Category Archives: Humor

Chocolate: A Comic Courtroom Play (Scene 8)

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Hyrum (9) enjoying the feel of a federal district court judge’s chair.

No matter how compelling the evidence and the argument, the fate of any case, and the people involved, is in the hands of the judge (or the whims of the jury).  Outcomes are rarely predictable.  What do you think about this case?  Which way should the scales of justice tip?  Well, let’s check in on Judge Stone for this final scene of Chocolate.

CHOCOLATE: A COMIC PLAY IN ONE ACT
by Roger Evans Baker

The Characters:
• The Honorable Marsha P. Stone, Judge of the 13th District Court
• Mr. John Butcher, Prosecuting Attorney
• Mr. Gil Sullivan, Defense Attorney
• Victor S. Bull, the Defendant
• Ashton “Flapper” Cuff, Court Bailiff
• Officer Harold Ketchum, Police Officer
• Vickie Hicks, Bull’s 17-year-old niece
• Judd “Snoops” Lawson, Bull’s duplex neighbor
• Ernest “Tubby” Brown, Bull’s drinking buddy
• Winowna Darling Bull, Bull’s 76-year-old mother

MR. BUTCHER. (again, almost singing) No further questions.

MR. SULLIVAN. (deflated): No further witnesses, Mayam.

JUDGE STONE. Good. I mean, very well. Mr. Butcher, do you have a closing statement, or do you submit it to the judgment of the Court?

MR. BUTCHER. (catching the hint, but letting go with difficulty) Well, I have saved by most eloquent argument for closing, Your Honor, but I’ll submit it if Your Honor wishes.

JUDGE STONE. I do wish it. Mr. Sullivan, what do you have to say on behalf of your client?

MR. SULLIVAN. (grumbling, becoming agitated) Well, Your Honor, Mayam, it’s just as I said before. It’s all lies. And I’ll tell you somethin’ else. It’s more than just lies. It’s downright evil: the government cavortin’ with liars and deceivers to put an innocent man behind bars and shame him forever. What’s this country comin’ to? I’m tellin’ you, justice means nothin’ in the face of such conspiracy! I trust that a judge as intelligent and discerning as Yourself can see that, can see through the trickster’s smoke and mirrors, and find it within your heart to let an innocent man go free.

JUDGE STONE. Your brief rebuttal, Mr. Butcher?

MR. BUTCHER. (indignant) Conspiracy shmiracy, I say. He’s paranoid! I’ve never heard a more ridiculous story than the one this rascal tried to pawn to this discerning Court. Even I saw through it, I mean, well, you know what I mean. The rogue is guilty.

MR. SULLIVAN. (aside to Butcher) It’s a good thing for you this is a public defender case, Butcher, or I’d have your hide. You just watch your step with my high-paying clients, (under his breath) if I ever get any.

JUDGE STONE. (condescendingly) Well, then. I am prepared to pronounce my judgment. Mr. Bull, I have no doubt that whilst in the course of drunken tirade you did indeed manifest a dangerous weapon, i.e., a loaded firearm, in a threatening manner, thereby instilling terror in the heart of your victim. Your, hmm, defense notwithstanding, I find you guilty as charged. I also find you guilty of discharging a gun within the corporate limits of Sherman City, of public intoxication, of disorderly conduct, and of otherwise disturbing the peace.

MR. SULLIVAN. (outraged) You can’t do that Your Honor! Those crimes weren’t even charged!

JUDGE STONE. (incensed at being openly challenged) I’m the judge, this is my court, and I’ll do as I please. Do you hear! And I find that Mr. Bull did commit all of the above-enumerated crimes. (taking a moment to regain her dignified composure) I shall now pronounce sentence. For each crime the defendant shall pay a fine of $100 dollars, for a total of $500, plus a 200% surcharge to go the State to fund victim reparation programs, school non-violence programs, gun safety education programs, and judicial retirement programs. The total is, let’s see, $1,500. For each crime the defendant shall serve six months, each sentence consecutive (that means back-to-back, Mr. Bull). That’s two years. (long pause, then sounding pleased with her leniency) But I’ll suspend all the jail time upon full payment of the fine and completion of one-thousand hours of community service at the nursing home, where I hope you’ll learn some compassion and some patience and some manners. Court is now adjourned! (the judge suddenly rises and moves toward her chambers)

MR. SULLIVAN. (furious, as the judge descends from the dais) Butcher, you scoundrel, you prejudiced the Judge with all your talk of barbarian and rogue and rascal!

MR. BUTCHER. (defensive) What about you and all your chocolate licking?

BAILIFF FLAPPER. (in sergeant’s mode again, his eyes fixed dutifully on the departing judge) All arise! The most Honorable Judge Marsha P. Stone has departed the judicial chair and this Court is now hereby adjourned!

JUDGE STONE. (rolling her eyes and smiling coquettishly over her shoulder as she enters her chambers) Really, Flapper!

THE END.

[I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed my little play.]

Chocolate: A Comic Courtroom Play (Scene 7)

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Caleb (12) takes his turn in the federal judge’s chair.

As a prosecutor I could often count on the defendant’s mother to believe completely that her darling little boy could never do anything to hut anyone.  In trial, as in life, however, even the best of mothers may not always know how to help their wayward children.  I hope you enjoy Scene 7 of Chocolate.

CHOCOLATE: A COMIC PLAY IN ONE ACT
By Roger Evans Baker

The Characters:
• The Honorable Marsha P. Stone, Judge of the 13th District Court
• Mr. John Butcher, Prosecuting Attorney
• Mr. Gil Sullivan, Defense Attorney
• Victor S. Bull, the Defendant
• Ashton “Flapper” Cuff, Court Bailiff
• Officer Harold Ketchum, Police Officer
• Vickie Hicks, Bull’s 17-year-old niece
• Judd “Snoops” Lawson, Bull’s duplex neighbor
• Ernest “Tubby” Brown, Bull’s drinking buddy
• Winowna Darling Bull, Bull’s 76-year-old mother

MR. SULLIVAN. Just one more witness, Mayam, an important one. And she won’t take long.

JUDGE STONE. Very well, you may proceed.

MR. SULLIVAN. The defense calls Mrs. Winowna Darling Bull, the defendant’s mother. (pause) May I call you Winowna, my dear.

WINOWNA. (delighted) Why, yes, that would be delightful.

MR. SULLIVAN. How old are you, Winowna, dear.

WINOWNA. (shyly, but with pride) Seventy-six last Tuesday.

MR. SULLIVAN. Well, happy birthday! Winowna, tell us about your son, Victor.

WINOWNA. Well, Victor was born on the farm near the little town of–

MR. SULLIVAN. Not that far back, Winowna, dear. Just tell us what Victor is like.

WINOWNA. (glad to be helpful) Why, my Victor is simply the sweetest son a widowed mother could ever have. He calls me every week to see if my social security check, retirement check, royalties check, and dividend check have arrived. Then he takes them to the bank and cashes them for me. He buys me my groceries and gives me quarters for Friday night Bingo. He keeps the rest safe for me in our secret hiding place. It’s so nice to feel secure.

MR. SULLIVAN. That’s really not what I meant, Winowna, dear. Tell us how Victor is with his family.

WINOWNA. (delighted) Oh, that! Why didn’t you say so? My Victor loves his family. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. Oh, he hunts, of course, but just to put meat on the table. Quite an assortment, too. Deer, elk, moose, bear, pronghorn, duck, goose, and pheasant. It’s a hard life, you know. (giggling) Victor can be a bit careless, too. He’s shot himself in the foot twice, you know. That finger of his must just itch to pull the trigger.

MR. SULLIVAN. Would he ever point a loaded gun at his beloved wife?

WINOWNA. (shocked) Goodness, no! How dare you even suggest such a thing. Of course, he’s popped her once or twice, just to let her know who’s boss, you know, just like my dearly departed did to me on more than one occasion. But she deserved it, I am sure.

MR. SULLIVAN. (in dismay) I think you’ve told us enough, Winowna, dear.

MR. BUTCHER. Just one question, Your Honor. Mrs. Darling, would you say–

WINOWNA. (suppressing a giggle) It’s Mrs. Bull, young man, but you can call me Darling if you wish.

MR. BUTCHER. (blushing and flustered) Right. (regaining his composure) Well, would you say that a man who gets drunk, who beats his wife, who gets angry and jealous over nothing, and who shoots guns in his own home could be dangerous?

WINOWNA. (indignantly) I certainly do! Heaven help the poor girl! That man, whoever he is, should be thrown in jail!

MR. BUTCHER. (again, almost singing) No further questions.

MR. SULLIVAN. (deflated): No further witnesses, Mayam.

JUDGE STONE. Good. I mean, very well. Mr. Butcher, do you have a closing statement, or do you submit it to the judgment of the Court?

[Come back tomorrow for the last scene of Chocolate.]

Chocolate: A Comic Courtroom Play (Scene 6)

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John (13) in the chair of a federal judge, District of Utah.

This comic play takes place in the context of an incident of domestic violence.  Make no mistake, there is nothing funny about domestic violence.  I have been involved in domestic violence prosecution for over 20 years.  I have trained prosecutors and victim advocates on a local, state, and national level.  I take domestic violence very seriously.  In Scene 6, it’s time for the defendant to take the stand.  Remember that this play is the story of a real trial, with a twist of ridiculous.  But I always remember the suffering of real people working to survive violent relationships.  With that said, I hope you enjoy this scene of Chocolate.

CHOCOLATE: A COMIC PLAY IN ONE ACT
by Roger Evans Baker

The Characters:
• The Honorable Marsha P. Stone, Judge of the 13th District Court
• Mr. John Butcher, Prosecuting Attorney
• Mr. Gil Sullivan, Defense Attorney
• Victor S. Bull, the Defendant
• Ashton “Flapper” Cuff, Court Bailiff
• Officer Harold Ketchum, Police Officer
• Vickie Hicks, Bull’s 17-year-old niece
• Judd “Snoops” Lawson, Bull’s duplex neighbor
• Ernest “Tubby” Brown, Bull’s drinking buddy
• Winowna Darling Bull, Bull’s 76-year-old mother

JUDGE STONE. (astonished at Mr. Butcher’s outburst; inclined to sustain the objections, but intensely curious about Tubby’s testimony) Well, Mr. Sullivan, you have to admit, the testimony does seem to push the relevancy envelope a bit, wouldn’t you say?

MR. SULLIVAN. (conceding with a shrug of his shoulders) Very well, Mayam. No further questions for my friend, Tubby, here. The next witness is Mr. Bull, himself. (pause) Mr. Bull, how long have you been married?

MR. BULL. Fifteen happy years, Mr. Sullivan, sir.

MR. SULLIVAN. “Sir” will do nicely, thank you. And do you love your wife, Mr. Bull?

MR. BULL. (with a confident, broad smile) Oh yes, sir, with all of my big heart.

MR. SULLIVAN. Could you ever even consider pointing a gun at your wife?

MR. BULL. (feigning shock) Never, sir.

MR. SULLIVAN. Then can you tell us, why did you have a gun when you were arguing with your wife on the fateful night of July 7th.

MR. BULL. Of course, sir. You see, it happened like this. When we got home from the Dead Donkey, I was mad because of this chocolate licking thing because she thought it was funny and I didn’t because she’s been unfaithful before so I thought she was unfaithful now because of the chocolate licking thing because she thought it was funny and I didn’t.

MR. BUTCHER. (whining) Your Honor, I really must object most strenuously to the repeated mention of the lewd chocolate incident.

JUDGE STONE. (annoyed) Zip it, Butcher. I want to hear the rest of the story. Go on, Buller, er, Bull, Mr. Bull.

MR. BULL. Sure, thing, Mayam Judge. (animated) So we started to argue. Then she called me a “horse’s ass.” Me. She called me an “ass” when she was going to have chocolate poured all over her, and who k-n-o-w-s what else, maybe colored sprinkles, or a cherry in her bellybutton. (Mr. Butcher is writhing in his effort to restrain a string of frantic objections. Judge Stone suppresses a laugh.) At that very moment I decided I was leaving this place–outa’ here–hasta lego. So I grabbed my gun from the closet so my wife wouldn’t come after me with it. She was still screaming at me when I turned around to leave–that’s why the Butcher here thinks I was pointing it at her. And then the gun went off by accident. I almost shot my own nose off. Geez, would that have been embarrassing. So I left the house, thinking I’d sleep on the deck. I was so mad that when I went to step up to the deck I kicked it instead, hit my head on the railing post—man, did that hurt!—and fell to the ground dazed. Geez, how embarrassing! When I came to my senses and noticed that I was on the ground, I said to myself, I said, I think I’ll just crawl under this deck right here and rest in peace for a while. Next thing I know the police is dragging me out, throwing me against the house, calling me a “wuss” for shooting at my wife, blinding me with their flashlights, and playing tug of war with my arms as they hauled me off to their car. That’s it.

MR. SULLIVAN. (smug) Thank you, Mr. Bull. The witness is yours, Butcher.

MR. BUTCHER. (subdued, but astonished at the defendant’s story) You’ve got to be kidding me, Mr. Bull.

MR. SULLIVAN. (mocking) Is that a question, Butcher, or are you just philosophizing about the lack of merits of your frivolous case?

MR. BUTCHER. (unphased and incredulous) Mr. Bull, are you telling this Court that when you decided to leave all you could think of to take was a loaded gun?

MR. BULL. (confidently) Yes, sir.

MR. BUTCHER. And are you telling this Court that when you decided to leave the only place you could think of to stay was on the deck?

MR. BULL. Yes, sir.

MR. BUTCHER. And you really expect this Court to believe that you tripped on the step, knocking yourself to the ground, and then decided that underneath the deck would be a good place to take a nap?

MR. BULL. (trying with limited successes to maintain composure) Yes, sir, I do, because it’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!

MR. BUTCHER. (with contempt) No further questions of this . . . witness.

JUDGE STONE. (impatient) Mr. Sullivan, are you going to prolong this protracted proceeding with another witness, or can we finish.

MR. SULLIVAN. Just one more witness, Mayam, an important one. And she won’t take long.

JUDGE STONE. Very well, you may proceed.

[Only two more scenes to go.  Come back soon.]

Chocolate: A Comic Courtroom Play (Scene 5)

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John (13), Caleb (12), Hyrum (9), and Hannah (5) in the Utah State Capitol building
outside the old courtroom of the Utah Supreme Court.

No matter how carefully I prepared for trial, witnesses like Snoops and Tubby always managed to introduce the element of the unpredictable.  Sometimes I found my cases unraveling before my eyes, with me frantically thinking, Why didn’t they tell me that before?  This happened once when I was asked to prosecute a young man for illegal possession of wildlife when a “friend” from Florida brought him a baby alligator as a gift.  But that’s another story.  Let’s pick up where we left off with Chocolate.  As a reminder, here is the cast again.

CHOCOLATE: A COMIC PLAY IN ONE ACT
by Roger Evans Baker

The Characters:
• The Honorable Marsha P. Stone, Judge of the 13th District Court
• Mr. John Butcher, Prosecuting Attorney
• Mr. Gil Sullivan, Defense Attorney
• Victor S. Bull, the Defendant
• Ashton “Flapper” Cuff, Court Bailiff
• Officer Harold Ketchum, Police Officer
• Vickie Hicks, Bull’s 17-year-old niece
• Judd “Snoops” Lawson, Bull’s duplex neighbor
• Ernest “Tubby” Brown, Bull’s drinking buddy
• Winowna Darling Bull, Bull’s 76-year-old mother

JUDGE STONE. Very well. Present your case, Mr. Sullivan.

MR. SULLIVAN. Thank you. (as if the prosecution’s case were the weakest, most frivolous case he had ever seen) First of all, Your Honor–Mayam–I’m tellin’ you that you should dismiss this case right now! It is a disgrace to the entire criminal justice system, why, to the very Constitution itself! This man did nothing wrong, nothing more than argue with his adulterous wife, then leave the house for some respite.

JUDGE STONE. (chiding) Oral advocacy 101: never tell a judge what to do! Besides, I want to hear your side of the story. Call your witnesses, if you have any.

MR. SULLIVAN. (grumbling) Very well. We call Mr. Ernest Brown to the witness stand of this exalted Court.

JUDGE STONE. (aside to Sullivan, warning with a grin) Watch it, Sullivan!

MR. SULLIVAN. Mr. Brown. How long have you known the defendant, Mr. Victor Bull?

MR. BROWN. (quite pleased to be asked to relate his life story) Nigh onto 20 years, I reckon. Why we’ve been drinkin’ together since we was 15 years old. We’ve had some wild times together. Who-wee, could I tell some stories! Mm-mm. Yes, sir. That fellow Snoops has had three names, but me, I’ve only had one, since the early years: Tubby. Tubby. Fit me then and fits me now. Fit me till the day I die, I reckon.

MR. SULLIVAN. Thank you, Tubby. Just answer the questions without elaboration, please. And do know Mrs. Bull? And if so, how?

TUBBY. (disgruntled at his story not being more appreciated) Yes, sir, I do. She’s been a bar maid at the Dead Donkey for years.

MR. SULLIVAN. In fact, Mrs. Bull served you and Mr. Bull drinks on the night of July 7th, didn’t she?

TUBBY. Yes, sir. In fact, her boss had to send her home because she’d had a few too many herself. Only, she didn’t go home. She stayed right there with us and near drank us under the table. She was blitzed, yes sir, downright soused.

MR. BUTCHER. (panicked) I object! Mrs. Bull’s drinking has nothing to do with Mr. Bull shooting a gun at her in her home.

MR. SULLIVAN. He didn’t shoot it at her. Your own sweetheart Vickie said so.

MR. BUTCHER. She did not!

MR. SULLIVAN. She did too!

MR. BUTCHER. Did not!

MR. SULLIVAN. Did too!

MR. BUTCHER. Did not!

JUDGE STONE. (suppressing a laugh) Lord Almighty! Will you look at you two, arguing did not, did too, did not, did too, like two spoiled children. No wonder Snoops didn’t like being called Mr. Lawson. Grow up, just a little bit, please. Now, as to the State’s objection, I want to hear the rest of the story. Continue, Mr. Sullivan.

MR. SULLIVAN. (whining) Your Honor–Mayam–how am I supposed to mount a defense with Butcher here yapping like a wounded hyena every time things don’t go his way?

JUDGE STONE. Very well. Mr. Butcher, try not to object unless it’s really important. Now, the rest of the story, please.

MR. SULLIVAN. Yes, Mayam. Now, then, Mr. Brown. What was the interaction like between Mr. and Mrs. Bull at the Dead Donkey?

TUBBY. Not bad, after they’d had half-a-dozen. Before that it was a little tense. You see, Mrs. Bull had been braggin’ to us earlier that another customer had said to her, as she served drinks to him and his buddies, that he’d love to pour chocolate syrup all over her naked body and then lick it off–

MR. BUTCHER. (frantic and flustered) I object! This is really important! I object! I object! This, this, this . . . testimony . . . is . . . irrelevant, immaterial, out-of-bounds, disgusting, and utterly luskivious! Licking chocolate, indeed! Strike it! Strike it, I say! Strike it all from the record to preserve the unsullied business of this honorable Court to seek justice and truth!

JUDGE STONE. (astonished at Mr. Butcher’s outburst; inclined to sustain the objections, but intensely curious about Tubby’s testimony) Well, Mr. Sullivan, you have to admit, the testimony does seem to push the relevancy envelope a bit, wouldn’t you say?

MR. SULLIVAN. (conceding with a shrug of his shoulders) Very well, Mayam. No further questions for my friend, Tubby, here.

[On to Scene 6 tomorrow.]

Chocolate: A Comic Courtroom Play (Scene 4)

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John (13), Caleb (12), Hyrum (9), Hannah (5) and me at the bar of the Federal District Court.

CHOCOLATE: A COMIC PLAY IN ONE ACT
by Roger Evans Baker

This scene pokes a little good-natured fun at the police officer caricature.  (I won’t mention coffee and donuts, a sore spot with my police officer friends.)  Lest I be misunderstood, I have the greatest respect for law enforcement, for who they are, for what they do, and for why they do it.  They bring order to society by maintaining the rule of law within the bounds of the law.  I know of no tougher, more dangerous, more stressful, less-appreciated, more underpaid profession.  I offer police officers my thanks, my admiration, and my respect.  Still, I have read modern police reports that actually used the phrase “dismounted my vehicle,” hearkening unwittingly to the days when deputy marshals dismounted their equine partners while patrolling 19th-century towns.  Now, let’s meet Officer Ketchum.

The Characters:
• The Honorable Marsha P. Stone, Judge of the 13th District Court
• Mr. John Butcher, Prosecuting Attorney
• Mr. Gil Sullivan, Defense Attorney
• Victor S. Bull, the Defendant
• Ashton “Flapper” Cuff, Court Bailiff
• Officer Harold Ketchum, Police Officer
• Vickie Hicks, Bull’s 17-year-old niece
• Judd “Snoops” Lawson, Bull’s duplex neighbor
• Ernest “Tubby” Brown, Bull’s drinking buddy
• Winowna Darling Bull, Bull’s 76-year-old mother

MR. BUTCHER. (with great expectations for triumph) Just one, Your Honor. The best for last. The State calls Officer Harold Ketchum to the stand. (Officer Ketchum, in full dress uniform, takes his seat at the witness stand) Are you or are you not a sworn, certified police officer with 15 years of experience with the renowned Sherman City Police Department?

MR. SULLIVAN. (affecting incredulity) What is this, an awards ceremony? Your Honor, Mayam, he can’t do that. He packs 18 questions into one and bulldozes it all down the witness’ gullet.

JUDGE STONE. (irritated) Oh, grow up, Sullivan. It’s just background details. (she shifts her attention, and irritation, to the officer) Answer the questions, Officer.

OFFICER KETCHUM. (obediently) Yes, Sir, Ma’am. The answer is, Yes.

MR. BUTCHER. Now, then, Officer. Tell us what happened on July 7th.

OFFICER KETCHUM. Yes, Sir. Glad to, sir. (shifting in his seat and clearing his voice, and beginning to narrate like a dramatic newscaster) Police dispatch dispatched me on my new 1,800 mhz radio and routed me to the complaining party’s location, to where I proceeded with dispatch. Upon my arrival, I dismounted my vehicle and encountered the complaining party. I inquired of the events leading up to the complaining party’s emergency call. She narrated to me the events exactly as her niece did a few minutes previous, including the shooting of the said firearm, Sir.

MR. SULLIVAN. (in disbelief) I can’t believe this! H-e-l-l-o! Has anyone ever heard of hearsay? Where is the lady that’s supposed to be so frightened anyway?

MR. BUTCHER. (accusingly) She’s at your client’s house, where she refused to accept a subpoena because she’s too afraid to show up.

MR. SULLIVAN. (indignantly) Look, Butcher–why don’t you just take the stand and tell the whole story yourself.

JUDGE STONE. (flaring) Oh, shut up, both of you! Now move it along Butcher.

MR. BUTCHER. (moving it along) Officer Ketchum, did you ever find this man, Victor Bull, at the scene of the crime?

OFFICER KETCHUM. Yes, Sir, I did.

MR. BUTCHER. (after a pause, annoyed) Well, tell me about it. What and where and when and how?

OFFICER KETCHUM. Very well, sir. I proceeded to investigate the house and the house premises. Finding no sign of the defendant, I proceeded to search again the yard area. Upon shining my police issue flashlight under the rotten redwood deck, I observed the person of the defendant hiding beneath said deck, in a horizontal position, as if sleeping. I instructed him to exit his location. He remained motionless, as if sleeping. I repeated my instructions, and the defendant exited his location, but not without difficulty, requiring my firm assistance to stand and to ambulate to my police vehicle.

MR. BUTCHER. You mean he was drunk?

OFFICER KETCHUM. Correct, sir.

MR. BUTCHER. (delighted, almost singing) No further questions.

JUDGE STONE. Your turn, Mr. Sullivan.

MR. SULLIVAN. Thank you kindly, Mayam. Now, Officer Ketchum. Fifteen years with the department, it is? Certified, are you? Fully trained, are you?

OFFICER KETCHUM. Yes, sir.

MR. SULLIVAN. (innocently) Then tell me this. Just how many times have you been trained in locating suspects beneath rotten redwood decks by flashlight light?

OFFICER KETCHUM. Well, none, sir–not specifically.

MR. SULLIVAN. (with suspicion) I see. And how many times in your distinguished career have you apprehended persons who appeared to be sleeping beneath rotten redwood decks? None, I’ll wager.

OFFICER KETCHUM. Correct, sir, although I have apprehended numerous other suspects who were pretending to–

MR. SULLIVAN (all innocence lost, suspicion turns to combative confrontation) Just answer the questions I ask, Officer. I didn’t ask, Would you please volunteer to me whatever you would like. I asked a simple question, and you gave me a simple answer–no. So it’s fair to say that you have no direct training or experience in the apprehension of people sleeping under rotten redwood decks, with flashlight light at night, right?

OFFICER KETCHUM. I guess not, sir.

MR. SULLIVAN. Did my client have a gun in his possession?

OFFICER KETCHUM. No, sir.

MR. SULLIVAN. Did you search the premises for a gun?

OFFICER KETCHUM. No, sir. I saw no need once we had apprehended the–

MR. SULLIVAN. Thank you very much, Officer Ketchum. That will do. No further questions.

JUDGE STONE. Does the State rest?

MR. BUTCHER. (quite pleased with himself) We do, Your Honorable Honor.

JUDGE STONE. Very well. Present your case, Mr. Sullivan.

[Stay tuned for Scene 5.]

Chocolate: A Comic Courtroom Play (Scene 3)

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Hyrum (13) in front of the doors of the Utah Supreme Court.

CHOCOLATE: A COMIC PLAY IN ONE ACT (Scene 3)
by Roger Evans Baker

Snoops, the main character of these scene, is quite a made up character.  But having an uncontrollable witness is quite a routine occurrence at trial.

The Characters:
• The Honorable Marsha P. Stone, Judge of the 13th District Court
• Mr. John Butcher, Prosecuting Attorney
• Mr. Gil Sullivan, Defense Attorney
• Victor S. Bull, the Defendant
• Ashton “Flapper” Cuff, Court Bailiff
• Officer Harold Ketchum, Police Officer
• Vickie Hicks, Bull’s 17-year-old niece
• Judd “Snoops” Lawson, Bull’s duplex neighbor
• Ernest “Tubby” Brown, Bull’s drinking buddy
• Winowna Darling Bull, Bull’s 76-year-old mother

MR. BUTCHER. State calls Mr. Judd Lawson. (pause while Mr. Lawson takes the witness stand) Mr. Lawson, are you next-door neighbors with the defendant and his wife?

MR. LAWSON. (happy to be of assistance) Yes, I live right next door. In fact, we share a duplex. They live on one side and I live on the other. Kinda’ like two homes in one, you know, with a dividing wall running right down in the middle. Not much of a wall, though–I can hear everything: water pipes vibrating, stereo blasting, laughing, shouting, and all sorts of carrying on. It’s hard to be a good neighbor, sometimes. But you know, I try. I try real hard. And I think I am a good neighbor, darn it. Like when their cat had kittens on my back porch. I took ‘em right over and gave ‘em to the neighbors, in a box. It’s their own fault, you know, for not getting the cat fixed in time. We gotta keep the cat population down, you know. It’s all in the fixin’, you know. And then there was the time when their dog pooped on my lawn and made a burn spot in the grass. I didn’t even complain, although I had rights to. People should keep their dogs–

MR. BUTCHER. Thank you, very much, Mr. Lawson. Would you tell us, briefly, what you observed on the night of July 7th?

MR. LAWSON. (cheerful) Certainly. I heard a gun shot next door and a bunch of female screaming and ran to the window and saw a man run down the front porch and then around the side of the house where I lost sight of him. I thought of following after him to see what was going on. (smiling, aside to the Judge) My friends don’t call me “Snoops” for nothing, you know. (back to Mr. Butcher) But with the gun shot, and all, I decided maybe I’d stay put. People is getting shot all the time by getting mixed up in trouble, you know, and I didn’t want to get mixed up in no trouble. No, sir. Trouble free, that’s me.

MR. BUTCHER. (in dismay) Thank you, Mr. Lawson. No further questions.

MR. SULLIVAN. (eagerly, licking his lips) Now, Mr. Lawson, or, should I call you Snoops? Which do you prefer, sir?

SNOOPS. Snoops is fine; or Judd. I’ve been called just about everything, you know. Like when my granddaddy called me Bud, and it stuck for years, until my high school sweetheart, God rest her soul, called me Snicker, and it stuck, until my drinking buddies called me Snoops, because I just kinda’ like knowing what’s going on, and it stuck for good, you know. But I don’t cater to “Mr. Lawson”; makes me feel like a lawyer or something. Don’t quite feel right.

MR. SULLIVAN. Well, then, Mr. Snoops. Could you tell who ran out the door?

SNOOPS. Snoops is fine. Just Snoops. No Mr. needed. Not exactly but I knew it was a man. You know, kinda’ tall, short hair, denim jacket, cowboy boots.

MR. SULLIVAN. (affecting astonishment) Surely you are not saying, Mr. Snoops, that a lady can’t be tall?

SNOOPS. No, sir, I aint.

MR. SULLIVAN. Well, then, are you saying that a lady can’t have short hair?

SNOOPS. No, sir, I aint at all. Short hair looks right nice on some ladies, though I like long, flowing hair, myself, of the blonde variety.

MR. SULLIVAN. Maybe you’re sayin’ that ladies don’t wear cowboy boots or denim jackets?

SNOOPS. (oblivious to Mr. Sullivan’s tactics) No, sir.

MR. SULLIVAN. The fact is, Mr. Snoops, you couldn’t really tell if it was a man or a woman, could you? For all you know it could have been a tall, short-haired, denim-wearin’, boot sportin’ lady, couldn’t it? You don’t really know what you saw, do you?

SNOOPS. (suddenly confounded) Well, all I know is that I saw a man or a woman run around to the back of the house. And I don’t know no more.

MR. SULLIVAN. (gloating) He’s all yours, Butcher.

MR. BUTCHER. (fed up with his insulting opponent) I really must protest, Your Honor. My name is not Butcher, it’s Mr. Butcher. It is truly bad form for Mr. Sullivan to keep referring to me as Butcher. It’s not civil. This is, after all, a civil proceeding, like Your Honor said, and he’s supposed to be civil.

MR. SULLIVAN. (sarcastically) Last time I checked, Butcher, this was a criminal proceeding, not a civil one, so I don’t have to be civil, do I?

JUDGE STONE. (angrily) Mr. Sullivan, whatever kind of proceeding this is, this is still my court, and I’ll ask you to be more civil for the remainder of this criminal proceeding. (aside to Butcher) Try not to be so touchy, Butcher! (resuming, impatiently) Anyone else, Mr. Butcher?

MR. BUTCHER. (with great expectations for triumph) Just one, Your Honor. The best for last.

[Come back soon for Scene 4.]

Chocolate: A Comic Courtroom Play (Scene 2)

2015-08-21 Hyrum-02

Hyrum (13) and guide in the old Utah Supreme Court room in the state capitol building.

You remember, don’t you, that I as the prosecutor in real life bear no resemblance to Mr. Butcher, the prosecutor in the play.  Flapper, however closely resembles the actual zealous, toothless old bailiff.  And defense counsel Sullivan is mild compared to the real defense attorney, who sported faded denim bib overalls under his western tweed blazer, with bits of breakfast lodged in his bushy beard.  (They have both long since retired.)  I hope you enjoy Scene 2.

CHOCOLATE: A COMIC PLAY IN ONE ACT
by Roger Evans Baker

The Characters:
• The Honorable Marsha P. Stone, Judge of the 13th District Court
• Mr. John Butcher, Prosecuting Attorney
• Mr. Gil Sullivan, Defense Attorney
• Victor S. Bull, the Defendant
• Ashton “Flapper” Cuff, Court Bailiff
• Officer Harold Ketchum, Police Officer
• Vickie Hicks, Bull’s 17-year-old niece
• Judd “Snoops” Lawson, Bull’s duplex neighbor
• Ernest “Tubby” Brown, Bull’s drinking buddy
• Winowna Darling Bull, Bull’s 76-year-old mother

JUDGE STONE. (commanding, with apparent renewed interest) Call your first witness, Mr. Butcher.

MR. BUTCHER. (with high-pitched excitement mixed with anxiety) The State calls Vickie Hicks to the witness stand.

FLAPPER. (like a drill sergeant) Vickie Hicks! Come forward! Take your seat on the witness stand! Speak clearly into the microphone, please!

MR. BUTCHER. (affecting meekness) Your Honor, may I stand to the side so that this child isn’t required to look at the defendant during questioning?

JUDGE STONE. (sighing impatiently) Very well. You may proceed with direct examination.

MR. BUTCHER. (with deference) Thank you kindly, Judge. (Calmly and gently.) Now then, Vickie, sweetheart. Please tell us what happened on the night of July 7th.

VICKIE. (adopting her sweetest teenage voice) It’s just as you said, Mr. Butcher. Uncle Victor came home drunk, started arguing with Aunt Mary, took out a gun, and fired off a round right into the ceiling. Dust and plaster everywhere.

MR. BUTCHER. (with indignation) And is this the very gun he pointed at her in a threatening manner and fired?

VICKIE. (smug) It s-u-r-e is.

MR. SULLIVAN. (complaining) Your Honor, Mayam. I object to Butcher’s leading questions–he’s putting the answers right into her mouth. Why doesn’t he just take the witness stand and do the whole trial himself?

JUDGE STONE. It is a bit out of order, you know, Mr. Butcher. Please be more judicious. In any event, there’s no point in going back. Overruled. Proceed, Mr. Butcher.

MR. BUTCHER. (with clenched jaw and accusing tone) The defendant pointed this gun at your dear aunt and then shot, didn’t he?

VICKIE. Yes, sir, he pointed it right at her and shot. Only, he didn’t shoot at her but at the–

MR. BUTCHER. (triumphantly) Thank you very much, Miss Vickie. (As if there were nothing left to tell.) Well, there you have it. No further questions.

MR. SULLIVAN. (dripping deference) May I have the pleasure, Mayam, of cross-examining Mr. Butcher’s sweetheart, Vickie Hicks?

JUDGE STONE. (motherly) Of course, you may. It’s your client’s right, you know.

MR. SULLIVAN. (like a cat ready to pounce on its prey) Yes, I know. Well now, Vickie, darlin’. I’m a-goin’ to ask you a few questions. Okay?

VICKIE. Shoot.

MR. SULLIVAN. (sarcastically) I’d love to. (Accusing.) You’re a lying little stink, aren’t you?

MR. BUTCHER. (offended) I object, Your Honor! Impugning the character of a child witness! It’s not proper! It’s not ethical!

JUDGE STONE. Objection sustained. (chiding) Now, Mr. Sullivan, mind your manners. She is a child, and she has sworn to tell the truth, after all.

MR. SULLIVAN. I’m aware of that, Mayam. But I do not believe this child has told the truth, and I have the right to challenge her credibility.

JUDGE STONE. Well, proceed. But please be civil. This is a civil proceeding you know.

MR. SULLIVAN. (innocently) Of course, Mayam. Vickie, dear, you haven’t told the truth here today, have you?

VICKIE. (she is caught off guard, but recovers quickly) I most certainly have.

MR. SULLIVAN. (as if stating known facts) In fact, you’re used to lying, aren’t you?

VICKIE. (losing confidence) I most certainly am not.

MR. SULLIVAN. You mean to tell me you’ve never told a lie?

VICKIE. Well, not really. No big lies, anyway.

MR. SULLIVAN. (diminutive, as if speaking to a baby) Just little bitty ones?

VICKIE. I guess, yea.

MR. SULLIVAN. And what little bitty lies might they have been?

VICKIE. (not sure what she should say) Well, maybe, like, I told my mamma I was studying as Suzie’s when I was really listening to CDs at Buddy’s.

MR. SULLIVAN. (sweetly) I see. So if you are so willing to lie to your own mamma, it wouldn’t be a stretch to lie to the Judge, here, would it?

VICKIE. (confused) I wouldn’t lie to the Judge, just to my mamma.

MR. SULLIVAN. (roughly) That’s not what I asked you, is it, Miss Vickie Hicks? It wouldn’t be such a stretch, would it, Miss Vickie Hicks?

VICKIE. (spiraling into distress) Well. I don’t know. I guess–maybe not. I don’t know!

MR. SULLIVAN. (raising his voice) And it wouldn’t be a stretch to lie to the police, either, would it, Miss Vickie Hicks?

VICKIE. (through tears) I wouldn’t lie to the police.

MR. SULLIVAN. (roughly) Would it? You have lied to the police before, haven’t you? You broke your Uncle George’s windshield and blamed one of your wannabe gang high-school punk friends, didn’t you?

MR. BUTCHER. (squealing) I object! I don’t know anything about this!

JUDGE STONE. (gleefully) Overruled. You’re not supposed to know everything about the defendant’s case, Mr. Butcher. I suggest you do your homework better next time.

MR. SULLIVAN. (caustically) Answer my question, Vickie, dear. You lied to the police, didn’t you?

MR. BUTCHER. (crushed by the Judge’s remonstrance, but daring to object again) I object, Your Honor. Mr. Sullivan doesn’t care if Vickie is honest or not. He just wants to make her cry!

JUDGE STONE. (with some disappointment) Back off a little, Mr. Sullivan. (Gently.) Answer the question, dear.

VICKIE. (confounded and upset) I don’t know what he’s talking about.

MR. SULLIVAN. (sweet again) I see. Let me ask you another question. Have you ever been suspended from school?

MR. BUTCHER. (anxiously) Objection! What does high school suspension have to do with the defendant shooting a loaded gun? It’s irrelevant, I tell you!

MR. SULLIVAN. (firing back angrily) It’s relevant when you are suspended for cheating!

MR. BUTCHER. (in a panic) I object! I object!

JUDGE STONE. (wearily, at the same time Mr. Sullivan snaps at Mr. Butcher) Objection sustained.

MR. SULLIVAN. (annoyed, to Butcher, at the same time as the Judge’s ruling) Oh, shut up, will you!

JUDGE STONE. (red-faced, infuriated, after a flustered pause) How dare you tell this Court to shut up! I have given you a great deal of slack, Mr. Gil Sullivan, and I’m just about to tie you up with it and let you spend a night behind bars for contempt of this Court!

MR. SULLIVAN. (mortified) No, Your Honor, Mayam.

JUDGE STONE. Don’t you tell me no, young man! I was a Judge when you were still in diapers! I’ve never heard such rudeness from the bar! Flapper, are you prepared?

FLAPPER. (approaching Mr. Sullivan armed with handcuffs and a toothless grin) A pleasure, Your Honor.

MR. SULLIVAN. (frantic) Please, Your Honor Sir–Mayam–Judge. I was talkin’ to Butcher, here, not to you.

JUDGE STONE. (quickly deflating) Oh. Well. Yes. Well. It’s a good thing for you, Mr. Sullivan, that you were telling Mr. Butcher to shut up and not me. The nerve! Stand down, Flapper. (Bailiff Cuff returns to his seat with obvious disappointment.)

MR. BUTCHER (hurt) But Your Honor!

JUDGE STONE. (wanting to put the incident behind her) Oh shut up, will you! Sullivan, are you quite finished with your assault on this poor child?

MR. SULLIVAN. (hesitating) Well, no. I did have a few more pertinent questions–but, on second thought, maybe I am through with her.

JUDGE STONE. (with kindness) You may step down, sweetheart. (Impatiently) Next witness, Mr. Butcher.

MR. BUTCHER. State calls Mr. Judd Lawson. (pause while Mr. Lawson takes the witness stand) Mr. Lawson, are you next-door neighbors with the defendant and his wife?

[Come back tomorrow for Scene 3.]