Our collection of the DUMBEST & FUNNIEST THINGS EVER SAID IN COURT is presented over several pages:

Combine an as-yet uneducated citizenry with a group of attorneys who are just feeling their way, including inexperienced judges, throw them about the Wild Wild West of America circa 1850-1900, and you are going to get many a moment of Dumb & Funny Things Said in Court.


Which Hand?

A lawyer was making closing submissions before a jury on a mortgage case. He swung his right hand wildly in the air to accentuate his points, but with his left hand deep into his pant pocket.

Lawyer: Gentlemen of the jury, this is a nefarious instrument designed to confound the innocent, to confuse the untutored! It has caused more devastation than any other instrument in the history of mankind!

Other lawyer: Which hand?

The Facts

The Court: "How is this, Mr. Johnson? The last time you were here you consented to be sworn and now you simply make affirmation."

Mr. Johnson: "Well, your Honor, The reason is that I suspect I ain't quite so sure about the facts of this case as the other."

The Hat

hatA prisoner was tried for murder and part of the circumstantial evidence was a found at the scene of the crime.

Counsel for the defense pressed upon the jury that the hat was a very common one and did not necessarily belong to the defendant even know he was known to own one identical.

He told the jury:

"You gentlemen, no doubt each possess such hat, of the ordinary make and shape. Beware how you condemn a fellow creature to a shameful death on such a piece of evidence."

The defendant was acquitted but just before he left the prisoners dock he turned to the judge and said:

"If you please my Lord, may I have my hat?"

Nudism

A Seattle lawyer began his closing submissions as follows:

"In this case, I have absolutely no case law to back up my position. I find myself in the predicament of the blind man in the nudist colony - I'll just have to feel my way along."

Witnesses

Justice: "You are charged with stealing chickens. Have you any witnesses?"
Accused: "I hope not. I don't steal chickens before witnesses."

Chasing Chaste

Apparently the following exchange occurred in 1885 in a court situated in Lawrence County, Mississippi.

Mrs. Dinah Smith was being charged with adultery. The prosecution called Mr. Richard Sims.

Attorney: "Is defendant a chaste women?"

Richard Sims: "Yes sir. She is very much chased - two or three men were after her all the time."

Divine Silence

One day well over 100 years ago before Judge Cleary of Kentucky, a local thief was convicted of stealing mules. He protested his innocence at every turn but he was not believed by the jury who immediately returned a verdict of guilty.

Before passing sentence, Judge Cleary asked the thief if he had anything to say.

It turns out he did:

"I am innocent and I ask God to strike me dead if I am not!"

Mississippi Judge Sharkey

Judge Cleary paused for a long moment, as an awkward moment of silence prevailed in the courtroom.

Then, abruptly, Judge Cleary pronounced the sentence but his first words were:

"As the Almighty has not seen proper to comply with your request, the sentence of this Court is...."

A Prayer Meeting or Something

According to the New York Weekly, circa 1889, an accused got off with an acquittal after his lawyer made the following submissions:

"Gentlemen of the jury, according to all the testimony presented, the evidence against my client is purely circumstantial.

"The murder was committed and the autopsy showed that the deceased had been hit by a club. A few persons saw my client standing over the prostrate man. My client had a club in his hand. The club was bloody.

"He was seen to strike or, I should say, gently tap the prostrate man a few times that the aforesaid club but, gentlemen of the jury, remember the injustice which has been done in the sad, regretted, unrecoverable past and be cautious. Remember the hundreds of innocent men who would have suffered unjustly if, at the last moment, some happy circumstance had not thrown doubt on their guilt.

"Now, gentlemen, it is very evident to me that my client, in returning to his peaceful home from a prayer meeting or something, just happened to see the deceased committing suicide by beating himself on the head with a club, and my benevolent client, true to instincts of humanity, rushed up, jerked the fatal club way, and playfully patted him with it as an injunction that he should not try to commit suicide again."

Deaf to Reason

At a jury selection, one of the prospective jurors gave every sign of not wanting to serve. When asked for his reason, the juror replied:

"I'm deaf, your honor; so deaf I really don't believe I could possibly hear more than one side of the case."

14 years

In Cincinnati, a lawyer was really getting carried away in court when he shouted this closing statement:

"All I demand for my client is justice!"

The judge calmly replied:

"I am very sorry I can't accommodate you. The law won't allow me to give your client more than 14 years."

Can I See Him Alone?

According to  14 Crim. L. Rep. & Rep. 629 (1892), a suspected murderer appeared before the court.

Accused: Is this my lawyer?

Judge: Yes.

Accused: Is he going to defend me?

Judge: Yes.

Accused: If he should die, could I have another?

Judge: Yes.

Accused: Can I see him alone for a few minutes?

My Wife

According to the now defunct newspaper, the Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean (1865-1914), this exchange occurred in a local court, circa 1891:

Judge: have you told your wife about this?

O'Brien: No, sir.

Judge: Well, I will fine you $25 and I will suspend the fine providing you tell your wife about it. Will you do it?

O'Brien: Well, I guess, Judge, you had better let the fine stand. You don't know my wife.

gavel 

Our collection of the DUMBEST & FUNNIEST THINGS EVER SAID IN COURT is presented over several pages:

REFERENCES:

  • Each of these Dumbest and Funniest Things Ever Said in Court have been verified and originally presented by a host of ancient American newspapers and law journals such as but not necessarily limited to the Criminal Law Magazine and Reporter of 1880-1896 (originally known as the Criminal Law Magazine) based in Jersey City, New Jersey; Life Magazine; the Central Law Journal, Harper's Bazaar, the Cincinnati Enquirer.
  • The old guy in the image is William Lewis Sharkey (1798-1873), Mississippi lawyer, and a judge from 1834 to 1851 (and, briefly, Governor of Mississippi).
  • Some of these are from John May's Courtroom Kicktales (Charlottesville, Virginia: The Michie Company, Law Publishers, 1964).