Vail Daily column: Enough is enough
March 12, 2013
The War to End All Wars was distinguished by the advent of “modern” trench warfare. All along the Western Front, the troops dug in and what resulted was a stalemate. Inches were gained slowly and at the price of copious misery and blood. Sure, there had been breastworks since as early as the Roman Times, but trench warfare in the First World War stood, and stands still, as a symbol for the futility of war.Among the knowledge gained from that four-year debacle was the lesson that the war itself must be won, but not every last blood-sated inch (or, in deference to the Continent that paid for that lesson in blood, ever last blood-sated centimeter).So what’s this got to do with law?Well, it would not be an original thought for me to claim that a trial is like warfare. I’ll concede, there is considerably less ordinance in a courtroom than on a battlefield but there are parallels nonetheless. And sometimes, lives are, literally, at stake.Which brings me to the Jodi Arias trial.I confess that I have watched little of the proceedings – my “watching” limited to catch-as-catch-can while trudging miles on the treadmill – but I have listened to a fair amount on Sirius while driving back and forth. And what I’ve concluded is this; “enough is enough.” However skilled a litigator Maricopa County prosecutor Juan Martinez may be, you’ll please forgive the analogy if I claim, he’s beating this thing to death. OK, OK, Mr. Martinez, we get it! You don’t think Arias’ claim of self-defense holds up.An apocryphal story (or at least some version of it) is told in every law school. The story goes like this:A guy is on trial. He is accused of biting off another fellow’s nose in the heat of a bar fight. Let’s call the accused fellow Mr. Lecter. Let’s call the newly noseless unfortunate a Mr. Hurt.One of Mr. Lecter’s accusers is on the stand. Let’s refer to him as one Mr. Veracity. Veracity is being cross examined by Lecter’s counsel, a Mr. Moore.Moore is questioning Veracity, “So, Sir, you claim my client,” (he crooks a scythe-like finger at Lecter) “bit off Hurt’s nose, is that right?”Veracity nods. “Yes sir,” he says.Moore swells up, pirouettes a half-turn towards the jury, raises an eyebrow in incredulity. “Mr. Veracity. Sir,” he says disdainfully over one shoulder, “did you actually see my client bite off Hurt’s nose?”Veracity squirms a bit, “No sir, I didn’t.”Here is where Moore should have left it; a dramatic pause, a thank you. A polite nod to the judge. But he did not. He wanted more. He wanted to crest the angry swell of breastworks, charge through the wafting toxic gases, leap the concertina wire, and capture that last inch (or centimeter) of decimated soil. And so he says, “Mr. Veracity. How dare you!?” In low, dramatic voice, “How dare you. You did not actually see Mr. Lecter bite off Hurt’s nose, is that right?!””I did not.””How then, Sir, can you claim to these good gentlemen and women of this jury” – he sweeps is arm in a benevolent arc – “that Mr. Lecter is responsible for this heinous crime?” He is up on the tippy toes of his Johnston & Murphy Cap Toe Oxfords.Veracity says quietly, “Because I saw him spit it out.”By any measure, Juan Martinez is a bulldog. But contrary to the sometimes public perception that what you want in a courtroom is a bulldog, where a bulldog rightly belongs is among, well … bulls. Finesse in a courtroom is almost always the better course. Even on the radio, you can see the juror’s eyes glazing over, their mouths gaping open in yawns at Martinez’s relentless, dogged pursuit of Jodi Arias.What you have to win in a courtroom is the war, not every inch (or centimeter) of the war-torn earth. After nearly 30 years of trial work, that’s my two cents’ worth anyway. Two-and-a-half weeks of salacious grilling of Mr. Arias is, in my estimating anyway, making the point only that Martinez should be commended for his stamina.Is Jodi Arias guilty?Well, with apologies to Nancy Grace, I hold the quaint notion that that’s for the jury to decide.I do know this, however; enough is enough. Get what you need and move on. It is the result that matters, not that you have bettered your adversary at every turn, won every skirmish, or landed the greater weight of body blows.What is needed is not a bulldog. An artist might be better, one who paints an Escher-like painting that circles back upon itself to an inevitable and inescapable conclusion.Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddision, Tharp and Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody, divorce and civil litigation. He may be heard on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) and seen on ECOTV 18 as host of “Community Focus.” Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at either of his e-mail addresses, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.