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Plea of insanity, p.17
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       Plea of Insanity, p.17

           Jilliane Hoffman
 

  ‘Hey there,’ she said hesitantly. ‘Did I miss a lot?’

  ‘Nah,’ said Lat, rising. ‘We’re waiting on your boy to get off the phone, anyway,’ he said, coming around from behind the chair and motioning for her to take his seat. ‘Sit, please, Julia. I like to stand.’ He kicked the boxes at Brill’s feet. ‘Look. We brought you a big present.’

  ‘I thought your name was Julie,’ said Brill, scratching his head, as if trying to remember something.

  Lat slapped the back of Brill’s head. ‘Smooth. And so chivalrous. Lazy bastard. He gets more obnoxious the longer you know him, Julia, but he does kind of grow on you after a while. Like mold.’

  ‘What? I’ve got a corn,’ Brill said, lifting his foot and waving it in Lat’s direction. ‘I can’t stand.’

  ‘How was Philadelphia?’ Julia asked. ‘How’s the family doing?’

  ‘We were just telling Bellido. Apparently our defendant had a wandering eye,’

  ‘For his wife’s baby sister,’ Brill finished with a laugh.

  ‘And there’s more. The semen on Jennifer’s shirt isn’t our guy’s,’ said Lat, leaning up against one of Rick’s bookcases.

  ‘Huh?’ she asked, stunned. ‘Whose is it?’

  ‘That’s the question of the day,’ Lat said, tapping his pen absently against the spine of Practical Investigation of Sex Crimes: A Strategic and Operational Approach. ‘We ran the swab again, just to be sure. We’ve been trying to find the lawn boy our desperate housewife might have taken up with, but so far no one’s come forward to claim ownership. While Jennifer didn’t have too many friends here, the girlfriends that she did keep play dates with all say there was no one else. At least not that they knew of. They thought everything seemed just dandy in the bedroom department at home. She was talking about having a fourth. Of course, none of them had actually met the husband of the year.’

  Julia hadn’t seen John Latarrino since the day he’d shown up in Farley’s courtroom with the news that David Marquette was hitching a ride out of town. His dark-blond hair was a little bit longer and a little bit blonder than she remembered it, and the rough, three-day stubble gone from his face. He wore Nikes with jeans, and a silk black mock-turtlenecksweater that definitely wasn’t tight, but didn’t need to be. It was obvious he had a nice body. Out of habit, she glanced down and wondered why there was no ring on his finger. ‘Was it a rape, then?’ she asked. ‘Were we wrong about him?’

  ‘There was no other evidence of rape trauma. They did the kit. The semen could have been days, weeks, even months old for all we know,’ Lat said.

  ‘Months?’ she asked skeptically.

  ‘Think Monica Lewinsky, Jules,’ said Brill.

  She made a face, at both the thought and the nickname.

  ‘The point is, there’s still no evidence to support a burglary gone bad, if that’s what you’re thinking,’ Lat continued, remembering Julia’s persistent questions at the Marquette house. We have some more interviews to go back and finish up, but everything still points to Marquette, including the two-million-dollar insurance policy we found, the alarm, the lack of forced entry, his own kid screaming Daddy’s name at the nine-eleven operator, and the knife in his gut with his prints all over it. At least the patterns matched on that. That’s our weapon.’

  ‘And that’s enough for an indictment,’ Rickadded, spinning his chair around. ‘Unfortunately it might mean our victim comes to the table with a few issues, which may or may not be relevant at trial. Even if she did have an affair, it doesn’t make her a bad person,’ he chuckled. ‘Hey there, Julia,’ he said acknowledging her from across the room with an intimate smile. A smile that she hoped didn’t let everyone else know that he thought she was good in bed last night.

  She felt her cheeks betray her thoughts and she quickly looked down at the box on the floor. ‘I got stuck in court,’ she began.

  ‘I figured,’ replied Rick. ‘That judge of yours. Do the boys here know who’s got our case?’

  ‘Who?’ asked Lat skeptically, looking at both of them.

  ‘Len Farley,’ Julia replied, with more than a hint of resignation.

  ‘No shit,’ said Brill with a laugh. ‘Well doesn’t this just get better and better? First we get you, Bellido, and now we have that old fart. I wonder who’s going to win the wrestling match for the cameras?’

  Lat was liking Brill more and more.

  ‘Funny,’ said Rick. ‘Alright, Julia, you missed me swearing at them. So let’s finish this up and get this thing ready for the Grand Jury. We still have some work to do.’

  ‘Any idea what the defense is gonna be?’ asked Lat as he reached in the box for his accordion file.

  ‘Even if he could knock around a manslaughter or self-defense with the wife, he can’t run from the kids. My bet’s on the one-armed man who reset the house alarm right before he ran past the cops pulling in the driveway.’

  ‘And when Mel Levenson finds out about that semen stain, it’s gonna play right into his defense. A one-armed man with no staying power,’ cracked Brill with another chuckle.

  ‘Maybe he’s posturing for a plea. You know, Mel’s been around a long while. He’s not shy about trying out a new defense when one of his scumbag clients boxes him into a corner. Any attorney worth his weight will tell you it’s better to come out the door with both fists swinging – you’re a hundred times more likely to hit something than the guy that doesn’t do shit to defend himself. It only takes one juror to fuckup a verdict’, finished Rickcautiously. ‘So just what defense Levenson’s going to try and mount remains the question of the day. The trickis to try and see the punch before he throws it.’

  30

  On Wednesday, 2nd November, at three thirty in the afternoon, the Grand Jury returned an indictment charging Dr David Alain Marquette with four counts of first-degree murder. The thirteen men and eight women who comprised the jury had deliberated a little under twenty minutes. Although the concurrence of only twelve was needed to indict, Martin Yars reported to Rickthat he had it on good authority the vote was unanimous. By law, the substance of Grand Jury deliberations – including the actual vote – was supposed to be kept secret.

  Marquette’s arraignment was the following morning at nine before Judge Farley and the courthouse was definitely jumping. On three, Judge Flowers was trying a thirteen-year-old aspiring serial killer for slitting the throat of his best buddy in their middle-school bathroom. On five, Judge Macias was sentencing a nineteen-year-old to life in prison for the shotgun murder of a drug dealer and his hard-nosed mother. At eleven o’clockin 6–10, Judge Houchens would be hearing a motion to suppress the statements of a father accused of molesting his five-year-old twin daughters and giving them gonorrhea while on a church camping trip. Arson in 2–6 before Judge Johnson. Home invasion in 2–10, cocaine trafficking, 5–7. Picka courtroom – any courtroom – and you’d be sure to be horrified. But as Julia hurried across the street, dodging raindrops and puddles the size of small lakes along the way, she knew it was State vs. Marquette that was drawing the crowd. There was a pile-up of local news trucks in front of the courthouse, their monstrous satellite antennas towering forty, fifty feet into the downpour.

  It was funny, she thought, as she ran past them in her now-ruined new suede heels, you never knew what would make a headline. Like a sleeper-of-the-year at the box office, or a best-selling novel from an unknown writer, you just could never predict what would strike the public’s nerve and what wouldn’t. Some cases made a lot of noise in the beginning, but faded to barely a mention in the local section as the case made its way through the process and interest inexplicably petered out. Others never hit the paper at all. The aberrant exceptions – the Lyle and Erik Menendezes, Scott Petersons, O. J. Simpsons, Michael Jacksons, Bill Bantlings – those were the defendants who grasped and held the ultra-elusive national attention. Those were the big-name cases that made and ruined careers and fixated an entire country of workaholics in front of their TVs in the middle of busy a
fternoons just to watch a verdict be delivered.

  Fortunately, that kind of intense media scrutiny wasn’t the case here. At least, not yet. But while David Marquette might not be making the headline desk over at Good Morning America or CNN, there was no denying he’d attracted and kept the fickle attention of the local desensitized press here in Miami. And that was intimidating enough for Julia. She spotted the jumble of cameras and the familiar faces she usually watched report the eleven o’clocknews as soon as she stepped off the escalator, all gathered in front of the grand mahogany doors of 4–10. Corrections had set up shop with another search table, metal detector and an extra set of plastic stanchions. A decent crowd of curious onlookers lingered to watch what was not going on, thickening the already-congested morning hallway.

  She took a deep breath as butterflies began to flutter furiously about in the pit of her stomach. She’d never been a newsmonger, or had a lifelong desire to ‘be on TV’, but seeing the cameras and knowing that they were here on her case made her more than just a little anxious. It was a few minutes to nine, and Rickwas either inside already, or, as was more likely the case, still across the street sipping coffee in his office and flipping through the paper. He hated sitting around any courtroom waiting for court to start, so Julia knew she was probably the first to be making an appearance for Team State. She worried about doing or saying the wrong thing in front of all the cameras and familiar-faced reporters who were sure to ask for her thoughts and comments.

  She needn’t have worried. She walked right past everyone and into the courtroom without anybody even asking her for the time of day. Inside, a jabbering, excited crowd of correction officers, attorneys, cops, defendants and witnesses filled the courtroom. Most were there for cases other than State vs. Marquette, but Julia suspected the tripod-mounted cameras in both corners of the room had definitely added to both the crowd and the excitement. Farley had no problem with the limelight and being in it every night on the evening news. In fact, he was probably backstage right now, chomping at the bit to come out and ruin someone’s day in front of a TV audience.

  She looked over at the jury box as she made her way up the aisle and into the gallery, but the in-custody defendants had not yet been brought over and the box was empty. She settled into a seat against the wall on the State’s side. Karyn was chatting with an ECU prosecutor by the podium, and Julia flashed her a smile, but all she got backwas a cool, indifferent nod. It was hard not to take it personally; things had definitely been strained between them since the First Appearance. Thankfully, the strange, potentially contagious aloofness that Rickhad warned her to watch out for had not spread to anyone else in the office yet. Of course, it was only the arraignment, and her involvement on the case certainly hadn’t been announced to the world.

  She glanced over at the still-empty jury box. Although she’d seen his face in photos and on the First Appearance tape, in just a few moments she would finally get to see Dr David Marquette in person. She’d never been as curious, as excited, as angry, or as scared to meet one of her defendants before. A million strange emotions charged the adrenaline that pulsed through her veins.

  Julia had seen killers before – chained and shackled and only steps away in a jury box or behind a defense table. In Miami courtrooms, they were not that uncommon a sight. But even though she’d met more than her fair share of bad people on this earth, she still needed to lookwhenever a murderer was brought into the room or stepped up to the podium as the prosecutor called out priors. Look and see the person who’d taken someone else’s lifeblood with the pull of a trigger or the quickjab of a knife. Look and see if there was anyone there, if there was anything left that was human in his eyes. She always expected those defendants – the murderers – to lookremarkably different somehow, to sound different, to bear a sign or a disfiguring stain or a mark– something, anything that one could immediately recognize as that of a killer. Of one who was capable of committing murder. But more often than not, it was frightening how completely normal a killer could look …

  Outside in the hallway, the press must’ve pounced on prey. Everyone turned to lookas the doors swung open and Dr Alain Marquette and his wife both hurried in, closely tailed by Mel Levenson and Stan Grossbach. Insistent reporters, held back at the door by Corrections, continued to shout out questions that were not being answered. Dr Marquette kept his arm protectively around his wife’s shoulders as he ushered her to the front row of seats. But even with her head hung low, it was hard to hide the yellowing bruises under her puffy, red-rimmed eyes and the white bandage across her nose – long-lasting souvenirs, presumably, from her fall outside Ryder. Julia watched them for a long moment. Nina Marquette was a large, statuesque woman, elegantly styled, with strong features and squared shoulders. Julia suspected she dominated a room on most occasions. But not today. Today she looked frightened and overwhelmed, small for her size. She looked like a woman who had been crying for days, maybe even weeks, on end.

  How did it feel to be the parents of a killer? How did it feel to have created a human being so reviled, so loathed – a person who would grow up to murder his own children in cold blood? She wondered if the Marquettes felt any sense of responsibility for the sins of their son. Were there warning signs that they chose to ignore over the years? Was there anything that they could have done that might have made a difference? She supposed it must be doubly hard for them – they’d violently lost their daughter-in-law and grandchildren. They had them to mourn, too, although she knew that friends and family closest to Jennifer had discouraged their presence at the funerals. Now they stood to lose their son – not to a prison cell where they could maybe visit once a week, but to a needle that would stop his heart and kill him, too. And they would not be allowed to mourn him when he passed, either. They were just supposed to watch quietly with the rest of the witnesses when the warden pulled the blackcurtain back and the crowd outside the prison gates began to cheer.

  The door to the jury room suddenly opened, pulling her out of her troubling thoughts. A human chain of defendants shuffled into the courtroom, chains rattling and mouths running as Corrections barked instructions. Fresh from the farm across the street, most looked mean and tough and larger than life somehow – no matter the physical stature – with their tattoos and piercings and gangsta attitudes. All except one. Towing the back of the line, and separated from the others by a few chain lengths, was a slight man in physical comparison, wearing a red jumpsuit, looking down, his face hidden from view. An electric murmur ran through the spectators as they asked each other, ‘Is that him? Is that the doctor?’

  Without any warning, the door to the judge’s hall opened and Jefferson, the bailiff, stepped out. Before he could even open his mouth, the courtroom rose to its feet as a sour-faced Judge Farley rushed from behind him to the bench.

  ‘All rise! No beepers, no cellphones! No children, no talking! Court is now in session,’ Jefferson hesitantly shouted. ‘The Honorable Judge Leonard Farley presiding. Be seated and be quiet!’ Jefferson was relatively new to his job. He looked back at the judge for a nod of approval, but Farley was giving out none of that today.

  The courtroom quickly settled into quiet as the judge stirred his coffee and surveyed his kingdom, seemingly oblivious to the cameras and the crowd presence. Even the defendants in the box shut up, as the judge’s reputation for not taking shit stretched across the street and upstate, as well. Julia saw John Latarrino and Steve Brill slip in the back of the courtroom and move to a spot up against the wall, next to Dayanara, who’d popped in for support and to get a lookat ‘the sonofabitch’ herself. Lat smiled and gave a short wave. She smiled back. Allies, finally.

  ‘Alright,’ Farley began after a moment, studying the long line of attorneys that already snaked behind the podiums. ‘It looks like we’ve got a full house today. Let’s get this party started. Who’s first, Ivonne?’

  31

  Julia prayed that Rick would walk fast as Ivonne called calendar and the parade of defen
se attorneys slowly worked their way up to the podium. Farley hated passing cases for attorneys who weren’t present, and she definitely didn’t want to be the first one to face his wrath this morning. Just as the room began to get really hot and Stan Grossbach moved into the number-three position, the muffled shouts of the press started up in the halls once again. The courtroom door opened, the crowd hushed momentarily, and Rick strode in, well-dressed and ready to save the day.

  ‘Mr Bellido,’ Farley said, raising a lip – the closest Julia had ever seen to a smile. ‘Let me guess. You’re here on—’

  ‘The State versus David Marquette. Page nine. Good morning, Your Honor,’ Rickanswered back smoothly as he made his way up the aisle. ‘Ricardo Bellido for the State,’ he said to the court reporter with just a hint of a Spanish accent that Julia had not heard before. Somehow he’d gotten to the head of the line and no one had complained.

  ‘I heard this was coming my way,’ said the judge, waving off the defense attorney at the podium, whose mouth was still open and in mid-sentence. Mel lumbered his way up and bumped the fly-catcher back into line.

  ‘Good morning, Judge,’ Mel said gruffly. He flashed a familiar smile at the judge as Stan headed over to the jury box. ‘Mel Levenson and Stan Grossbach for the defendant, Dr David Marquette. I’ve already filed my appearance.’

  ‘Good to see you, Mel. I heard your office was handling this,’ Farley said. ‘Looks like we’ve got quite a crowd.’ In between careers as a prosecutor and then a defense attorney, Mel Levenson used to be a Circuit Court judge. In fact, he’d had the courtroom down the hall from Farley. That was a number of years ago, but the Good Ol’ Boys Club offered lifetime memberships. The judge leaned back in his seat and raised his lip once again. ‘I’ll tell you, gentlemen, this is going to be some match-up. Tyson versus Holyfield. Alright, let’s get this party started.’

  ‘Page nine, State vs. David Alain Marquette, felony case number F05-43254,’ said Ivonne. ‘Today is the twenty-first day, Your Honor.’

 
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