One of the perks of this job is that you get invited to speak to groups. I love that. Most of the people in a club are passionate about something. When I’m invited to speak, they inspire me with their zeal for a good cause.
Sunday I spoke to the Fayette County Historical Society. I enjoyed every minute.
Their building is the old Margaret Mitchell Library in Fayetteville. Memories of my own personal history swept over me as I pulled into the parking lot, still gravel as it had been when I was a child. Once inside, I was greeted by the smell of old books—the same pleasant sensation that I experienced when Mama and I would walk to the library when I was four years old.
The group had begun to gather early. I scanned the audience and saw people I didn’t know. Then, of course, there were the ones I’ve known for years—community stalwarts who have, themselves, played major roles in the history of Fayette County.
It was great fun to reminisce with them. Somehow the subject turned to funny things that have happened in court. So, I shared this story.
Back in the 1990’s I was still handling divorce cases. I represented a lady whose husband had developed a crush on a younger woman. At the trial, I made him read to the jury love letters that he had written. I made him admit that he had bought gifts for her. The young woman had given some of those gifts to my client to help her in the divorce trial.
One of the gifts was a pair of women’s underwear.
So, while the man was testifying, I pulled the underwear out of my briefcase and waved them at him. “Is this the pair of panties that you gave to your lover,” I asked.
“It looks like them, but I can’t be sure it is the exact pair,” the man replied.
Oops. They couldn’t be admitted into evidence unless they were the same ones he had given to his girlfriend. Since they were not admitted into evidence, I tossed them onto the table where I was sitting. The jury could see them all day.
Court adjourned for the day. The next morning, I placed the underwear back onto the table hoping that the jury would notice them and hate my client’s husband.
His lawyer noticed, too. “Judge, he’s put those panties that aren’t in evidence back on the table so the jury can see them again!” she whined. “I object to that.”
Judge Ben J. Miller was our judge. He peered over his glasses at me and quipped,
“Mr. Ballard, put them up or put them on.”
Back into the briefcase they went.