robert altman

Why 15 Gothic Street is like a Robert Altman movie

Almost every day, unrelated things happen simultaneously.

Yesterday, two more jurors were seated in the David Fried Oppenheim trial.
If four more are seated on Monday morning, opening statements may actually come Monday afternoon.
The trial will almost certainly continue into the week after next.

But that’s not all Judge Mary-Lou Rup had to deal with yesterday.

In the afternoon, for example, the lawyer for a 57-year old Northampton man accused of trying to murder his 83-year old mother by setting her on fire in their home, argued that the mother’s 911 call, in which she says, “Help! I’m on fire!” and “I’m burning like hell!” should not be admitted as evidence, because on the recorded call the accused can be heard cursing in the background, thus making it a recorded call made without his knowledge or consent.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Thomas called that interpretation of the federal wiretapping statute “novel.” He was being kind. Preposterous is another word that comes to mind.

The estimable Judge Rup says she’ll rule on the motion to suppress shortly.

Meanwhile, Alan Rubin, director of the public defender’s office in Hampshire County, appears in court almost daily on behalf of various and sundry clients who cannot afford private attorneys.

Rubin, a graduate of Harvard Law School (where he studied under Alan Dershowitz, for whom he is sometimes mistaken) has devoted his entire career to public defender work. As a state employee, he earns less than $100,000 a year, which must make him, by a considerable margin, the lowest paid graduate of his Harvard Law class.

“Obviously,” he says, “I’m not in this for the money.”

All these and others don’t quite talk over each other (at least not often) as in an Altman movie, but in an Altmanesque way all the actors who appear regularly on the 15 Gothic Street stage are interrelated.

Next week, it will be Assistant District Attorney Linda Pisano and Hampshire County’s leading defense attorney, David Hoose, in the spotlight as the trial of the founder and former director of the Pioneer Arts Center of Easthampton kicks into high gear.

I’ll be there.