Your local DA - By Nancy Lamb, Article in the August Tradewinds Magazine

Criminals are often not the brightest individuals, as evidenced by the many ways in which they seem to get caught. In the thirty years that I was a career prosecutor, there were many stories of crimes gone badly. In a job where there are so many crimes that rock you to the core, it’s self-preservation to find humor in the blunders made by our local criminals. Here are just a few of my favorite stories that happened right here in our district.

There was one young fellow, who had chosen burglary for a career. Had he been an average looking fellow, he may have been able to perform his job with some anonymity, and escape the long arm of the law. Unfortunately for his career choice, this particular gent was 6’4”. Not an easy person to confuse for identification purposes. When this gent decided to rob several houses throughout the neighborhood, the witnesses were all unanimous in one identifying feature: his height. When the guilty verdict was returned, it was suggested to him by the judge who sentenced him to prison that he may want to pick another career, such as basketball.

Yet another young man, who had likewise chosen thievery as his vocation, was fond of a straw hat that he wore every day. In the commission of his final heist, he accidentally left his hat behind at the crime scene, where it was produced by the State as evidence during his trial. Imagine the prosecutor’s glee during the trial, when the defense attorney, hoping to represent his client as an innocent victim of misidentification, presented pictures of his client wearing, as it turned out, the same hat. In a variation on the same theme, I was trying a case where a witness on the stand described the defendant as wearing a very noticeable bright yellow shirt on the night of his criminal escapades. The defendant must have had a particular fondness for that shirt because he wore it to court on the day the witness was testifying. When I turned my head to look over at the defendant as the witness was describing the shirt and identifying it as the one worn on the night of the crime, the eyes of 12 jurors followed. As did their verdict of guilty.

In a twist on the dumb criminal stories, here’s an entertaining lawyer story. I was selecting a jury years ago in Perquimans County. I was thrilled to have Jim “Catfish” Hunter in the box as a potential juror. A typical part of questioning potential jurors involves asking what they do for a living. When I got to Catfish, I jokingly told him there was no need to go over that with him since everyone was very well familiar with what he did for a living. Except, it turned out, for the lawyer representing the defendant, who was apparently not a baseball fan. When it was his turn to question jurors, and he came around to Catfish, he said rather gruffly, as was his nature, “well, the prosecutor might know what you do for a living but I don’t, so please enlighten me.” The laughter was so loud that I’m not sure the attorney even heard the answer. Verdict: guilty as charged.


One of my all-time favorites happened years ago, before my time. The story was told many times by our own raconteur Frank Parrish, who was a wealth of stories and tales of “the dark side.” A young man decided to rob a convenience store. He dons the customary stocking over his head, wields a fake gun and proceeds to the counter. The clerk behind the counter looks at him and says, “Is that you Purvis?” to wit, this intelligent and soon to be incarcerated criminal mind says, “No, it ain’t me Auntie.” It seems that young Purvis had chosen to rob the convenience store where his aunt was employed. Mr. Parrish never told us what happened to Purvis, nor did anyone ask. I can only hope that this young man opted for another vocation.

On a day to day basis, prosecutors must deal with the worst of crimes and the ugliest side of humanity. Our days are filled with criminals from the most petty to the most serious, many repeat offenders, many brand new to the system, and many multi-generational. We deal with the heartbreak of victims who have lost a loved one, and the anger of those who have been violated both physically and emotionally. In a job where the stakes are so high, we have to find humor where we can. It isn’t often that we can share a laugh over the antics of the criminally challenged, but when we find that story, we enjoy the laugh for a brief moment, then get back to the business of the day: putting the bad guys away.



Your local DA - By Nancy Lamb, Article in the August Tradewinds Magazine Your local DA - By Nancy Lamb, Article in the August Tradewinds Magazine Reviewed by kensunm on 2:31:00 PM Rating: 5

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