Two guys from New Jersey are charged with murder of the clerk at the Sack-o-Suds convenience store in Wazoo City, Alabama. They accidentally confess because they think they've been charged with shoplifting. Their cousin Vincent Gambini, fresh out of law school, comes down to Alabama with his girlfriend to represent them. The judge is Fred Gwynne, better known as Herman Munster on the old TV show, "The Munsters."
********** state's opening *************
13) Prosecutor Trotter: Your Honor, Counsel, members of the jury, the evidence in this case is going to show that at 9:30 in the morning, January 4, both defendants, Stanley Rothenstein and William Gambini, were seen getting out of their metallic green 1964 Buick Skylark convertible with a white top. The evidence is gonna show that they were seen entering the Sack O' Suds convenience store in Wazoo City. The evidence is going to show that minutes after they entered the Sack O' Suds, a gun-shot was heard by three eye-witnesses. You're gonna then going to hear the testimony of the three eyewitnesses who saw the defendants running out of the Sack O Suds a moment after the shots were heard, getting into their faded, metallic green 1964 Buick Skylark, and driving off in great haste. Finally, the State is going to prove that the Defendants, Gambini and Rothenstein, admitted and then recanted their testimony to the Sheriff of Beacham County. Now lets get down to the live-long. Your verdict is gonna depend on what you think of the sworn testimony. Not what I think. What I think don't count. You're the jury. It's your job to decide who's telling the truth. Truth. That's what verdict means. It's a word that comes down from old England, and all our little old ancestors. Now we're going to be asking you to return a verdict of Murder in the First Degree for William Gambini, and a verdict of Accessory to Murder in the First Degree, for Stanley Rothenstein, for helping Gambini commit this heinous crime.
Judge: Counselor, do you wish to make an opening statement? Counselor?
Gambini (waking up) What?
W: Come on, it's time to make your opening statement. C'mon, Vin.
*********** defense opening **********
14) G: Everything that guy just said is bullshit. Thank you.
Prosecution: Objection, your Honor. Counsel's entire opening statement is argument.
J: Objection sustained. The entire opening statement, with the exception of "thank you" will be stricken from the record. The jury will please disregard Counselor's entire opening statement. And you, Mr. Gambini, you will not use that kind of language in my court. Do you understand me?
G: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Rothenstein (under his breath) Putz.
********* second defense opening (stuttering) *********
J: Counselor, your statement, sir?
15) Public Defender: Ladies and gentlemen of the j-j-j-j-jury. On January f-f-f-fourth my client did indeed visit the Sack O' Suds uh uh convenience store (His stuttering continues throughout.) But but he didn't kill anyone. He, uh--We intend to prove that the prosecution's case is circumstantial and and and and and coincidental. Thank you.
Rothenstein (aside): That's it? What about everything we talked about?
PD: I get a little nervous.
R: A little nervous?
PD: I'm getting better.
*********** direct of Tipton *********
16) ............ I heard a gunshot so I looked out the window and I seen them two boys run out, get into their car, and drive off like maniacs tire smoking screeching, going up on the curb
17) Prosecution: Is this the car?
A.: Yes sir.
Prosecution: Thank you, sir. No further questions, your Honor.
J: Your witness.
******* cross **********
18) Q: All right, Mr. uh uh uh uh, Tipton, now, when you viewed my clients, how far away were you?
A. About fifty feet.
19) Oh, now do you think that's close enough to make an accurate identification?
20) Q. Mr. Tipton, I see you wear eyeglasses.
21) Q. Well, would you care to show those eyeglasses to the jury please?
A. (He holds up eyeglasses.)
22) Q. Thank you. Now, Mr. Tipton, were you wearing them that day?
23) Q. You see, you were fifty feet away, you made a positive eyewitness identification, and yet you were not wearing your necessary prescription eyeglasses.
A. They're reading glasses.
24) Q. Uhh, well, uh, Mr.--could you tell the court what color eyes the defendants have?
A. Brown. Hazel green.
25) Q. Mr. Tipton, when you viewed the defendants walking from their car into the Sack O' Suds, what angle was your point of view?
A. They was kind of walking towards me when they entered the store.
26) Q. And when they left, what angle was your point of view?
A. They was kind of walking away from me.
27) Q. So would you say that you got a better shot of them going in, and not so much coming out?
A. You could say that.
28) Q. I did say that. Would you say that?
29) Q. Is it possible the two "yoots"--
Judge: Two what? What was that word?
G: What word?
J: Two what?
J: Did you say yoots?
G: Yeah, two yoots.
J: What is a yoot?
Q. Excuse me your Honor, two "youths." Is it possible, the two defendants entered the store, picked 22 specific items off of the shelves, had the clerk take money, make change, then leave, then two different men, drive up in a similar--don't shake your head, I'm not done yet, wait till you here the whole thing, so that you can understand this now, two different men drive up in a similar looking car, go in, shoot the clerk, rob him, and then leave?
A. No. They didn't have enough time.
30) Q. Well, how much time was they in the store?
A. Five minutes.
31) Q. Five minutes? Are you sure, did you look at your watch?
32) Q. Oh, oh, I'm sorry, you testified earlier that the boys went into the store and you had just begun to make breakfast, you were just ready to eat and you heard a gunshot, so obviously it takes you five minutes to make breakfast.
A. That's right
33) Q. So you knew that. Do you remember what you had?
A. Eggs and grits.
34) Q. Eggs and grits. I like grits too. How do you cook your grits? You like 'em regular, creamy, or al dente?
A. Just regular, I guess.
35) Q. Regular? Hmm. Instant grits?
A. No self-respecting southerner uses instant grits. I take pride in my grits.
36) Q. So, Mr. Tipton, how could it take you five minutes to cook your grits, when it takes the entire grit-eating world twenty minutes?
A. I don't know. I'm a fast cook I guess.
37) Q. I'm sorry, I was all the way over here, I couldn't here you. Are we to believe that boiling water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than in anyplace on the face of the earth?
A. I don't know.
38) Q. Perhaps the laws of physics cease to exist on your stove? Were these magic grits? Did you buy from the same guy who sold Jack his beanstalk beans?
Prosecution: Objection, your Honor.
Judge: Objection sustained. Mr. Tipton, you may ignore the question.
39) Q. Are you sure about that five minutes? Are you sure about that five minutes?
A. I don't know.
J: I think you made your point.(Hits gavel repeatedly)
40) Q. (yelling): Are you sure about that five minutes?
A. I may have been mistaken.
Gambini: I got no more use for this guy.
Rothenstein (to public defender): You're fired. I want him!
********** cross of eyewitness who saw crime through his window *******
41) Q. Hey, Mr. Crane, what are these pictures of?
A. My house and stuff.
42) Q. Your house and stuff. And what is this brown stuff on the windows?
43) Q: Dirt? What is this rusty, dusty, dirty-looking thing over your window?
A: It's a screen.
44) Q: A screen? It's a screen. And what are these big things right in the middle of your view, from the middle of your window to the Sack O' Suds? What do we call these big things?
45) Q: Trees, that's right. Don't be afraid. Just shout 'em right out when you know 'em.
Now, what are these thousands of little things that are on trees?
46) Q: And these bushy things between the trees?
47) Q: Bushes, right. So, Mr. Crane, you could positively identify the defendants for a moment of two seconds looking through this dirty window, this crud-covered screen, these trees with all these leaves on them, and I don't know how many bushes.
A: Looks like five.
48) Q: Ah ah, don't forget this one and this one.
A: Seven bushes.
49) Q: So, what do you think? Do you think it's possible you just saw two guys in a green convertible, and not necessarily these two particular guys?
A: I suppose.
Gambini: I'm finished with this guy.
******** cross of another eyewitness **********
50) Q: Mrs. Reilly, when you saw the defendants, were you wearing your glasses?
A: Yes, I was.
51) Q: Over here, dear. Would you mind putting your glasses on for us, please?
(She puts on her glasses.) Whoa, how long you been wearing glasses?
A: Since I was six.
52) Q: Have they always been that thick?
A: Oh, no, they got thicker over the years.
53) Q: So as your eyes have gotten more and more out of wack as you've gotten older, how many different levels of thickness do you think you've gone through?
A: Oh, I don't know, over sixty years, maybe 10 times?
54) Q: Maybe you're ready for a thicker set?
A: Oh, no, I think they're okay.
55) Q: I think we should make sure. Let's check it out. Now how far were the defendants from you when you saw them entering the Sack O' Suds?
A: About a hundred feet.
56) Q: About a hundred feet. Would you hold this please? (Running a tape measure). Sorry, excuse me, excuse me, sorry, sorry. Okay. This is fifty feet. That's half the distance. How many fingers am I holding up? (He hold up two fingers.)
Judge: Let the record show that the counselor is holding up two fingers.
Q: Your Honor, please, huh?
J: Oh. Sorry.
57) Q: Now, Mrs. Reilly, and only Mrs. Reilly, how many fingers am I holding up now?
(He holds up two fingers)
58) Q: What do you think now, dear?
A: I'm thinking of getting thicker glasses.
Gambini: Thank you.
******** direct of expert witness **********
59) .............I am a special automotive instructor of forensic studies for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
60) Q. How long have you been in this position?
A: 18 years.
Gambini: Your honor, may we approach the bench please?
Judge: If you wish.
61) G: I object to this witness being called at this time. We've been given no prior notice he'd testify, no discovery of any tests he's conducted or reports he's prepared, and as the court is aware, the defense is entitled to advance notice of any witness who will testify, particularly those who will give scientific evidence, so that we could properly prepare for cross-examination, as well as giving the defense the opportunity to have the witness's reports reviewed by a defense expert, who might then be in a position to contradict the veracity of his conclusions.
Judge: Mr. Gambini, that is a lucid, intelligent, well-thought-out objection.
Gambini: Thank you, your honor.
62) Q. Now, Mr. Wilbur, these are photos of tires belonging to the Defendants' car and these are photos of the tire marks left by the assailants' car as it fled the convenience store. Now, are you familiar with these?
A: Yes, I am.
63) Q: Uh-huh. Could you elaborate, please, sir?
A: We compared the tire marks outside the convenience store with the rear tires of the Defendants' car. They are the same model and size tire, Michelin model XGV, size 75r, 14 inch wheel.
64) Q: They're the same size and model type. Anything else sir?
A: Yes indeed. The car leaving the convenience store spun its rear tires dramatically and left a residue of rubber on the asphalt. Now, I took a sample of that rubber and analyzed it. I also took a sample of the rubber from the rear tires of the defendants' Buick, and I analyzed that too.
65) Q: What kind of equipment did you use to find this out
A: I used a Hewlett-Packard 5710-A dual-column gas chromatograph with flame analyzation detectors.
66) Q: Uh-huh. Is that thing turbo-charged?
A: Only on the floor models.
67) Q: Now, Mr. Wilbur, what was the result of your analysis?
A: The chemical composition between the two samples was found to be identical.
Prosecutor: Identical. No further questions your honor.
************ cross **********
68) Q: Is it possible for two separate cars could be driving on Michelin model XGV 75 R 14's?
A: Of course.
69) Q: Let me ask you this: What's the best selling single model tire being sold in the United States today?
A: The Michelin XGV.
70) Q: And what's the most popular size?
71) Q: The same size as on the Defendants' car?
A: But two faded green 1964 Buick Skylark convertibles?
72) Q: Excuse me. All I'm asking you is if the most popular size of the most popular tire is on the defendant's car.
A: Well, Yeah.
Gambini: Yes. Thank you. No further questions.
Prosecution: Your Honor, the prosecution rests.
J: Mr. Gambini, your first witness. (pause) Mr. Gambini. I will ask you one more time, and one more time only. If I ask you again--
G: Your Honor, may I have a five minute recess? My next witness is not in the courtroom right now.
J: 3 minutes. No more.
********** direct of Mona Lisa Vito **********
Gambini: Your Honor, the defense calls as its first witness Miss Mona Lisa Vito.
73) Prosecution: I object your Honor, this person 's not on the witness list.
G: This witness is an expert in the field of automobiles, and is being called to rebut the testimony of George Wilbur.
G: Would you please instruct the officer to escort Miss Vito to the witness stand please?
Bailiff: Hold up your right hand. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god?
74) Q: Miss Vito, you're supposed to be some kind of expert in automobiles, is that correct? Is that correct?
J: Will you please answer the Counselor's question?
A: No, I hate him.
75) G: May I have permission to treat Miss Vito as a hostile witness?
A: You think I'm hostile now, wait till you see me tonight.
Judge: Do you two know each other?
Gambini: Yeah, she's my fiancé.
J: Well, that would certainly explain the hostility.
******* voir dire on qualifications **********
Prosecutor: Your Honor, I object to this witness. Improper foundation. I'm not aware of this person's qualifications. I'd like to voir dire this witness as to the extent of her expertise
J: Granted. Mr. Trotter, you may proceed.
76) Q: Miss Vito, what's your current profession?
A: I'm an out of work hairdresser.
77) Q: Out of work hairdresser? Now, in what way does that qualify you as an expert in automobiles?
A: It doesn't.
78) Q: In what way are you qualified?
A: Well, my father was a mechanic, his father was a mechanic, my mother's father was a mechanic, my three brothers are mechanics, four uncles on my father's side are mechanics--
79) Q: Your family is obviously qualified, but have you ever worked as a mechanic?
A: Yeah, in my father's garage, yeah.
80) Q: As a mechanic? What did you do in your father's garage?
A: Tune-ups, oil changes, brake relining, engine rebuilds, rebuild some trannies, rear end--
81) Q: Okay, okay. But does being an ex-mechanic necessarily qualify you as being an expert on tire marks?
A: No, thank you, goodbye.
Judge: Sit down and stay there until you're told to leave.
82) Gambini: Your Honor, Miss Vito's expertise is in general automotive knowledge. It is in this area which her testimony will be applicable. Now, if Mr. Trotter wishes to voir dire the witness, I'm sure he's going to be more than satisfied.
83) Q: All right, all right. Now, Miss Vito, being an expert on general automotive knowledge, can you tell me what would the correct ignition timing be on a 1955 Bel-Air Chevrolet with a 327 cubic inch engine and a four-barrel carburetor?
A: It's a bullshit question.
84) Q: Does that mean that you can't answer it?
A: It's a bullshit question, it's impossible to answer.
85) Q: Impossible because you don't have the answer.
A: Nobody could answer that question
Prosecutor: Your honor, I move to disqualify Miss Vito as an expert witness.
86) Judge: Can you answer the question?
A: No, it is a trick question
Judge: Why is it a trick question
A: Cause Chevy didn't make a 327 in '55. The 327 didn't come out till '62, and it wasn't offered in a Bel-Air with a four-barrel carb 'til '64. However, in 1964 the correct ignition timing would be four degrees before top dead center.
Prosecutor: Well, uh, she's acceptable your honor.
******** direct **************
87) Gambini: Your Honor, this is a picture taken by my fiancee outside the Sack O' Suds. Do we agree on this?
G: Thank you. I'd like to submit this picture of the tire tracks as evidence.
Judge: Mr. Trotter?
Prosecutor: No objection, your Honor.
88) Q: Miss Vito, did you take this picture?
A: You know I did.
89) Q: And what is this picture of?
A: You know what it's of.
90) Q: Miss Vito, it has been argued by me, the defense, that two sets of guys met up at the Sack O' Suds at the same time, driving identical metallic mint green 1964 Buick Skylark convertibles. Now, can you tell us, by looking at the picture, if the Defense's case holds water? (pause) Miss Vito, please answer the question. Does the Defense's case hold water?
A: No, the Defense is wrong.
91) Q: Are you sure?
A: I'm positive.
92) Q: How could you be so sure?
A: Because there is no way that these tire marks were made by a 1964 Buick Skylark. These marks were made by a 1963 Pontiac Tempest.
Prosecutor: Objection your honor, can we clarify to the court whether the witness is stating fact or opinion?
Judge: This is your opinion?
A: It's a fact.
93) Q: I find it hard to believe that this kind of information could be ascertained simply by looking at a picture.
A: Would you like me to explain?
94) Q: I would love to hear this.
Judge: So would I.
A: The car that made these two equal length tire marks had positraction, can't make those marks without positraction, which is not available on the 1964 Buick Skylark
95) Q: And why not? What is positraction?
A: It's a limited slip deferential which distributes power equally to both the right and left tires. The '64 Skylark had a regular deferential, which anyone who's been stuck in the mud in Alabama knows, you step on the gas, one tire spins, the other tire does nothing.
Juror: That's right.
96) Q: Is that it?
A: No, there's more, you see, when the left tire mark goes up on the curb, and the right tire mark stays flat and even, well, the '64 Skylark had a solid rear axle, so when the left tire would go up on the curb, the right tire would tilt out and ride along its edge, but that didn't happen here, the tire marks stayed flat and even. This car had an independent rear suspension. Now in the 60's there were only two other cars made in America that had positraction and independent rear suspension and enough power to make these marks
One was the corvette, which could never be confused with the Buick Skylark. The other had the same body length, height, width, weight, wheel-base, and wheel-track as the 64 Skylark, and that was the 1963 Pontiac Tempest.
97) Q: And because both cars were made by GM, were both cars available in metallic mint green paint?
A: They were.
Gambini: Thank you Miss Vito, No more questions. Thank you very, very much. You've been a lovely, lovely witness.
Judge: Mr. Trotter, would you like to question Miss Vito? (pause) Mr. Trotter? Mr. Trotter? (Banging gavel.)
Prosecutor: No further questions.
Gambini: In that case, your Honor, I'd like to recall George Wilbur.
Judge: Miss Vito, you may stand down. (To Wilbur) You realize you're still under oath?
A: Yes, sir.
98) Q: Mr. Wilbur, how'd you like Miss Vito's testimony?
A: Very impressive.
99) Q: She's cute too, huh?
Judge: Mr. Gambini?
100) Q: Sorry, sorry, your Honor. Mr. Wilbur, in your expert opinion, would you say that everything that Miss Vito said on the stand was 100% accurate?
A: I'd have to say that.
101) Q: And is there any way in the world that the vehicle the defendants were driving made those tire tracks? It's okay, go ahead and say it, they know.
A: Actually, no.
Gambini: Thank you, no more questions.
Judge: Thank you. You may stand down now, Mr. Wilbur.
********* direct of sheriff *********
102) Q: Sheriff Holly, what'd you find out?
A: On a hunch, I took it upon myself to check out if there was any information on a 1963 Pontiac tempest, stolen or abandoned recently. This computer readout confirms that two boys, who fit the defendants' description were arrested two days ago by Sheriff Tillman in Jasper County, Georgia, for driving a stolen metallic mint green 1963 Pontiac Tempest, with a white convertible top, Michelin model XGV tires, size 75 R 14.
103) Q: Is that it?
A: No. A 357 Magnum revolver was found in their possession.
104) Q: Sheriff Holly, just to refresh the court's memory, what caliber weapon was used to murder Jimmy Willis?
A: 357 Magnum.
Gambini: The defense rests.
Prosecutor: Your Honor, in light of Miss Vito's and Mr. Wilbur's testimony, the State would like to dismiss all charges.