Hannibal and visiting judge

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I will tell one other story, but I’m going to clear up one thing. You know, it’s kind of funny that Randy should mention that guy Hannibal Lecter. When I went to watch that movie, I knew immediately that I had been involved before with somebody very similar to that. Because that same person that kept that list, they assigned his case, when he came out of Rusk, to certify him as sane to the chief prosecutor on the Eastern Front, which I happened to be at the time. And I’ll never forget, at 2 o’clock in the morning I was sitting there in the bed reading these books that Jim Grigson had recommended I read, and my wife says, “You’re preparing for this case like your life depends on it.” And I said, “You know, it’s funny you should mention that.” Because¬†when I got ready to pick a jury — and we did it under civil rules — I went up to the District Attorney’s office, and I went around to see if I could find one of the chiefs in the other courts to help me and pick the jury. And everybody was busy. Even Blassingame was busy. And they all knew about this guy and his list. And you know who ended up picking that jury for me? Volunteered. One of my really good friends and the fellow I’m sitting next to up here, John Tolle.

John came down and we tried that case, and — you know, you wouldn’t think it was serious. Our judge had taken paper towels and had them scotch taped over his name in front of the courtroom. They had removed his picture from the wall and hidden it some place. His name tag was taken off the bench. And he was on — what did you call it Randy, a sabbatical. And they brought in this judge from Denton, Judge Scofield. Well, about a day and a half into the trial, it began to dawn on him something was wrong here.

And we went out to dinner one night at the Bluefront, and that’s when I first learned — I didn’t know much civil. Still don’t. But he said, “You know, have you ever heard of a judgement NOV?” That was our hole card. But the jury did the right thing. I think he’s loose now, or maybe he’s dead.

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MR BARKLOW: There’s a follow-up on that story. They had a write hearing over in East Texas. John can probably tell this better. He went over there with Bill Westmoreland, the retired Marine Colonel. And what did — what did Westmoreland do, John, when you walked in there?

MAGISTRATE TOLLE: I’ve got to explain the background a little bit. Let me get up there where you can hear me. The doctor was in Rusk hospital, but he had not been — he had been sent down by the Criminal District Court Number 5 of Dallas. And under the laws that then existed, the only court that could have a sanity hearing was the criminal district court, the same court that sent him down. But he had a lawyer who had filed a motion under the civil procedure whereby a person under a civil commitment can be heard by the county court at law of the country.

And the D.A. down there called us up and said, “Listen.” He says, “The judge has told us that he understands the law, that he can’t hear the case, but these are very prominent lawyers in Rusk and he doesn’t want to offend them so he’s going to have a hearing. And he wants somebody from your office to come down here and make the motion, to challenge this jurisdiction and move it to Dallas. And he’ll grant your motion.”

So we go down there to Rusk, beautiful little courthouse in Cherokee County, nice spring day and get down there. We go in the courtroom. The judge comes in. Nice old man. He comes in and sits down. And the D.A. is sitting there with us. I’m not going to tell you his name, but I’ll always remember him. And he says, “I’ve got this all wired.” He says, “The judge is going to grant your motion. Just get up and break a leg.” So Bill gets up there and makes the motion. The judge says, “Overruled. Call your first witness.” And Westmoreland says, “What do we do now?” And this lawyer says in a voice this loud, he says, “Well, the old son of a bitch has double-crossed me again.” Talking about the judge. I thought we’re all going to end up in jail out there in Cherokee County. Well, it turns out this judge was as deaf as you could get. He couldn’t hear a word. So we had lots —

Then we had to go get a district judge to — once the judge ordered him released, we had to get it set aside by a district judge. We couldn’t find the district judge in that county. No one knew where he was, except we found he was eating lunch in the same place he had eaten every day for the last 20 years, and everyone knew where he was. He didn’t want to get involved. He says, “The judge — the county judge is a friend of mine. I don’t want to get into it.” So we had to come up to Dallas. Luckily Judge Gossett was available so we took care of it that way. That’s when you guys got in.

MR. BARKLOW: Yes. Well, I’ll close by saying I remember one time — I look around the group here — Judge Vance asked me as a young prosecutor to pick a jury for him in a case. I could not believe it. I went right home that same day and I told me wife. “You will not believe this. The first assistant has asked me to pick a jury for him in a case.” I said, “I’m just awestruck by this.” Judge Vance then told me, he said, “Well, now let me tell you, the lawyer on the other side is blind.” Well, when we got down there and started the trial we also found out that the lawyer on the other side was not only blind but he was also stone deaf. And we ended up, the charge — how many hours did it take to get the charge? We had to shout the charge line by line by line to this lawyer. And then we got a hung jury, and that’s the last time he ever asked me to pick a jury for him.

I want to thank you very much for being here and I wish more young lawyers had a better sense of humor. Hugh Lucas was one of the greatest guys to work with. He’d always just smile just like he’s doing now. Thanks.

(Applause.)

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