Dumb Criminals

Every now and then you will read one of those short little blurbs in the paper about something really stupid that a criminal did that lead to his arrest, like falling asleep during his burglary or getting caught in a window that was too small for him to sneak through.   Those things really do happen.   I recall one particular case I had when a very young lawyer where a fellow committed a crime that was off the charts on the stupidity factor.

As a young lawyer I had a family to feed and was willing to take just about any case or client that came my way.  I had signed up to be a court appointed lawyer for defendants that couldn’t afford their own lawyer.  We were paid the princely sum of $15 dollars an hour for our work.  Even in the late ’60’s that was not considered big bucks I assure you.   But babies were at home and wanted to be fed on a regular basis and more were on the way.   So one day I was called to defend a guy on a charge of armed robbery.   I checked his “beef” sheet which was a history of his arrests and convictions.  It was mostly pretty petty stuff and DWI’s.  Nothing of a violent nature there but he wasn’t a pillar of society by any means.   I got the basic story from the DA who said he robbed a cab driver with a knife and had been ID’d by the driver and others.   But there was no confession so there might be some hope.  I went to interview my guy.   His version of what happened was fairly vague.  He wasn’t forthcoming and stated the cab driver gave him some money because he felt sorry for my guy.  

I went back to the DA to get some more facts and check the police report.  The facts were that dum dum had gone to a local bar for a night out on the town.  He was still on parole and was not supposed to be in a bar.   He was dressed that night in a white ten gallon cowboy hat and white pants that were tucked inside his red cowboy boots.  Wait, it gets better, he had a white cowboy shirt with sequins and to top it all off he was wearing a scarf around his neck, red.  It wasn’t one of those small ones but very long and reached down to his waist.  He had gone to the bar and ordered several drinks.  Then he asked the bartender to call a cab for him after spending a couple of hours there drinking and generally making a nuisance of himself.    You might say he stood out in any crowd.  Forget his obnoxious behavoir, I many people could miss someone dressed like that.  Even in a Dallas that was pretty unusual attire.  He had been telling the bartender his life story and tale of woe.  Well, the bartender did call a cab for him.

When the cab came he got in and gave an address but as soon as they started up he pulled a knife on the cab driver and demanded all his money.  The cab driver complied.  As soon as he got the money, he told the driver to stop and he got out and started walking.  Even in those ancient days the cabs had two way radios so the driver called in to  dispatch and reported what happened and asked for police help.  He did this while watching my guy amble down the street like it was the Easter Day Parade.  The call was made to the police and sure enough there was a squad car in the neighborhood and it arrived before my guy had gone more than a block.   He wasn’t hard to find.  I mean how many people were walking down the street with white pants, a sequined white cowboy shirt, ten gallon white hat and red cowboys boots and red scarf!  He still had the knife and the cash.

When I confronted my guy with the complete story he insisted his original version was correct.  He was just showing off his knife to the driver he said and after the driver heard about how bad his life was, the driver insisted on giving him some money to help him out.  There was no robbery, merely a misinterpretation of the facts by the villainous prosecuter according to my guy.  Since he already had two felonies he demanded his right to a trial and wouldn’t consider a plea.  Three convictions carried pretty stiff manadory sentences.  So,,,,,I went to trial.  My only witness was my defendant.   The prosecution called the bartender, the driver and the cops who arrested him within minutes of leaving the cab.  They introduced the knife the cash and the red scarf and boots.    They had mercy or a sense of humor and didn’t introduce the pants and shirt.

Knock me over with a feather the jury believed the prosecution’s case.  They didn’t believe my guy’s version of the gift from the driver and the story of only showing him the knife because he thought the driver would be interested in seeing it.

How in the name of heaven he thought that would sell is beyond me to this day, but I guess he figured he had nothing to lose which was pretty close to accurate.  Maybe one of the jurors would be feeble minded or like wild cowboy outfits.    So, a suggestion, the next time you plan a major crime be sure to at least dress discreetly for the event.   Definitely don’t wear red scarves or boots, people tend to notice those things.   You might want a better escape plan than my guy also.

I have always felt that  Sept. 1st should be New Year’s.  Things change so much at that time–hunting season starts, Football starts, the kids begin school, the “social season” is just around the corner and the weather begins to soften from the oppressive heat of summer.  Think about it.  On January 1st nothing really changes.  The kids are still in school and have been, the weather is the same before and after and there are no new major events on the way.  All the new stuff starts in September not January.   It is an arbitrary designation anyway so why not make it fit our “rhythm” of life.


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