Based on the video game Crono Trigger,
Designed by Square Enix, 1995
[The transcript of Crono's trial is taken nearly verbatim from Crono Trigger; some text is altered to make sense of information that is, in the game, communicated through flashbacks rather than dialogue. All other text is original, save for portions of Judge Yakra's dissent.]
Transcript: STATE OF GUARDIA v. CRONO
from the Royal Court of Guardia, 1000 AD
Background summary: Crono, shiftless adventurer and swordsmen, went to visit his friend at the Millenial Fair. While heading through Leene Square, he collided with a young woman. She dropped a pendant and fell to ground. Crono picked up the pendant and returned it to the woman, who identified herself as Marle. The two of them then explored the fair a bit, before being sucked through a temporal vortex created by a combination of technology, God, and a giant maggot from outer space.
After having some adventurers in time travel, Crono and Marle returned to 1000 AD. By this time, Crono had learned that Marle was in fact Nadia, Princess of Guardia. While walking Nadia to the castle, Crono was surrounded by royal guards and taken into custody.
He was promptly brought to a courtroom and introduced to his lawyer, Pierre. Crono was charged with premeditated abduction of royalty and immediately brought to trial. The state of Guardia was represented by the Chancellor, and Crono by Pierre.
CHANCELLOR: Members of the court.
We now bring forth the defendant,
Crono, who is charged with
abducting Princess Nadia.
What shall we do with
Hang him upside down for a few
Or...shall we employ the guillotine?
You, the jury, shall decide
Now, let us begin.
JUDGE: Crono, you are hereby
ordered to tell the truth!
PIERRE: Crono is charged with
Â«Premeditated Abduction of Royalty.Â»
The question is, did he kidnap
Princess Nadia? The answer?
No, he did not.
In fact, no Â«abductionÂ» took place!
The two met completely by
accident. In fact, the Princess ASKED
Crono if SHE could join HIM!
CHANCELLOR: Is this true? Who actually
started this whole mess?
CRONO: Marle did.
CHANCELLOR: Are you sure?
We have witnesses who'll say YOU
were the one that bumped into the
The Princess then
innocently followed you to
Lucca's little sideshow.
Whereupon you both disappeared!
If that wasn't criminal abduction, I
don't know WHAT is!
And I have facts that
throw the defendant's character into
This can't have any relevance
whatsoever to this case!
JUDGE: Care to respond, Chancellor?
CHANCELLOR: Crono's character is at
the very core of this case!
PIERRE: We have nothing to hide.
CHANCELLOR: The defendant's cruelty is
[LITTLE GIRL enters]
CHANCELLOR: You remember HER, don't
The poor little girl who lost her cat?
You wouldn't even listen to her!
LITTLE GIRL: You ignored me!
CHANCELLOR: Oh you poor dear!
Have you ever stolen
CRONO: No! I've never been a thief.
CHANCELLOR: DO NOT feign ignorance!
We have a witness.
[OLD MAN enters]
OLD MAN: Him!
He ate my lunch right off the table!
CHANCELLOR: Let the record show that
he stole from a poor, helpless man!
PIERRE: The issue here is MOTIVE.
Was there any motive for this fine
citizen to kidnap Princess Nadia?
No! There was none.
CHANCELLOR: What about ransom?
Crono, her fortune DID tempt
you, did it not?
CHANCELLOR: Are you sure?
You really weren't tempted?
CRONO: Not at all.
CHANCELLOR: Please keep in mind that
he just said he had NO interest in her
[YOUNG WOMAN enters.]
YOUNG WOMAN: He can't fool me, I saw him with my
I'm so nervous!
That man grabbed the pendant even
before he checked to see if the
Princess was okay!
He didn't seem to want to return it,
He tried to sell it to the merchant,
CHANCELLOR: And this person's final bit
of testimony will prove our case!
YOUNG WOMAN: I heard it clearly.
I heard her cry out with my own ears!
As Crono pulled Princess Nadia away from the
candy booth, she said, "There's no need to drag me
by the arm like some kidnapper!"
Is that it?
Can I go?!
CHANCELLOR: That's enough.
I have no more questions.
PIERRE: It is evident that my client is a
fine, noble young man!
Your honor, the defense rests.
JUDGE: Members of the jury...
If he is guilty, stand to the left.
If innocent, stand to the right.
Order in the court!
A verdict has been reached!
We have a majority!
The verdict is...guilty!
The sentence? Solitary confinement,
pending execution in 3 days!
State v. Crono (Opinion of the Royal Court of Appeals)
Background: Guardia has a legal system both strikingly similar to ours and amusingly idiosyncratic. Its Rules of Evidence are perfectly identical to our Federal Rules of Evidence, and its interpretations and case law seem to run approximately parallel.
On the other hand, the procedural of the trial and appeals processes are rather baffling to outsiders.
1) At trial, there are no opening or closing arguments. Rather, attorneys for both sides are allowed to make argumentative statements when they wish. Moreover, attorneys can act as witnesses, introducing factual evidence on their own account.
2) No party needs to object to an evidentiary ruling in order to preserve grounds for an appeal; trials courts are expected to raise all evidentiary issues sua sponte. This is a frustrating rule, as the party that loses at trial inevitably objects to virtually every piece of evidence on appeal. Fortunately, Guardia has only a few dozen citizens, and very few laws, so trials are infrequent.
3) The Royal Court of Appeals decides all evidentiary questions de novo.
Opinion of the Royal Court of Appeals:
Judge Solomon delivers the opinion of the court.
Defendant appeals from a conviction for premeditated abduction of royalty. Appellant alleges several evidentiary errors, and requests a new trial. Because error existed, and was likely to have affected the outcome of the case, we grant a new trial.
Assignment of Error #1: The State entered the statements of witnesses without either identifying those witnesses or bringing them forward to testify. These statements were inadmissible hearsay under Rules 801 and 802, and lacked a proper foundation under Rules 601 and 602.
Without knowing more of the witnesses, and the circumstances under which the statements were made, it cannot be said with certainty that no exception to the hearsay rule was available in this instance. However, in the absence of any indicia to the contrary, we must suppose this hearsay evidence was inadmissible. This court is less concerned with improper foundations for witness testimony, for reasons discussed below.
Assignment of Error #2: Character evidence introduced by the State was irrelevant, and thus barred by Rule 402.
This objection, the only one which appellant saw fit to bring forth at trial, is completely wrong-headed. Character is relevant in nearly every criminal case. The State proposed to prove that appellant was an evil man; and are not evil men more likely to commit crimes than good men, especially when the crime in question is as abhorrent an offense as royal abduction? Relevancy is a very low standard, and it cannot be said that character evidence is wholly irrelevant.
The objection might more plausibly have been brought on Rule 403 grounds (see below). One cannot object generally to all character evidence on such grounds, however, and we must pass to individual analysis of the pieces of evidence offered.
Assignment of Error #3: All specific instances of character evidence are barred by 404(b).
At first glance, petitioner seems to be correct. Evidence of a person's character is generally inadmissible for purposes of showing that the person's actions on a particular occasion conformed to that character. No other purpose immediately appears from the record before us, and no exception to the general rule seems to apply. However, the State offers two argument in favor of admission.
First, that because the witnesses' testimony concerned incidents of misbehavior that occurred within minutes of the alleged criminal conduct, the behavior served to show the defendant's state of mind at the time of the crime. In other words, the defendant had embarked on a "crime spree" of sorts, and the character evidence is offered to show his deranged state of mind at the time of the alleged kidnapping more than his general character.
Upon reflection, I find this argument as unpersuasive as it immediately appears. Possessing a "deranged state of mind" is not an element of kidnapping; and any distinction between a criminal mind and a criminal character is beyond the grasp of this court. The State's reasoning is deficient, independent of the fact that stealing an old man's lunch and failing to rescue a kitten are far removed from the felony alleged in this case.
Second, the State claims that the appellant "went first," thereby allowing the State to respond with its own character evidence, as permitted in Rule 404(a)(1). The State believes that when the appellant's counsel stated to the jury, "We have nothing to hide," that he was implicitly stating that the appellant's character was immaculate. The State would then be allowed to present evidence to the contrary. (Although it had already announced its intention to introduce character evidence at the time of Pierre the Lawyer's statement, the State had not yet done so, and the court had not yet ruled on the defense's objection.)
It is not clear from the record for what purpose the defendant's attorney stated "We have nothing to hide." On one hand, he may have intended merely to signal to the judge that he had no objection to the introduction of character evidence. On the other hand, he may have been affirmatively stating to the jury, as a witness, that his client had no shameful behavior in his past.
In either case, we find that the introduction of character evidence by the State was proper. Whether the defense merely waived its right to object, or introduced its own character evidence, the defense has no meritorious objection left available to it.
Assignment of Error #4: All witness testimony lacked proper foundation.
It is well known that the majority of the inhabitants of our land have no names, no homes, no occupations, and spend all day walking about in algorithmic patterns. Moreover, they generally cannot speak more than one or two sentences at a time, which they tend to repeat continuously. In these conditions, the foundations laid for these witnesses was the best possible. No error is found.
Assignment of Error #5: The probative value of the testimony of Little Girl and Old Man was substantially outweighed by its potential for unfair prejudice, and should thus be barred by Rule 403.
If considered by itself, we would have to admit that the evidence offered by Little Girl and Old Man was of little probative value, and carried an immense potential for prejudice. However, we must again consider the defense's statement that the defendant had nothing to hide. If this statement were allowed to stand without testimony to the contrary, it would indeed appear that defendant had nothing to hide, and the statement would function as beneficial character evidence for the defense.
The optimal solution would have been to strike from the record Pierre the Lawyer's statement. That remedy being unavailable at this late stage, we cannot say that it was unfair to permit the State to rebut the defense's character statement. The defense, in effect, bluffed, and the State called that bluff.
Assignment of Error #6: Young Woman's testimony as to Princess Nadia's statement was inadmissible hearsay under Rules 801 and 802.
The State contends that the Young Woman's testimony was not hearsay at all. It claims that the words ("There's no need to drag me by the arm like some kidnapper!") were not offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Whether or not there was a need to drag the Princess by the arm was immaterial; what matters is that she perceived the situation as thus. This argument interprets Princess Nadia's statement far too literally. The point of her statement was not to comment on required behavior, but to point out that she was being dragged by the arm as if by a kidnapper. The statement was offered into evidence to prove just this, and was hearsay.
Wisely sensing the inadequacy of this argument, the State argues in the alternative that the evidence was hearsay, but was admissible as either a present sense impression under 803(1), or an excited utterance under 802(2).
Appellant counters that Nadia's statement could only be found to be an excited utterance if Nadia was being dragged away against her will; and to assume that would be tantamount to deciding the case against the defendant. If Princess Nadia were exaggerating in her description, as the defense claims, then she would not have been excited when she made the statement.
The only evidence we have of Princess Nadia's state of mind at the time of her statement comes from Young Woman; no other witnesses testified as to the statement's meaning or context. Young Woman, by all appearances, interpreted the statement as an accusation, and as such, it is reasonable to conclude that the statement was an excited utterance. (The defendant also argues that Princess Nadia was not describing her present sense impression, but rather advising against a course of action. Nadia did not accuse the defendant of acting like a kidnapper; she merely told him there was no need to do so. This does not qualify as a present sense impression.
Unfortunately, the defendant here proves too much. If Princess Nadia's words were meant as an admonition, then they were not a statement within the meaning of 801(a). They were thus not hearsay, and not inadmissible.)
In summary, though the majority of appellant's assignment of error are invalid, the trial court should not have admitted the Chancellor's description of witness statements into testimony. The State's case rested almost entirely on the Chancellor's statements. Without these statements, there is no evidence that Crono ever left the area with the Princess at all. This cannot be harmless error.
Therefore, petitioner's request for a new trial is granted. Personally, I would have requested an acquittal.
Judge Yakra, dissenting.
Gyah, ha, ha... It's useless to fight! No one will leave here alive! Super, ultra, presto... TRANSFORM-O!!!!!!