How’s that for an explosive court case?

hand grenade From The Times Online – Weird Cases 04/12/09:

The principal weapon of advocates is language. Sam Kepfield, however, recently sought to extend his options in a Kansas courtroom when he put a hand grenade on the jury box ledge and pulled out the pin.

Kepfield, a defence attorney, was representing a woman charged with forgery and theft. Her defence was duress. She claimed that her co-defendant had forced her into committing crimes by threatening to kill her pet dog and hurt her daughter unless she cooperated.

In an effort to convey to the jurors what it feels like to face an imminent threat, Kepfield took the view that simple verbal descriptions would not suffice and that something dramatic was required. So he acquired a dud grenade and then, during a speech about fear and the experience of being intimidated, without notice to the judge or the prosecutors, he brandished the grenade, pulled the pin, placed it on the jury ledge and asked the jurors, “Are you afraid now?”

This was certainly a novel approach to capturing the attention of a jury. But “hand grenade” does not appear in the index of most books about how to be a successful advocate. After leaving the grenade on the jury ledge for a moment, Kepfield moved it on to the prosecutors’ table. Judge Richard Rome ordered him to remove the it immediately. Both the judge and the state prosecutor referred the incident to the local sheriff’s office.

The jurors were not impressed with Kepfield’s explosive ploy and took just 15 minutes to convict his client.

Wow.  Call me a cynic but this surely could only have ever occurred in a US court.

But seriously:  A hand grenade?!!?  Juries are notoriously difficult to get ‘on-side’.  Did the lawyer, Mr Kepfield, really think that making the jury believe a live grenade was about to detonate right in front of their faces would help his client’s cause?

Perhaps it was one of those ‘it-seemed-a-good-idea-at-the-time’ kind of things?

“Only in America”, eh?!


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