Prosecutor: Calling me ‘the government’ before jury ‘inflammatory’

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By David Tulis

Defense attorneys who talk about “the government” are trying to inflame jurors, who are seen as having increasing dislike of the modern state.

Drew Justice, attorney

Drew Justice, attorney

So says a state prosecutor who is getting at least judges to use an awkward military term in the courtroom. The issue came up in 2013 when a state prosecutor in Middle Tennessee, Tammy Rettig, filed a motion in a criminal case demanding to be referred to as “general.”

In a burglary case defended by attorney Drew Justice of Williamson County, she was adamant. “The state has noticed in the past few years that it has become commonplace during trials for attorneys for defendants, and especially Mr. Justice, to refer to state’s attorneys as ‘the government,’ ” she wrote in her motion. “The state believes that such a reference is used in a derogatory way and is meant to make the state’s attorney seem oppressive and to inflame the jury.”

Of course she capitalized State and Government.

Though she has a record of swaying juries toward the government’s claims, she perceives that slowly, slowly commoners on the jury are vulnerable to an anti-state prejudice.

Mr. Justice was the perfect party to amuse himself at the state’s expense. He insisted his client no longer be referred to as “the defendant,” but instead be called “Mister,” “the citizen accused” or “that innocent man,” since all parties admit a defendant is innocent until proven guilty by the finders of fact.

As for himself, he insisted attorney or defense attorney were insufficient. If Ms. Rettig is general, how about calling him by a military rank as well, perhaps captain?

“We’re a little disappointed at the response that talked about ‘Captain Justice, Defender of the Realm,’” said Ms. Rettig’s boss, district attorney Kim Helper. “From my perspective, it seemed a little bit — I don’t know what the right word would be. The response did not appear to be in good faith.”

The judge rejected the state’s motion, saying government isn’t derogatory.

In a December trial in Lawrence County on Dec. 22, 2015, circuit court judge Stella Hargrove kept referring to Mrs. Rettig as “general.”

Source: Brian Haas, “Franklin lawyer mocks prosecutor with demand to be called ‘Captain Justice,’” The Tennessean, Nov. 1, 2013

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