The Case of the Drunken Cross-Examination

Fritz v. Fritz, 1894 WL 3291 (Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, Lancaster County, 1896).

judge and expert witness

This is an illustration by Eric Molinsky.

If you’re looking to spice up your Evidence class, consider this short case of a witness too drunk for cross-examination.

It would take me longer to summarize the telegraphic opinion in Fritz v. Fritz than it would to simply quote it. The court notes, “It was admitted that . . . Joseph M. Hess was intoxicated when called, and testified in chief, but was unable to answer questions on cross-examination . . . . Joseph M. Hess, who was, when called, too drunk to testify, is not entitled to [witness fees] or mileage. . . .”

This case paints such an interesting picture. Did they not figure out that Joseph Hess was drunk until cross examination? Notice that he was “intoxicated when called,” but they didn’t stop him until cross- examination. I also appreciate the simple justice of this case. If you’re too drunk to testify, you don’t get paid.

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