How Argus Joseph Thompson, insane, became a lawyer

As you may remember, Argus Joseph Thomson is a poor lawyer specializing in Poor Law for the poor. Here he tells us how he was driven to become a lawyer.

His childhood friend, Doc Blomister, had been working as an undertaker’s assistant and was charged with having sexually violated the corpse of a well-known movie star who was said to have died from over-exuberant frolicking with a Wyoming cowboy. They had Doc cold, pictures and all.

The charges shocked the community considering the fact that Doc enjoyed all of the apparent accouterments of normalcy and good citizenry. He attended the Baptist Church every Sunday; he was an officer in the Junior Chamber of Commerce; he served as an Assistant Scout Master, and he was an avid member of the Cowboy Joe Club, those rabid boosters of the University of Wyoming football team. But you can never tell about the secret stuff that stews away inside of people, especially immigrants from Pumpkin Buttes.

Doc’s lawyer pled Doc “not guilty by reason of insanity.” At the trial a psychiatrist, Dr. Henrietta Homony, testified that Doc’s depravity was attributable to the abuse he’d suffered as a child at the hands of Miss Bromley – the trauma of which, Dr. Homony testified, left Doc terrified of the opposite sex and powerless to relate to living women. “This is irrefutable evidence of his insanity,” the shrink testified, “because as every mentally healthy male should realize, the female of the species is essentially harmless and easily dominated by the superior, stronger male in whom God had entrusted the fate of the species.”

Doc’s lawyer hauled Miss Bromley into court to testify. She was the teacher at Pumpkin Buttes country school where both Doc and Argus attended.

“When you caught Wilbur Blomister down at the creek with Bessy Lou Hogelstein playing doctor what did you do?” the lawyer asked Miss Bromley.

“I don’t have to answer you,” Miss Bromley said lifting her chin. “That’s privileged.”

“Answer his question,” Judge Hammond interjected.

“I did what any decent woman would have done.”

“What’s that?” Doc’s lawyer asked.

“I won’t answer.”

“You’ll be in contempt of court if you don’t,” the judge snarled.

“Come over here and I’ll show you,” she said to Doc’s lawyer as she reached into her apron pocket.

“Answer the question,” the judge said.

“I’ll answer, but this is a form of rape. You are extracting from me what I do not wish to give. I swatted his little. . .what do you call it, Your Honor?”

“Call it whatever you want,” the judge said.

“If I have to say such a word I wish to use only the correct, legal terminology.”

“Call it his do-whackey,” the judge said.

“I spanked his little do-whackey with my ruler,” Miss Bromley said.

“Thank you,” the lawyer said.

“I should hope so,” Miss Bromley said. “That was the least I could do under the circumstances, and I made him promise he’d never do such a thing again as long as he lived.”

Later the lawyer called Doc to the stand in his own defense. He had grown into a nice looking young man, and his lawyer had him dressed in his three-piece black undertaker’s suit. His hair was cut short and slicked down with the latest hair grease for men so that he looked like an IBM sales rep.

“Why did you do this terrible thing, Mr. Blomister?” the lawyer asked right out. Doc didn’t answer. He looked down at his hands and began to weep.

“Tell the jury, Mr. Blomister.”

Finally Doc began to mumble something through his sobs.

“Speak up, Mr. Blomister!”

Then Doc said something about being in love and something about loneliness and that’s all his lawyer could get from him.

Doc’s lawyer took less than a minute to sum up for the jury. “What this man did was the unspeakable crime of a madman,” he whispered. “But think how lonely it is to be a corpse in a drawer in the morgue. Think of that ladies and gentlemen!” Thereupon Doc’s lawyer submitted his case, and the jury was out only long enough to elect a foreman and take a single ballot before they returned their verdict, and Judge Hammond sentenced poor Doc that same day to forty years, which is probably longer than he would have gotten had he murdered the woman in the first place.

I visited Doc in the Teton County Jail before they transferred him to the state penitentiary at Rawlins. He was wearing his blue denim jailhouse clothes and he looked pale and helpless. I didn’t know what to say to him.

“You shouldn’t have come here, Argus,” Doc finally said. “Ya shouldn’t never have nothin’ to do with the likes a me.”

“You’re my friend, Doc. Everybody makes mistakes. We all have our stuff.”

Then, like a small boy, Doc asked, “Do you have stuff, too, Argus?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Is yer stuff like my stuff?” he asked hopefully.

“No, Doc,” I said. Doc looked disappointed.

“Was yer stuff as bad as mine?”

“Stuff is stuff,” I said.

“No, stuff ain’t stuff. There is stuff and there is stuff. An’ my stuff is the worst there is.”

“No, Doc,” I said, and I started to reach out and touch his arm, but I thought better of it. It seemed wrong to touch a person when he’s in jail.

“It’s awful in here,” Doc said. “I hope they kill me.” He was silent for a long time. Then he said, “All I think of is the Buttes,” and he choked up, but he held it back because real men are not supposed to cry, especially in jail.

“You’ll make friends,” I said.

“They won’t have nothin’ to do with somebody that done the stuff I done.”

“But, Doc, there are murderers in there, and rapists in there and people who beat up old ladies and there’s people in there who’ve done terrible things to little kids. You didn’t hurt anybody. Yer stuff isn’t so bad.”

Suddenly Doc asked, “What did you do, Argus?”

“Well, Doc,” I said, “a man can’t talk about his own stuff.” Then I knew I should have told Doc about Marilyn Monroe because all the hope drained from Doc’s face, and his eyes looked like they were painted on with flat brown Kem-Tone, but Doc would have never understood. Nobody understands anybody else’s stuff. “You’ll be all right, Doc,” I said. “You can learn to make license plates, and you’ll meet a lot of interesting people.” Suddenly I began to cry, and Doc, being very considerate, turned his back.

Then a guard as big as a beer-wagon horse came in and hollered at me, “Hey, you a friend of this stiff-fucker?”

“Don’t you call him that!” I said, and I took a big wild swing at the guard who slammed me up against the bars, picked me up off the floor and heaved me out of the cellblock like he was throwing slop to the chickens.

After that I retried Doc’s case over and over in my mind. I would have argued it differently. I would have riveted the jury with steady eyes and in a low, deliberate voice I’d have said:

“Ladies and gentlemen: Wilbur ‘Doc’ Blomister is a very nice person. He’d never commit rape, and he’d never commit robbery. He’d never hurt another living being; he’d never even kick a mean dog. This would be a better world if there were more people like Doc. Think of it! There’d be no little children with their heads smashed in and old folks beaten and robbed. Why, the FBI would be out of business, and the politicians wouldn’t have to compete with each other to see who could be the toughest on crime, because there wouldn’t be any crime. That’s the kind of world we’d have if everybody was like my client, Doc Blomister.”

“Now Doc testified about love. But we’ve all been in love with the dead. I, myself, have been in love with Marilyn Monroe for years, and I know plenty of people who are still in love with Elvis Presley. And so I ask that you find that Doc is only a poor lonely man who is afraid to love the living. We all need to love and to be loved, don’t we?” I looked at the jury, but they stared back at me with Kem-Tone eyes.

“It’s a frightening thing to love somebody. It can cause great injury to your heart, isn’t that true?” Doc is no criminal. Criminals injure the living. Doc is only a poor lonely man. I wish you could forgive him.” But the jury wouldn’t forgive him. I looked from juror to juror, but in my mind’s eye I saw them sitting still and stony like 12 cadavers. I thought, “Oh, Lord, the jury is dead, and they’ll find poor Doc guilty for having violated one of their own. Probably render the death penalty.”


After that Argus decided to go to law school.


16 responses to “How Argus Joseph Thompson, insane, became a lawyer

  1. Stuff:
    Did Argus’ law Prof at the U, tell him too he would end up representing the
    “dredges of society” ?
    Yes, there sure are some
    stimulating Profs at the U, like Dr George W …Jones, and Dudley Pits, etc.
    However, most of my classmates sprang for going with Oil Companies, and Insurance companies, and
    Investment Companies, and a few even made it to have meter runs(REP) for hedge Funds.
    It sounds like those who go into criminal law have
    “stuff” wrapped up in the closet, if Argus is the proto-typical crim-defense attorney.
    But, then I harken back to the movie(real deal true blue) on the big FBI guy Robert P Hannsen who had “stuff”.
    Here is the stuff, described, not by me, but by the DOJ/ FBI in its own releases:


    And, that is just 1/8 of the “stuff”, at the very least.

  2. I am guessing that the “stiff-fucker” guard was still bitter about not getting that job he wanted as a diplomat with the state dept.

  3. Only from the greatest lawyer and the greatest mind could a story like this be told, and have you hanging on every word. Thank you Gerry, sorry,Mr.Gerry Spence

  4. Hellva tale Gerry – ab=so=lute=ly wonderful!

  5. Be an optimist! Good thing Doc wasn’t an atheist. Otherwise, he would have faced he death penalty.

  6. Oh no – but what about the adorable judge in the Anna Nicole Smith hearings in Ft. Lauderdale a few years back? The Medical Examiner, Dr. Joshua Perper, kept informing him that her body was rapidly decomposing. His final call to the bench was so desperate that Judge Seidlin blurted out” “Oh my poor baby!!”
    (Can one be “real” to a fault?) Every woman I know wanted to marry the man!

  7. It truly amazes (and saddens) me that guilt or innocence is the courts of America is determined by which lawyer is the best salesman.
    But…Is there a better system out there?

    • Exactly! It is a matter of which lawyer is the best salesman (the one who can show light to their favor and dismiss anothers postion) and not the a matter of innocence or guilt. That is truly sad!

  8. As a poor lawyer, I identify with Argus in a way that drove me to leave a comment. I left an in-house counsel gig b/c I felt dirty but I had student loans to pay. Still do, lots. But my father and uncle were hardworking, blue collar, Vietnam vets that received ridiculous sentences not for what they did but b/c they were “poor white trash.” I put myself through law school b/c of it, very much like Argus. I no longer have a comany car, cell phone or staff as I offer discounts, set-up payment plans and even take the occasional house repair but I can pay my mortgage and look myself in the mirror. Thank you Gerry for the story of Argus, you have been an inspiration to from my first read of “How To Argue.”

  9. Isn’t it flat out true than Argus never became a full human being untl he took the program on how to be a human, but that was not until he had been out of law school, for 7 years, and, he had the experience that his professors were barely above the corpse demensions, but the big Buttee ranch was like having him rise from the grave of his J D inculcations.
    Argus is insane, so it seems as per assorted observations(here) !
    Didn’t he get enough ranch programs, on maintaining his humanity ?
    Poor guy, we never learned what drove him off the well balanced path.
    Was it all those cases where he never fully read “How to Argue every time and win”.
    Did it not work for Argus, now he is just “insane”.
    But, he still has Jen, and his dogs, and at least he had a few years as an instructor at the ranch, on dramatic human renditions.

  10. The legal system, as rigged by the powerfull can damn near drive one insane.
    Argus must have got deep into the
    system in his fights for justice.
    I wonder if Argus always was tagged with
    “insane”, as his position.
    Right from wrong, just how are some drawing the line..?
    Apparently, one can hold a bar card,
    and be insane.
    How that all translates in a legal practice
    is hopefully something Argus can enlighten us all on.

  11. I really liked the story, I make my day.. 🙂

  12. concerning the issue of death penalty:

    My answer to this is that our country for
    1 has bored in the brain of a teenager – violence

    Whether its from film or music or book or magazine
    When you condition the nervous system over and over again with violence and hate
    What do you create?

    You create a person that thinks its normal
    That thinks its routine
    That thinks that if someone “disses” you that its ok to pick up a gun and shoot or a knife and stab

    Because we dont have public executions
    So therefore people dont feel what all goes on in an execution
    Even though they may know whats going to happen and be used for it

    If you publicized executions and said this is what happens when you take someones life
    Youre bound to have lots of people or kids be scared that if they commit that crime, they will meet the same fate

    Most criminals are alcoholics or drug addicts
    So when you consume either of those substances
    You go numb
    You lose focus of your surroundings

    Example:The drunk driver that smashes that car going at 50 mph and kills the driver and goes home to sleep
    Because they dont know what happened till the next day

    Then you have those that think that they will never get caught, so therefore it will never happen to them

    Then there are those, like gang members that believe that death is inevitable anyway, so they don’t care


  13. Interesting message , Mr. Spence.

    My mom agrees with you and says that “Stuff is stuff and shouldn’t be shared with strangers” and is why she won’t let me go on FACEBOOK.

    She says that it’s the most self-defeating thing a person could do to their future, since future employers, acquaintances, etc. will always know all of your “stuff”–before they even meet you. I’m the only one in my school who isn’t on it – but mom says I’ll thank her someday.

    Do you agree?

  14. I also have an aunt who is almost 53 and she just put a picture of herself up on Facebook from when she was 35! heee-heee!!

    Another reason mom says it’s all self defeating and just making big money for some people, while ruining the “big talkers” lives.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s