Dicking Around

THE DICK FAMILY shoplifting trial was a designer case from top to bottom. Without the high-profile attorneys defending the various family members, the self-serving media helping themselves to homemade plate after plate of "news," and the chichi labels on the items allegedly lifted by the Dicks--Baccarat crystal, Armani suits, Polo infant wear--this wouldn't have been anything more than a petty shoplifting case. With the designs and designers all in place, however, the courtroom was packed for the trial's final arguments, the observers hoping for more lurid tidbits, caustic retorts, and other scintillating sound bites.

Flown in from Chicago, Judy Dick's beefy attorney Paul Applebaum was the very picture of confidence as he addressed the courtroom, his voice dropping several octaves as he faced the jury. "Look! The emperor's naked!... They don't have a case. They're naked!" Gerald Dick's lawyer Doug Thomson was less dramatic, but effective nonetheless, racking up several laughs during his closing arguments. Of the Roseville police, Thomson said that they were "willing to lie but not smart enough to pull it off"; that they set up the Dicks "in order to make a name for themselves, and after seeing them on the witness stand, I guess I can understand their concerns." Thomson then sought to lull the jury into voting not guilty. "You're not here to play Perry Mason," he reassured them. "If you can't figure it out, that's reasonable doubt. You don't have to struggle with this--it's not your job."

Daughter Stacy Zehren's lawyer Joe Friedberg felt free enough to casually tell the jury, "If anyone has to potty sometime, just raise your hand." Continuing his empathy campaign, Friedberg then complained that the Dicks had become the "single most reviled family in America... you can't go anywhere or listen to any national talk show without hearing a Dick joke, and members of the jury, that's just not funny." Concluding with an ingenuous patriotic flourish, Friedberg told the jury, "You will be blamed for letting Jim Dick go," and exhorted them to "find the courage" to vote not guilty, no matter the personal ramifications. "A lot of people died to give you the privilege to do that."

During deliberations, carefully groomed (from the waist up anyway) TV reporters whiled away time working crosswords and wondering who would play the Dicks in a made-for-TV movie. They decided that, though he lacked the smarts and the voice, Jim Dick had the good looks to play himself. Around lunch time, be-first reporters spied Judge Salvador Rosa leaving for a jog. A hot rumor had the jurors getting chicken salad sent in; they'd be working through lunch. Defense lawyers strolled up and down in front of the courthouse, and though there were no new developments, reporters buzzed hopefully.

Attorney Applebaum casually lamented that he would in all likelihood be forced to miss that evening's performance of Rent, part of his 35th birthday celebration. "Why are you writing that down?" he asked one straggling reporter. "I'm desperate for anything" she replied. Said one television news reporter, "At least there's a story, we got people flapping their lips." And in a pinch, even that wasn't necessary: As Friedberg and Thomson took off down the street, one reporter hoping to get a good shot of the three walking together urged Applebaum, "Go catch up with your compadres." "There they go," she sighed, "the dream team." Six camera men tripped over themselves to document their journey toward Subway sandwiches.

Upon news that the verdicts were in, reporters and bystanders rushed excitedly to the courthouse, with one unhappy fellow remarking to his colleague, "An old lady tried to clobber me as I tried to get in." Whispered another, "This is our O.J. trial." After the verdicts were announced and reporters had gotten a sound bite of Judy Dick telling the press that her husband was "the most honest and charitable man I've ever been around in my entire life," the scramble was on to find a juror willing to go on the record with anything more substantial than "I'm glad it's over." "I need a juror," pouted WCCO TV reporter Deborah Sherman--actually stamping her feet. Juror Neil Bremer, fresh off the elevator, was happy to bask in the short-lived glow. He seemed to wish a pox on both houses, saying that "there was no solid evidence" but that the Dicks weren't entirely believable, either.

Story finally in the can for good, reporters, cameramen, and lawyers packed up and left the Ramsey County Courthouse--and no doubt far more interesting and profound trials-- behind them.

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