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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Seemed Kind of Funny| Sir to Me

It's funny to watch everyone in the courtroom who should know better to actively participate in suborning perjury. It is one of the funnier, least acknowledged things I've ever seen in my life.

I'm a 3L and have been interning with the State Attorney's Office in Hillsborough County, Florida for the past two and a half months. I work in the juvenile division. In that time, I've gotten the chance to try one case and have watched several other trials. Mostly I just watch kids plead no contest to any number of charges, usually some form of burglary.

Domestic violence victims are in a tough spot. Parents getting attacked by their children are probably in an even harder position because the parents don't have the right to just walk away from the person who has or is abusing them. So whenever a case we're handling involves a child hitting their parent, I expect the case to get dismissed for lack of cooperation from the victim. In fact, I've only seen one case where a parent actively wanted to press charges against a child, and it had nothing to do with domestic violence.

In every other case I've seen, the parent has backed down on the precipice. I remember the stepfather of a rather large kid who, at the arraignment stated in no uncertain terms he was afraid of his stepson, suddenly claiming he wasn't on the morning of trial. In another case the mother admitted that her daughter hit her but basically used the opportunity to ask for counseling for her daughter.

But when I talk about suborning perjury, I'm talking about the proffer. It happened recently in our court, and I mentioned to the attorney who handled the case how funny I thought it was that everyone in the court who should have known better acted as if they weren't participating in it. He shrugged his shoulders and kind of laughed.

How is it that a judge can administer an oath to tell the truth, the state ask to proffer, and the victim/parent stand there with a straight face, literally seconds after swearing to tell the truth, and claim they cannot remember the details of a day on which they had their own child arrested for physically assaulting them?

Surely such a day is just a tad more noticeable in the great waste of time we call life, of which humans probably can't remember most of, than a ho-hum day at work six months ago. I'd even go out on a limb and argue that such a day would be remembered by the victim for years, decades probably.

Yet all of a sudden, the victim can't remember anything about a day that happened two months ago.

I don't necessarily have a problem with the charade though. Unlike a civil plaintiff, a victim probably can feel at times as if they are just a small cog in a very large machine of which they have no control. They can't just tell the state to quit on their behalf, because the victim isn't necessarily the state's client. Lying under oath is really the only thing a victim can do who does not wish to prosecute the case.

I also understand the state's position. And I understand the judge's. They want it on the record, just in case.

The entire foundation of our court system depends on people being honest under oath. The new governor of Florida, Rick Scott, even takes the responsibility serious enough to make himself look like a total jackass in a handful of depositions by pleading the Fifth Amendment to the most mundane, basic questions, such as whether or not he's employed (you can read the transcript of this deposition here).

And here are trained attorneys who play along to a parent/victim suddenly "forgetting" a traumatic event. Funny stuff.

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