Thursday, June 7, 2012

Assistant District Attorneys and Mr. Burger's Interaction with Them

(I’m late! I’m late! I’m late for an important date!

I apologize; I may be a bit delayed in getting up all the blog posts this month. These June writing prompts are taking up more of my time than the other theme sets I wrote for the 31 Days community. Plus I have work and some other Perry-related projects, the latter of which I may talk about later. Hopefully I won’t be so delayed that I’ll post here on the wrong days.)

Ah, the assistant district attorney. It’s an office we see quite a lot of on Perry, particularly at the last of season 3 and throughout a great deal of season 4. (And in season 2’s The Stuttering Bishop, as an unplanned venture when William Talman had laryngitis.) And we’ve probably only seen a drop in the bucket of the sheer number available; the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has over a thousand of them.

It’s a bit curious that we don’t often see Hamilton interact with these vital members of his staff (aside from the silent communications between them whenever Hamilton is in court and has one in tow). Of course, the main times they have speaking roles are when he is not around, but there are still cases where they and he appear in the same episodes and all speak.

I’m still trying to remember if Hanley from episode 19, The Haunted Husband, is an assistant D.A. or an investigator. In either case, that is probably the first time we ever see Hamilton converse at length with someone from his office. In the uncut version of the episode Hanley even has a scene of his own, as he questions the girl survivor of a car wreck.

A good example of Hamilton’s character development is in his handling of the assistant district attorneys. While he is very mature and sobered with Hanley (whoever he is) in The Haunted Husband, Hamilton in the early episodes certainly has a tendency to be more impulsive, blurt out things he probably shouldn’t, and generally display how young he is at the time. His behavior in the scene with Hanley (and many other scenes) is an intriguing contrast, another side of his personality. Certainly, everyone has many facets.

As the seasons pass, however, Hamilton reflects this. In the later episodes, he is by and large older and wiser. The more mature side of his personality is more prominent than his outbursts. And, no longer as rash as he once was, he counsels those around him who are.

Larry Germaine in The Fatal Fetish is definitely a prime example. Youthful and impetuous, Larry digs himself into a deep mess with the femme fatale Carina Wileen. Hamilton sees what Larry doesn’t and tries to get to the bottom of what’s going on. Larry snaps at him, much as a young boy might do with someone older than he if he feels the counsel is unneeded and unwanted. Hamilton is clearly stunned and hurt by this. He later tells Mignon that he’s worrying about Larry. And when Larry loses his temper and tries to grab Neil Howard, another attorney, Hamilton has to physically pull him back.

The full extent of Hamilton’s concern for Larry is unknown, but considering his canonical admittance that he and Mignon are close friends, it seems likely that Hamilton could have also known Larry quite well even before he joined the D.A.’s office. I certainly believe that Hamilton’s association with him goes deeper than just that Larry works under him. But I’m also sure that Hamilton is concerned for every one of his assistants and that, were any of them to get themselves in the same kind of mess, Hamilton would be just as involved in trying to help them as he was with Larry.

One of Hamilton’s assistants also plays an extended and unique role in season 9’s The Impetuous Imp, a remake of season 1’s The Negligent Nymph. While I’m a bit unsure what to make of the episode overall, I am fascinated by the rarely seen angle of what Hamilton does when one of his assistants has the reins. I’m even more fascinated since it’s really just a subplot and doesn’t directly connect to the main plot (save for the assistant’s impulsiveness in court and his seeming reluctance to let Perry investigate the murder scene until he’s done looking it over himself). Hamilton and his assistant have a whole subplot?! Oh yes!

Hamilton and the young assistant, Bill Vincent, seem to be on quite friendly terms with each other. Showing how congenial Hamilton can be, he even brings the kid along to Clay’s for lunch with Perry and Steve. This is following a robbery hearing at which Bill lost to Perry. They have a very interesting scene where Hamilton good-naturedly tells Bill he should never let Perry talk him into stipulating anything. He describes some of Perry’s methods, still calmly and peaceably, and Perry, Steve, and Clay all join in the conversation. It’s a very nice, relaxed, and friendly scene.

Hamilton supports Bill in his decisions concerning the murder room, once the murder happens. And he is willing to let Bill do as he feels best; under the circumstances Hamilton doesn’t feel that Bill is doing wrong.

But he is not blindly accepting of everything his assistants do, either. That was shown with Larry Germaine and again here, when Hamilton interrupts the preliminary hearing with new information just as Bill is acting out badly in court. Hamilton all but apologizes for him and says that he is taking over the case due to the new information he’s found. It is quite possibly also because he realizes that Bill isn’t ready for these responsibilities yet and that he needs to take over before Bill further embarrasses himself or the D.A.’s office by his upholding of a situation that could be seen as an obstruction.

I have to say, I wish Bill had returned in other episodes. He could have been a wonderful gateway into the goings-on at the district attorney’s office and towards seeing more of this side of Hamilton’s personality. He was so prominently featured that I found myself wondering whether he was the murderer (he wasn’t) or if he was a character they were bringing in to test for a spin-off (who knows). If he was just meant to be there as an interesting twist, they succeeded. And they impressed me for taking that path on a series so often focusing mainly on the defense team.

Hamilton also interacts with an assistant D.A. later in season 9, in The Golfer’s Gambit. When he needs to testify to a phone call in court, he has the assistant take over and question him. From what I recall, the assistant looked a bit nervous or apprehensive. I would have liked to have seen them converse a bit at some other point in the episode (and for that matter, for Hamilton’s whole testimony scene to have been handled better; see my post on that episode for those comments).

Those are the only times I can think of when Hamilton had any kind of extensive scenes with his assistants. I would have liked to have seen him handle the insufferable Sampson from season 4. I wonder a bit if Hamilton did talk to him, off-screen, since in Sampson’s third and final appearance he is more subdued.


  1. Was just wondering myself, about the assistant DA's after noting the head nod exchange between one and Burger at the close of THE CASE OF THE FIERY FINGERS.

    Also a fanatic.

    1. I vaguely remember that. If it was at the close, maybe they were exchanging silent information regarding the prosecution of the real murderer. I'll have to review the episode again.

      Thanks for commenting!