Wrote Cornucopia of Evil From Experience as Documentalist
When I began my unique services as a forensic documentalist in September 1979, I faced many unknowns. The least of which was not knowing how to adequately answer anyone who asked, “And, what business are you in Mr. Collins?” Because I had no method of practices, procedures, or rules I would generally answer with something like, “I am a documentalist helping those who are dealing with some type of tragedy in their life.” I hoped that would satisfy them because I didn’t know what more to say that would be understood. Whether my answer was understood or not some would ask how I went from being a career banker in my small hometown to a forensic documentalist. I had no “elevator” answer so I would come up with something to hopefully satisfy them. After 30 years in this unique business I still have no “elevator” answer for what I do, but I do have a mission statement:
What spawned my passion to provide this laudable service may have begun the day I was born. If not then I was drawn to it very early in my growing up because of my curiosity and my keen interest in the truth about everything. If none of those times were the geneses of what would become my life work I am certain that my interest in this area came to me in April 1958, one week after I was 21 years old. That was when I was selected to serve on a grand jury in my rural hometown of Eastland, Texas. What an eye opener that was for me.
Whether it was fate or what I call a “God Thing” over the following 22 years I was honored to serve as a juror on over 100 civil and criminal trials. That was while I was a career banker located across the street from our district court. It was during those experiences that I continuously saw an urgent, but unmet, need for a more effective type of service for tragedy victims. The services I have provided must not be mistaken for what is seen on televisions shows about the workings of public and private investigators and our legal system.
It is essential to know the courts “rules of discovery”. I have been asked if I considered the services I provide an art or skill. A piece of art can be viewed great or not good at all, but it would still be art. In contrast the (art) demonstrative evidence I construct must be viewed positively by twelve people from diverse lifestyles, ages, educations, ethnicities, political and religious persuasions. Whether one considers my work an art or a skill, more than anything else, it must be viewed by twelve jurors as honest. Honesty in my service is the one thing I have consistently and successfully provided for over 30 years.
Since there is over one million lawyers in our country one could ask why paralegals are not providing this service for clients of their law firms. I have never known of any organization’s staff more overworked than paralegals. They certainly could not do justice to providing this service in addition to their already heavy workload. Then, how about the hundreds of thousands of private investigators providing this service? Private investigators, like lawyers, are agents of government. They provide a service but are burdened with all kinds of rules and regulations to which they must comply.
I use the same method to process all tragedies I work on regardless of whether it is a murder, car wreck, white collar crime, medical malpractice, arson, child abuse or any other tragedy.
Before designing and constructing exhibits I must be absolutely certain that the information I have collected is true and complete. Once that is established I decide what one message must be etched in the minds of the jury.
I provide my work for defense as well as plaintiff in civil cases and the same for criminal. However, I only accept assignments after I have assured myself that my work will benefit my client.
The opposing side may challenge any or all of my exhibits. That is done by taking my deposition prior to trial or if my deposition is not taken the opposing side can call me to testify as an expert witness at trial. Experienced lawyers know the old rule - Don't ask a witness a question in the presents of a jury unless the answer is already known. Jurors pay attention to my testimony when one specific question is asked; "Have you ever served on a jury?" My answer "Over one hundred times." Because of my jury experience many lawyers who employ me have me assist them in selecting a jury and prepare their opening and closing statements.
Volumes of books, some award winners, are available to teach corporate executives how to build a winning team for their company. Patrick Lencioni wrote in his "Five Dysfunctions of A Team": ". .because teams are made up of imperfect human beings, they are inherently dysfunctional." Those books won't work for the type of winning team of a forensic documentalist because every case has different "team players" which are made up of lawyers, judges, doctors, police officers, and other witnesses.
The American Bar Association confirms that the high rate of addiction of judges and lawyers to drugs, alcohol, sex, food, gambling, and work is indisputable. Judges and lawyers deal with personal issues that negatively impact their performance and erode the public's confidence which results in being costly to our economy and dangerous to public safety.
If addictions are not enough for documentalists to consider there is another problem - lack of judicial independence. Since her retirement US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is warning the public about the seriousness of this problem. She is also letting "hope-to-be" lawyers know, "We already have too many lawyers."
What Hollywood producer, Dwight Adair, says about "Cornucopia of Evil": There are times when this story reminds me, cinematically, of "Grapes of Wrath", "In The Heat Of The Night", "Mr. Deeds Goes To Washington", "On The Waterfront", "Lilies of The Field" and others. It is a story about a man who wanted to make a difference in this world. He was compelled to write it because of the way he was brought up. His passion was not about making himself famous or about making money. It was a passion for justice and truth. There are few manuscripts the size of Cornucopia of Evil as compelling as that book because in its own quiet way it is a call to all of us to action. There are few opportunities to tell a story like this."
Patrick Lencioni's "Five Dysfunctions of A Team" and "Overcoming Dysfunctions of a Team" have valuable information, but I still do not know my inherent dysfunctions. If it happens to be my dedication to a passion for truth and justice, so be it. How long do I intend to keep telling my story with the hope it will help educate the public is best said on my cemetery marker which states the date of my death, "to be continued".