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From left: Paul M. Fires and David G. Greene of Weber Gallagher Simpson Stapleton Fires & Newby. From left: Paul M. Fires and David G. Greene of Weber Gallagher Simpson Stapleton Fires & Newby.

One of the best courtroom movies ever made is “Witness for the Prosecution.” In this classic film noir, you can see what makes a great lawyer, and what separates him from all of the others. Spoiler alert! The movie’s climax shows the great barrister, Sir Wilfred Roberts, exonerate his client, Leonard Vole, from a murder charge. Wilfred is overweight and has a weak heart. He also has a stalwart nurse at his side. The nurse is about to seize this victory as a pretext to shoehorn Wilfred into a plane for a much-needed rest in Bermuda. Suddenly there is another murder, in plain view of a room full of witnesses. The newly accused happens to be the “witness for the prosecution” in the Vole case. Wilfred is turning a magnifying glass, eyeing the colorful light from its prisms, and you can see his wheels turning too. How can you exonerate someone who commits a crime before so many witnesses? It isn’t easily done. The nurse comments on the newly accused, having just “killed” someone. Wilfred, without missing a beat, puts down the glass, turns to the side, faces the nurse and says to her “not killed, assassinated.The viewer can imagine the temporary insanity defense with the jealous lover angle, see the nurse offer a celebratory but medicinal flask to Wilfred, anticipate cancellation of the Bermuda flight, and count on Wilfred’s return to the courtroom to represent his newly accused client. All is right with the world. Well, maybe not so much for the newly deceased.

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