Courting Disaster

From the book...

"Ms. Dent. Conference. Now." Judge Brent Goldberg threw the mute switch on his microphone.

Those jurors who still gave some semblance of being awake looked irritated at the delay. The end of the trial was in sight and they were only a quick verdict away from being released. Even my client, Cilatoy Theophile, a hair's breadth away from being convicted of aggravated robbery, wasn't interested in the latest development. He continued to pick his nails. I just hoped his nose wasn't next on the list.

His nonchalance was understandable since, at age nineteen, he was on his twentieth arrest. But I would have thought his first trial as an adult might generate some degree of involvement. Then again his cohort in crime, Milforte Desjarnes151;who squealed on Cilatoy in order to avoid his own hefty sentence151;also stared with hooded indifference from the witness stand.

Win or lose, the two would be back on the streets soon enough where they would either settle their differences with a gun or make up to rob again.

So why was I bothering?

Stop that, Carling, I ordered myself. Cilatoy had a right to a fair trial. He claimed his friend was the one who pistol whipped the guard, sending the woman to intensive care. Her head injury was so severe she had no recollection of the assault and hadn't been able to identify which man assaulted her.

The irony of taking on the defense of this case wasn't lost on me. After all, a year ago I had been in the victim's shoes, facing a long, torturous rehabilitation program to unscramble my own traumatized brain cells.

What would my former psychotherapist say if she could see me now? Would she label it another manifestation of my post-traumatic behavioral change? Or would she understand my need to face personal and professional demons?

Focus. I repeated my now daily chant. Focus.
I approached the bench. The state prosecutor, Rachel Sachs, could barely contain her smirk as she stood beside me.

Judge Goldberg's eyes were steely through his horn-rimmed glasses. "Where do you think you're going with that line of questioning, Ms. Dent? If your angle is a mistrial, think again. It's not going to happen. The prosecution has already disclosed the terms of the witness's plea deal." The judge's lips curled back in distaste on the last word.

Plea bargaining was one of the necessary evils of the American criminal system. Quite frankly, if Milforte's attorney hadn't been quicker on the draw, getting his client to turn on mine first, I would have done the same.

"You're trying to introduce collateral crimes evidence, counselor, and I won't have it," admonished the judge.

Of course I was. This robbery wasn't the first time my lovely client and the witness had victimized the Haitian community. But Cilatoy wasn't the brains of the operation.

"Your Honor, I'm trying to establish course and pattern. Always before my client has been the lookout."

"I'm not going to allow this line of questioning, Counselor. The prejudicial effect far outweighs any probative value. You'll have to find another way to impeach the witness."

"Yes, Your Honor." Damn. Screwed in the rulings again. But to give Judge Goldberg his due, I didn't think an appellate attorney would have a hope in hell to overturn the decisions made so far.

© 2011 Carol Stephenson

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