FROM THE HIP (1987). Judd Nelson, Ray Walston as the judge.

In the first of two trials (and the funnier of the two), one banker (Wilby) goads another (Torkinson) into hitting him and then sues him for civil battery. This is the trial that contains a hearing on the admissibility of the word "asshole."

The second trial is a murder case in which Professor Benoit is accused of killing Lisa Williams, a student with whom he was having an affair, when she threatened to report him.


Judge: Mr. Cowen, if we're not bothering you.

Q: Yes, sir. So let me get this straight. The plaintiff, the trustee, criticized your bank's lending policy after a board meeting.

A: That's correct.

Q: So you punched him.

A: I struck him because he was rude. He called me an idiot.

Q: But he never physically threaten you, did he?

A: Nope.

Q: And there was no skirmish of any kind preceding your act of violence, was there?

A: No.

Q: You just felt like hitting him right out of the blue, so you did, isn't that right?

A: I suppose so.

Plaintiff: No further questions, Your Honor.

Judge: Redirect, Mr. Weathers?

Defense: Yes, Your Honor. Mr. Torkinson, how long have you known the plaintiff, Mr. Wilby?

A: Oh, approximately twelve years.

Q: And over that duration did you have an opportunity to form an opinion as to character of the plaintiff?

A: I did, yeah.

Q: Could you please state that opinion for the court.

A: You mean what I really think of him?

Q: Your honest opinion, sir.

A: He's an asshole.

Plaintiff: Objection!

Judge: You bet. Sustained. The answer will be stricken.

Defense: Sidebar, Your Honor.

Judge: Sidebar? What for?

Defense: Because I want a sidebar. .... I respectfully request, Your Honor, that the answer be allowed.

Plaintiff: What!

Defense: It should stand. It is relevant.

Judge: And it's offensive. Don't compound it, Counselor.

Defense: Your Honor, if I may--

Judge: Tell the witness to rephrase the answer.

Defense: Well, that's just it, Your Honor. He can't. The word has a very distinct connotation. There's nothing else that quite captures it.

Plaintiff: I object. You're saying the president of a bank can't articulate his thoughts without using profanity.

Defense: What I am saying, sir, is that there aren't many words to describe the particular slime that your client oozes.

Plaintiff: Objection.

Judge: Mr. Weathers, just where in the name of God do you think you are?

Defense: I think, Your Honor, that I'm in a place where every citizen can have his say.

Judge: Yes, yes, but not in any way he wants to say it. Tell him to pick another word.

Defense: Like what? Deceitful? Dishonest? Conniving? They're all close--

Plaintiff: Objection!

Defense: --but "asshole" really fits. It's the only word that accurately describes him, and we can demonstrate just that. Everybody thinks he's an asshole--

Plaintiff: Son-of-a-bitch--

Defense: Well, that's good, too--

Plaintiff: Shut up!

Judge: What the hell-- [pounds gavel] Court's adjourned! In my chambers--now!

Judge: All right, now what kind of horseshit is this?

Plaintiff: I'm sorry, Your Honor, I can't tell you how sorry I am--

Defense: Excuse me, sir, but, Your Honor, you know as well as I do that the word has a unique meaning and my client has a First Amendment right to expression.

Plaintiff: Give me a break.

Judge: Change the word.

Defense: Fine, give me the replacement. Give me one word that captures the same image. One word. You name it, and I will use it.

Judge: Sure. [to Plaintiff] Can you come up with a word?

Plaintiff: Sure. Uh--antagonistic.

Defense: Antagonistic!

Judge: With all due respect, Counselor, you're making defense's point for him!

Plaintiff: I still object.

Defense: Oh, come on! I move for a hearing on the matter.

Judge: You want me to have a special motion on the admissibility of the word "asshole"?!

Defense: Well--let me have "ass" then. That's--close enough.

Judge: Which law school did you go to?

Plaintiff: I'll agree to it, Your Honor.

Judge: You will? Why?

Plaintiff: I don't want any interlocutory appeals.

Judge: What are you, a comedy team? All right. We'll hear it tomorrow. Just "ass", though. We'll bring the jury back on Thursday.

Defense: That's okay with me.

Judge: Oh, good! What's this snotnose doing in my courtroom, anyway? You were scheduled for this trial, Duncan.

Senior Partner: We had a trial run over, Your Honor.

Judge: Mm-hm, mm-hm. I'll tell you what. I'm holding you personally responsible for his behavior. He steps out of line again, I'm going to hold you in contempt!

Senior Partner: Me?

Judge: Yeah, you! It's going on your record. Any questions? Good. Get out.

* * * * * * * *

Defense: Now, Mr. Wilby, do you recall saying anything to the defendant on the morning of the day in question?

A: I, uh, I don't remember.

Q: But you did speak to him.

A: Probably. I speak to him every morning.

Q: About what?

A: I don't know. It could be most anything.

Q: Well, did you tell him that you wanted a sexual encounter with his grandmother?

Plaintiff: Objection!

Defense: He said it could be anything.

Judge: Ahh. That's contempt order number 2. Charge it to him. Mr. Weathers, do you desire another?

Defense: Your Honor, why is it that he can remember the afternoon conversation word for bloody word but for the morning he's stuck for a topic?

A: Because I wrote it down.

Defense: What!

A: I wrote the afternoon conversation down.

Q: Where?

A: In my journal.

Q: Is that how you remember?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you have that book here?

A: It's right over there.

Defense: Your Honor! I want that book.

Plaintiff: Objection!

Judge: The law is clear, Mr. Collins. Present recollection refreshed. Produce the book.

Witness: What! You mean he can read it? All of it?

Defense: Every smut-filled page, you disgusting worm.

Plaintiff: Objection!

Lawyer in audience: Objection!

Judge: Ohh, that's novel. Objection in two-part harmony. Nope, too late. That's it, Counselor. Contempt order number 3. He keeps this up, maybe I can give you life.

Plaintiff: I move for a suppression hearing.

[shouting match]

Judge: Shut up! The question's closed. He can use the book to impeach, but, Mr. Weathers, you better damn well stick to the facts in this case. Nothing, I repeat, nothing that doesn't concern the facts of this case is admissible. If you so much as breathe one irrelevant excerpt from that book, I'll throw you in jail until you rot! You got that, mister? Rot!

Defense: Yes, Your Honor.

Judge: You're positive?

Defense: Positive, sir--

Judge: You're absolutely positive?

Defense: Absolutely positive, sir.

Judge: Very well. Proceed.

Q: Dear Mr. Wilby, I've read your journal. Tell me, do you enjoy molesting little girls?

Judge: What!! Lock him up, Duncan, right now--

[audience laughter; confusion]

Judge: Mr. Weathers, you better damn well have a good-faith basis for this question, or this trial is over. I'll direct the verdict for the plaintiff, and you'll never practice law in the commonwealth again!

Defense: But Your Honor--

Judge: In my chambers!

Defense: But Your Honor--

Judge: Now!


Judge: Be seated. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a long way to go, so let's get to it. Mr. Murray, Mr. Weathers, we had reasonable decorum in the pretrial hearings. I'd like to see that continue. Bring the jury in, please. Is the Commonwealth ready to open?

Prosecutor: We are, Your Honor.

Judge: And the defendant's counsel, are you ready?

Defense: Yes, Your Honor.

Judge: Very well. Mr. Murray, proceed.

Prosecutor: [to defense] Good morning.

Defense: Good morning.

Prosecutor: How are you? [to jury] Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, let me begin by saying I'm sorry. I'm sorry because what I am about to do is not very kind. I'm going to take twelve very fine people, most of you leading good, happy lives with good, lovely families, I'm going to make you live through the ultimate sin of man: murder. See, it's my job to make you feel the horror that Liza Williams faced. I'm going to ask you to close your eyes and hear the sick sound of crushing bone as the defendant repeatedly bludgeoned a helpless 22-year-old girl. It's my job to make you hear the hollow crackle of a bashed skull as the defendant beat and beat and beat his prey. You'll almost be able to see the spattering of blood that must have been all over the defendant when he finished this act of terror. I'm sorry, but it's my job to tell you how life ended. It's your job to decide what to do about it.

Judge: Mr. Weathers, do you care to open?

Defense: Yes, Your Honor. Evidence. [picks up hammer and bangs it on desk] That's how a hammer sounds. I've never heard it hit bone before, but neither has he.

Judge: Mr. Weathers. Mr. Weathers, that's enough!

Defense: So let's skip the acoustics, and get to the question. Who did it? Who swung the hammer?

Judge: Mr. Weathers!

Defense: Now the district attorney says close your eyes and hear it. Well, he has a great case, as long as you keep your eyes closed. The defendant, on the other hand, says keep your eyes open, because you can't see the truth with your eyes closed, so keep them open.

Judge: [pounding gavel] Order! Order! Order! That is enough! You people in the courtroom, this isnot Fenway Park. Mr. Weathers, you're not gonna pull that in this trial. Another stunt like that and you'll regret it. And you're gonna pay for that table. Mr. Murray, your first witness.

Prosecutor: The Commonwealth calls Mrs. Martha Williams to the stand.

Bailiff: Ms' Martha Williams, please.

Bailiff: Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth...


Prosecutor: ...anything unusual occurred on the evening of November the 12th?

A: Well, Liza was extremely upset.

Q: Do you know why she was so upset?

A: Well, she'd had a terrible argument with Dr. Benoit.

Q: Do you know why this particular argument upset your daughter.

A: Yes. She said that Dr. Benoit had threatened to kill her.

Q: Did she say why he wanted to kill her?

A: She'd been blackmailing him. He said if she didn't stop--he'd kill her.

Prosecutor: No further questions.

Defense: Objection!

Judge: Untimely, Mr. Weathers.

Defense: I move you strike, Your Honor.

Judge: No. I'm going to allow it now. Mr. Weathers?

Defense: I have no questions, Your Honor.

Judge: The witness may step down.


Prosecutor: Your Honor, the Commonwealth calls Dr. Charles Peckam to the stand.

Bailiff: [to the witness] Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

Q: ...But you are familiar with the degradation propensity of amorphous materials, are you not?

A: I'm a pathologist. That's all.

Prosecutor: Your Honor, I'm terribly embarrassed. Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I'm sorry. Unfortunately I assumed Dr. Peckam was qualified for this case. In light of the fact that he has no background in polymer chemistry, I'm afraid I'd be less than honest to hold him out as an expert. I'm very sorry.

Judge: [sigh] Very well. Dr. Peckam, you're dismissed. Would you care to bring one of your otherexperts.

Prosecutor: I counted on Dr. Peckam's testimony taking up the afternoon. However, I do have a Mr. Harvey Fields present who would like an early appearance, if possible.

Lawyer: [sotto voce] Fields! He's not scheduled for two weeks. What do we have on him?

Defense: Nothing. We haven't even reviewed him yet.

Bailiff: Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth...

Q: ...tried to leave Dr. Benoit's company?

A: Oh yes. She'd had enough of that fellah, that's for sure.

Q: Now, Mr. Fields, did Dr. Benoit get upset at this point?

A: Yes, he did. He said that he knew how to keep whores from lying.

Prosecutor: I have nothing further.

Defense: Good afternoon, Mr. Fields. It's Harvey, isn't it? And may I call you Harvey? Thank you. Now you just happen to be the only person who heard that statement.

A: Probably. The bar was closing, and I think I was the only person around them.

Q: And had you been drinking, sir?

A: No.

Q: No? You just--happened to be in a bar until closing and you didn't have a drink? C'mon, Harvey.

A: Actually, I had just arrived. I'm the night cleaner.

Q: I see. How old are you, Mr. Fields?

A: I'm 72.

Q: And how's your hearing?

A: Fine.

Q: [purposely slurring speech] Never had any problems with it?

Judge: I'm sorry, Counselor, I didn't get that.

A: He asked if I had any problems with it. [audience laughter]

Q: No more questions, Your Honor.

A: My hearing, I presume.

* * * * * * * *

Defense: Your Honor, the defense calls Dr. Charles Peckam to the stand.

Judge: This is the same--

Defense: Yes, Your Honor, the very same doctor that Mr. Murray attempted to discredit earlier in the trial. Doctor?

Judge: I remind you, Doctor, you're still under oath.

A: Yes, Your Honor.

Q: Now, Doctor, Mr. Murray dismissed you as an expert because you didn't specialize in polymer chemistry, is that right?

A: Yes.

Q: Fine. Could you kindly tell the court how much yak manure is deposited annually on the plains of Rabshu?

Prosecutor: I object.

Judge: This is going someplace, Counselor?

Defense: Yes, Your Honor.

Judge: Will you try and get there in a hurry?

Q: Doctor?

A: I don't know. I'm not an expert in yak manure.

Q: Fine. Could you tell us then the amount of bat guano accumulated monthly by the flatwing Chilean fruit bat?

Prosecutor: Object! What does yak manure and bat guano have to do with this case?

Defense: I'll tell you what it has to do with this case! It has as much to do with it as polymer chemistry! Exactly nothing! It is all a lot of crap! Because, ladies and gentlemen, this case is not about polymer chemistry. It is about murder and blood, and this gentleman here has studied blood and blood semblance for the past 18 years! He studied the victim's blood, and the bloodstained jacket, and he knows damn well what those bloodstains reveal! And for Mr. Murray's little foray into polymer chemistry and the degradation propensity of amorphous materials, well, Your Honor, we all know what that was. That was a lot of yak manure.

Judge: Order, order, order!

* * * * * * * *

Defense: ...And you concluded, Lieutenant Soscia, that since the murder weapon and the bloodstained clothes were found in his car, the murder must have been committed by Dr. Benoit.

A: Well, there was strong evidence, yes.

Q: But you didn't find any fingerprints, did you.

A: No.

Q: And does it seem strange that someone would be so careful to wipe away every single fingerprint, and then leave the murder weapon in his car for someone to find?

A: Well, it's a little unusual.

Q: Unusual? Isn't it possible that someone else put those items in the defendant's car seat?

A: It's possible. But why didn't he call the police? No, he knew the stuff was in the car, it was right under him.

Q: Isn't it possible he didn't know?

A: He was sitting right over it, for Pete's sake.

Q: So it would be ridiculous for him to have not known?

A: Absolutely.

Q: Then it would be ridiculous for someone not to know that he was sitting over a--caged rat, someone like you, Lieutenant Soscia?

Prosecutor: This is outrageous.

Defense: Is it? No telling what we'll find in Mr. Murray's trial bag.

Q: Well, we will assume Mr. Murray did not know this was in there. Or did you? [holding up vibrator]

Prosecutor: Your Honor, please!

Judge: Don't look at me, it ain't mine.

* * * * * * * *

Defense: And during the course of your twelve-year friendship, did you have the opportunity to observe the behavioral patterns of Dr. Benoit?

A: Yes.

Q: And are those behavioral patterns consistent with the type of behavior that Dr. Benoit is being charged with today?

A: They are not. Doug Benoit may be mercurial, but he doesn't have a violent bone in his body. Anybody who's ever met him knows that.

Defense: Thank you, sir. [to prosecutor] Your witness.

Prosecutor: No questions.

Judge: The witness may step down. [tapping noise] Mr. Weathers...?

Defense: [pause] Your Honor, we are going to bring this trial to a rapid conclusion. The defense would like to call our next witness, the victim, Liza Williams.

Prosecutor: Objection. I object!

Defense: Do you, Mr. Murray? Well, you can object to the girl's face, because she is on her way up.

Judge: Counselor...

Defense: The reason a body was never found is because Liza Williams never died. She is on her way up these stairs, and in fifteen seconds Liza Williams is going to walk through those doors. [audience chuckles]

Defense: I guess I was wrong. Liza Williams is not going through that door. But every one of you looked. You all watched that door. You looked. You must have thought something, the suggestion that she just might... And if you thought for the slightest fraction that she could come through that door, then you have a reasonable doubt, and if you have a reasonable doubt, you must find the defendant not guilty! Now you remember, when you go back into that room to decide my client's fate, remember to ask yourselves one hard, honest question: did--you--LOOK?

*********** DEFENDANT**********

Bailiff: Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

A: I do.

Bailiff: Be seated.

Q: Would you please state your name for the record.

A: My name is Douglas Benoit.

Q: And your occupation?

A: I'm a professor of English literature at Boston University.

Q: And how long have you been so employed?

A: Fourteen years.

Q: Are you married, Dr. Benoit?

A: Yes, I have been married for nineteen years. That is my wife sitting right over there, and I thank God that, through all this, she still loves me.

Q: Your marriage is important to you, then.

A: It is the most important thing in my life.

Q: Sir, did you have an affair with Liza Williams.

A: Yes, I am ashamed to admit that I did. I am a vain man, Mr. Weathers, I have trouble in resisting the attention of women. But, despite the contradiction, I love my wife. I always have.

Q: Dr. Benoit, where were you on the night of November the 12th?

A: I was at my home.

Q: With your wife?

A: No, she was away visiting her sister.

Q: You are aware, sir, are you not, that this was the night of Liza Williams' disappearance?

A: Yes, I know.

Q: And do you have any information pertaining to the disappearance of Liza Williams?

A: I swear I don't. I saw her the evening she disappeared, but I haven't seen her again since then.

Q: You are also aware that the murder weapon was found in your car?

A: [pause] I have no idea how it got there. Someone had to have put it there, someone who wanted the girl's death linked to me. Obviously, he--or she--did an excellent job.

Q: Sir, did you kill Liza Williams?

A: No, I did not. I know that I was at home alone. I have no alibis or anything. But if you didn't do anything, then you don't need an alibi. I am innocent. All I have is my word, but I am innocent.

Q: Thank you, Dr. Benoit. Your witness.

Prosecutor: Your Honor, one moment please. [long pause]

Judge: Mr. Murray?

Q: Dr. Benoit, I take it from your testimony you're a man with a rather heavy libido.

Defense: Objection.

Prosecutor: He testified as to his sexual encounters with Liza Williams.

Defense: His sex drive or lack of it have nothing to do with this case.

Prosecutor: I want to know why the defendant spent time with the victim.

Judge: I'll allow it.

Q: Doctor?

A: I do not deny having had sexual relations with the girl. Nor do I deny other indiscretions which similarly bear upon my sense of fidelity. But I did not murder anybody. I could not even imagine that kind of violence.

Q: I see. And during the course of your marriage, sir, how many other women have you slept with?

Defense: Objection!

Judge: Sustained.

Prpsecutor: "He unwilling to defend his honor is not a man" Henry David Thoreau said that.

Defense: "Yabadabadoo." Frederick Flintstone said that, so what?

[audience laughter]

Judge: Ask questions, Mr. Murray.

Q: A man should defend his honor, shouldn't he, Dr. Benoit?

A: Yes, I think he should.

Q: And, if you were wrong, sir, would you passively accept it?

A: I would like to think not.

Q: And in fact when Luther Moses wronged you, you didn't lie down for that, did you?

Defense: Objection.

Q: You physically attacked him, didn't you?

Defense: Objection. Prior raps are inadmissible.

Judge: Sustained.

Q: Liza Williams wronged you, didn't she?

A: I suppose.

Q: You suppose? She blackmailed you, exploited you, taunted you,... Can you identify this?

A: It's the hammer that was found in my car.

Q: Ever see it before this trial?

A: No.

Q: Ever hold it comfortably in your hand the way you're holding it right now?

Defense: Objection! This is outrageous! He's put the hammer in his hands to facilitate the picture for the jury when he asks them later to close their eyes and imagine it! They'll be better able to imagine it, Your Honor, because--

Prosecutor: Take your seat! You've made your objection!

Defense: My objection is just beginning!

Judge: Sidebar, gentlemen--

Defense: No, Your Honor, on the record, this man has committed gross misconduct to get me to move for a mistrial because he knows he can't win!

Prosecutor: [unclear expletive]

Defense: He's introduced evidence that he knows to be false! He knows! He knows my client is not a violent man! The state psychiatrist told him. He called the defendant timid, submissive. He knows my client did not attack Luther Moses! You have two eyewitnesses who saw him cower from the confrontation! He tells the jury how comfortable the hammer looks in his hands, but does he tell them about the trace of vomit on it? Does he mention that when the police first showed the bloodstained hammer to the defendant, he became so queasy that he threw up?

Prosecutor: Your Honor, he's testifying!

Defense: You testify, too, and you lie!

Prosecutor: I move for a mistrial.

Judge: Hold it [voice drowned out]

Defense: [voice drowned out] ...these falsifications, this is a last-minute quote to fit my client as a violent womanizer when he knows he's just the opposite--

Prosecutor: Don't assume what I know!

Defense: It's in your own file! Attack Luther Moses? He begged him for mercy! He crawled away like a frightened puppy, and you know it!

Judge: Mr. Weathers--

Defense: Heavy libido? HA! You have a signed statement saying that he was sexually inadequate. You want to hear about his sex drive? Why don't you ask his wife!

Judge: [pounds gavel] Mr. Weathers--

Defense: She tried to save their marriage by having a child when he couldn't come through! This is a man who is a sex-driven killer? One of the adjectives to describe him in your own files, a scared man, a weak man, timid, afraid, impotent, impotent!--

Judge: [trying to get a word in edgewise] Mr. Weathers, that is enough! You are in contempt of court!

[scream, yell, crunching sound]