Monday, November 21, 2016

Episode 106 - 11/21/66

Vicki arrives at the sheriff's office. Mr. Garner is there, acting as legal counsel for Roger. The sheriff asks him to leave, and Mr. Garner says he'll be staying for the questioning. She asks where Roger is, and the sheriff says they're holding him, but he needs to ask her a few questions.


He asks her to identify the pen. She explains that she found it at Lookout Point, two or three days after Bill died. Mr. Garner interrupts to say that Roger might have lost it at any time in the interval after Bill died. Vicki then says she took the pen back to Collinwood. She had it for a day, and then it disappeared. She left it in David's room, and when she went back for it, it was gone. She said Roger and David were in the house. She thought David had stolen it. The sheriff asks if Roger had seen the pen, and she confirmed that he had. Garner interrupts trying to mount a defense, and the sheriff threatens to remove him from the office.


The sheriff asks when she understood the significance of the pen, and Vicki says it was when she saw Blair's pen in Bangor. He explained how rare it was, and that Burke had a duplicate. The sheriff asks if she thought Burke dropped the pen on the beach. She said she was, until she found out that Burke had given it to Carolyn, who told her that Roger took it. She said that Carolyn told Roger that she knew about the pen, and he came to her to tell his version of what happened that night; that he had been at Lookout Point, but that he didn't have anything to do with Bill's death. He was already dead when he arrived. She said she wanted to believe him, but she didn't know what she believed until someone broke into her room in the middle of the night. She said she screamed, and then Roger entered. He told her she imagined it. Garner says she could have been dreaming, and the sheriff gives him a last warning.


Vicki also describes the car attempting to run her down last night. She says she ran back to Collinwood and phoned Burke. The sheriff asks why she was walking back to Collinwood at night, and Vicki describes her meeting with Sam Evans. He wanted to know what she knew about Bill Malloy's death, and when she didn't answer his questions he was angry. Mr. Garner asks if he can ask a few questions, and the sheriff allows it. He asks her to confirm that she can't identify Roger as the one who broke into her room, or who tried to run her down. She asks if not Roger, then who?


The sheriff says he may ask her to come back to make a formal statement. As she's leaving, Mr. Garner stops her to say that his son is coming to town to help him with the case, and he was looking forward to seeing her. Carolyn shows up and she's upset. Her mother told her that Roger was being held in connection with Bill Malloy's death. Carolyn asks Vicki to wait for her, and goes in to see the sheriff.


The sheriff asks Mr. Garner to explain what's going on. Mr Garner explains that the sheriff is going to ask her a few questions. He shows her the pen and asks her if she had seen it before. She said it was her pen, given to her by Burke Devlin. She says it was lost, and she describes how Roger took it from her to return to Burke. He asks her when he lost it, and she says it was the night Bill Malloy died. He tells her Vicki found the pen on the beach at Lookout Point. She asks if Vicki told him that Roger killed Bill Malloy. She says she must have a grudge against her uncle Roger. The sheriff says Vicki was almost killed by someone last night, and he asks where her uncle was at 8pm last night. Carolyn breaks down, and the sheriff asks Vicki to come in and take Carolyn home. The sheriff asks that she stay in the house and try not to be alone. The girls leave and the sheriff calls for Roger to be brought in to his office.


Roger enters the sheriff's office. He tells Garner he hopes he's prepared to sue for false arrest. The sheriff asks why Roger buried the pen. He explains that was foolish of him. He says he buried it because it would lead people to the wrong set of conclusions. The sheriff says that he didn't want it known he was at the place Bill was killed. Garner interrupts Roger to say he doesn't have to admit anything, but Roger continues. He explains that he arranged to meet Bill, and when he arrived he found Bill was already dead. The sheriff asked what happened next. Roger says he want to his office. The sheriff asked why he didn't contact him, and why he lied the following day. He says he didn't want his sister to be embroiled in everything. The sheriff explains that lying to a police officer in an investigation is against the law. Roger asks what he intends to do about it.


The sheriff clarifies that he hasn't yet accused Roger of anything, and then asks if he has a full set of keys to Collinwood. Roger says he only has a handful of keys. The sheriff asks if he has a key to Vicki's room, and Roger sees where the questioning is leading. Rather than answer, he claims that Vicki imagined the whole thing. The sheriff asks if he has access to his sister's keys. Roger says that he surely could have broken into Vicki's room but why would he. The sheriff asks where he was at 8pm, and Roger explains he was driving around, alone, with no destination, and no one saw him. He then asks if that's when Vicki was almost run over. He does claim to have stopped for gas after 8pm somewhere outside Clearwater. He tells the sheriff to check on that, because he's told him the entire truth.


Back at Collinwood, Carolyn is distraught. She tells Vicki that she can't believe her uncle Roger would try to hurt her.


Roger says he couldn't harm anyone, let alone his governess. Roger asks how long they have to stay. The sheriff asks about the meeting with Bill. He says Burke has a theory, Roger denies there being any truth to it. The sheriff asks why Bill called the meeting the night he died. Roger dodges the question. Roger proclaims that someone may be trying to kill Vicki, but it's not him.


Our thoughts

John: Garner isn't a very good lawyer. Rather than paying attention and taking notes while Vicki answers the sheriff's questions, he's attempting to try the case in the sheriff's office.

Christine: Perhaps Garner Jr. would have handled the case better.

John: Why does the sheriff asks Garner to explain to Carolyn what he's going to do, when all he's going to do are ask her a few questions?

Christine: Maybe he thought it would calm her down to have Garner speak to her, thus avoiding any female histrionics.

John: Roger goes to great lengths to proclaim that he's telling the entire truth, but who would believe him after he had already been caught in a myriad of lies? Whether or not he's guilty of murder, he's certainly guilty of lying to the sheriff investigating Bill's death, and hiding evidence. Surely that's enough to lock him up for a little while...



Addendum:  Legal analysis by an anonymous person who does not play a lawyer on TV

One might wonder about the level of professional competence displayed by Mr. Garner, the attorney summoned by accused murderer Roger Collins. Because of our limited perspective at this point, an attorney reviewing Garner's competence would mostly have to give him the benefit of the doubt. Deciding on whether the specific acts of a TV Lawyer are competent depends on what advance preparation and investigation have been performed by the TV Lawyer, and what facts are known to the Lawyer.

Garner could be a bumbling idiot - or maybe he just reflects the inaccurate depiction of lawyers and legal proceedings characteristic to TV shows and movies. I'd say the jury is still out on the question of Garner's competence. While there are some reasons for concern about his legal abilities, there's not enough evidence to make a firm conclusion either way at this point.

This brief addendum will review the competence of Garner using a "TV Lawyer Competency Rating" (TVLCR) scale. This WAG scale is based on my estimation of how a general audience might rate a TV Lawyer's performance. I have supplemented these TVLCR scores with some comments reflecting real-world practices.


ISSUE 1: OBSERVING THE INTERROGATION


The episode starts out with Mr. Garner at the sheriff's office where the interrogation of witnesses is about to begin. The Sheriff invites Garner to leave, but Garner points out that he has a right to be present.

During the interrogation of Miss Winters, Garner jumps in a couple of times to try and score some rhetorical points. This causes the Sheriff to threaten to throw Garner out of the office. Realizing that being present for these interrogations is in the best interest of his client, Garner seems to try and hold his tongue. However, he does interrupt the questioning of Winters one more time, which causes the Sheriff to give him a final warning.

TV LAWYER RATING: Competent. Garner asserted his right to be present to hear the statements of the witnesses even though the Sheriff wrongly tried to get him to leave. Garner advocated points advantageous to his client and pushed the envelope with the Sheriff. While these types of interruptions aren't necessarily helpful in a real-life interrogation, they are certainly what people expect from a competent TV lawyer!


ISSUE 2: PARTICIPATING IN THE INTERROGATION


Garner gets permission to ask Miss Winters some questions. He immediately scores points by getting her to acknowledge that she did not see who was trying to break into her room, nor did she see who was driving the car that she thought was trying to run her over.

Garner then makes the classic cross-examination mistake of asking "one question too many." He does so by confronting Winters with the conclusion that since she didn't see who committed the acts, there was no proof that Roger Collins was the person who did those things. However, this misstep only serves to give Winters the opportunity to blurt out: "If it wasn't Roger, who was it?"

At least it didn't happen in front of a jury, where this kind of "one question too many" mistake can be embarrassing (not to mention devastating to the client's case). Garner should have stopped asking questions after he elicited the helpful facts. Later he could have used these facts, at the appropriate time and place, to argue the conclusion he wanted to draw from the failings of the evidence.

Instead, Garner asked that "one question too many" which allowed the witness to advance a negative conclusion. Posing the supposed "lack of proof" as a question also gave Winters an opportunity to volunteer other harmful facts that had not yet come out (although that did not happen in this instance).

While supporters of Garner’s tactics might argue that he was using the interview setting to test the waters, and that it was a less risky situation to ask "one question too many", I don't buy it. Unless you know the witness is going to say "and I don't think he did it", there doesn't seem to be any meaningful benefit to confronting the witness with a fairly weak conclusion that doesn't necessarily follow from all the facts.

TV LAWYER RATING: Incompetent. All Garner accomplished was getting the witness to essentially say: "Who else could have been the murderer except your client?"


ISSUE 3: EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL


Things really seem to go off the rails when Roger comes in. We know that Collins is being held by the Sheriff, although only for questioning. Why isn't Collins read his rights? Why is Garner just sitting there while the client talks and talks?

An important missing piece of information is whether Garner had had an opportunity to speak with Collins privately prior to the interrogation by the Sheriff. If that had occurred, then hopefully Garner would have advised Collins about the right to remain silent and inquired into the statements that Collins would be making.

Interestingly enough, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona was issued only about five months before this episode aired. So the expected TV "reading of your rights" does not occur. Throughout the seventies, the Miranda warnings (i.e. "you have the right to remain silent...", etc.) would become a staple of police shows and movies. Indeed, these scenes were repeated ad nauseum to the extent that it created a general misimpression that an arrest was illegal if the police did not read a person their rights. (In reality, Miranda warnings are not required to be given simply because someone is being arrested. Further, the failure to give the warnings does not render an arrest invalid, but it could result in statements being declared inadmissible.)

Given the typical inaccuracy of the legal proceedings depicted on television shows and in movies, it is no surprise that Dark Shadows does not incorporate breaking legal issues that were only several months old at the time of the episode (this isn't a "ripped from the headlines" legal show like Law & Order, after all).

That being said, as Collins is making a variety of statements to the Sheriff, Garner jumps in with the advice: "You don't have to admit anything you don't want to admit." Not bad for a TV lawyer, especially during that era, but the better advice would have been: "You don't have to make any statements at all — and SHUT UP like I told you during our meeting at the jail."

In real life, the client ultimately makes the decision about whether or not to make a statement to the police. A lawyer must make sure that the client is properly advised and understands the risks of making a statement. From what I saw in this episode, Roger Collins strikes me as just the type of client who would have disregarded his lawyer's advice in this regard, even if Collins had been properly advised by Garner prior to the interrogation by the sheriff.

TV LAWYER RATING: Incompetent. How can Garner just sit there and let his client say all those things without even being read his rights?


OVERALL EVALUATION

Garner strikes me as the go-to civil attorney for the Collins family who got dragged into this murder case just because they are familiar with him. Based on Garner's poor competency rating as a TV Lawyer, Roger Collins should fire him and instead reach out to Raymond Burr or Andy Griffith.

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