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The Perry Mason moment


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I’m old enough to remember my parents watching Perry Mason after my bedtime, composer Fred Steiner’s hypnotic theme music lulling me to sleep. My husband and I still binge watch the series, the stylish black and white cinematography, sets, and wardrobe are timeless. The genius legal sleuth, with the help of his elegant detective Paul Drake, and smart sultry secretary Della Street always wins against the ever-exasperated Los Angeles District Attorney, Hamilton Burger, (the name evoking Ham-Burger always makes me giggle). Whether during preliminary hearings when the prosecutor and Mason are making a case for the judge to decide to go to trial, or during trial, it’s that “Perry Mason moment,” when Mason traps the perpetrator in a lie, that cements the series as an enduring classic.

The term “Perry Mason moment” trended last August after attorney Mark Bankston caught Sandy Hook mass shooting denier Alex Jones committing perjury during the damages trial. When pathological liar Trump and other mythomaniac Republicans like George Santos eventually go to trial, or perhaps during plea negotiations, those gotcha moments will abound.


There’s no doubt, unlike Hamilton Burger, each prosecutor’s case will be airtight. That’s why the recent Seditious Conspiracy convictions and the arrest of former FBI counterintelligence chief Charles McGonigal are making Trump more unhinged. Or why, after the DOJ asked the Federal Election Commission to stop investigating Santos indicating likely criminal charges, is making him flee reporters’ questions. They both know the big gotcha moment is imminent.

One of my favorite recent “Perry Mason moments” was during Trump’s deposition in E. Jean Carroll’s libel suit when he mistook a photo of his rape accuser for his ex-wife Marla Maples, putting to rest his lie, “she’s not my type.” Gotcha!

But this is not about schadenfreude. For those of us waiting for these monsters to be held accountable, it’s about finally putting an end to the gaslighting that is driving us crazy. It’s about that moment when the irrefutable truth finally comes out.

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