This paper attempts to explain the trajectory and unusual outcome of this courtroom encounter by applying Erving Goffman’s approach to interaction. It employs his notions of frame and footing, plus those of face, ritual deference and demeanour when they are useful. This perspective shows that, as well as the socially constituted power asymmetry, the participants create an interactive asymmetry in which the accused, Penelope Soto, although a canonically ratified participant, is sometimes effectively ‘de-ratified’. However, as the encounter progresses, Soto and the judge shift their footings back and forth such that into the court-hearing frame, another frame, that of the social encounter, is insinuated. This clash of frames is shown to be a major cause of the trajectory taken by the encounter. The Goffmanian perspective also points up the effect of the use of a video link for this encounter. This application of Goffman’s framework functions as a test of some of his concepts and the paper concludes with some comments and suggested elaborations.