Monday, October 24, 2011

Law & Theatre Enmeshed

The PROSECUTION TEAM with the legal luminary DEAN LEONEN, our professor in Evidence.
I was holding the rubber shoe (our Object Evidence)

Yesterday was the finale of my Finals Season, 1st semester AY 2011-2012, and it was one of the best experiences I had in my lawschool life.

Evidence - is a subject in lawschool and considered as the crown of Remedial Law. Without the "Rules of Evidence"  - we cannot prove anything for every evidence that we need to prove in court must be in accordance to the Rules of Court - mandated by the Supreme Court.

I am still a student and all I am exposed to are cases, books and codals. However yesterday, the Dean showed us that there is indeed a big difference between studying and memorizing the books, cases and theories and putting them in practical application.

Yesterday marked my first experience as a trial lawyer  as part of our Final Exam under the legal luminary Dean Leonen who acted as the presiding Judge.

Our team, was the prosecution and our case was based on People v. Berame, a 1976 case penned by Chief Justice Fernando. Through this assigned case, we need to make our own pleadings, affidavits and arguments in prosecuting the accused Domiciano Berame.

I came in LATE! I arrived at 3:20pm (We were scheduled at 3:00pm).

Reason? I oveslept for I had a sleepless night reading books and mastering my direct & re-direct examination.  Upon arrival, our Public Prosecutor (May Marquez) was already direct examining my witness so she had to pause.  I had to approach the bench and ask Judge Dean Leonen if I can repeat the final offer of the prosecution.

Dean Leonen was kind enough to say "Yes". And so, my intro came this way (remembering GOOD DICTION, STAGE PROJECTION, LOUD & A CLEAR VOICE - and my years as an orator/declamator in my gradeschool and highschool were rekindled) :

PROS CORPUZ: We are offering the testimony of the witness, as an eyewitness to the incident leading to his father’s death, to prove:

·           the material allegations in the Information, specifically, that he personally witnessed his father being shot several times by herein accused DOMICIANO BERAME alias DOMING on the eve of April 13, 1966

·                     that he saw the circumstances leading to the shooting incident; 

·                    that he saw how the accused holding a gun, specifically a .38 caliber pistol

·                    That he saw the accused together with another man who both ran immediately after the incident; 

·                    to identify the accused in open court, as the same person who shot his father;

·                    to identify the Sinumpaang Salaysay or Sworn statement which he executed on April 13, 1966

·                    and for other related purposes Your Honor. 

Judge:            Proceed.

PROS CORPUZ: Mr.  Witness, do you know the deceased in this case, QUIRICO MANINGO?
W: Yes.  
PROS CORPUZ:  How do you know him?
W: He is my father.  He raised me as a single father since my mother died of liver cancer when I was 5 years old. 
PROS CORPUZ: Where is your mother?
W: She is dead. 
PROS CORPUZ: Do you have siblings?
W: None. I am the only child.

Suddenly the DEFENSE TEAM objects...
DEFENSE BAGUISI: Objection, your Honor. The question is irrelevant.

PROS CORPUZ: But your honor, the reason why I am asking that question is that there are only 2 members of the family present in the crime scene! I want to know why there are only 2 family members present, that is why I am asking these questions!

JUDGE LEONEN, smiling and nodding at me said, "The objection is overruled. The counsel may proceed with her questioning.

My ears were clapping when Dean Leonen said this. LOL! (He never smiles when I recite in class, and my recitations sucked!) Then I continued, but the defense again interrupted...

DEFENSE BAGUISI: You honor, may we request the counsel to lower her voice because this might scare/affect the witnesses (or words to that effect).

Then I answered back...

PROSEC CORPUZ: Your honor, in answer to that objection, I would like to manifest that this is the normal volume of my speaking voice, but I'll try my best to lower it as much as I can. ;)

To which Dean Leonen replied, "I will allow the counsel to speak in such tone/volume of voice. "

Again I was sided by the Judge!

My happy figurative smile was beyond my ears. I continued my direct-examination and finally ended  by making my witness Jayvee Camiling (as Danilo S. Maningo, son of the murdered victim) identify the Sworn Statement he executed.

Jayvee is the one wearing stripes while Aldrin is our other witness

I realized that NOTHING beats preparation. An actor must never enter the stage unrehearsed.  Similarly, a lawyer should never come in the courtroom unprepared.  I made the title of this blog "Law and Theatre Enmeshed" because in trial, there are theatrics involved

Look confident, act confident.  I remember my Criminal Law 2 Professor, Ildefonso Jimenez said, "Never ever show the Judge that you are not sure of what you are saying. Even if you really aren''t sure, don't show it!  Always look confident!" - I will never ever forget those words in class in relation to a classmate who was mumbling and lacking confidence while reciting.

I also remember a statement in a blogpost of Atty. Ted Te, my Criminal law 1 Professor to speak clearly and audibly.  The "stage projection and voice projection" are very important.  I remember this when I read one of his first Vinculum Juris blog posts a few years back, particularly his no. 8 & 10 pointers (Emphasis in bold and brown colors supplied by me), to wit:

Telling stories

Many lawyers consider direct examination boring; I used to, when I was starting out. Part of the reason was all those lawyer movies where the most exciting stuff happens during cross examination. When I started to really handle cases, I realized just how exciting--and important--direct examination is.

Direct examination is that part of trial where a story is told, particularly your client's. What spells the difference is how effective you are on direct examination.

A good story is one that holds the interest of the listener; and the most important listener in that court room is the Judge. The challenge is how to hold the judge's interest. Effective direct examination ensures that your client's story will be told and will be told well.

Here are 10 tips for effective--and, yes, exciting--direct examination.

1. Come up with a theory of your case. A theory is not necessarily the cause of action but it must incorporate your cause of action. Your theory is the most plausible explanation of what really happened and why the court should rule in your client's favor. (T. Mauet, Fundamentals of Trial Technique [1988]) A good theory takes into account all the facts--good and bad--and weaves these facts together into an explanation that the judge will find logical and plausible.

2. Present the judge with an image. A noted trial lawyer during his time, former Senator Jose W. Diokno, clearly well-ahead of his time, very wisely commented that "it is not enough as the law book tells you to have a theory of your case. You must also have an image of your case–something that appeals to the reason and sense of justice of the judge, something that would make him say, 'Indeed, this person is right and if the law isn’t that way, maybe I can interpret it so that it will be that way.'” (Jose Manuel I. Diokno, Jose W. Diokno on Trial: Techniques and Ideals of the Filipino Lawyer [2007])

Both your theory and image should be simple, logical, consistent with human experience, provable by the evidence you have and strong enough to withstand your opponent's own theory and image. Remember O.J. Simpson and the gloves and Johnnie Cochran's by-now classic rhyme, "if it don't fit, you must acquit"? That was theory and image coming together, powerfully. Of course, we all know what happened to that trial and to O.J.

3. Determine which witnesses will establish your theory and in what order you will present them. Knowing who to present during trial is almost as important as which questions to ask the witness during trial. Of course, if you are fortunate enough to have eyewitnesses or a complainant who can testify, this will not require much thought. But we don't always get these witnesses, as frequently, we get witnesses who can only testify to one, but not every, part of your theory. Starting with the best witnesses will determine how effectively the theory and image can be presented. One quick and simple rule of thumb in determining who to present: start strong, end strong.

4. Ask the best questions. The most effective direct examinations involve the lawyer asking all the best questions. The best questions are the simplest, shortest and most comfortable (at least to the lawyer) questions he is capable of asking. There are two parts to this: first, ask the best questions during your interview with the client or witness and second, based on that interview, ask the best questions during the trial.

5. Know what your witness will say and how s/he will say it. A traditional cross-examiner's tactic is to rattle the witness by asking, off the bat, if the witness talked to you, his/her counsel, before testifying. What this question seeks to instill in the witness is a sense of irregularity if s/he had, indeed, spoken with counsel. In truth, there is nothing unethical or wrong with speaking with your witness before the trial; on the contrary, it would be irresponsible for counsel to not speak with the witness before presenting the witness. What is unethical would be for counsel to tell the witness what to say. During the preparations for his/her testimony, you should ask the witnesses to answer your questions based on how they understand your questions--without commenting on or reacting to their answers at first. This will allow you to see what the witness will say and how s/he will say it.

6. Use the 5Ws,1H. Who. What. Where. When. Why. How. Not necessarily in this order, though. The advantage of using the 5Ws, 1H is that you will rarely be accused of asking leading questions on direct examination.

7. Learn to loop your questions. "Looping" is the practice of using the witness' previous answer as the premise for your next question. For instance, "You said that you were at (place and time), what were you doing there? Two advantages of "looping" your questions are: (1) you will hardly ever be objected to on the ground of "no basis" and (2) your witness' testimony and story will become very familiar to the judge because specific details will be repeated.

8. Use your voice and body well. What spells the difference between boring and exciting direct examination is frequently how you sound and how you look when asking your questions. Be conscious of how loud (or soft) your voice is, how comprehensible (or incomprehensible) your words are when speaking in public. Be conscious of body language--particularly yours. Rehearse your speaking voice, inflection, tone and even posture and body movements. Know when to move around a lot and when not to. For instance, standing perfectly still while a witness tears up on the stand will focus the attention on the witness, not on you.

9. Prepare any documents you need to present before the trial. Use an Exhibit Guide and an Exhibit List. If you are marking any documents, put small tabs or post its with the proposed marking on the documents; if you have many documents, make sure they are all separately stapled or clipped. Being aware of the Best Evidence Rule, make sure you have the originals and photocopies; if you do not have the originals, make sure you have legible copies and make a note to yourself to ask questions to lay the basis for secondary evidence. Make use of clear books or clear files to separate documents you will be presenting and those that will remain in your file.

10. End confidently and well. Before saying, "that's all, your honor", take about 10 seconds to quickly go over your outline or questions to make sure that you have covered everything you wanted. Check points you have covered and make sure to ask questions on the points that are not checked. After asking the last question, allow about 2 seconds from the witness' answer before nodding confidently and declaring, "that's all, your honor." 

So yes, there is theatre in law. Theatrics are involved.  Drama, stage presence and projection are involved. 

"Law" and "Theatre" are indeed intertwined. 

PROSECUTION: Conrad Lacsina, Al Hajim, Mylene Marquez & Me

Before I end my post, I would like to thank my PROSECUTION DREAM TEAM

I had the most fun experience this semester with these people. With the guidance of Conrad (Prosec. Lacsina) and Ate May (Prosec. Marquez), I and the rest of the team, together with our witnesses would never have done well.  Though our 50% Final Exam for Evidence (Moot Court) was nerve-wracking and caused us sleepless nights and anxiety attacks - and we made few mistakes - Dean Leonen guided us and gave pointers how to correct them. 

It was a GREAT learning experience.

Special thanks to:

****Our WITNESSES - who all did well and sacrificed their time though they had other obligations and final exams as well. Special mention to Jayvee Camiling (my witness, who had the longest script). Maraming salamat!

****My MOM, who is always my saviour and guiding light - was fortunately in Manila to help me with rush orders for Naomi’s Kitchen chocolates that coincided with my “hell week” - my moot court and finals season. I love you mommy!

*** MY DAD - who coached me, gave me pointers and prayed for me (while in Ilocos Norte) as we communicate via cellphone and email

*** Atty. LEA DOMINGO-CABBARUBIAS- my good friend, mentor, former boss at PAO for her brilliant suggestions and pieces of advice.

***Lastly, thank you Lord for allowing me to go through this finale of my finals season.
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” ` Philippians 4:13



Congratulations Attorney Corpuz! I know how hard you prepared for this final examination. Cheers!!!

Conrad Smith Lacsina said...

i got wind that this project is so special only when this feisty artist and law student showed up for the 1st practice session already well prepared. true enough, this project somehow showed me whether years of sleepless nights reading cases, nerve-wracking days of facing terror profs,and mind-numbing hours of answering incomprehensible exams amounted to something.
besides, naomi, the front-line counsel, proved(beyond reasonable doubt) that the first few minutes largely contribute to the success of the outcome. kicked some ass she did. :)

Naomi Corpuz said...

@Aldrin - Thank you so much for sparing your time with us. I am glad that somehow, we were able to inspire (as you say) and give you a glimpse of lawschool. Follow your dreams. Just work hard and pray hard. I wish all the best.

@Conrad - Wow ha. Grabeng pagpupuri naman yan. hindi ko alam kung tatawa ako dahil binobola mo ako. LOL! Seriously, my colleague Conrad Lacsina, is a gem in our team, aside from Ate May Marquez who trained us in our practice.

Conrad had the most creative ideas, and cross-examined me during our practice (which was even more difficult than the actual). Hihihihihi. Thanks bro! I learned a lot from you. C u soon with the dog! ;)