In court, every detail matters, and a small mistake can have big consequences. Unfortunately, some defendants make incredibly foolish decisions that can completely undermine their cases. In this collection of stories, criminal defense attorneys share the idiotic ways their clients screwed themselves in court.
From admitting their crimes to wearing incriminating outfits to their own trials, these tales of courtroom blunders will make you shake your head in disbelief. So sit back, and enjoy these stories of courtroom incompetence. Maybe they’ll even make you grateful for the legal system, flawed as it may be.
All content has been edited for clarity.
That’s Where Misogyny Gets You
“One time, I saw an indigent defendant who was in custody tell the judge his public defender wasn’t working hard enough and he wanted the judge to appoint different counsel. The judge asked him what specifically was the problem and he said, ‘I don’t want a female lawyer. I need a man who can take charge and fight for me,’ or something very similar to that.
The judge (also female) said that’s not how it works, then he started yelling and getting into specifics about his public defender, just mainly I don’t like her, she won’t visit me, etc. The judge is annoyed and looks at him and is like fine, I’ll appoint another attorney for you, but because you are not satisfied with your attorney and I need time to appoint you new counsel I am not going to hear any other issues today and will reset your case.
A few days later the judge sends the defendant notice of his newly appointed attorney, who happens also to be female, and notice of the case reset for six weeks. The case was originally set for a bond hearing and the DA and his PD had agreed to release him on an unsecured bond meaning he would have gotten out that day if he hadn’t thrown his temper tantrum. Instead, he waited another six weeks in jail just to have another female attorney represent him.”
You (Almost) Played Yourself
“I had a client who was accused of a very nasty s*xual offense. He had an alibi. He was at work, where he was the boss. He had an employee who could absolutely vouch for his being there. I talked to the employee, and the employee confirmed this.
It gets closer to the trial, and around the time when I need to send in an ‘alibi notice,’ which is advance notice to the Crown so that they can investigate the alibi and determine whether or not it’s true. But, I am being careful, so I called the employee up again.
Turns out my client fired him in the interim, and so the employee quite candidly tells me, ‘Oh, yeah, he was definitely at work. But that’s not what I’ll say in court. F*ck that guy, he is going down.’
I did not call him as a witness, or file the alibi notice.
I still won the trial, but if I hadn’t thought to call the guy, or if he’d been less candid, my client would have been f*cked hard. S*x offender registry, jail time, the works. He was completely innocent.”
Yeah He Needed To Be Punished Badly
“We had a dr*nk-driver-kills-a-car-worth-of-people case. My boss was representing the family that got hit (one where the two kids and the wife had died, but the father had not) and wanted the college guy’s dr*nk-driving skin to be mounted on a wall.
This was back before Facebook was commonly used in court proceedings and before tons of people realized that sh*t is too great for any attorney worth their weight in salt to pass up.
So, the kid (dr*nk driving college kid) had managed to get the judge’s sympathy during the first part of the hearing by saying he was sorry, haunted, never going to drink again, this was going to ruin his life, etc. The judge seemed to really be eating it up.
Then comes my boss who immediately burns this kid’s remorse to the ground by showing numerous Facebook statuses and photos of their binge drinking, partying, and even joking about driving dr*nk from the date of the accident up until a night ago. The kid looked like he was being forced to swallow hot coals and the judge was absolutely livid.
Needless to say, the kid had to do way more than just apologize and be remorseful after that.”
He Didn’t Think That One Through
“Someone I knew had a pro deo case where she had to defend a person who had been charged with a criminal offense (don’t know what, confidential and whatnot).
Even though the police and DA could pretty much pinpoint the crime to her client, there was no evidence to tie him to the crime, circumstantial at best.
She had instructed him to shut up and let her do the talking during the trial, as from experience the client sometimes does not know how to answer a question properly. She pleads and can show that the court has nothing on her client, she feels that for once, a pro deo case is going her way.
After her plea, the judge thanks her for her plea and turns to her client. He asks if the client had something to add to the plea. The client looks at her, back at the judge, tears well up in his eyes and he blurts out, ‘I’m so sorry, I’ll never do it again!’
She threw her notes and everything else she had in her hands at the client (now convict) apparently. She basically got screwed by her own client, who screwed himself even worse.”
She Clearly Isn’t The Brightest
“Not the worst, but one that sticks out that they did to themselves.
A woman shows up to court in an, ‘It’s party time b*tches! Drink up!’ t-shirt. She was there for her first appearance on a 3rd DUI charge.
Judge was not in a humorous mood that day.”
He Used Every Chance And Then Some
“Not my case, but my dad’s. He was the equivalent of a Public Defender decades ago. There was this guy that would get caught for being dr*nk in public, public lewdness, etc. EVERY weekend. He seemed to draw the same judges and was pretty well known to everyone in the courthouse as an absolute lost cause. One of the ‘regular’ judges had him appear in his court again. The judge is ready to give him a prison sentence because he was driving a car this time, but the guy starts crying that he finally got a job out of town and was trying to turn his life around. Judge tells him as long as he never makes a mistake ‘in my town again’ he would just drop the charges.
Well, sure enough, the guy shows up the following Monday. Same judge. Driving dr*nk AGAIN. My dad now has his case. The judge tells him he gave him his final chance, to which the guy sobs and replies ‘I was leaving town, your Honor. But my friends decided to throw me a going-away party.’ The judge was not amused. My dad had to do everything he could not to laugh.”
Maybe Not The Best Outfit Choice
“The dude screwed himself over when he went to a jury trial for a burglary charge and wore the same, distinct sweatshirt he wore the night he committed the crime. Kind of hard to argue the guy in the video isn’t your client at that point. Needless to say, he was convicted and spent a few years in DOC.”
This Story Was Almost Even More Infuriating
“This was a case another prosecutor in my office had a few years back. The 30-year-old defendant was charged with s*xual assault of a child after he got his girlfriend’s 14-year-old sister pregnant. She actually kept the baby so the police just waited and got a paternity test. No surprise, the defendant was the father.
Defendant wanted probation; the prosecutor refused to offer it. He decided to plead guilty and have a jury trial on punishment (here in Texas, you can choose to have the jury set punishment). Evidence mostly proceeded as expected. The victim testified to having consensual (aside from not being old enough to consent) s*x with the defendant, getting pregnant, etc. Paternity test introduced.
The defendant was on track to somehow get off easy given everything he was on trial for.
Then he took the stand. His version of events was that he snuck into the victim’s room at night, covered her mouth, and held her down while he forcibly had s*x with her against her will. It seemed like his own lawyer had no idea that’s the story he settled on. He completely admitted to it being not consensual.
The jury deliberated about fifteen minutes before returning a verdict of 17 years (the maximum possible as charged was 20). When interviewed by the attorneys afterward, one of them said they decided on 17 years so the defendant would never forget the age of consent in Texas again.”
At Least He Was Honest
“Sitting waiting for my client and the judge is giving a mass colloquy for an alternative program on a DUI. Basically probation.
Question – Has anyone consumed alcohol or taken drugs in the last 24 hours?
Obvious answer aside, one dude proudly raises his hand – ‘I smoked some dope last night.’
He did not get probation.”