The Osteen Trial: Wherefore The Shark?

Although not explicitly stating he wanted to recreate a scene from the 1975 classic Switchblade Sisters, Rusty Hardin today had Victoria Osteen and Sharon Brown stand beside each other so the jury could compare their height and weight.

Hardin claimed this was so jurors could better visualize the kind of ass-whupping Brown says Osteen meted out in December 2005, but there was anticipation in the air as the packed court braced for a full-on cat-fight.

Osteen clearly had both the height and weight advantage – and Brown also pointed out that while she was wearing heels today, she might have been wearing flats on the day in question. (Brown said it would be too difficult to remove her shoes for the demonstration). But Brown clearly knows the layout of airplanes better and could have used that to her advantage to foil unruly passengers, like Harrison Ford in Air Force One.

Sadly, there was no recreation of the fight, and Brown returned to the stand to continue what turned out to be five hours of mostly boring, repetitive testimony, peppered with a few gotchas from Hardin.

Perhaps the most colorful was when Hardin presented a portion of Brown’s 2007 videotaped deposition in which she called Lakewood Church a cult and Joel Osteen the devil. Victoria Osteen was “struggling between good and evil,” Brown said in the deposition. But testifying today, Brown said she doesn’t really feel that way, and those statements came after hours of questioning, not to mention she was taking sinus medication, Lexapro, and Ambien.

Hardin tried to paint Brown as a somewhat paranoid personality who has trouble distinguishing her perceptions from reality, asking how the pilot had no idea that a wild passenger bum-rushed a flight attendant while charging for the cockpit and in fact yanking another flight attendant out of the cockpit. Hardin also tried to position Brown as a narcissist who feels threatened and offended if she believes someone is questioning her authority.

Brown also testified that she didn’t intend to sue at first, but she asked a lawyer (Brown didn’t remember his name) to send Osteen a letter asking her to make a public apology. Brown said she only decided to sue after there was no apology, and after Osteen paid a $3,000 fine to the FAA.

If Hardin would’ve stopped after one or two hours, he would’ve left the jury with sizzling testimony that portrayed Brown as a big flake. But Hardin then copped a play from the Reginald McKamie handbook and asked a zillion other questions that didn’t illustrate Brown’s inconsistencies and seemed to be asked only to wear her down.

Fortunately, the judge had to be somewhere at 5, so she had Hardin wrap up for the day – a real blessing since he apparently was just about to ask Brown to read the first 300 pages of Ulysses out loud, just because.

Presumably, Brown will continue on the stand tomorrow, to be followed by the pilot, and then, hopefully, some sweet Switchblade Sisters action.

-- Craig Malisow


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