Shapiro for the Defense

September 02, 1994|By RICHARD E. VATZ and LEE S. WEINBERG

Awed by his aggressive defense tactics in the O. J. Simpson case, we researched Robert Shapiro's early career. It turns out that his first case was defending a man who had been ticketed for parking overtime. Here is his cross-examination of the officer who ticketed his client:

L Mr. Shapiro: Officer, how long have you been ticketing cars?

Officer: For ten years, sir.

S.: Now, the average meter cop has been ticketing for 15 years, is that right?

O.: I don't know, sir.

S.: You don't know? This has been your beat for 10 years, and you don't know the average time others have been on your own beat?

O: No, sir.

S.: Now, officer, the meter in question was registered ''expired,'' correct?

O.: Correct, sir.

S.: Now, officer, did anyone else witness the ''expired'' signal on the meter?

O.: No, sir.

S.: So, without verification, without eyewitnesses, you just took it on your own authority that the meter said ''expired,'' right?

O.: Yes, sir.

S.: Officer, when is the last time you had an eye exam?

O.: Five years ago.

S.; Five years ago? Doesn't the department require meter cops to have regular eye exams?

O.: No, sir.

S.: So, in theory, officer, you could have terrible vision -- be nearly blind -- and no one in your department would know.

O.: I guess not.

S.: Now, officer, the meter which you THINK read ''expired'' was located in FRONT of the defendant's car, correct?

O.: Correct, sir.

S.: Now, many meters are located BEHIND parking spaces, is that not correct?

O.: Yes, sir.

S.: Now, if that's true, officer, how do you know that THIS meter was the meter for the defendant's car?

O.: I could just see it, sir.

S.: But you've had no training in differentiating between meters located in FRONT of parking spaces and meters located BEHIND parking spaces, have you?

O.: Training in front and behind? No, sir.

S.: And in 1984, when you started, you once read the wrong meter, erroneously giving an undeserved ticket, didn't you?

O.: Well, yes, but . . .

S.: And, finally, officer, another policeman in your precinct has testified that you have stated that people should buy American cars, right?

O.: Well, yes, but . . .

S.: And the defendant's car is a Toyota, isn't it?

O.: Yes, but . . .

S.: And you once said, and I quote, ''I would ticket foreign cars for nothing,'' didn't you?

O.: Well, I may have said that as a joke, but . . .

S.: Of course, you wouldn't ticket all cars for nothing, would you?

O.: No, but, it was just a kind of joking . . .

S.: So, you have no witness, your eyesight is untested and probably your vision is bad, you sought no corroborative testimony, you've erred on meter-readings in the past, and you are out to get foreign-car owners. How do you expect that 12 jurors would find it true beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant's car was overparked?

O.: I don't, sir.

Richard E. Vatz teaches rhetoric at Towson State University. Lee S. Weinberg teaches in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.

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