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Web Video / The Trial of Tim Heidecker

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A spinoff/interlude of the web series On Cinema at the Cinema, The Trial of Tim Heidecker (often billed as just The Trial) is a 2017 6-part web series chronicling the fictionalized Tim Heidecker's murder trial. At the Electric Sun Desert Music Festival, Tim and Luther "Doctor San" Sanchez gave out free vape pens filled with a dangerous mix of toxic chemicals; twenty people died and over a hundred were hospitalized as a result of the vape pens, and Tim was charged with twenty counts of Felony Murder.

Over the course of the trial, Heidecker chooses to represent himself, and he constantly flounders due to his short temper, lack of tact and decorum, and total absence of legal knowledge. He uses the court to settle personal scores, such as a long-running debate with his On Cinema co-host Gregg Turkington about the setting of Star Trek IV. He also attempts to shift the blame for the "Electric Sun Twenty's" deaths onto anyone but himself, including the paramedics, Doctor San, Mark Proksch, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, and the Chinese company that sold him the chemicals.

Objection, defendant is clearly intimidating the tropes:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Tim repeatedly botches the pronunciation of Judge Szymczyk's name, misremembers his bandmate Manuel Giusti's last name as Cessi, and spells Orion Jaxx as "Orion Jacks."
  • Amoral Attorney: Tim Heidecker certainly sees Vincent Rosetti as this, referring to him as a "rat" in his closing statement.
  • As Himself: Tim Heidecker, Gregg Turkington, Mark Proksch, Axiom, Ayaka Ohtani, Jesse Popp, Joe Estevez, and Manuel Giusti all play fictionalized versions of themselves, as they have throughout the On Cinema franchise.
  • Backfire on the Witness Stand: All of Tim's witnesses are either ineffective at best or actively harmful to his case at worst:
    • Orion Jaxx reveals that Tim tried to bribe him to give a favorable testimony, and reaffirms the prosecution witnesses' claims about the lack of amenities.
    • Jesse Popp is outed as an actor who Tim paid to outright lie on his behalf, risking a perjury charge.
    • Joe Estevez is useless as a character witness, while also revealing that Tim had an ongoing drug problem.
    • Nicholas Meyer's testimony is part of a harebrained scheme to disprove Gregg Turkington's testimony by showing he doesn't remember the Star Trek movies.
    • Manuel is caught trying to introduce obviously forged evidence that Tim had given him.
  • Chewbacca Defense: Tim's defense argument is nothing but these:
    • One of the victims died of an unrelated heroin overdose, so who's to say that they didn't all die of heroin overdoses?
    • The police department never investigated the Chinese chemical company, which is therefore proof of a criminal conspiracy between them to forge evidence against Tim.
    • Gregg Turkington can't remember the difference between Star Trek II and IV, therefore his entire testimony is faulty and should be thrown out.
    • He was just an innocent man at the scene of the crime, just like the dead victims. So why aren't the victims on trial too?!
    • Just because the prosecution had his spurious evidence thrown out doesn't mean the jury still can't use it anyway.
  • Courtroom Antics: Tim commits one nearly every time he opens his mouth. The things he get admonished for during his trial include, but are not limited to:
    • Asking questions to prosecution witnesses that the District Attorney readily (and validly) objects to.
    • Arguing, intimidating, and even attempting to assault witnesses, earning him two contempt of court charges in a single day.
    • Arguing directly with the prosecution, then with the judge when he tells Tim to stop arguing with the prosecution.
    • Trying to manipulate or bribe defense witnesses into giving him the most favorable testimony possible.
  • Disregard That Statement:
    • Judge Szymczyk has to tell the jury at multiple points that Tim's wild conjecture during his opening and closing statements, as well as the time he holds up a sign reading "THE CHINA CONNECTION," are not evidence.
    • The jury is also reminded not to take Tim's outbursts into account when deciding his guilt in the felony murders.
    • Tim tries to have witnesses' testimony struck the moment they start saying things that don't go his way, or for saying incredibly petty slights against his character.
    • After Manuel is outed as having forged evidence on Tim's orders, his entire testimony is thrown out.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir": Inverted. Tim repeatedly refers to to Judge Szymczyk as simply "Judge" when addressing him, instead of the proper "Your Honor."
  • Felony Murder: Tim is charged with twenty counts of felony murder, since he handed out toxic vape pens without any warning that they were dangerous while hosting an illegal music festival.
  • Fly Crazy: Tim blames his erratic swatting and disruptive gestures on the first day on a fly in the courtroom. At one point in the footage, a fly actually is visible, but it's possible he was intending to lie anyway.
  • A Fool for a Client: After what he felt was a lackluster first day of cross-examination, Tim fires his lawyer Mark Dwyer and chooses to represent himself.
  • Forged Message: Dr. San's alleged confession note where he admits full responsibility and says Tim is innocent is read out loud by Manuel. However, he reveals that it was given to him by Tim that day, and is obviously written on the same paper as Tim's legal pad.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • Before the courtroom proceedings start on Day 5, Tim can be seen talking to Manuel—likely coaching him on how to give his perjurious testimony.
    • That same day, Gregg walks up to Miriam Waymon and gives her a (likely unrequested and unwanted) VHS copy of the 2003 movie Levity. She politely thanks him and puts it in her suitcase.
  • Hollywood Law: Largely averted. While there are some concessions for storytelling, the series sticks rather closely to actual legal proceedings. This is helped by several of the actors having actual legal backgrounds. Tim, on the other hand, is the exception:
    • He thinks that if a single part of an employee's testimony is invalidated, then their entire testimony is thrown out.
    • He tries to present Smoking Gun evidence (which was actually forged) in the middle of trial, completely foregoing the discovery phase of the trial.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Tim thinks he has the Constitutional right to strike employees who misbehave, including people who testify against him in a court of law, as long as they're still under his employment.
  • Ironic Echo: When Orion Jaxx says his original praise for the festival was invalidated after he got stiffed and twenty concertgoers died, Tim tries to downplay it and says "That's for the jury to decide." Later, when Jaxx's testimony becomes unfavorable and Tim tries to have it stricken from the record, Judge Szymczyk smugly tells him, "As you noted earlier, that will be up to the jury to decide, won't it?"
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Tim is completely correct that he does have the right to call expert witnesses and compensate them for their testimony. It's just that expert witnesses usually aren't used to settle a debate with your friend about the Star Trek movies in the middle of court.
  • Jury and Witness Tampering: In spades. Besides paying several witnesses in hopes of getting favorable testimony, Tim outright threatens Mark Proksch with bodily harm for testifying against him.
  • Kangaroo Court: Tim feels that the trial is one, and emphatically refers to it as such several times.
  • Karma Houdini: Tim escapes all of the murder charges due to a hung jury, resulting in his case being ruled a mistrial.
  • Law Procedural: The entire miniseries is one.
  • Longer-Than-Life Sentence: The total time served for Tim if he were convicted of all twenty felony murder charges is 370 years.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Nearly everyone involved in the trial, save for Tim and his bandmates, feels that the outcome was one.
  • Mocking the Mourner: Tim semi-intentionally does this when Amanda Davis, mother of one of the Electric Sun victims, takes the stand.
    Miriam Waymon: Your daughter was seventeen when she left you.
    Amanda Davis: Yes, she was seventeen.
    Miriam Waymon: If there was anything you could say to her, what would that be?
    Tim Heidecker: Objection, speculative!
  • Must Have Caffeine: Tim drinks a Sprite every day for a caffeine fix, unaware that it's caffeine free.
  • Not Proven: Tim is ultimately not found guilty because the jury couldn't reach a unanimous verdict, and a mistrial is declared.
  • Penultimate Outburst:
    • Judge Szymczyk gives several final warnings to Tim for his behavior in court. Tim doesn't change his behavior and gets hit with two "contempt of court" charges.
    • Gregg gets a similar warning from Judge Szymczyk when he repeatedly tries to insist that Tim is wrong about the Star Trek movies. He, too, gets escorted out by the bailiff, but doesn't net any additional charges.
  • Rogue Juror: The trial ends in a mistrial because one juror refuses to reach a "guilty" verdict with the other eleven.
  • Running Gag: There are multiple gags that carry over from the On Cinema franchise:
    • When Gregg takes the stand, he opens by saying "Hey, guys!"
    • The debate over whether Star Trek II or Star Trek IV is set in San Francisco has been going on for over 6 years by the time of the miniseries, stretching all the way back to season one of the On Cinema podcast.
    • Similarly, Tim's accusations that Gregg has not seen Sully have been ongoing since season 8 of On Cinema.
  • Smoking Gun:
    • The prosecution has several, most notably footage of Dr. San's interrogation where he admits that he and Tim were partners in making the vape pens.
    • Tim tries to make his own with the forged confession note from Dr. San.
  • Sneeze Interruption: Tim attempts to interrupt Rosetti's opening statement with excessive coughing.
  • Stock Legal Phrases: Tim tries to use them properly, but ends up ineffective at best or harming his case at worst.
  • Stern Old Judge: Judge Edward Szymczyk fits this trope to a T, and has no tolerance for Tim's misbehavior beyond the bare minimum the law requires.
  • That Was Objectionable: Many of Tim's objections are for baseless reasons, or rooted in incredibly flimsy understandings of law. He tends to throw them out when a witness is starting to say things that put him in a bad light.