The Dope Bowl

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

It's hard to say what the jurors made of the picayune, grossly repetitive, excruciatingly contentious examination of witnesses. The theme of the defense was precisely what West declared it would be in his opening argument: "What you will also realize is that this is really a comedy of errors by the Irving Police Department," West said.

As we know from the O.J. and Walker Railey cases, one of the easiest things to do in a criminal defense case is make the cops who worked on it look like buffoons. It's not hard to do. Typically, you're talking about guys of average intelligence who, because it's the nature of the crime business, have to respond to unpredictable crises of various stripes in a totally spontaneous manner that only invites errors of judgment. Later down the line, those errors are seized upon with glee by guys with fancy law degrees who get paid up to $400 an hour to find those mistakes and magnify them a hundred times so they can pistol-whip the cops with them in front of a jury.

It happened in O.J. It happened in Walker Railey. Why should Michael Irvin's case have been different? Irvin's lawyers--with varying degrees of success--spent hours trying to paint the Irving cops as stinking, rotten, bold-faced liars.

"How long were you on the landing?" Kevin Clancy asked the prosecution's first witness, Irving patrol officer Matthew Drumm, the baby cop who led a conga line of four cops up the outside staircase of the Marriott Residence Inn that March night, before stopping on a second-floor landing and listening outside the room in which Irvin and his friends were partying.

"Approximately one minute," Drumm answered.
"Do you remember testifying previously?" Clancy asked, referring to Drumm's testimony at a pretrial hearing.

"Yes," Drumm said.
"Didn't you say 'one to two minutes'?" Clancy sneered.
"Yes," Drumm said.
"Why?" Clancy said.
"Approximately one minute," Drumm said.
"Why did you say 'one to two'?" Clancy shot back, smelling blood.

"I don't mean to be sarcastic," Drumm said slowly. "I wasn't looking at my watch."

"You don't know because you don't remember, do you?" Clancy declared, loud and triumphantly.

"I didn't have a watch," Drumm said.

But even the Dream Team would have had a hard time salvaging this case. The sleaze just oozed out everywhere, and more was on the way had the trial continued.

Take the dildos, for instance.
When the cops confiscated the drugs, they also grabbed a man's brown shaving kit filled with dildos--that's right, vibrators. You know, sexual devices. The cops took them because they were so bizarre-looking that they thought they might be illegal items. Hell, they'd never seen things quite like this before.

"Michael might want those," Angela Beck told Officer Drumm as he quizzed her about the three penis-shaped devices that were in the bag.

The scariest-looking dildo was the pink, rubber, 14-incher that could be turned on with a remote-control device. It had some little round balls inside it that could be seen through a band of clear plastic located around the midpenis area: When the power was on, the balls jumped around like they were in a gumball machine.

There was also some kind of gizmo called a "butt plug," which I don't even want to speculate about. A state legislator from Houston was found dead from a drug overdose in his apartment in Austin in 1991, and he had rubber bands wrapped around his penis for some reason I'm no authority on--but butt plugs are new to me. And they were new to the prosecutors who would have loved to have explored their purpose in court had they been able to convince Judge Alvarez to allow the dildos into evidence by somehow linking them to the drug charges.

Most of the members of the press corps at the trial were aware of the dildos, which were mentioned briefly in some pretrial testimony when only a few reporters were in attendance. In fact, in duller moments during the trial, reporters were known to have begun making rather loud buzzing sounds--out of the jury's presence, of course--and once when my pager, which was on buzz instead of beep, went off in the courtroom, there was appreciable laughter and the usual dildo jokes.

Virtually all the media organizations in town, though, made a formal management decision not to mention Michael's dildos unless they were specifically discussed in formal testimony. "Chapel 8," as reporters call Channel 8--home of that sugary Family First series--is one place where the decision to ignore the dildos was made at the very highest levels.

The Morning News made a similar hands-off-the-dildos decision--though it did make mention several months ago of two paternity suits that have been filed in Dallas against Irvin. Both would have provided trump cards for prosecutors had Irvin's lawyers persisted in trying to make him out to be a choir boy. One was a case filed in 1990 by a 27-year-old Mesquite woman named Felicia Paulette Walker who had just then given birth to a baby girl.

According to documents filed in the case, which was sealed by the judge at Irvin's request, Irvin contested Walker's claim that the child was his until a blood test came back confirming his paternity. In the end, Irvin agreed to set up a $210,000 trust fund for his daughter. The daughter received $1,000 a month in interest income from the trust until four months ago when that amount increased to $1,250 a month. Then, in the year 2004, the support will increase again--by another $250 a month. On the day before the child turns 18 years old, she will receive all the money in the trust--but should her mother ever go after Irvin legally to change the terms of the support arrangement, the trust fund will immediately vest in the name of Michael Irvin, who will no longer be required to support the child.

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