In any criminal trial, at some point a witness has to identify the defendant sitting in court as the person who committed the crime. It is an essential element that must be proved.
That usually provokes a familiar argument. The defense lawyer makes a point that resonates with all of us.
“Have you ever encountered somebody on a sidewalk or in a store and mistook them for somebody else?”
Of course, we all have. You know the drill.You see somebody approaching from a distance and believe it to be your high school chemistry teacher. Just as you begin to smile and wave, you realize your mistake. Then you try to act like it never happened. You convert the wave to some other movement. You scratch your ear. You stretch and yawn.
It’s an effective argument to try to get jurors to consider that the witness who says he saw the defendant commit a crime may be mistaken.
But all that argument does for me is cause an inward chuckle as I recall an incident in a church parking lot years ago.
The service had just ended and Daddy was walking to the car. The rest of us, hungry and ready to get to the restaurant, had been in the car for awhile.
A young seminary student trotted up to speak to Daddy. I later learned that he thought Daddy was the funeral home director who also attends that church.
He said, “I’m always looking for chances to gain experience and I’d love to do a funeral for you.”
Daddy said, “Well, I’m not quite ready yet.”
The young man responded, “You know, I won’t need to be paid. I just need the experience.”
“I don’t want to hold up your progress,” Daddy replied, “but I’m hoping it will be awhile before I need you.”
The student pressed on. “When you do would you prefer, mornings or afternoons?”
Daddy smiled. “I don’t think it will matter much to me.”
“Just let me know when you’re ready,” the student requested as they parted.
“I think I’ll let my wife do that for me.” By now, Daddy was enjoying this.
But, not as much as when, a few minutes later, the funeral director came out of the church and greeted the seminary student!