WASHINGTON (CNN) – An episode of the television show "Perry Mason" influenced a young Sonia Sotomayor to become a prosecutor, she testified Wednesday at her confirmation hearing to become the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.
Sotomayor, 55, said the program starring Raymond Burr as a successful defense attorney awakened her to the fundamental role of the law.
She cited one particular episode, in which the Perry Mason character - after winning yet another case - consoles beleaguered prosecutor Hamilton Burger by noting it must be hard to expend such effort only to have charges dismissed.
"No, my job as a prosecutor is to do justice, and justice is served when a guilty man is convicted and an innocent man is not," she quoted the prosecutor as saying.
"That TV character said something that motivated my choices in life," Sotomayor said.
The original television show, based on the fictional character created by Erle Stanley Gardner, ran from 1957-66. There also were films and later television shows based on the Perry Mason character.
Later in the hearing, the newest member of the Senate and the Judiciary Committee - former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Al Franken - told Sotomayor he also watched "Perry Mason" as a child and asked if she knew of the one episode in which Mason lost the case.
"I wish I could remember the name of that case," Sotomayor said with a laugh, to which a deadpan Franken replied: "Didn't the White House prepare you?"
Several Web sites devoted to the show say there are two episodes in which Perry Mason loses to Hamilton Burger - "The Case of the Terrified Typist" and "The Case of the Deadly Verdict." But there is dissension as to whether the famous defense attorney really lost in the end, as Perry apparently manages to clear one of his clients afterward.