If you have watched any of the classic Perry Mason episodes, it is an objection frequently lodged by Perry against his courtroom adversary, District Attorney Hamilton Burger.
But, it is an objection Hamilton has lodged himself against Perry.
If there is one cardinal rule most people subscribe to is avoiding being called as a witness in a civil action or criminal case, especially the latter. The other is to dodge serving on a jury. Those who have not been called as a witness, or served a jury summons, often call it part of our “civic duty.”
On Monday, I received in the mail, a notice that I will be subpoenaed as a prosecution witness in a criminal case. Included with the notice of subpoena, a short form in which I could waive the process of being served in person.
How it began –
In late March, there was a heated exchange between two neighbors in front of our house, in the old neighborhood. Megan, who’s renting our house, was taking a short nap with three of her four cats on the sofa. She was awakened by shouting, and thought some kind of argument was going on. Then, there was a loud bang. Megan thought to herself, “Oh, it better not be.” Minutes later, red and blue police lights were strobing through the vertical blinds, along with headlight beams. A deputy came to the door and asked Megan if she was okay. She replied she was.
Before midnight, another deputy came to the door on a canvass. He, too, asked Megan if she was okay. The deputy asked if she had seen any of the dispute or if she had security camera. No and no. After taking down her full name and phone number, the deputy said detectives may call or visit later. There was no follow-on visit by detectives.
In August, a private investigator working for the defense counsel visited Megan. He asked if she saw anything. Megan said no. Security footage? No. Did she know any of the principals? No. Megan said she doesn’t neighbor with anyone. If a neighbor waves, she’ll return the wave. Megan told the PI she relishes her privacy, and as a woman living alone, staying safe is a priority. The PI understood her position, thanked her for her time. He added he didn’t think she would have to testify, but he couldn’t speak for the prosecutors.
After Megan’s PI visit, she thought her involvement would slip away. Whatever information she conveyed to the Sheriff’s Department was very limited, and not particularly revealing. The ADA prosecuting the case has seen it another way. I asked my niece why would I be subpoenaed considering I have no knowledge of what happened. The same for Megan. My niece said most likely I was subpoenaed because I’m the property owner. Megan, she’s an ear-witness.
Since the subpoena notice is an official document, I cannot reproduce the document for display. Doing so is a Class A misdemeanor.
If the prosecutors want our testimony, they would have to serve us. Neither of us plan to waive being served in person.
Perry Mason would say our potential testimony “is incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial.”