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Real Lawyer Reacts to My Cousin Vinny (The Most Accurate Legal Comedy?)


– I’m holding you in contempt of court. – Well, there’s a (bleep) surprise. – What’d you say? (lawyer laughs) – What? – What’d you just say? – Don’t talk back to the
judge, quit while you’re ahead. Or quit while you’re slightly behind. This movie is so great. (bright music) Hey legal eagles, it’s
time to think like a lawyer All right, animated, smile more. Today we are covering My Cousin Vinny one of my favorite legal
movies of all time. And if there is one question I get more than any other it is… – What are you wearing? – Indochino. Let me try that again. If there is one comment
I get more than any other it’s whether My Cousin Vinny
is in fact legally accurate. It’s certainly a favorite among lawyers. We quote this movie all the time. – What is a yute? – So, be sure to comment
in the form on an objection which I’ll sustain or overrule. And stick around until
the end of the video where I give My Cousin Vinny
a grade for legal realism. So, without further ado, let’s
dig in to My Cousin Vinny. – Uh-oh.
– What? – His lights are on. (bleep) (bleep) god (bleep),
what are we gonn do now? – It’s probably nothing, all right? It might be a taillight
or something, just relax. – We don’t have any money for bail. – Bail, we don’t need money
for bail, nothing’s happened. Now just relax.
– Nothing? We’re getting pulled over, aren’t we? You stole something, didn’t you? You’re finished.
– Please, will you shut up? – Oh, I forgot some background here that actually helps explain
the rest of this movie. The movie starts with
two kids from New York who are driving through the South. They stop at a grocery
store called the Sac-O-Suds to pick up some supplies,
and they accidentally leave with a can of tuna in their
pocket without paying for it. They think that when the
police pull them over they’re being pulled over
for accidentally shoplifting a can of tuna when in fact
the store manager was murdered just after they left the store. Okay, so with that
background, that will make the rest of this movie
make a lot more sense. – Show me your hands.
– Jesus. – Show me your hands. Get them up, get them up, up! Now put your hands on top of your head and get out of the car. Out of the car! – All right, so this is a
case of mistaken identity. But it’s important to
note that when a policeman stops your car, it’s
generally considered a seizure for fourth amendment purposes. So, generally speaking the
police may not stop your car unless they have at least
reasonable suspicion to believe that the law has been violated. Provided that the police have
lawfully stopped the vehicle, the officer can order
the occupants to get out in the name of officer safety. Here, all of those requirements are met. We have a murder that
was conducted by people driving a very similar car
who fit the description of the defendants here,
so it was very likely that the police did in
fact have probable cause to stop this car and were
correct in ordering the occupants to get out of the car
because of the grisly nature of the murder that just happened nearby. – [Male] Yeah, yeah, yeah I’m sure, it’s number three and five. – Ridiculous. All this over a can of tuna. – [Male] Keep quiet. – Okay, so that was a
classic police lineup. There are a couple problems here. A defendant can attack the identification as denying due process when the identification,
the lineup itself, is unnecessarily suggestive. And there is a substantial
likelihood of misidentification. If we roll the clip back, we can see you had the two defendants here look nothing like the rest
of the people in the lineup. They are several feet shorter and far skinnier. Also additionally, both of them are in the
lineup at the same time. And that is likely to be
unnecessarily suggestive and to create a false positive which is exactly what happened here. – Well, approving an
attorney from out of state is a pretty informal matter. I just have a few questions. – Huh, cool. This is a real thing. It’s a motion called a pro hac vice motion where an out-of-state attorney wants to have temporary permission to practice in a state
that they aren’t licensed. Usually you have to be
sponsored by another attorney but you always have to vouch and say that you are
going to follow the laws of that state and
jurisdiction when you apply. – How long you been practicing? – Oh about six, almost 16 years. – Any murder cases? – Quite a few, yes. – [Judge] What was the outcome? – You know win some, lose some. – Never a good idea to lie to a judge. The judge will find out eventually and you can be sanctioned both in the state that
you are trying to get into but also the state that
you come from as well. – Mr. Gambini, stand up. – Not again. – Now didn’t I tell you the next time you appear in my courtroom that you’d dress appropriately? – You were serious about that? (laughs) – Again, wear an actual suit
and tie when you go to court. I really wish I could tell Joe Pesci where I get all of my suits from. Indochino. – [Mona Lisa] What’s all that? – Trotter’s files, all of ’em. – You stole his files? – I didn’t steal his files. Listen to this, I’m just ready to finesse him, I’m starting to finesse him, right, I got him going. He offers to have his secretary
copy everything for me. – That’s very impressive finessing. – Yeah, in reality, the reason that the prosecution would turn over materials to the defense is they have a constitutional
obligation to do so. The government has a duty
to disclose materials, certainly all exculpatory evidence but generally that translates
to all of the material that the prosecution has under
supreme court precedence, specifically the 1963 case
of Brady Vs. Maryland. Failure to disclose that evidence, whether willful or inadvertent, is a due process violation. So the prosecutor here was
constitutionally obligated to turn over his files to Joe Pesci. It had nothing to do with his schmoozing and to not do so would be
what’s called a Brady Violation and could’ve resulted in
overturning the conviction, if he was able to get a conviction. – Don’t you want to know why Trotter gave you his files? – I told you why already. – He has to by law, you’re entitled. It’s called disclosure, you (bleep) head. – Hey, I just said that. Nice job, Marisa Tomei. – He has to show you everything otherwise it could be a mistrial. He has to give you a list
of all his witnesses, you can talk to all his witnesses. He’s not allowed any surprises. – Yep. Gone are the days of trying to
ambush either party at trial. Prosecution has to turn over not only their evidence but as part of the pretrial filings you have to disclose who the witnesses are that you’re going to rely on so that no one is sandbagged when they actually get to trial. That doesn’t help anyone. – Didn’t teach you that
in law school either? – Guess not. – Are you mocking me with that outfit? – Mocking you? No, I’m not mocking you, judge. – Then explain that outfit. – I bought a suit, you seen it. Now it’s covered in mud. This town doesn’t have a one hour cleaners so I had to buy a new suit except that the only store
you could buy a new suit in has got the flu. You get that? The whole store got the flu. So I had to get this
in a second hand store. – Joe Pesci could really use a place where he could get
affordable custom made suits so he could actually
have more than one suit when he shows up to court for a capital murder case. Indochino.com promo code legal eagle. – I think you made your point. – In all seriousness, he probably would’ve been better off wearing his actual normal
suit covered in mud. I’ve actually known lawyers who will purposefully scuff up their suits so that they seem more
approachable by the jury. – You on drugs? – Drugs? No, I don’t take drugs. – I don’t like your attitude. – What else is new? – I’m holding you in contempt of court. – Oh, there’s a (bleep) surprise. – What’d you say? (laughs) – What? – What’d you just say? – Don’t talk back to the judge. Quit while you’re ahead or quit while you’re slightly behind. This movie is so great. – counsel, members of the jury, the evidence in this case is gonna show that at 9:30 in the
morning of January 4th, both defendants, Stanley
Rothenstein and William Gambini, were seen getting out of their metallic green 1964
Buick Skylark convertible with a white top. The evidence is gonna show that they were seen entering the Sac-O-Suds convenience
store in Wazoo City. The evidence is gonna show that minutes after they
entered the Sac-O-Suds, a gunshot was heard by
three eye witnesses. You gonna then hear the testimony of the three eye witnesses who saw the defendants
running out of the Sac-O-Suds a moment after the shots were heard, getting into their faded
metallic green 1964 Buick Skylark and driving off in great haste. – Alright, I really, really, really like the prosecutor’s opening
statement in this movie. There are a couple things that he’s doing that actually rarely happen
correctly in the movies. Number one, this prosecutor is giving a short summary of what the evidence will show. Opening statements are about essentially priming the jury for the story that is going to be elicited through the evidence and
through the witnesses. So this prosecutor’s doing a fantastic job of explaining what the evidence will show. On top of that, this prosecutor is doing a great job of using the space in front of the jury while also at the same time maintaining a respectful
distance away from the jury box. If you enter the well and go straight to the area
right in front of the jury, the judge is going to have
a huge problem with that. But I like that he starts a counsel table, talks about what the
evidence is going to show. And specifically to highlight the testimony of a specific witness, he then walks over
towards the witness stand and gestures to where the
testimony’s going to come from. So he is being dramatic
and somewhat theatrical but within the bounds of what
someone would actually do in a way that makes rhetorical sense. – Counselor, you wish to
make an opening statement? (laughs) Counselor? – I have never seen lead trial counsel fall
asleep at counsel table but I have 100% seen other attorneys who are at
counsel table fall asleep, I’ve seen members of the jury
fall asleep during the trial, I’ve seen people in the
gallery fall asleep at trial. I’ve actually seen a bailiff
fall asleep in a trial once. A lot of the trial process is actually pretty boring and mundane and it’s not uncommon to
see people fall asleep, just not the head trial counsel. – Everything that guy
just said is (bleep). Thank you. – In addition to being vulgar and disrespectful to the court, that’s technically an argument and not allowed as your opening statement. Mr. Tipton, when you viewed the defendants walking from their car
into the Sac-O-Suds, what angle was your point of view? – They was kind of walking toward me when they entered the stall. – And when they left, what angle was your point of view? – They was kind of walking away from me. – So would you say you
got a better shot of them going in and not so much coming out? – You could say that. – I did say that. Would you say that? – Yeah. – This is really good. The testimony was ambiguous and so Joe Pesci here follows up and confirms that the witness does in fact agree with the statement that Joe Pesci has said. That is a very crucial thing that a lot of lawyers miss. It’s so easy when you’re in
the heat of cross examination that you just assume that the testimony is what you think it is when in reality, we’re
really unreliable narrators. So it’s a great idea to
make sure and summarize and get the witness to actually state exactly what it is
you want them to prove. And on top of that, when you’re getting good testimony, it’s a great idea to get the witness to repeat the thing that
is actually good for you. So great job by Joe Pesci here so far. – Is it possible the two yutes– – Two what? (laughs) What was that word? – What word? – Two what? – What? – Did you say yutes? – Yeah two yutes. – What is a yute? – Excuse me, your honor, two youths. – That’s great because again in the heat of cross examination sometimes people slur their words, sometimes the court
reporter can’t take down exactly what was said or people kind of talk over each other. So it is a real thing where the judge or
particularly the stenographer will actually stop the
testimony to clarify, and of course this is probably
the most classic scene in the entire movie. And it’s just hilarious. Because there’s a kernel of truth in it. – Is it possible the two defendants entered the store, picked 22 specific items
off of the shelves, had the clerk take money, make change, then leave. Then, two different men
drive up in a similar, don’t shake your head, I’m not done yet, wait till you hear the whole thing so you can understand this now, two different men drive
up in similar looking car, go in, shoot the clerk,
rob him and then leave? – No. They didn’t have enough time. – Well how much time
was they in the store? – Five minutes. – Five minutes. Are you sure? Did you look at your watch? – No. – Oh, oh, oh, I’m sorry, you testified earlier that the boys went into the store and you had just begun to make breakfast, you were just ready to eat and you hard a gunshot,
that’s right, I’m sorry. So obviously it takes you five minutes to make breakfast. – That’s right. – Right, so you knew that. Do you remember what you had? – Eggs and grits. – So Joe Pesci is being a
little bit argumentative here but what he’s doing is he is setting a
factual and logical trap for the witness to show that the witness doesn’t have the kind of voracity or truthfulness that would be necessary to convict for beyond a reasonable doubt. If you can show that a witness is lying or can’t be trusted on one thing, members of the jury are far less likely to believe them on most of
the rest of their testimony. That can be really, really important for disproving the
testimony of an eye witness. – Instant grits? – No self respecting
southerner uses instant grits. I take pride in my grits. – So Mr. Tipton, how could it take you five
minutes to cook your grits when it takes the entire
grit eating world 20 minutes? – So it’s a great question because there’s no good
answer for the witness. And additionally, it relies
on facts not in evidence that grits actually take 20 minutes. In real life, he would’ve
had to have this witness establish that grits
take 20 minutes to cook. So you got to be really, really careful when you’re doing a tactic
like what Joe Pesci is doing. And it can work out but it’s very, very dangerous on cross ’cause you don’t know
which way it’s gonna go. – So what are these pictures of? – My house and stuff. – House and stuff. And what is this brown
stuff on the windows? – Dirt. – Dirt. What is this rusty dusty
dirty looking thing over your window? – It’s a screen. – A screen, it’s a screen. And what are these really big things right in the middle of your view from the window of your
kitchen to the Sac-O-Suds? What do we call these big things? – Trees? – I absolutely love what Joe
Pesci is doing right here. He is using effectively
incontrovertible evidence, no one’s gonna dispute what
these things are in the photos but he is walking the
witness down a logical path that he’s not going to
be able to get out of which is that there’s a lot of stuff between his vantage point and the events that he
is an eye witness to. This is one of the reasons why direct evidence through
eye witness testimony can be actually very, very unreliable. But what Joe Pesci is doing is he is just having the witness agree to just these tiny little facts. And there’s no way to dispute all of the little breadcrumbs he’s getting on his trail to get to
the ultimate conclusion that his eye witness testimony is not really that believable. So the questions are fantastic. The only thing I would’ve
liked to have seen is a projector or an Elmo that displays these photos in blow up so that the jury can also see exactly what it is that the
witness is referring to. – You could positively
identify the defendants for a moment of two seconds looking through this dirty window, this crud covered screen, these trees with all these leaves on them and I don’t know how many bushes? – It’s like five. – Eh eh, don’t forget
this one or this one. – Seven bushes. – Seven bushes. So what do you think? Is it possible you just saw
two guys in a green convertible and not necessarily these
two particular guys? – I suppose. – And what you see here is that the answer that
the witness provides it doesn’t matter. The witness here can agree or the witness can not agree but the sign of a good cross is that you don’t actually care what the witness is going to say. In fact, if he had said that it was a perfect identification he would’ve lost credibility based on all of the things that Joe Pesci just talked about here. So that is the sign of a
masterful cross examination. I would recommend all lawyers watch this particular cross
examination of this witness. This is the best so far. – I’m a special automotive
instructor of forensic studies for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. – Uh huh. How long you been in that position? – 18 years. – Your honor, may we approach the bench please? – [Judge] If you wish. – I object to this witness
being called at this time. We’ve been given no prior
notice he’d testify, no discovery of any tests he’s conducted or reports he’s prepared and as the court is aware, the defense is entitled to advance notice of any witness who will testify, particularly those who will
give scientific evidence so that we can properly
prepare for cross examination, as well as to give the
defense an opportunity to have the witnesses’s reports reviewed by a defense expert who might then be in a position to contradict the voracity
of his conclusions. – The prosecution here
has made a huge mistake which is they haven’t laid the foundation for how this guy is a credible expert who can testify in court. So there’s really only
two kinds of witnesses. There are lay witness who can only testify to
things they actually perceive and then there are experts who are allowed to testify to their opinions on things based on the evidence presented to them. And under Rule 702 of
the Rules of Procedure, the expert has to have
scientific, technical or specialized knowledge that will help the trier of fact, the testimony has to be based on sufficient facts or data, the testimony has to be the product of reliable principles and methods and the expert has to have reliably applied the
principles and methods to the case at hand. So on top of FRE 702, you also have to meet the Daubert Standard which is meant to give the
court the gatekeeping function to prevent junk science from getting into the court. – There is no way that these tire marks were made by a ’64 Buick Skylark. These marks were made by
a 1963 Pontiac Tempest. – Objection, your honor, can we clarify to the court whether the witness is
stating opinion or fact. – This is your opinion? – It’s a fact. – It’s actually opinion. – That this kind of information could be ascertained simply by looking at a picture. – Would you like me to explain? – I would love to hear this. – Alright. – The car that made these
two equal length tire marks had positraction. Can’t make those marks
without positraction which was not available
on the ’64 Buick Skylark. – And why not? What is positraction? – It’s a limited slip differential which distributes power equally to both the right and left tires. The ’64 Skylark had a regular differential which anyone whose been stuck
in the mud in Alabama knows you step on the gas, one tire spins, the other tire does nothing. – Oh it’s so good. This is a great direct
examination by Joe Pesci and great testimony by Marisa Tomei. Unlike in cross examination where the attorney is the star and the witness’ answers
are almost irrelevant, it’s the absolute opposite
on direct examination. There, you want all eyes on the witness and all you’re doing is asking questions that
allow the witness to expand and you’re softly guiding where
you want the witness to go. Joe Pesci’s questions are fantastic. Essentially, what happened next or can you explain why that is? What is that technical term that you just used? He’s using great open ended questions. He’s not leading her anywhere. And he is letting the witness be the star. – Now in the ’60s, there were only two other
cars made in America that had positraction and
independent rear suspension and enough power to make these marks. One was the Corvette which could never be confused
with the Buick Skylark. The other had the same body length, height, width, weight,
wheel base and wheel track as the ’64 Skylark and that was the 1963 Pontiac Tempest. – And because both cars were made by GM, were both cars available in
metallic mint green paint? – They were. – Thank you, Miss Veto. No more questions. Thank you very, very much, you’ve been a lovely, lovely witness. – It’s probably not appropriate but God it’s a perfect scene. How can you just not love
that direct examination and Marisa Tomei’s expert opinion? Fantastic, amazing. (upbeat music) Okay, that was My Cousin Vinny. Now it’s time to give the movie
a grade for legal realism. (pounding) I have a soft spot in
my heart for this movie. It’s so good. Everyone should absolutely see it. If you’ve never seen it before, I hope I didn’t ruin it. First of all, you have Joe Pesci giving a masterful cross examination and a masterful direct examination that frankly you could take those clips and use them to teach trial
advocacy in law school. You have some motion practice
and some civil procedure that is not 100% accurate
but pretty close. Of course, as a comedy, they take license with a few things. Joe Pesci is floundering around, making huge mistakes but it sort of fits the narrative because he’s supposed to be
a really terrible attorney who just got out of law school at the beginning of this movie. And there’s some shenanigans with experts being allowed when they shouldn’t be and lying to the judge but it’s done in such a way that it has a grain of truth to it. So it’s hard for me to get over just how good this movie is because it’s a fantastic comedy, it’s a good drama and it’s a nice work of legal fiction. So I don’t see how I
can give My Cousin Vinny anything less than an A. It’s so good. Go watch this movie. – The defense rests. – Vincent Gambini really screwed up by not wearing a proper suit to court. It’s hard to overstate
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of your entire life. – Did you fall in your
place or somebody else’s? – My place. (bleep) – So, do you agree? Leave your objections in the comments and check out my other real
lawyer reactions over here where I will see you in court.

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