Officially, I have been doing this line of work since 1996 and over the past 20 years I have been involved in hundreds of trials. This experience has given me some memorable moments that I will not forget. Here are just a few:
While awaiting a verdict from the jury, I was packing up some equipment that we used in the trial. The defense attorney said, “Mr. Hooper, good job. That was some good technology the government used.” His client sitting next to him added, “Yeah man, that was pretty cool.” He was later convicted of conspiracy, making false statement and wire fraud.
During a break in the trial, the main defendant in a prescription drug trial walked over to me and asked how much the equipment costs that I was using. He said, “I would like to buy one of those to use to teach my Sunday School class if I am not in jail.” He didn’t have to buy one since he was convicted on 32 counts of wrongfully distributing prescription drugs.
Sitting at the table during a huge conspiracy trial, one of the attorneys whispered to me: “Get the tape ready.” Puzzled, I asked: “What tape?” They apparently had not informed me that they were going to play a videotape of a fire for the next witness. I grabbed the tape and rushed down to the post office and found a VCR where I cued up the tape then rushed back into the courtroom in time for playing the tape.
A defendant representing themselves is always quite entertaining. In one of these trials, the defendant started referring to me as “media man” until he learned my name. It was the same as his. He spent a few minutes on that until the judge told him just to refer to me as the Government’s Technical Expert instead of my name.
In a very sensitive case, I had to set up separate monitors for the jury so that the gallery could not see the evidence that we were going to present. As the trial started, the defense attorney complained that the monitors were in his way of seeing all the jury members. The judge rejected his statement and said “I have instructed Mr. Hooper to set up these monitors and if they are in the way then you need to move.”
In a death penalty case, I had spent all morning setting up the equipment and was having trouble with the monitor in the witness stand when the judge decided to come in early. I had to stop and return to the table not sure if the monitor would work then when it came time, I pressed the button on my control panel and it worked. Whew!
In preparation for closing arguments in one of the longest trials I had ever been involved in, I set up the PowerPoint presentation that the attorney was going to use. After setting it up, I had to go to another courtroom to set up some equipment. As I was leaving, one of the observing attorneys asked: “Aren’t you going to stay?” I answered: “No, I have another courtroom to go to right now.” He asked: “What is something goes awry?” I responded: “Then it goes awry”
In the middle of another prescription drug trial, I got a message that our attorney was having problems with the document camera. I walked in, pushed the on button and left. I heard several jurors snicker as I passed on the way out.
In the boring stretch of a trial of a cult leader, I switched my computer and killed the display to the monitors and started playing solitaire. The judge was smiling at me and then I realized that I hadn’t killed his monitor.
Yes, there has been several entertaining moments in this job. I assume that I can handle stress pretty well since there have been many moments that challenged me. There are many more moments I’m sure that I will think of later that I forgot to include in this list. Many times they refer to the time in the courtroom in this job as being in the “hot seat” and it is clear why. It doesn’t matter how much you prepare, there is always something new that is going to blindside you sooner or later.