by Glen Donaldson
The Right Honourable Chief Justice Lou Pohl could rock an intimidating stare with the best of them. It was an ability that had served him well over the course of a long and distinguished judicial career; one that had seen him come face to face with some of the country’s most hardened felons.
Yet on the rare occasions mirth made an appearance in his courtroom, Judge Pohl was more than willing to sit back, along with everyone else, and enjoy the show. Today was one such occasion.
Newly-minted young lawyer Pickering Benedict was nervously attempting to cross-examine the State’s senior most Coroner – a notoriously acid tongued, rotund gentleman known for not tolerating fools lightly nor sugar-coating anything not edible.
Under the microscope was the probable cause of death of two South Korean honeymooners killed during a thunderstorm. Improbably, the newlyweds had been 600 metres up in the air at the time, enjoying a hot-air balloon ride over Ayers Rock. Somehow and for some reason they’d both taken to gripping a metal-handled umbrella – ‘Mary Poppins’ style - at the time. Yet the balloon operator was adamant no lightning strikes had taken place during the flight.
‘Trial and error’, with an emphasis on the latter, was the fresh-out-of-graduate-school lawyer’s fumbling approach. Before it was all over, those present in the court would witness the perpetually stony-faced Judge wipe away tears of laughter.
PICKERING: Could you state your full name and date of birth for the court.
CORONER: Dr Arthur John Halliday, the 12th of August.
PICKERING: What year is that Mr Halliday?
CORONER: The 12th of August every year.
PICKERING: How many autopsies have you performed on dead people?
CORONER: They’ve all been on dead people sonny.
PICKERING: Do you recall approximately what time you examined the bodies?
CORONER: The autopsy commenced a little after 8pm the day of the incident.
PICKERING: Were the male and female dead at the time?
CORONER: If not they were by the time I finished with them.
PICKERING: Were you alone or by yourself when the autopsy was carried out?
CORONER: Think about what you just asked me, ace. My assistant Dr Peter Mannering was present also, if that’s what you’re getting at.
PICKERING: Doctor Halliday, prior to performing the autopsy on the first body, did you check for a pulse?
PICKERING: Did you check for blood pressure?
PICKERING: Did you check for breathing?
PICKERING: So then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
PICKERING: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
CORONER: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
PICKERING: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
CORONER: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.
PICKERING: No further questions your Honour. Thankyou Dr Halliday for your insight, professionalism and measured responses.
CORONER: If I wasn’t under oath squire, I’d return the compliment.