The Defendant Seems to Have Left, Your Honor

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Here's a criminal-defense strategy you might not have considered: just get up and walk out.

They certainly won't be expecting that. And probably for that reason, it's worked at least three times. At least temporarily.

The first example I know of was featured in one of my earliest posts here, which read in its entirety as follows:

In Houston on Wednesday, a man who had just been found guilty of evading arrest got up and ran out of the courtroom.

Police said they had no leads as to his location and had no further information at this time.

Also one of my shortest posts.

Amazingly, the link to the original Houston Chronicle story still works, and after re-reading it I note that this may have been a simple misunderstanding. "When he was found guilty," a spokesperson said, "the judge did not make clear whether she wanted him in custody or [would grant bail]. After he had left, the judge had already made the decision that he was to be kept in custody." That last sentence is sufficiently tortured that I'm giving the guy the benefit of the doubt. Anyway, if they ever found him, the Chronicle didn't mention it.

The second time was in 2009, when a guy with a long criminal record and history of creative escape attempts just walked out of a prisoner-holding area, where he was awaiting trial, and kept going right out the front door of the Manhattan Supreme Court. My favorite part of that one: because he had worn a suit for trial, at least one officer apparently assumed he was a lawyer. (Despite the fact that he wasn't wearing normal shoes.) That guy was recaptured and got basically a life sentence, which, to the best of my knowledge, he is still serving.

That brings us to yesterday's non-dramatic escape, this time from a courtroom in Auckland, New Zealand:

The woman was being sentenced in Courtroom Three at Waitakere District Court about 2.30pm when, upon hearing she would be jailed …, she simply walked out of the sentencing box and out the front door, a witness who was in the courtroom at the time said.

"The judge said 'someone stop that woman' and she just kept on going," the witness, who declined to be named, said.

"It's quite embarrassing for them really."

A police spokeswoman described the woman as a "low risk" offender, which is good because as of last night, at least, they had no idea where she was.