This week, LFA sits down with Mike Humbro, a Phoenix-based attorney who’s quickly risen to stardom in the legal world for his remarkable string of high-profile mistrials. All in all, in the past three years, Humbro has conducted 38 trials — and has achieved mistrial in all but one of them. His unparalleled expertise in the area of mistrials has led others to nickname him the “Mistrial Specialist.” Humbro took time out of his busy schedule to discuss the details of his most successful mistrial strategies.
LFA: Mike, thanks for taking the time to meet with me.
Mike: Hey, no problem.
LFA: My first question is how you first got into the mistrial specialty.
Mike: Good question. I guess the whole thing started about four years ago, in the middle of a normal trial — it was a bad check case. I was still a pretty young lawyer. I was working on my own, and had only had one case before. I had sued Home Depot because the toaster I got there didn’t work as fast as I wanted.
LFA: So you mostly tried civil cases?
Mike: Actually, in the toaster case, I only raised constitutional issues. Anyway, I needed some more business, so I had the court add me to the court-appointed list for criminal defense. Which sucks, because, you know, because everyone who is charged with a crime is guilty.
LFA: Well, not everyone –
Mike: It’s everyone. So there I was, in my first criminal case, sitting in court with the proceeding about to start, and my client is this lady trying to tell me her side of the story or something. I was like, I only met you three minutes ago, so stop trying to talk to me, all right? You don’t know me. I may be your lawyer, but that doesn’t mean you can just talk to me whenever you want. Leave me alone, okay? She didn’t seem to like that, but then thankfully the trial started.
LFA: What defense had you prepared?
Mike: Well, I thought I might argue that my client wasn’t actually forging checks, but was planning on changing her name and was doing test-runs on signing and cashing checks with different names just to try them out. I mean, everyone’s done that before, right?
LFA: I haven’t.
Mike: You must be one of the lucky few people in the world who like their name, then.
LFA: I guess so.
Mike: Suddenly, it’s my turn for an opening statement, and I hadn’t had time to write one because I had been very stumped that day on the morning Sudoku. So I get up there, and I take a look at my client, and I think, this lady probably abuses her kids. It was one of those things you could tell just by looking at her. Now, I didn’t even know if she had kids or not — like I said, I hadn’t even talked to her yet — but I was pretty sure that she was a child abuser. I can be very perceptive like that.
LFA: That sounds like quite a talent.
Mike: It can also be a curse, but that’s a story for another day. So I walk up to the jury, and my brain is firing on all cylinders, like, ping ping ping! And I say, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my client clearly abuses her children, but she might not write bad checks.” And, boom, just like that, I won a mistrial.
LFA: Just like that?
Mike: Just like that. I had no idea it could be so easy.
LFA: I see.
Mike: I mean, I didn’t even know what a mistrial was. This is funny — I turned to the prosecutor, and I was like, “Did I just lose?” And he was like, “No, you idiot, it’s a mistrial.” And I was like, “I’ve never not lost before! This is so cool!”
LFA: So at what point did you feel like you really perfected the mistrial?
Mike: It didn’t take long. My next trial… oh yeah, I was defending someone accused of killing a puppy. One of the jurors was being a huge wussy about it during cross-examination. So I did my baby voice and was like, “Awww? What’s the matter? Are you going to cry? Is Juror No. 3 going to cry about the little dead puppy? Waaaahhh! Waaah!” You guessed – another mistrial, and another checkmark not in the loss column. I was on a roll.
LFA: What have been some of your favorite mistrials?
Mike: Gosh, I’ve had so many. There was that time I had the local high school band sit in the visitors section and play “1812 Overture” during my closing argument. There was that time I called a mental patient to the stand, and he took off his coat and had dynamite strapped to himself, and he demanded my client be found not guilty or he would blow up the whole courtroom. My client wasn’t found not guilty, of course, but there was a mistrial, so it was close enough. I could go on and on.
Mike: Thanks. Mistrials… that’s just what I do.
LFA: So, what’s next for you, Mike?
Mike: Well, this year I’ll be teaching the nation’s first Mistrial Clinic at Phoenix Law School. I’ll also be working on a full caseload — including my own, which is exciting.
LFA: Your own?
Mike: That’s right! I’ve got an upcoming trial in front of the State Bar to determine my fitness for continued practice. You can bet I’m cooking up something pretty special for that one.
LFA: Thanks for your time, Mike.