Disorder in the Court: A Collection of Humorous Things Said in Court

by Richard Lederer, Jeff Lee, et al.

edited/appended to by Scott Ichniowski

Most language is spoken language, and most words, once they are uttered, vanish forever into the air. But such is not the case with language spoken during courtroom trials, for there exists an army of courtroom reporters whose job it is to take down and preserve every statement made during the proceedings.

Mary Louise Gilman, the venerable editor of the National Shorthand Reporter has collected many of the more hilarious courtroom bloopers in two books - Humor in the Court (1977) and More Humor in the Court, published a few months ago. From Mrs. Gilman's two volumes, here are some of my favorite transquips, all recorded by America's keepers of the word.

Additional statements were taken from the Massachusetts Bar Association Lawyers Journal and another list from someone who works in a court reporting office. Who, in addition to their normal computer-related duties, also proofread deposition transcripts during busy times.

The following is a pretty long list of humorous things that occasionally occur; unintentional (or intentional) double-entendres, witnesses (and lawyers) not paying attention to what they're really saying, and so forth:

  1. Q: Now, Mrs. Johnson, how was your first marriage terminated?
    A: By death.
    Q: And by whose death was it terminated?
  2. Q: What is your name?
    A: Ernestine McDowell.
    Q: And what is your marital status?
    A: Fair.
  3. Q: Are you married?
    A: No, I'm divorced.
    Q: And what did your husband do before you divorced him?
    A: A lot of things I didn't know about.
  4. Q: Do you know how far pregnant you are right now?
    A: I will be three months November 8th.
    Q: Apparently then, the date of conception was August 8th?
    A: Yes.
    Q: What were you and your husband doing at that time?/Q: What were you doing at that time?
  5. Q: Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?
    A: All my autopsies have been performed on dead people.
  6. Q: What happened then?
    A: He told me, he says, "I have to kill you because you can identify me."
    Q: Did he kill you?
    A: No.
  7. Q: How is your driving record?
    A: It depends...
  8. The Court: Now, as we begin, I must ask you to banish all present information and prejudice from your minds, if you have any.
  9. Q: You say you had three men punching at you, kicking you, raping you, and you didn't scream?
    A: No ma'am.
    Q: Does that mean you consented?
    A: No, ma'am. That means I was unconscious.
  10. Q: Did he pick the dog up by the ears?
    A: No.
    Q: What was he doing with the dog's ears?
    A: Picking them up in the air.
    Q: Where was the dog at this time?
    A: Attached to the ears.
  11. Q: When he went, had you gone and had she, if she wanted to and were able, for the time being excluding all the restraints on her not to go, gone also, would he have brought you, meaning you and she, with him to the station?
    Mr. Brooks: Objection. That question should be taken out and shot.
  12. Was that the same nose you broke as a child?
  13. Now, doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, in most cases he just passes quietly away and doesn't know anything about it until the next morning?
  14. Was it you or your brother that was killed in the war?
  15. The youngest son, the 20-year-old, how old is he?
  16. Were you alone or by yourself?
  17. How long have you been a French Canadian?
  18. Do you have any children or anything of that kind?
  19. Q: I show you exhibit 3 and ask you if you recognize that picture?
    A: That's me.
    Q: Were you present when that picture was taken?
  20. Were you present in court this morning when you were sworn in?
  21. Q: Mrs. Smith, do you believe you are emotionally stable?
    A: I used to be.
    Q: How many times have you committed suicide?
    A: Four Times.
  22. So you were gone until you returned?
  23. Q: She had three children, right?
    A: Yes.
    Q: How many were boys?
    A: None.
    Q: Were there any girls?
  24. You don't know what it was, and you didn't know what it looked like, but can you describe it?
  25. Q: You say that the stairs went down to the basement?
    A: Yes.
    Q: And these stairs, did they go up also?
  26. Q: Have you lived in this town all your life?
    A: Not yet.
  27. A Texas attorney, realizing he was on the verge of unleashing a stupid question, interrupted himself and said, "Your Honor, I'd like to strike the next question."
  28. Q: Do you recall approximately the time that you examined the body of Mr. Edington at the Rose Chapel?
    A: It was in the evening. The autopsy started about 8:30 PM
    Q: And Mr. Edington was dead at the time, is that correct?
    A: No, you stupid, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy!
  29. Q: What is the meaning of sperm being present?
    A: It indicates intercourse.
    Q: Male sperm?
    A: That is the only kind I know.
  30. Lawyer: What device do you have in your laboratory to test alcohol content?
    Witness: I have a dual column gas chromatograph, Hewlett-Packard 5710A with flame analyzation detectors.
    Judge: Can you get that on mag wheels?
    Witness: Only on the floor models.
  31. Q: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
    A: Yes, I have been since early childhood.
  32. Q: What is your brother-in-law's name?
    A: Borofkin.
    Q: What's his first name?
    A: I can't remember.
    Q: He's been your brother-in-law for years, and you can't remember his first name?
    A: No. I tell you I'm too excited. [Rising from the witness chair and pointing to Mr. Borofkin.] Nathan, for God's sake, tell them your first name!
  33. Q: Did you ever stay all night with this man in New York?
    A: I refuse to answer that question.
    Q: Did you ever stay all night with this man in Chicago?
    A: I refuse to answer that question.
    Q: Did you ever stay all night with this man in Miami?
    A: No.
  34. Q: Doctor, did you say he was shot in the woods?
    A: No, I said he was shot in the lumbar region.
  35. Q: And who is this person you are speaking of?
    A: My ex-widow said it.
  36. Q: How did you happen to go to Dr. Cherney?
    A: Well, a gal down the road had had several of her children by Dr. Cherney, and said he was really good.
  37. Q: Were you acquainted with the defendant?
    A: Yes, sir.
    Q: Before or after he died?
  38. Q: Officer, what led you to believe the defendant was under the influence?
    A: Because he was argumentary and he couldn't pronunciate his words.
  39. Q: Mrs. Jones, is your appearance this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
    A: No. This is how I dress when I go to work.
  40. Before we recess, let's listen to one last exchange involving a child:
    Q: And lastly, Gary, all your responses must be oral. O.K.? What school do you go to?
    A: Oral.
    Q: How old are you?
    A: Oral.
  41. Q: What is your relationship with the plaintiff?
    A: She is my daughter.
    Q: Was she your daughter on February 13, 1979?
  42. Q: Could you see him from where you were standing?
    A: I could see his head.
    Q: And where was his head?
    A: Just above his shoulders.
  43. Q: You say you're innocent, yet five people swore they saw you steal a watch.
    A: Your Honor, I can produce 500 people who didn't see me steal it.
  44. Q: At the time you first saw Dr. McCarty, had you ever seen him prior to that time?
  45. JUDGE: I rarely do so, but for whatever purpose it may serve, I will indicate for the record that I approached this case with a completely open mind.
  46. Q: Did the lady standing the driveway subsequently identify herself to you?
    A: Yes, she did.
    Q: Who did she say she was?
    A: She said she was the owner of the dog's wife.
  47. Q: I understand you're Bernie Davis's mother.
    A: Yes.
    Q: How long have you known him?
  48. Q: Now, I'm going to show you what has been marked as State's Exhibit No. 2 and ask if you recognize the picture?
    A: John Fletcher.
    Q: That's you?
    A: Yes, sir.
    Q: And you were present when the picture was taken, right?
  49. Q: Please state the location of your right foot immediately prior to impact.
    A: Immediately before the impact, my right foot was located at the immediate end of my right leg.
  50. Q: How far apart were the vehicles at the time of the collision?
  51. Q: You were there until the time you left, is that true?
  52. Q: Mr. Slatery, you went on a rather elaborate honeymoon, didn't you?
    A: I went to Europe, Sir.
    Q: And you took your new wife?
  53. Q: Can you describe the individual?
    A: He was about medium height and had a beard.
    Q: Was this a male, or a female?
  54. Q: You were not shot in the fracas?
    A: No, I was shot midway between the fracas and the navel.
  55. Q: I hate to be nosy, but how old are you?
    A: Forty-three. That's okay. You're nosy enough. You might as well put that in.
  56. Q: Did she appear to be in any pain? In other words, just looking at her, did she look like she was hurting?
    A: She's so ugly it looks like she hurts all the time.
  57. Attorney: I object to that as being a question impossible to answer; outside this person's expertise; and I don't know what it means.
    Defendant's Attorney: I object to that as being an improper question and this man cannot answer the question.
    Plaintiff's Attorney: Go sit on it.
  58. Q: What happened in that accident?
    A: I was going around the corner and it was wet and rainy outside, and I kind of slid down an embankment and went into some bushes.
    Q: Were the police called out to that?
    A: A state trooper came out. And he gave me a careless driving ticket because he told me he had to give me a ticket. I didn't fight it, because it was my word against the bushes, I guess you could say.
  59. Witness: The relevant question here is --
    Attorney 1: Well, why don't you let her ask a question?
    Attorney 2: Let her ask --
    Witness: I thought you did. Okay.
    Attorney 3: I thought I did, too.
    Attorney 1: Well, I don't know what it is.
    Attorney 3: The witness does, and I do.
    Witness: What's your question?
  60. Q: Dr. Smith, how are you --
    A: Just fine.
    Q: Pardon?
    A: Just fine. I'm ready to go.
    Q: Okay. Great. How are you employed?
  61. A: You've got to figure I'm a pretty conservative lady. This is the first concert I had ever been to.
    Q: Of any kind?
    A: Well, I take that back. I went to Jerry Lee Lewis when I was 16 years old.
    Q: There was no shooting at that concert, was there?
    A: No. A whole lot of shaking going on, but no shooting.
  62. Q: What was your attorney's name?
    A: It was John Smith, right here in Tampa.
    Lawyer 1: Right out the window.
    Witness: Right. So what I'm getting --
    Lawyer 2: Let the record be clear that Mr. Smith is not hanging out the window.
    Witness: I don't know. Knowing John, he could be.
  63. Q: Is that the only license you hold?
    A: I have a marriage license.
    Q: You're not a realtor or a plumber or anything else like that?
    A: No. They don't require a license to have children, which they should.
  64. A: Well, I have never heard of anything like that, but I suppose any help at the time would have been a help.
  65. Q: And the serratus anterior nerve that -- or the nerves that go to it, where do they come from?
    A: The neck, the cervical region.
    Q: From the cervical region?
    A: Yes.
    Q: And did you do any examination of his cervical -- of his cervix -- to determine if there was any problem with his nerves going through his neck?
    A: He doesn't have a cervix, but, yes, I examined the biceps.
  66. Q: How long have you been married to her?
    A: Nineteen years.
    Q: Is that your only marriage?
    A: Yes, it is, that I know of.
  67. Q: Do you recall discussing with John Smith that if you were in a deposition or anything like that and you don't want to give the right answer, all you have to say is, "I don't know. I don't recall"?
    A: No. I don't remember.
  68. Q: No one went with you from Foobar to assist you. Correct?
    A: It seems to me -- not from Foobar. Like I said, it was a long time ago. I mean, my memory is as short as my peter.
  69. A: Obsessive-compulsive symptoms: Sometimes checks his own activities. Suicidal and homicidal ideations: Sometimes he has suicidal ideations regarding his car or truck every couple of days, particularly following contact with his attorney.

  70. Q: Do you recall if you had any alcohol or anything to drink prior to the concert?
    A: Yes, I did.
    Q: What did you have, if you remember?
    A: I think I had a Fuzzy Navel.
    Q: You ought to have a doctor look at that. Just kidding.
  71. Q: Do you consider him to be competent in that area?
    A: I don't know. I don't have any basis to remark about the competency of his engineering. I do know he's dead.
  72. Answer: There are very few production places in North Dakota.
    Attorney: Generally speaking, there are very few places in North Dakota.
  73. Q: And where does sandblasting fit in your scale of being a prestigious job? Do you think that's a prestigious job?
    A: Yes, sir.
    Q: Okay. More so than working in a factory, I guess.
    A: Yes, sir.
    Q: Everybody's entitled to their opinion, I guess. I don't know. Maybe you're right.
    Mr. Jones: Ranks above lawyers.
    Mr. Smith: Yeah, I bet.
    Mr. Jones: Because everybody does that.
    Mr. Smith: Yeah.
  74. Mr. Smith: If I could just have a one-minute break sometime, whenever you feel you're --
    Mr. Jones: This is a good time.
    (Recess from 2:41 p.m. to 3:03 p.m.)
  75. Q: Do you have any reason to believe that the decision to have Mr. Jones, Mr. Brown and yourself work on Foobar products to the exclusion of the EMS products listed in group 3 and 4 of Exhibit -- of the December 5 chart was made or --
    Mr. Smith: Can you read that back, and maybe I can try and figure out what I wanted to ask.
  76. Q: Oh, okay. So you had a conversation with Mr. Smith about the SeaTower at some point --
    A: Yes.
    Q: -- prior to his death?
  77. Q: And what is it about that particular night that you recall that you didn't eat at the Holiday Inn?
    A: What is it that I remember that I didn't eat?
  78. Q: What was Linda drinking, if anything?
    A: She was drinking one of them -- one of them lady drinks. I don't know what it was.
    Q: She had about the same as you?
    A: No. Huh-uh. She doesn't drink much. She'll just have one drink, and she'll suck on it all night long.
  79. Q: Next time you saw him?
    A: August 12, 1991. Checked tonsils -- no, I'm sorry, checked testicle. Must be mother asking. But I didn't find anything wrong with testicle. On the contrary, I noticed there was an ear problem.
  80. Q: And Detroit Murphy -- what is that? Is that a school or--
    A: It's Mercy, not Murphy.
    Q: Oh, Mercy?
    A: I'm sorry. Yeah, Mercy.
    Q: Oh, I'm sorry. Mercy.
    A: Yeah, Detroit Mercy is a college, and they do it like through the Jesuit priests program. They do things with young boys.
  81. Mr. Smith: Let me ask you, sir, to identify what I am going to have marked as Defendant's Exhibit No. 1.
    Mr. Jones: Okay.
    (Exhibit No. 1 marked for identification.)
    A: He has nice big ones.
    Mr. Jones: I have got the same ones, and I had them blown.
  82. Q: Could you please, in your own words, desribe where you're touching on your body?
    A: Right here.
    Q: All right. Now, where is "right here"?
    A: Right here.
    Q: Is that your leg?
    A: No, sir. My leg is here. That's my stomach. I got two stomachs right here. But he was --
    Q: All right. You have two stomachs.
  83. Q: Why do you handle the family finances?
    A: Because my mom and sister ain't that bright.
    Q: Did you notice any differences in the plaintiff during the fishing trip after the accident and the times you had been with him before?
    A: Yes.
    Q: Can you tell the jury about that?
    A: After a long period of time holding his rod, you could see he had to sit down for a period of time.
  84. Q: How far apart are the rungs on the ladder?
    A: They're usually about 12 inches to a foot.
  85. Q: What did you do for Johnson & Sons Formal Wear?
    A: I was a presser.
    Q: Who was your boss there?
    A: I forget his name. He's the owner.
    Mr. Smith: Johnson.
    A: Yeah. It's a father-and-son operation.
  86. Q: You don't have any intention of dismissing Jane Smith anytime soon, do you?
    A: No. Sometimes I wish I could eat her, and other times you want to hug her up and kiss her nose.

  87. A: Mr. Jones and I had had a disagreement, the exact nature of which I don't remember, but it was over some aspect of my work that he wanted me to perform in a manner different than, I guess, I was performing it. And Mr. Jones's -- excuse my language coming up -- Mr. Jones said, "If you fuck with me, I'll kill you."
    Q: When he said, "If you fuck with me, I'll kill you," how did you interpret that?
  88. Q: Has anybody else ever threatened to kill you?
    A: No. Somebody put a gun to my neck once, but I don't think he threatened to use it.
    Q: Was that in an employment contact or not?
    A: No. It was a social contact.
  89. Q: Is there a difference between a reconditioned and rebuilt piece of equipment in your mind, if you have one?
  90. Q: So the first thing that you heard was the one that you overheard with Mr. Jones stating that he didn't want any women in his department. And then second time when you were in this exact conversation would have been after the first time?
  91. Q: Have you tried any type of rehabilitation or work retraining?
    A: No. No, sir.
    Q: Why not?
    A: Because I ain't too bright.
  92. Q: And, Doctor, are you a member of the profession? Correct?
    A: What profession?
    Q: The medical profession.
    A: Oh, yes, sir.
    Q: And what profession are you a member of?
    A: The medical profession.
  93. Q: I would like you to turn to the next page, dated June 9, 1993.
    A: Yes.
    Q: Do you recall this incident occurring?
    A: Yes. The night before that I had eaten at Beachcomber's Restaurant. And I had crab. And I had vomited in the --
    Q: I assure you on this question a simple "Yes" or "No" will do.
  94. Q: Anything else you like to do a lot?
    A: Look out the window.
    Q: Have you got a good view?
    A: No.
    Q: You just like to look out there?
    A: Yeah.
    Q: What can you see from your window?
    A: The apartments in front of us.
    Q: I guess there's usually a lot of activity out there.
    A: Not no more.
    Q: How come?
    A: The drug dealer moved away.
  95. Q: Okay. Did it become a shouting match at any time?
    A: Uh-huh.
    Q: It did?
    A: A big one.
    Q: And what was the net result?
    A: I left, was the result. I left. I basically told him that I didn't care how big his dick was.
    Q: How did that comment come up?
    A: It just came out.
    Q: Okay. Why did you make that comment? Does he talk about, you know, his penis a lot?
    A: Yeah, he always talks about his penis. He thinks it's the greatest thing that ever walked on earth.
  96. Q: And what was the reason given to you for the fact you were let go?
    A: The reason given to me was garnishing a knife and arguing with the supervisor.
  97. Q: Is the south boundary of the north half of the southeast quarter of the northwest quarter the same line as the north boundary of the south half of the southeast quarter of the northwest quarter?
  98. Q: Do you currently have normal bowel movements?
    A: No.
    Q: In what way have they changed?
    A: I have a lot more gas that I -- I fart a lot more; and when I do, they're much stronger than the normal person. Isn't that true, Jane? I know it's not funny, but it's true.
  99. Q: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
    A: No.
    Q: Did you check for blood pressure?
    A: No.
    Q: Did you check for breathing?
    A: No.
    Q: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
    A: No.
    Q: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
    A: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
    Q: But could the patient have still been alive nevertheless?
    A: It is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law somewhere.
  100. Q: What is your date of birth?
    A: July fifteenth.
    Q: What year?
    A: Every year.
  101. Q: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
    A: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.
  102. Q: This myasthenia gravis-does it affect your memory at all?
    A: Yes.
    Q: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
    A: I forget.
    Q: You forget? Can you give us an example of something that you've forgotten?
  103. Q: How old is your son-the one living with you?
    A: Thirty-eight or thirty-five, I can't remember which.
    Q: How long has he lived with you?
    A: Forty-five years.
  104. Q: What was the first thing your husband said to you when he woke that morning?
    A: He said, "Where am I, Cathy?"
    Q: And why did that upset you?
    A: My name is Susan.
  105. Q: And where was the location of the accident?
    A: Approximately milepost 499.
    Q: And where is milepost 499?
    A: Probably between milepost 498 and 500.
  106. Q: Sir, what is your IQ?
    A: Well, I can see pretty well, I think.
  107. Q: Did you blow your horn or anything?
    A: After the accident?
    Q: Before the accident.
    A: Sure, I played for ten years. I even went to school for it.
  108. Q: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in the voodoo or occult?
    A: We both do.
    Q: Voodoo?
    A: We do.
    Q: You do?
    A: Yes, voodoo.
  109. Q: Trooper, when you stopped the defendant, were your red and blue lights flashing?
    A: Yes.
    Q: Did the defendant say anything when she got out of her car?
    A: Yes, sir.
    Q: What did she say?
    A: What disco am I at?