As I learned last night, my brother Frank finally got the chance to combine two of his greatest loves: trying cases and quoting old movie lines. He told me the trial he’d just concluded (which he proudly dubbed “The Ten Commandments”) constituted the “pinnacle” of his long career with the Public Defenders’ Office.
The criminal defendant he represented in the case was a nice Puerto Rican lady … of the evening, who’d been arrested on solicitation charges. Given his limited options, he decided to call the client’s pimp as his key witness. Frank wanted the pimp to testify that he operated a legitimate escort service, not a prostitution ring.
The pimp was a dark-skinned Puerto Rican named Carlos Heston. As Frank delightedly learned, Mr. Heston preferred to be addressed by his lifelong nickname, “Moses.” He’d acquired his moniker directly because of his love of the movie, “The Ten Commandments,” and its similarly-named star, Charlton Heston. Even better, it turned out Moses Heston could quote most of the movie’s dialogue verbatim, albeit in a heavily-accented English reminiscent of Al Pacino’s character in “Scarface.” Frank particularly enjoyed the man’s butchering of Edward G. Robinson’s line when Moses fails to return from Mt. Sinai in a timely manner, which the pimp enunciated as: “Where’s chorr Moses now?”
Mr. Heston did not disappoint at trial – at least in terms of entertainment value. On direct examination, my brother addressed each question to “Moses,” and Moses found a way to liberally sprinkle passages from the biblical movie into his testimony. Moses referred to the defendant consistently as “my people” and, when asked to describe how his escort business had come about, spoke of escaping a life of oppression in Puerto Rico and leading “my people” to the “promised land” of New Jersey. At the conclusion of his direct examination, he also delivered an unsolicited plea to “let my people go!”
Frank barely kept a straight face while questioning Moses. And he might’ve been the only person in the courtroom (with the noticeable exception of the defendant) who didn’t crack up during the witness’s testimony. The prosecutor himself couldn’t help laughing, even while repeatedly objecting to Moses’ unorthodox averments.
Perhaps best of all, when the prosecutor finished his cross-examination, Frank discovered that the judge not only had a sense of humor but must’ve been a “Ten Commandments” fan too, since he excused Moses with the words: “Farewell my one-time witness” (reminiscent of Ramses’ parting remark when Moses was exiled from Egypt).
In all his years trying cases, Frank hadn’t seen a more amused looking group of jurors. He said most of their faces sported ear-to-ear grins when they went off to deliberate. Ten minutes later some of them were still smiling, even as they returned their verdict … finding the defendant guilty as charged.
The other Moses