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Thursday, January 19, 2012

How the Old Twin Stand-In Stunt Plays Out In Real Life

Writers love to show lawyers using twins to trick witnesses into false identifications. The plotline will have the witness asked, “Can you show me the man who attacked you?” The witness points to the person at the defense table. The defense lawyer will say, “Your honor, I move to dismiss. The witness has just identified the defendant’s twin brother.” Gasps arise. Gavel pounding. “Case dismissed.” The victim walks away sheepishly, and the defense lawyer gets slaps on the back for his cleverness.

Back to the real world. A lawyer tried a similar stunt recently, with quite different consequences. She had her client’s twin brother appear at a preliminary hearing instead of her client. The witness identified the twin. Case dismissed? Nope.

The prosecutors are moving to have her removed from the case, and the judge is talking about having her held in contempt of court. The prosecutor is also going to report her to the Bar for making misrepresentations to the court.

When she was caught (the arresting officer recognized the real perp hanging outside the courtroom) she denied she was trying to get the witness to identify the wrong person. So what was all that about? I’m betting that wasn't quite true. She probably saw some stupid TV show where a lawyer pulled a similar stunt.

If stunts like that worked in real life, no twin would ever end up in jail. The truth is simpler. Lawyers aren’t allowed to misrepresent anything to a judge or jury. That includes the identity of their client. If they do, they might end up in jail for a few days, or worse, lose their license to practice law.

Can we all agree to stop using the twin stand-in as a plotline now? On behalf of the 1.1 million lawyers who might read your book or watch your show, I thank you.

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