warning, on a dark street – hard to say it was your fault.”
“Well… I might have been going a little fast.”
“Maybe. Like maybe, I don’t know, 50 or 60 miles an hour.”
“On a residential street?” This didn’t sound so good.
“There was no traffic!”
Tom considered. “OK, you were speeding. Still, it’s probably no more than manslaughter, since there was no intent.”
The man hesitated. ”Does it matter, you know, why I was speeding? Like if my wife was in labor in the back seat, that would be, like, a good reason, right?”
“A great reason!” Suddenly Tom could see headlines – the trial would probably get out-of-state coverage on a story like that. He’d make his reputation on this case! “Did she deliver before you got to the hospital?”
“No, no, said the man. “That was just, like, an example. Actually, well, this is kind of hard to say…listen, you’re my lawyer, you don’t tell anyone my secrets, right? I don’t want to get into more trouble over this explanation.”
“Absolutely. Confidentiality is fully protected by attorney-client privilege.”
“Good. Well, what I did, I was off to see this guy, my former business partner.” The man paused. “Thing is, I had just found out he’d stolen $150,000 from our deal! And I was so angry, I guess I was rushing over to his house, and I was probably going to, well, shoot him.”
“What?” As fast as he assimilated that, Tom started thinking, talk shows! TV Interviews! A book deal! “ Did you tell anyone that?”
“Just a couple guys at the bar… I might have had a few beers beforehand.”
Tom winced. “So they’ll probably testify. But I have to say, in point of law, it really doesn’t matter- this dope runs out in front of you, it’s not your fault, no matter what you were thinking about.”
“Well, there’s one more thing…” The man’s voice trailed off.
“Yes?” Tom could barely restrain his excitement.
“This is so screwed up… thing is, the guy I ran over, he’s the one I was going to murder anyway.”
“Huh? What?” Tom couldn’t say anything else.
“But I didn’t mean to do it that way! Like, I was going to this house to shoot him, I didn’t expect him to run in front of my car five miles from there. See what I mean?”
Tom thought, I can win this case! Not only is the publicity going to make me famous, but I know exactly how the law works – there was a question like this on Morrison’s Criminal Law final. The DA doesn’t have a chance!
“Immaterial,” he said. Movie rights! “The relevant fact is that you didn’t want to kill him when it happened. Wilox vs. Indiana, 1973. Also Malvena vs. Adams, and of course Gluckheimer. Your state of mind is what matters, and I think we can prove absence of intent. For that matter, we might even able to beat the manslaughter. Even there were witnesses, it was dark, we can undermine their credibility.” He was scribbling rapidly on a legal pad. ‘Let’s see, we have to get started immediately, so you can turn yourself in before they arrested you. Where are you now?”
He paused. “Hello? Are you there?”
There was no answer – the man had hung up. He frantically dialed callback, but the call had come from a blocked line. In dismay, Tom watched his dreams of fame implode.
Martin slipped back into the classroom apologetically, trying not to disturb the hush of students hunched over their bluebooks.
“Long time in the bathroom, weren’t you?” Professor Morrison glared at him. “You only have twenty minutes left to finish the exam.”
“Sorry,” said Martin as he sat down, the cell phone pressing his hip pocket. “ I think I can finish right up.”
QUESTIONS and TASKS:
1. How would you describe “the new lawyer” Tom?
2. Tom thought, “I can win this case!” Do you think this statement subjective or objective?
3. Why did Tom Baker cite the cases to his prospective client?
4. The dictionary gives several meanings of the verb beat. What meaning does the writer put in Tom’s words to beat the manslaughter?
- to strike violently and repeatedly
- to stir vigorously
- to produce ( an idea, attitude) by repeated efforts
- to overcome in contest; defeat
- to defeat or frustrate (a person)
- to mitigate the effect of
- cheat (US slang)
5. Which article(s) of the university Honor Code did Martin violate?
6. Explain the author’s irony of the lawyer trying to beat the charges and the law student trying to beat the exam.
7. Reconstruct Professor Morrison’s exam: Outline the relevant facts of the case and the points of law.
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