Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard
Lou Perry joined us in front of a live audience at GenCon Indy to talk about law and courtrooms, and what writers get wrong when setting their stories amid legal procedures.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 14:56 — 10.3MB)
Select a Supreme Court opinion. Read it, and then read the dissent.
Ghouljaw and Other Stories, by Clint Smith
7 thoughts on “13.7: What Writers Get Wrong, with Lou Perry”
I have sat through portions (usually a half day or a day) of a couple of actual trials. They are definitely not like what you see on TV. Except every once in a long while they sort of are.
Years ago a then girlfriend was on the jury of a trial and told me “trust me – you have to come sit in”. She couldn’t tell me why but she succeeded in intriguing me. So I sat in for a day. I was rewarded with not one but two different “Perry Mason” moments.
In the morning the prosecution asked to put the lawyer representing a witness on the stand. Understandably there was a lot of back and forth with the jury sequestered but it actually happened. All the prosecutor was trying to do was establish a minor fact and when that became apparent and the prosecutor promised to be on his best behavior the judge allowed it. While the wangling was straight out of Perry Mason the actual testimony was completely anodyne. But it was pretty cool to see something that unusual actually take place so I was happy I had come. But then came the afternoon.
You know when Perry asks a question “out of the blue” and elicits a startling revelation. I saw that actually happen. The prosecutor asked a question he didn’t already know the answer to. (After the trial concluded he admitted to a juror who asked about it that he had a suspicion.) It turned that there were three people in this truck when everybody had been assuming there were just two people. That caused things to immediately take quite a turn. That is until the witness started taking the fifth.
Apparently it was like that day after day every day in this particular trial. It might have helped that the defendants were sleazy used car salesmen and that’s only the start. This particular case would actually have made riveting TV.
And this all happened in King County Superior Court in the State of Washington.
So go sit in a trial if you can. You too might be there to witness a “Perry Mason” moment. Even if you don’t you will learn something.
Been there, done that. I recommend any citizen go view a day or three of criminal trials. You’ll learn a lot about things you’ve only seen otherwise on TV.
I fought the law and the law won? Well, Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, the originals, sat down at GenCon with Lou Perry, a real-life lawyer, to talk about what writers get wrong (and sometimes right?) about the law. It isn’t quite what the media may have made you think it is! So, go read the transcript, available now in the archives and over here…
And then see if you can get your objections sustained!
I love this series. Are you planning on doing one for adoption and foster care? Because there are some pet peeves of mine that books and movies get wrong ALL THE TIME. Like, fundamental things. No one knows how adoption and foster care is done in this country.
What peeves me about this, as interesting and informative it was — this is all just US law. And if you’re writing fantasy or science fiction, there is no reason to base your law system entirely on US law.
Scalia’s dissents make me laugh out loud. Especially the one about golf: “I am sure that the Framers of the Constitution, aware of the 1457 edict of King James II of Scotland prohibiting golf because it interfered with the practice of archery, fully expected that sooner or later the paths of golf and government, the law and the links, would once again cross…”
A few additional resources:
Transcriptions from NY criminal trials in early 20th century: https://www.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/crimeinny/trials/list_transcripts.php
Hostile deposition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIxmrvbMeKc
Transcripts (oral and audio) from Supreme Court Oral Arguments: https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/oral_arguments.aspx
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