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Episode

11

11. Why do you want to be a lawyer?

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Air date: 

August 9, 2022

Mock trial is supposed to prepare you for a real trial. Andy and Jasmin are about to see if that’s true. They are going to face off in Bexar County Court for an actual case in front of a judge and jury. Special guests and law students from the various schools join in to share some of their favorite law tips and career advice.

Learn more about the schools, programs and special guests:

St. Mary's University Law School

Texas Young Lawyers Association

National Trial League

Stay Tuned with Preet

Elie Honig

Lara Bazelon

Tony Serra

Jason Goss

Maritza Stewart

Follow us on Twitter @ClassActionPod and Instagram @ClassActionPod

Visit our show page for transcripts and more details about the series at ClassActionPod.com

Follow host Katie Phang on Twitter @KatiePhang and Instagram @KatiePhang.


 

TRANSCRIPT

Katie Phang, host:

Class Action is a production of iHeartRadio and Sound Argument.


[walking into the Bexar County Courthouse]


Andy Vizcarra:

This is the courthouse. So I've been in some of these before, so... Hi. So 11 is one of my courts.

I'm a misdemeanor intern clerk for all of the courts. It's scary. You're walking into this big machine. This is the machine, this is our justice machine and it's really intimidating, you don't know anyone, you don't know what your role's going to be. You don't know how they're going to use you. You just don't know anything or anyone. Are the ADAs intimidating? Are they nice? Will they like you? Will they give you work? You don't know anything. The first day was all about figuring out all of that stuff as well as, "Can I leave for lunch?" "Where's the bathroom?" Yeah, it was really, really intimidating.

So I have all of the misdemeanor courts. It's 14, 15 of them, so if one of the ADAs is like, "Oh, we're going to trial. On this day do you want to come?” I'll go to trial and 14 for all day and pick a jury with them or whatever. So it's pretty cool.


[sound of elevator bell, Andy walks into elevator]


Andy Vizcarra:

I think it's this way...

Court Bailiff:

All rise for the jury.

Court Judge:

Case 22758 The State of Texas versus...Today is March the 30th. Yesterday, we had selected the jury, sworn them in and the defendant, whether rain...At this time, I'd like you to say not duty, make opening...Thank you.

Katie Phang, host:

Less than a month, after their run to the national championship stalled at the one yard line, ex-teammates Andy Vizcarra and Jasmin Olguin are about to face off in an actual criminal trial at the Bexar County Courthouse in San Antonio. It's a misdemeanor case. Andy will be second chairing for the DA's office, and Jasmine will be in a similar role with her defense firm and to up the stakes, the defense team's lead attorney is none other than Jason Goss, their former coach from the St Mary's Trial Team.

Jason Goss:

I'm just really proud, it's kind of going against a child or something where you're proud of them, but you're also trying to beat him. And I do want to beat them because I think it's justice for my client.

Andy Viczarra:

It's so cool. I want to be just like him. It's crazy. It's so cool to see him. On the other hand, I didn't know we were going to be going directly head to head, but you know, somewhat...I was nervous. I couldn't eat breakfast. I had to drink tea. I wasn't, I didn't crack a Celsius until later on in the day when I had calmed down and it's like, you stand in delivery, you don't care who's on the other side.

Jasmin Olguin:

I'm feeling excited, for sure. Interested to see how the rest of this case plays out. But as of now, I feel like my heart is kind of in a little fire in my heart because of this, because everything we've been hearing and seeing it's so upsetting that we're here trying this case.

Katie Phang, host:

And in an even more bizarre twist, Jason's wife and fellow trial team coach Maritza Stewart, she's going to supervise Andy during the trial.

Maritza Stewart:

It's a pretty amazing thing to do, because it's funny, it's what we've been, we hope to see. And we've always said that's one of our things that we're proud of, that any of our students can go. If they worked with us and committed to the program, they learned the ideals that AJ and coach Goss and I try and teach.

Katie Phang, host:

So it's student versus student, student versus teacher, husband versus wife. What more could you possibly want?

Katie Phang, host:

This is episode 11 of Class Action.

Tony Serra:

First thing I would inquire is why do you want to become a lawyer?

Katie Phang, host:

Yes. Why do you want to be a lawyer?

Hailey Nickels:

The idea that I, at 23 years old can walk into a courtroom next year and run it front to back better than some of these people that have been practicing for 10, 15, 20 years. I'm like, that's insane to me.

Dyla Ramstad-Skoyles:

I like the puzzle. You are given a set of facts and you have to make those facts work with what your client wants. And it doesn't matter if your client is the State. It doesn't matter if your client is an actual living human being in front of you. They have something that they want. And your job, as an attorney, is to make sure whatever given situation can work out for them.

Brooke Baumgardner:

You do become a different version of yourself, because no one would want that in their every day. I wouldn't have any friends. I've always kind of likened it to my mom was an absolute maniac about our table manners when we were growing up. But she wanted to make sure that when I went to that nice dinner, I exuded confidence because I knew that I could hang with the big kids, kind of thing. It's the same way. I know what I'm doing just as much as I know I'm picking up the right fork for the right meal, kind of thing.

Katie Phang, host:

That's future lawyers, Hailey Nickels, Dyla Ramstad-Skoyles and Brooke Baumgardner.

Judge:

On the record and...622758...

Katie Phang, host:

A summary of this case. In 2019, the San Antonio police were called to a scene at 4:25 AM on the west side of town, not far from the St Mary's campus. The complaint was coded as "A disturbance neighbor." Gun involved. For privacy, we're going to remove the names of the persons in this case.


[police bodycam footage]

Officer Garcia:

Is he the one y'all is calling on?

Male 1:

Yes, ma'am.

Male 2:

Pulled the gun on him.

Officer Garcia:

All right. Does he have it on him?

Male 1:

No. [inaudible 00:06:49].

Officer Garcia:

You got a gun on you, buddy?

Speaker 13:

No.

Officer Garcia:

No? [inaudible 00:06:55].

Katie Phang, host:

When Officer Garcia arrived on the scene, she found a crowd gathered around a victim who was lying on the ground half in some bushes and half on the sidewalk.

Officer Garcia:

Okay. Did you just have a seizure? Is that's what's going on or...?

Male 1:

No.

Katie Phang, host:

The victim, we'll call him Boris, was staring into space and had bumps and contusions on his face.

Male 1:

It's all broken.

Officer Garcia:

Okay. Yeah. You may want to spit your tooth out, that way you don't choke on it. And you didn't see any of this, right, sir?

Male 2:

I'm sorry?


Officer Garcia:

You didn't see any of this?

Male 2:

No, I saw nothing.

Officer Garcia:

All right, sir. Well, I'm sorry...

Katie Phang, host:

This is Boris's husband. He's also an eyewitness. Well, sort of...

Officer Garcia:

But you didn't see anything?

Male 2:

I saw them beating him up.

Officer Garcia:

Okay. You saw them beating... Who's them? So I could be...

Male 2:

The three guys.

Officer Garcia:

All three of them?

Male 2:

Well, I saw all three of them over him. I mean, because it all happened so fast that I was freaking out over the...

Officer Garcia:

Okay. All right. So have a good night.

Katie Phang, host:

Boris came around and told Officer Garcia that his neighbor, a man we'll call Carlos, was sitting in his car with a bunch of guys playing his stereo at high volume at four o'clock in the morning.

Male 1:

There were sitting in the car, they turn it up the music at loud completely to make sure that pissed off the whole neighborhood, they're doing it every day.

Officer Garcia:

I understand why you're upset...

Katie Phang, host:

Boris then told Officer Garcia that he approached the car and knocked on the window. And the next thing you know...

Officer Garcia:

What happened to your face?

Male 2:

He just punch. He begin punching me. I was laying low and he was continuously punching me, trying to kill me-

Officer Garcia:

Which one? Do you know which one it was?

Male 2:

The heavy.

Officer Garcia:

You want to come talk to me real quick?

Officer Garcia:

Black shirt? The third?

Katie Phang, host:

This is Carlos's nephew, who was in the front passenger seat.

Officer Garcia:

So what's going on? What happened?

Male 3:

All of a sudden he asked this, it's like, hey, I didn't think the music was too loud at all, to be honest. We had it fairly low, because we were listening to a...

Officer Garcia:

At one point he comes up to the truck...

Male 3:

Comes up and knocks and then that's when he pulled the gun. He's like, "You need to turn it down."

Officer Garcia:

What color was the gun?

Male 3:

It was a crome-ish kind of gun, I guess. He pulled it out from the side. He's like, "You need to turn the music down now." Blah, blah, blah.

Officer Garcia:

Okay, but you didn't really explain how he ended up on the ground and everything. So when did that happen? And how?

Male 3:

We asked him nicely to leave them, pushed him not too hard, though. Just enough to get him off our property. Started to push him back.

Officer Garcia:

By any chance did you hit him or anything like that?

Male 3:

Nope.

Officer Garcia:

All right. What about uncle, right? What about your uncle? Did uncle hit him or anything like that?

Male 3:

I almost touched him.

Officer Garcia:

All right.

Male 3:

It was self-defense, but I'm not going to deny that.

Male 3:

Yes sir. Yes sir. No, no. I'm not going to lie to you guys. I mean, I did that. I didn't assault that man.

Male 2:

I don't want any trouble, madame.

Officer Garcia:

Yeah. Unfortunately tonight buddy, is going to have to go down like this, but what matters most is what happens after this and hopefully you're never in handcuffs ever again. All right?

Male 2:

But I didn't assault him. You know? How do I prove I didn't?

Officer (male):

Sir, he's spiting teeth out of his mouth.

Male 2:

But there's no... Look at my hands. If he was spiting teeth out of his mouth, my hands would be cut. There's no cuts on my hands. I'm just saying...I don't want no problem.

Officer Garcia:

Yeah, we don't either, buddy. We're just trying to do our job and I know you're just trying to have a good time on a Friday.

Male 2:

I understand.

Officer Garcia:

All right. Just sit tight, all right? I'll turn on the AC for you. I'm sorry...

Katie Phang, host:

Carlos was ultimately charged with assault with bodily injury. It should be pointed out here that normally a misdemeanor case like this would almost never make it to trial, but this is America. And if you've been listening to this podcast all along, you know, we are all about having the constitutional right to a fair hearing.

Katie Phang, host:

Facing potential jail time, Carlos bonded out and decided to seek defense counsel. And here he turned to Jason Goss and Jasmin Olguin to defend him at trial. But this time against her former teammate.

Jasmin Olguin:

I know her responses. I know the way she thinks, she knows the way I think, is like we both have the same little senses. Like if we hear certain questions or responses, we're trained by the same coach, both of our senses start tingling or like, "Okay, this is it, this is." And like with objections, I know what she's going to object to and what she's feeling and stuff like that. So maybe not an advantage, but I know her and I think our coach knows her too.


Preet Bharara:

The dynamic between counsel is interesting.

Katie Phang, host:

Now, for some perspective on this whole becoming a lawyer thing, here's Preet Bharara.

Preet Bharara:

Counterintuitively, my experience has been, that prosecutors and defense lawyers are much more cordial and friendly. Some become quite good friends, and part of the reason is there's a lot at stake in a criminal case and the most professional defense lawyers and prosecutors, they're not taking this personally, "It's not personal, it's business." To quote from The Godfather. Sometimes someone's a jerk, they're jerks in every profession, and they're jerks at trial sometimes. And then you have to be careful not to let your temper get the better of you. And you treat everyone with respect in the courtroom and certainly in front of the jury, because they don't know what's gone on behind the scenes.

Another peculiar question arises for defense lawyers in criminal cases who may have a long relationship with the prosecutors. They may have been colleagues. People become prosecutors, defense lawyers, they go back and forth.

Katie Phang, host:

That's the case with Jason Goss. He was an assistant DA in this very courthouse for 10 years before switching sides. So he's on very familiar ground here.

Back to the case at hand, a six-member jury is empaneled and Judge Carlo Rodriguez Key is enrobed.

Judge Carlo Rodriguez Key:

I think if everyone's first trial could be this difficult and this convoluted and they could still get through it, everything else after that's going to seem fairly easy. So it's a great introduction into how tough things can be.

Katie Phang, host:

And here we are at trial, which begs the question...

Ashley Hymel:

Well, let's start with, why do we need trials?

Katie Phang, host:

Ashley Hymel is a Texas lawyer who runs the National Trial Competition, and apparently, she's also an amateur legal historian.

Ashley Hymel:

So for those of you who don't know trials before they were in a courtroom were by duel. And if you died, you were the one lying. That's how that was decided. So then we got to trials and maybe that was a little more fair, maybe not, maybe it was just one person shouting, "This is what happened." And a judge said, "I believe you." And so then we got rules of evidence and this is how we make sure that our trial system is working the way that it should.

Obviously it is not perfect. I don't think any person would ever try to tell you that our justice system is perfect, but I think it's the best system we've got for trying to make sure that anybody accused of something has a fair shot for defending themselves with a lawyer who knows how this system works.


Andy Vizcarra:

I'm not shaking in my boots. Can I win? Probably no, probably not on my first one. If I'll be honest, I'd be very shocked. Which just sucks because I do believe this was an assault. I can't do it alone. And it'd be thinking very high of myself to think that I would be able to do this on my first try.


Elie Honig:

When you're working a real trial, it becomes your life for many months, sometimes for a year or more. From the moment you charge a case, or even from the moment you start investigating a case, there's always a little voice in the back of your head thinking, "How's this going to play at trial? What am I going to do at trial?" And then when you're actually on trial, those two weeks or six weeks or four months or whatever it may be, you, I didn't eat, I didn't sleep. I used to lose 15, 20 pounds when I was on trial. I don't have that much to lose. It was incredibly stressful and difficult. And then at the end, cathartic.

Katie Phang, host:

This is Elie Honig, former prosecutor in New York Southern District and a legal analyst at CNN. He knows that when a prosecutor like Andy is handed a brief, she'll have a lot of questions.

Elie Honig:

So two things about that. First of all, prosecutors rely on what we call an order of proof. And it's basically like, not quite a script, but it's just a listing of all your pieces of evidence from exhibit one through exhibit 1400. And you learn to use that as an outline and a guide to your case. But I want to say this about evidence, there's a misnomer out there or misperception that more is better. "Oh, a mountain of evidence." That phrase, right? "Oh look, they have huge amounts of evidence." That can really backfire. It's not about quantity of evidence. It's about quality of evidence. I learned that the hard way. There was really two different approaches to evidence. We used to say at the Southern District, there was the kitchen sinkers, the people who wanted to throw in everything they had. And then there was the thin to winners, which I became.

The first mob trial I ever did, I was the junior person of three on the case and the guys who ran it were kitchen sinkers. And we did this trial that took two months, and we had hundreds and hundreds of exhibits. We played the jury, I think 90 or 95 different recordings that we had a cooperator who had made, and that case ended up going bad. We had a couple of the defendants were acquitted. We had a couple of defendants where the jury hung. So we got to retry those two defendants where the jury hung a year or so later, by this point I was leading it. We said, "Okay, we're cutting out all the fluff. We're going with our strongest evidence." We went from 90 or 95 recordings down to 12. We got that instead of a two-month trial, we did it in a week and a half or two weeks. The jury came back, convicted like that.

Katie Phang, host:

For this trial, it seems like Jason Goss is more of a kitchen sinker. He's dug up all sorts of apparent shenanigans on the part of the DA's office.

First off, the 911 tape was destroyed by the DA's office, unclear why. And second, the victim, Boris, was previously convicted on a domestic violence charge involving his husband. That conviction was later overturned and the records were destroyed by the DA's office, which Jason argues is tantamount to a Brady violation, essentially accusing the state of withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense.

Jason Goss:

And for us, we believe that this guy has been railroaded all the way through. And we want the jury to see that at the end.

Katie Phang, host:

Since I wasn't at the trial, I do hesitate to characterize this as a smoke screen, but I can imagine this is going directly over the heads of the young prosecution team.

Jason Goss:

One thing I was always looking forward to on defense is like, this is the kind of stuff I try to get into when I was a prosecutor, the judge would always protect the defendant and say, "No, no, no, no, he can't get into that." But in this case, I feel like we're not getting...

Tony Serra:

You don't give a damn what the prosecution thinks about you or even the judge.

Katie Phang, host:

Tony Serra has seen it all before. He's 87, a West Coast trial legend and stalwart Defense Attorney.

Tony Serra:

I just finished a murder trial in San Jose. It took about three months, came back satisfactory. I got a trial set for November 7th. It's another attempted murder on a police officer's life. So I do controversial cases and I defend people who ordinarily are overlooked or marginalized in the legal system. I've been fighting racism. I've been fighting, what we call overzealous prosecutions, all of my career. So I tell the young lawyers, "It's a fabulous calling, but you have to regard it as a calling. It's a fabulous mission that you're going to embark on, but you have to regard it as a mission. If you regard it as a job and that you're going to serve the interest mostly of corporations, then you're feeding into the status quo."


Judge Rodriguez Key:

At this time. I'd like for you to say [inaudible 00:20:01].

Attorney:

He knocked his teeth out. He knocked him unconscious.


Preet Bharara:

Opening statements are among the most important parts of a trial. It's your first impression on the jury, so you need to begin with credibility.

Lara Bazelon:

I was really fortunate when I was starting out in the office of the Federal Public Defender in LA.

Katie Phang, host:

This is noted defense attorney, Lara Bazelon, who runs a law clinic for racial justice in San Francisco.

Lara Bazelon:

I had a supervisor. He said those 11 seconds, you'll never get them back. And he also said that a lot of lawyers really don't do opening statement justice, that they stand up and say an opening statement, "These are the elements of the offense. These are how I'm going to prove the elements of the offense." And the jury goes to sleep, but if you stand up and you have one sentence that crystallizes your case, and you're saying it in this passionate way, then all of a sudden you have 12 pairs of eyes that are focused on you.

Jason Goss:

There is a dispute. And so I want to talk to you about what actually happened and what the evidence is going to prove happening and how the world on September 7th, 2019, turned upside down. Because the one thing that she didn't tell you...

Tony Serra:

You've got to take over the court. You've got to dominate. Your personality has to be the strongest. Your contact with the jury has to be formidable.

Katie Phang, host:

Andy gets a shot at doing the first direct examination of a witness, Boris's husband.

Judge Rodriguez Key:

Place your right hand, you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Thank you, sir. You can lower your hand.

Katie Phang, host:

But true to life, the guy has a hearing problem and the microphones in the courtroom aren't working and well, it's a modern-day trial by fire.

Andy Vizcarra

Your Honor, before I start, I just want to let the court know Mr. --- have a bit of a hearing problem. So just for everyone, would you speak up a little bit now. You can't hear me. Oh, sorry. All right. Turn this out. Can you hear me a little better from here?

Judge Rodriguez Key:

Just watch your [inaudible 00:22:10].

Andy Vizcarra

Oh, sorry.


Andy Vizcarra:

It's a real jury. I think it's similar in a lot of ways, but it's also, I mean, it's different in a lot of ways. I have to remember little things that I wouldn't have to remember in mock, right? Like I'm making eye contact with all of them. Are you following me? How do I look to them?

Preet Bharara:

One of the hardest things to do, particularly early on, is keep the poker face. There's nothing more important than the poker face. Jurors are looking at the lawyers at their tables. Are going back and forth often from the person on the witness stand, to the lawyer at the table to see if they're reacting poorly at something.

Jason Goss:

We don't have an objection, both her and I question him close to him and we can just question, the jury can see.

Judge Rodriguez Key:

I like that idea if you wanted to try it.

Preet Bharara:

So a juror might hear a witness say something. They're like, "Oh, that sounds like it's harmful to the prosecution. Look and see, did the prosecution flinch? Are they passing notes?" Because they might not know, because they haven't connected all the things together. You know the case better than any juror will ever know the case.

Andy Vizcarra

Good afternoon. Would you introduce yourself again to the members of the jury?

Witness:

I'm sorry?

Andy Vizcarra

Would you introduce yourself, again, to the members of the jury?

Witness:

Yeah.

Judge Rodriguez Key:

Okay. Give it a shot, you'll be closer.

Andy Vizcarra

A little bit closer? Okay. Would you please introduce yourself again to the members of the jury?


Lara Bazelon:

I tend to have a lot of emotional reactions that show themselves in my face. And so I've had to train myself to not do that. And I think the other thing I've had to do is look less stern because unfortunately that kind of expression, particularly in women, is off putting. It's funny, I've always been told by my supervisors that, "You need to smile more, Lara." And I'm like, "There's nothing to smile about here." This is a very high stakes, very grim situation. The walls are weeping.

Andy Vizcarra

Can you hear me now? Perfect. All right. Would you introduce yourself one more time for the members?

Witness:

Absolutely...

Lara Bazelon:

It's not a smiley face cheerleading time. At the same time, I do think there are occasional moments of levity and that it's good to look like someone who people can, in some way, relate to.


Andy Vizcarra

And did you see him act aggressively? Did he punch the car? Was he doing anything aggressive...?

Witness:

No.

Andy Vizcarra

... that you could see from your porch? Okay. And then you said that you saw him leave, right?

Witness:

Right.

Andy Vizcarra

He left. And do you know where he went?

Witness:

Well, he never got [inaudible 00:24:54].

Andy Vizcarra

Okay. Did it look like... from where you were standing, did it look like he was trying to trespass onto the property?

Witness:

No.

Andy Vizcarra

Did it look like he was trying to break into their home?

Witness:

They were parked on the street, curbside. In front of their house.

Andy Vizcarra

Okay. So he knocks on the window. That's what you see. After that, what do you see?

Witness:

After that….

Andy Vizcarra

I've done many trials in front of fake juries, but so it's just kind of, it's a weird duality that exists right now. And so I'm like not trying to make excuses for myself and I don't want to ever do that to her because she's right, I do know better, but at the same time, I'm still learning and I'll continue to be keep learning. So I just, taking everything with stride.


Andy Vizcarra

At any point, did you see your husband pull a gun?

Witness:

Never. Never.

Andy Vizcarra

Did you see a gun at all that night?

Witness:

No. I'm extremely anti guns, have always been anti gun. The way we were brought up. I never allow guns in my house at all.

Andy Vizcarra

Okay. But you're aware that your husband does own a gun.

Witness:

He has one gun that I'm aware of. I've never seen it.

Jason Goss:

Okay. So let me get it right. Turn the music down. Started walking with the dog. They rolled up the window. They started blasting the music. He finished the walk with the dog. He brought the dog inside, went back over to them and told them, "Turn the music down."


Katie Phang, host:

A good defense attorney like Jason Goss. He's going to pick apart a fuzzy headed witness like this while on cross.


Jason Goss:

That's what you testified. Based on what you saw, there's no reason to call the cops on him. Based upon what you could see.

Witness:

That's right.

Jason Goss:

And you don't want him to go to jail, your husband.

Witness:

There would be nothing for him to go to jail for that way.

Jason Goss:

Obviously this group of people is upset. You would agree with that, right?

Witness:

I don't understand the question.

Jason Goss:

Obviously, they're upset. You said that they're yelling and they're screaming, we call the cops...


Tony Serra:

I've been confrontational all my life. I have a dear friend at, was in college, All American Football for Oklahoma. And when I've done cases with him, it's as if, if he doesn't get the answer he wants, he's going to walk up and slug you with his fist. And he would just stand up there like he had a stick in his head or some kind of a baseball bat. And he be slugging this witness if he didn't tell the truth and I was going, "Oh boy, that guy's good. I want to be like that."


Jason Goss:

When the cops first asked you, she said, "You didn't see any of this?" You said, "No, I saw nothing." You heard yourself say that?

Witness:

Yes.

Jason Goss:

And you also said, "I was in bed and I heard my dogs running." That's what you said to the police officer. But you testified to the jury that you were in your home office, but you told the officer, you were in bed.

Witness:

Okay.


Tony Serra:

Scare them into telling the truth, confront them, shake your finger in their face when you think they're lying. In every single jury trial, there will be something to go after that is untrue coming from the prosecution. Their witnesses frequently are tainted, they have a history. They have been impeached so many times. So what I tell young lawyers, just the most important thing about being a trial lawyer. "You got to know everything. You got to read every bit of discovery. If your mind isn't good enough to retain it, then try another profession."


Jason Goss:

So you cannot even tell us right now that your memory of something five minutes after it happened was better than your memory of something two and a half years after.

Andy Vizcarra:

Objection your honor. This has been asked and answer [inaudible 00:29:18]. He's already answered the best of his ability and...

Judge Rodriguez Key:

I'll sustain, asked and answered. Next question.

Jason Goss:

Well, you said you do not remember...


Andy Vizcarra:

I'm just feeling... I don't know. It's weird. I'm feeling like my skills were good, but I... There's a lot of things to this case, and I think substantively, I think I'm feeling a little defeated just because, I mean, you really, we pretrial our witnesses and you really never know what they're going to act like on the stand. And you can tell them a million times, "This is what you need to do. Just yes or no, just answer my questions." And you never know how they're going to react. I mean, and it was, and you can, now I see the practicality of it that it's like, it'll blow up your case.


Jason Goss:

You said you do not remember speaking to the police at all.

Witness:

I do not recall.

Jason Goss:

When seeing yourself on their body camera, speaking to them, helped to refresh your memory about what you said that night.

Witness:

Okay.


Andy Vizcarra:

You know, he walks around this place and throughout the day, like all of these little prosecutors were coming into trial and they weren't coming in to see us, they were coming in to see him, because they know how good he is. So I mean, it just, I mean, it's so cool. And obviously it would be so much cooler if he wasn't on the other side.


Judge Rodriguez Key:

Please raise your right hand. Do you swear to tell the whole truth in this matter?

Officer Garcia:

Yes.

Judge Rodriguez Key:

Thank you. You can have a seat. Microphone does work? If you could just state your name please.

Attorney:

Okay. Officer Garcia, what do you do for a living?

Officer Garcia:

I'm a San Antonio police officer.

Prosecutor:

Okay. And how long have you been doing that?

Officer Garcia:

Little over five years.

Prosecutor:

A little over five years?

Officer Garcia:

Yes. Ma'am.

Katie Phang, host:

Later on in the day, patrol Officer Garcia is called to the stand. In their questioning, prosecutors Andy and Cassidy are courteous and respectful of law enforcement.


Prosecutor:

Okay. So when you arrived on scene, can you kind of give us a brief description of what was going on?

Officer Garcia:

Yes. So once I arrived on scene, basically I saw a small crowd of people over a male on the ground. So obviously as an officer went to attend into...


Katie Phang, host:

They wrap up Officer Garcia's testimony pretty quickly. But then Jason Goss comes back to his objection about the admissibility of Boris's criminal background and his husband's history of lying to the police.

Officer Garcia sits down from the stand, the jury is excused and Goss and the judge argue case law and legal precedent for an hour.


Jason Goss:

The whole idea of that, but the fact that this witness, that the DA's office believes that this witness did not tell the truth and then called this person as a witness and did not tell us...


Katie Phang, host:

They drone on and on and on. And then the day is done. Round one goes to the defense.


Andy Vizcarra:

We walked out of the courtroom and I was like, I feel like... You ever feel like you've been in a boxing match with the person that taught you how to box? It's like not. It, yeah. I mean, it's a lot. You want to decompress and you're like, okay, but there's still a really long way to go in this trial, which is crazy, because it's a misdemeanor. I don't know why it's a misdemeanor, but it is.


Bailey Moravec:

I really don't know what I envision myself as in being a lawyer because with my last two summers of working, it's just, you're constantly changing on how you approach things. And so I don't really think I'll know who I am as a lawyer for maybe 10 years into practice. It takes 10 years to be comfortable doing what you're doing. But I would like to be my goal of what I'd like to be in a lawyer, someone who is very patient, because it does take a lot of patience and time to work with people in general. I think no matter what career you go into.

And I would like to be someone who has answers, I want to be a lawyer where someone's comfortable saying, "We know we can go to Bailey, she's going to solve whatever issue I have." So that's my goal.


Phoebe Menaker:

So what's happening now in DA's offices, especially Brooklyn is, it's not just what happens with a perpetrator in a case. Is not solely dependent on the charges they're facing, or the victim's preference in what happens. We also have to take into account what will help the defendant. How can we prevent this from happening again? What will do justice for the defendant, the victim, while keeping public safety in mind.


Ellie Sands:

I do work for Prisoners’ Legal Services as my externship. It'll be going on three semesters now and my clients have committed very egregious crimes there. So in a sense, I am making the choice to advocate for someone who has committed murder, who has committed rape, and who has made the choice to do something consciously, that is quite a terrible offense. But in that case, their constitutional rights have still been violated. And so I do believe that although this person has made a decision, that doesn't negate the government's responsibility to grant them their constitutional rights.


Katie Phang, host:

That was Bailey Moravec, Phoebe Menaker, and Ellie Sands.


[sound of gavel banging three times in court]

Katie Phang, host:

The next day, Officer Garcia has to wait another hour while the defense continues to argue about the old conviction, the judge has had enough and resolves the issue and puts it on the record for any future appeal.

Jason Goss:

Okay, may I begin? Officer Garcia, my name is Jason Goss. I'm a defense attorney here. I was a prosecutor...

Katie Phang, host:

Finally, Officer Garcia is recalled to the stand for her cross examination, and she'll sit in that witness chair for the next four hours while her every move and motivation will be picked apart by Jason Goss.

Jason Goss:

... I understand. I would want you to think that you didn't do your best. What I'm really trying to point out is there's a difference between what happened that night in your mind and what actually happened, right?

Officer Garcia:

Yes.

Jason Goss:

And you have training about how to deal with people who have done this.

Officer Garcia:

Yes.

Jason Goss:

And have you been, when you went to the police academy and otherwise, have you been trained on what self defense is and what it can be used? Would you agree that the investigation almost solely focused on the two guys?

Katie Phang, host:

Maybe owing to their inexperience, or simple exhaustion, the prosecution had very few objections.

Andy Vizcarra:

I think most people would agree with me that you don't back down from a case. When you're a prosecutor, I would think, when I'm a prosecutor, and I have a case that I really believe in and that I want to bring to trial, I don't think I'd back down just because I, "Oh, opposing counsel's big and scary and so good." Which is why we were like, "Wow, this is weird."

Jasmin Olguin:

But it's really cool seeing our coach, like he really is such an icon for us because his presence, the way he gets things out, I don't know. I'm just really happy to be here. And just everything he's been saying, it's like my heart, like the whole Brady thing, I was like heart, heart, heart.


Court Bailiff

All rise for the jury.

Judge Rodriguez Key:

Thanks everyone. Please have a seat.

Jasmin Olguin:

Good morning, Mr. Farmer, will you introduce yourself to the members of the jury?

Witness:

Yes. Hi, my name is (beep).

Jasmin Olguin:

I want the jury to get to know you a little bit. So where do you live?

Witness:

I live at (beep).

Jasmin Olguin:

How long have you lived there?

Witness:

50 years. Except for a couple years, when I went off to college.


Katie Phang, host:

On day three, Jasmin, who had been sitting quietly taking notes and strategizing with Jason, she gets her chance to do a short, direct of a key witness for the defense.


Jasmin Olguin:

Have you ever had a problem with the (beep) any music?

Witness:

No.

Jasmin Olguin:

Since (beep) moved in, have you been able to interact with them?

Witness:

Yes.

Jasmin Olguin:

Have you been able to see their interactions with other neighbors?

Witness:

Yes.

Jasmin Olguin:

Have you been able to see them interact with each other?

Witness:

Yes.

Jasmin Olguin:

Then these five years. Do you have enough experience to be able to form an opinion on (beep)?

Witness:

I believe so.

Jasmin Olguin:

Do you have an opinion on (beep) the character for violence?

Witness:

I believe it's pro to violence.

Jasmin Olguin:

Do you have an opinion on (beep) character for untruthfulness?

Witness:

I don't believe him to be trustworthy.

Jasmin Olguin:

We pass the witness, your honor.

Judge Rodriguez Key:

Your witness.

Andy Vizcarra:

Yes, your Honor.


Katie Phang, host:

And just like that, the case for the prosecution is on the rocks, and Jason Goss is on deck.


Jasmin Olguin:

Yesterday we were having a lot of technical issues. It was really late. And I told coach, "Coach, I could finish this if you want to go work on your close." And he said, "No, I don't have to work on anything." I was like, "I hate myself. Why would I tell him that?"

Jason Goss:

But you guys hear their burden prove it's beyond a reasonable doubt. And it's not just beyond reasonable doubt that (beep) assault their house or hit or pushed or shoved or rolled in the bushes, because you can believe all of that beyond a reasonable doubt, but they still have to prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt that it's not self defense. And remember, this is not serious bodily injury. This is bodily injury. They are entitled to do bodily injury. That is forced. The judge is ready to the law. They're entitled to use force to prevent trespass. They're entitled to punch somebody in the face. They're entitled to throw them on the ground. They're entitled to push them. They're entitled to do whatever they can do...

Katie Phang, host:

It's safe to say that Andy was tapping her feet the whole time, just itching to get in there. And finally, she gets her big chance to do a closing.

Andy Vizcarra:

But I'm going to tell you that the world didn't flip on that day at this point, it just didn't, the world kept turning. Just like it always does. Right outside, the way it always has, the way it always will. See people fight, they knock each other out. I know you know this. Sometimes they have good reason. Sometimes they have reason. Sometimes they have no reason at all. Sometimes people knock each other out, get into fights just because they can, because they're the bigger guy. So I'm big and you're small. Because I didn't like the way you looked at me. I didn't like the way you spoke to me. I didn't like that you came over here at 4:00 in the morning and told me to turn the music down. I can do whatever I want.

Katie Phang, host:

She even pulls out the old Saint Mary's chestnut, the salute to the American flag.

Andy Vizcarra:

It's like when you look behind the judge at that flag, that's resting on the flagpole, and you can't see all the stars and you can't see all the stripes, you still know, right? Beyond reasonable doubt, you know what that is. You know that's the flag of the United States of America, or the laws that we have are meant to keep people safe, or the laws that we have are meant to keep our community safe, or the laws that we have try their best never to condone violence. Always try to say violence is not the answer. You, the jury, have the power to decide on the facts of this case. You, the jury, have the power to decide whether you're going to allow violence to be the answer in your community, whether it's okay if you don't like how someone talks to you, if you don't like how they look at you, that you can knock their teeth out and you can knock them almost unconscious just because you can. Today I ask that you find the defendant guilty.


Maritza Stewart:

She fought and she fought, and she fought and I knew this day would come where I would see her in trial one day. And I didn't know fresh off of that last loss, which I know she took a lot really hard, because she didn't get to get in the game. And I told her that something big is going to happen soon. And I don't know if she ever would realize how big this is because she's just being Andy.

It all came together. It culminated all together. Everything that we've practiced, played, prayed, everything for her. I saw it in that moment and seen her argue against him and not back down. It makes me feel so proud. I'm not her mother. I'm not her sister, but I just, I feel like she's family. And just like, even when I saw Jasmin asking questions, like you just see these babies and they come through and you're just like, I wonder, I know they're good people and I just, I hope they continue on and work on their skills. And she did that. I mean, she killed it. So, I mean, I just, I don't know. It is amazing feeling and I just could do nothing but smile, tear up, cry.


Judge Rodriguez Key:

Yes. Ma'am. You have a verdict?

Juror:

Yes, I do.

Judge Rodriguez Key:

All right. Thank you now, Ms. --- is it unanimous?

Juror:

Yes, it is. We, the jury find the defendant not guilty.

Judge Rodriguez Key:

All right. Thank you for your jury service. Thank you so much. Wow. Wow. Longest trial I've ever done. Hardest trial I've ever done. The most law I've ever seen. Some of the best work I've ever seen. So I hope you can appreciate what you saw here today.


Andy Vizcarra:

The verdict was not guilty. The jury did come back pretty quick. So I think, I don't know anything. This is my first time, but I was like, "That cannot be good." For the State at least. Like coach said, like just as his, "Whatever an impartial juror of your peers says it is." And I think that's the beauty of it. And I think, I just feel really grateful that I've gotten this training that allows you to see both sides of the coin and allows you to see that just like there can be bad people on both sides, there can be really great people on both sides. And there can be people that are fighting for the community and hey, are we going to say that this is right? Are we going to just go around, letting people just punch each other just because you can? Or because you're mad? Or even if you have a reason, all right, relax. Regardless, I think that is what justice is. And, I mean, this time it wasn't it, this time they said it was okay, but that's the beauty of it. So, onto the next.

Jasmin Olguin:

I got kind of choked up. Like I wanted to cry, but I was just so happy. Like you heard the client's wife gasp and start crying and you could, I could see him physically start getting emotional, but it was such a joy because it was an injustice to him. And for two years, he's had to be reporting to somebody when he didn't do anything wrong. And it's just, now he can just walk out those doors and he can go to fiesta, he can do this and he doesn't have to live like that anymore. And I was so happy. I prayed after. I was like, "Thank God that happened." And obviously coach that closing was incredible. So it was really awesome. I was really happy.

Preet Bharara:

Look, the law is about rules. I believe in rules, but more important than rules it is something that is based on principles and values. And those are values of equal justice and fairness of process and everything about that is fascinating to me. I began a little bit the study of law when I was in middle school and I read Inherit The Wind, which is about the scopes trial, right? The ability of a teacher to teach about evolution in a school in Tennessee.

And I love the idea that it's also about truth, truth finding and all the mechanisms that you use, not only to get justice and fairness for people, but so the ultimate truth comes out and I've always thought of it as a noble pursuit. I say this to commencement audiences all the time. There's a lot of power in a legal degree. You know, individuals have power. Generally they have their voice. They can protest, they can run for office. There's lots of things you can do. But I think there has been an appreciation as our democracy, in my view, has been under attack from a lot of different places over the last number of years. That's not a bad thing to have a law degree and have the privilege of access to a court, to redress grievances, and equalize the playing field for people who don't have access to justice.


Andy Viczarra:

I guess it's good for the learning curve part aspect of it, right? We're learning a lot, but it's really hard to balance, full-time student this week, full-time lawyer also. And it's really, I think we just, we wear a lot of hats and it's hard.

Jasmin Olguin:

Do you wear a white hat, though?

Andy Viczarra:

I'm the only one that wears a white hat.

Jasmin Olguin:

We're actually the ones that wear the right white hats.

Andy Viczarra:

Oh, shut up. I literally my caption for...

Jasmin Olguin:

Did you hear when you said that for?

Andy Viczarra:

Yeah. My caption for barrister picture, don't think I forgot. My caption for my very first picture was, "My white hat is bigger than your white hat." Like if it's going to be someone, yeah, I want it to be me.

Katie Phang, host:

Andy and Jasmin graduated from law school and have been studying for the bar exam all summer long. Andy is now working for the DA's office and Jasmin continues to work with Jason Goss, who knows? They will likely face off again at trial in the future.

The St. Mary's team wrapped up its season. It wasn't all disappointing. One of AJ's teams won first place at the National Trial League Competition.

Announcer:

I'd like to announce that the winning team is the defense team. [crowd cheers and screams]

AJ Bellido de Luna:

I don't care where they are today. I want to know where they are two years from now when they leave. And I get so much satisfaction when they graduate, when I'm sitting there at graduation, I'm looking up at the stage and I see them walk across, I remember the person that walked in the first time.


[audio from trial team boot camp at St. Mary’s]

AJ Bellido de Luna:

How's everybody doing? Who did not see the video on cross examination? Great. Raven, you want to come up here and cross examine Abby?

AJ Bellido de Luna:

Because if I can make that connection with you today, I can make you a lawyer tomorrow and then you're going to go out and you're going to do good.

AJ Bellido de Luna:

From chapter one, Case Analysis. You've made some connection to how that works with the rest of the case.

Katie Phang, host:

Next on Class Action, for the first time in its history, the Dillard team goes to the national championship.

[audio from the American Mock Trial Association National Championship Tournament]

Grant Keener:

Well, good afternoon, everyone. How special is it to all be together again?

Brandon Harper:

Welcome to nationals. Okay, I'm going to do it again. Welcome to the in-person National Championship! In court room A, representing the state, the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech Team 1001.

Female Student:

Hey, all I'm Cervi. I'm from Georgia tech. We're over there. Go Jackets!

Brandon Harper:

The Blue Devils of Dillard University, team 1216.

Renee Simen:

Hello, I'm Renee Simien.

Amaya Ronczyk:

And my name is Amaya Ronczyk. I'm the captain of the Dillard University mock trial team in New Orleans.

Renee Simen:

And as we say in New Orleans, “Laissez les bon temps rouler!" "Let the good times roll!" [crowd cheers and applause]

Katie Phang, host:

That's next time on Class Action.

Class Action is a production of iHeartRadio and Sound Argument. Created, produced, written and edited by Kevin Huffman and Lisa Gray. Additional story production by Jennifer Swann, Kristen Cabrera, Jason Foster and Wendy Nardi. Executive producers are Taylor Chicoine and Katrina Norville. Sound, design, editing, and mixing by Evan Tyor and Taylor Chicoine. This episode had additional field production by Kristen Cabrera. For more podcasts from iHeartRadio visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your favorite shows.