The Dope Bowl

Lawyers, goons, money--and some very curious sex toys. Laura Miller does the post-game analysis of the Michael Irvin trial.

Alvarez seemed totally unfazed that during jury selection two women who later were on the panel--one as an alternate--voiced specific concerns about the length of the trial. One had just started a new job and was worried that an extended jury service would jeopardize her position; the other had an important family vacation planned for the end of the month. "Don't stay up nights worrying about that," Alvarez said with almost whimsical jocularity. "That may not be an issue we have to deal with."

She has to be thanking her lucky stars this is over.
Alvarez was so disrespectful of other people's time--so seemingly unaware that there was life outside Criminal Court No. 5--that two weeks ago he simply chose to ignore, over a two-day period, a very pricey, very high-profile media lawyer named Chip Babcock who had come down to Alvarez's court on the extremely minor matter of quashing yet another subpoena for Marty Griffin to appear in court. (Babcock represents Channel 5--and this newspaper, by the way--among other media organizations.)

After waiting around for several hours on July 1, Babcock left the courthouse and returned in the afternoon--only to be ignored again for several more hours. Babcock, who by 3:30 p.m. could no longer wait on the judge because he had to be somewhere to pick up one of his children, received the judge's permission to return the next morning--which Babcock did at 8:30 a.m. He then stood around in the courtroom, waiting and waiting, until 11:07 a.m., at which time the judge deigned to appear. For several hours, the judge had been conferring privately in chambers with the Irvin prosecutors and defense attorneys--all while 12 jurors, two alternates, and 28 reporters sat around with Babcock and various court personnel waiting for something to happen.

None of the reporters moved for two hours--despite the fact that many of them, myself included, really would have liked to go to the bathroom. But Alvarez had created such a sicko-wacko-control-freak atmosphere--in which the bailiffs were ordered to lock the doors the minute the judge began the proceedings, no matter who was stuck outside or for what reason--that no one would ever chance leaving their spots.

One afternoon, KDFW-TV Channel 4 reporter-anchorwoman Julia Somers, who you'll be happy to know is an awfully nice woman with a stellar disposition, found herself in the unenviable position of having to leave the courtroom midtestimony to throw up; we think it was something she ate at lunch. Needless to say, she couldn't get back in. Everyone noticed, however, that when Michael Irvin's family members came back late from lunch one day, all four or five of them were allowed to troop into the room and settle themselves into the front row during a policeman's testimony.

So it really shouldn't have surprised anybody that on the second morning of Babcock's marathon wait, Alvarez blithely entered the courtroom at 11:07 and plopped himself down in his chair. "We forgot all about you," Alvarez said casually, looking at Babcock with bemusement. Alvarez then told his bailiff to "go get Royce West" so they could deal with Babcock--and then he mentioned by name the specific matter Babcock wanted to discuss. Only it wasn't the right name. Because the judge clearly had no idea who Babcock was or what he was doing in his court.

"Griffin," Babcock said, correcting the judge.
"I'm sorry?" Alvarez said.
"I'm here on the Griffin subpoena," Babcock said.

"All you lawyers are starting to look alike," Alvarez said, kind of laughing.

About a minute later, with all the lawyers in the case assembled, the defense attorneys withdrew their subpoena--the third withdrawn in a row. "Chip, thank you for coming," Alvarez said.

A few minutes later, at 11:30, the judge recessed for lunch--until 1:30 p.m.
And so it went. As jurors, court employees, and news reporters watched their vacations come closer and closer to being jeopardized by this guy, they could be sure of only one thing: that there would be an Irvin verdict by August 13, the day Alvarez's first baby, already named Nicholas James Alvarez, was due to be born.

"He wants to be totally free to participate in all of that," one courthouse employee told me in midtrial.

Meanwhile, in the intervening monotony, people in and out of the courtroom began sizing up this Michael Irvin case.

"A case like this comes down to the jurors' personal experiences, their perceptions of things--all of which becomes an important part of the deliberations," said defense attorney Stuart Parker, a past president of the Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers' Association, in a conversation we had during the second week of the trial. "In the end, a case like this--which demands an interpretation of the legal definition of possession and whether Michael Irvin had it--will come down to what these people think about police officers and Dallas Cowboy football players."

Irvin's attorneys, of course, wanted the jury to adore and admire Michael Irvin; they wasted no time in painting a picture of a son of a roofer, one of 17 children, who "pulled himself up by the bootstraps" and became a Dallas Cowboys icon. His attorneys also wanted the jurors to dislike, distrust, and generally loathe the cops who crashed Irvin's little sex party and the prosecutors who decided to aggressively do something about the drugs the cops found there.

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