With a Phi Beta Kappa key, and admission to the New York Bar in 1956, John L. McMahon started a criminal defense practice in northern New York.* This is a story about one of his early cases. It is told by his daughter Jill, and I love it:
Edinburg Town Court Story
My father was a newly minted criminal defense lawyer in the 1950s. One of his early cases was defending a bar owner alleged to have assaulted her neighbor. The bar owner, D, was a longstanding member of the tiny community of Edinburg on the north shore of Sacandaga Reservoir. The complainant, S, a relative newcomer, ran a small general store next to the bar. Relations between the bar owner and the store owner were strained because the store owner alleged that the bar owner also sold alcohol for consumption away from the bar (i.e., in competition with S’s store). One summer night, the bar owner had a party on the beach across the shoreline road from the bar. There were many noisy partiers that evening, and S took a flashlight to investigate. He found D and another reveler together in a boat, in a compromising position. According to the complaint, when S shined his light on the two, D punched S in the nose.
On his way to night court, Dad stopped at a restaurant in Edinburg for a bite to eat. The owner explained to Dad that he had to eat fast because he was closing the restaurant early in order to attend THE TRIAL. The whole town was going. Dad told the guy, don’t worry, they wouldn’t start until he got there.
When he arrived at the courthouse, a small building about 30’-by-40’, it was standing room only inside. Scores of people were massed outside, closer ones with noses plastered to the windows providing play-by-play to the rest.
The prosecutor questioned S at length about his interactions with D. Whenever S’s answer cast D in a poor light, from deep within the gallery the stentorious voice of the Town Clerk would comment, “Bullshit.” Or, “My ass.”
When Dad’s turn came, he was able to get S to admit that during the short time they had lived there, he and his wife had filed complaints against D to the Sheriffs, the State Troopers, the Alcohol Control Board, NYS Taxation and Finance, and the IRS, ad nauseum.
I think you can guess which way the verdict went. Dad says that the victory party at the bar lasted a week, during which time he was held hostage and deprived of water.
*See The weasel and the pigeons: A Christmas story about lawyers in general practice, another story by Jill about her dad’s firm.