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Plea of insanity, p.18
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       Plea of Insanity, p.18

           Jilliane Hoffman
 

  ‘Is the defendant present?’ asked the judge, looking at the box.

  ‘He is,’ said Mel. ‘As are his parents, Your Honor.’

  Farley didn’t bother acknowledging them.

  Julia craned her neck, but Marquette’s face was still obscured. Someone began sniffling loudly. It was Marquette’s mother.

  ‘Please stop that,’ said the judge, annoyed.

  ‘As I think you know, the Grand Jury has indicted the defendant on four counts of first-degree murder. The indictment should be in the court file,’ said Rick, looking around the courtroom. His eyes caught Julia’s and he discreetly motioned with a nod of his head for her to come up beside him.

  ‘I have a copy of the indictment. We wave formal reading, enter a plea of not guilty and demand discovery,’ responded Mel.

  ‘Fifteen days,’ said the judge, taking a slug of his coffee. ‘Ivonne, what’s my calendar looking like?’

  Julia tooka breath and walked across the gallery to the podium as Ivonne began to toss out dates. She felt Karyn and the other prosecutors watching her, some probably wondering what she was doing up there. Others, as Rick had warned, perhaps jealous that she was.

  Across the room, David Marquette finally looked up.

  Julia sucked in a breath. She wasn’t sure exactly what she’d expected to see, but it definitely wasn’t what she saw. The young, handsome doctor with the soft face and easygoing, trusting smile that she’d seen in the hallway pictures was gone. His light skin was sallow and pale under the courtroom’s harsh lights; shadows made his well-defined cheekbones appear drawn and sunken, and either Corrections had purposely sized his jumpsuit wrong – which they were known to do on occasion with child molesters and other particularly repugnant inmates – or David Marquette had lost a lot of weight since he’d moved in. His tousled blond hair was now stringy and long, his face a matted carpet of blond/gray stubble. He clenched the jury-box railing so hard that Julia could see the raised vein lines in his chained hand. His strange, light-gray eyes stared out at nothing, vacant and lifeless, like that of a mannequin in a department-store window – watching everything but seeing nothing.

  Stan stood next to the box, whispering in his ear, most likely explaining the proceedings and the charges in the indictment. But whatever Stan was saying – whatever it was his client was hearing – the words were having no effect. When Farley began to recite some of the more grisly facts from the indictment after Mel requested a bond, the man didn’t even blink. A strange wave of goosebumps erupted across Julia’s skin, leaving her cold and clammy, and she finally had to lookaway. The whole strange scene reminded her of some nineteenth-century traveling circus that’d come to town and had finally unveiled the show’s main attraction – the hideous Human Monster, a freakchained and shackled to his stage. The terrified, fascinated audience gaped in fear and disgust at the very sight of him.

  ‘Look,’ Judge Farley said with a shake of his head, holding his hand up to silence Mel, ‘I’m not giving him a bond. If you want an Arthur Hearing, take your arguments to Judge Solly. That’s what she does and that’s all she does. If she wants to give you a bond, I guess I won’t have a problem with it. Although,’ he finished, looking over at Rick with a smirk and a smug lookin his eyes, ‘I’m pretty confident Mr Bellido will.’ The judge finally noticed Julia at his side. Maybe she was being paranoid, but she swore his bushy brow furrowed slightly.

  ‘Correct, Judge,’ Rick replied coolly. He reached across the aisle divide and, with a snap, handed a piece of paper to Mel. ‘Especially since the State intends to seek the death penalty in this matter. I’ve already filed my written notice with the court.’

  ‘I’ve got it right here,’ said Farley.

  ‘Naturally, we will be strenuously objecting to any release,’ said Rick.

  Another electric murmur buzzed the crowd. One of the defendants in the box started to cackle and another let out what sounded like a ‘Whoo-Whee!’ The judge shot them all a testy look. ‘I think your client might need to find someone to take care of both his patients and his houseplants for a while longer, Mr Levenson,’ he said when the courtroom had settled down. ‘Alright, let’s set a trial date. Give me something quick, Ivonne. I don’t want to die before I get a chance to try this thing.’

  ‘February ninth for report. February thirteenth for trial,’ replied Ivonne.

  ‘Whose weekis that?’ asked Farley.

  ‘That’s a B week.’

  ‘Fine. February ninth for report—’

  Julia looked at Rick. She was still a bit shocked over seeing Marquette and then there was the death-penalty announcement, which had just come as official news to her. ‘Julia Valenciano for the State,’ she interrupted, moving into the podium and clearing her throat. ‘Judge, excuse me, but that’s my week. I’d like to request you set Marquette down in an alternate week.’

  Farley frowned. ‘Ms Valenciano, this decision doesn’t concern you. Step back.’

  Obviously the judge had not yet heard the news. How ironic was it, she thought as she nibbled on the wall of her cheek, that of the twenty criminal Circuit Court judges in Miami that were assigned to handle the county’s forty thousand felony arrests each year, it was the Honorable Judge Leonard Farley who the computers had randomly spit out to hear this one. In a case that could catapult her career into another stratosphere, she’d beaten Las Vegas odds to get the one judge hell-bent on destroying it.

  ‘Ms Valenciano will be second-chairing this with me, Your Honor,’ Rickcoolly cut in. ‘I thinkwe’ll need a date that can accommodate her trial schedule as well.’

  The judge said nothing for a long moment while the courtroom sat in silence. Julia felt like she was naked in a room full of leering voyeurs. ‘Okay, Ivonne. Give me another date,’ he finally said. ‘One in an A week, please.’

  ‘February sixteenth for report. February twenty-first for trial. That’s the Tuesday after President’s Day.’

  ‘The sixteenth it is, people. I’ll see you all then,’ said Farley. ‘Motions in thirty. And no delays.’ He peered menacingly over his glasses. ‘As I’m sure Ms Valenciano here can tell all of you, I’ve got a very busy docket.’

  32

  ‘Wow. You’re famous now. Can I touch you?’ Dayanara asked with a laugh as she and Julia slipped into a booth in a Miami Subs a few blocks removed from the chaos that probably still lingered around the courthouse. ‘Even though you’re skinny, don’t forget the camera adds ten pounds.’

  ‘Very funny. Notice who Farley kept addressing in that courtroom, who it was the press wanted to interview. It wasn’t me, Day. Fame doesn’t become me.’

  ‘Give it a little time.’

  Julia made a face as Day rummaged through the abyss of her enormous purse. She dug out a box of Table Toppers – disposable kiddie placemats – stuck one to the table, and then neatly spread out her soda, burger and French fries, carefully covering all images of a smiling Dora the Explorer. ‘I wish they’d make these without the damn characters,’ she mumbled, sounding annoyed. ‘Speaking of people not wanting you to have fame, I saw your DC shooting optical death daggers your way as you ambled up to the podium. Bitch. I never liked her. What’s up with that?’

  Julia smiled and sipped at her iced tea. ‘Your guess is as good as mine. She’s none too happy I’m trying this, that’s for sure. She’s blaming her anger on the fact that I’m about three months behind on my dispos.’

  ‘Try more like six. I’ve seen your office floor. Or rather, I should say, I haven’t seen your office floor.’

  ‘Dispos are the least of my worries now.’

  ‘True,’ Day said as she wiped an alcohol pad over the disposable forkshe’d just ripped out of a sealed plastic baggie. ‘As a fellow self-professed workaholic, I have to say I’m beginning to worry about you, though. All you’re doing, all the time, is this case, girlfriend. I’d almost forgotten what you looked like, it’s been so long since we lunched. At least now I can turn on my TV at night and remind myse
lf, should I forget again.’ Through a bite of her burger that she held in hands wrapped up like a prizefighter in napkins, she asked, ‘Doesn’t that boyfriend of yours actually do anything besides stand up and take all the credit?’

  The press had pounced once again after court and Rick had held another impromptu press conference, this one downstairs in the lobby. For maybe a moment or two this morning – when Julia had first stepped out beside him into a crowd of cameras that no longer dismissed her – the attention was exciting. She thought about Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Nora mixing Bloody Marys poolside, proudly pointing their celery sticks at Jimmy’s portable Sony Watchman while their neighbors asked them to turn up the volume. But the initial excitement quickly faded, replaced by an uncomfortable, guilty sort of feeling that told her the limelight was just not for her. At least, not on this case. As the questions started up, she quickly fell away from the crowd that followed Rick around like he was the Pied Piper, ducking into a staircase off the judge’s back hallway. Lat and Brill apparently had the same idea; she saw them drive off a few minutes later as she made her way back to the Graham Building.

  ‘He’s not my boyfriend,’ Julia said. ‘At least, I don’t think he is, and that’s the price of being second seat on a murder, I guess. I get all the pre-files and the legwork. It’s fine. I learned a lot.’

  ‘Nice speech. Tell me, is Lover gonna let you actually do anything at trial? Like speak?’

  The thing about Day that Julia both admired and feared was that she always, always said what she thought – even if you didn’t like it, and even if she knew you weren’t gonna like it when she said it. You got what you saw with Dayanara. And like a lot of pit prosecutors – resentful, perhaps, of his revered reputation and much larger paycheck, and maybe put off by what they saw as arrogance and pomposity – Day didn’t like Rick Bellido. Tall tales of skirt chasing – around the office, courthouse and PD water coolers – didn’t help either. Then there was the rumor that he’d picked out the trial outfits of a senior Division Chief who he’d once tapped to try a Major Crimes murder with him – right down to the shade of her lipstickand the height of her heels. ‘If you let him so much as suggest the color earrings for you, Julia, I’ll hurt you. So help me,’ Day finished, menacingly shaking a forked fry at her, ‘you’ll go naked into that courtroom when my scissors find you.’

  ‘Down, Fido. That’s not ever gonna happen. I can assure you that dressing me has not come up. Undressing me, maybe …’ she laughed.

  Day held up her hands. ‘TMI. Too much information. Yeuch.’

  ‘Listen, I don’t know what he’ll let me do at trial,’ Julia continued, ‘but as the speech is supposed to go, “I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be here.” And stop calling him Lover; you’re gonna slip. No one knows anything about that. Please. I was desperate to talk and you were sworn to secrecy.’

  ‘Trust me, he’d be flattered to be known as your lover, honey. You make stunning arm candy. Men who nab young, beautiful girlfriends when they’re in the middle of a mid-life like to show them off. And while I hate to burst your bubble, don’t think that conclusion hasn’t already been drawn in everybody else’s mind after today.’

  ‘Maybe,’ Julia said, thoughtfully crunching on an onion ring. ‘But I’m certainly not going to confirm it. I want my reputation made on this case and that’s it. So make that young, beautiful and smart arm candy.’

  ‘I hate to break it to you, honey, but I didn’t include smart in the definition for a reason. Not because you aren’t, but because intelligence is not required for the job and is generally discouraged.’

  ‘Thanks,’ Julia said, raising an eyebrow.

  ‘You’re welcome. And that onion’s gonna give you bad breath. You never eat that stuff once you finally get yourself a man. Didn’t your momma ever tell you that?’ This time she pulled floss and a small bottle of Listerine out of her purse and pushed them across the table. ‘Thank me when the kids are born.’

  ‘You’re too much.’

  ‘Speaking of bearing children for someone, your detective’s hot. Not the lawn patch. The rebel. And he’s Italian. My favorite food. Yum.’

  Julia frowned and crunched another onion ring. ‘I’ll be sure to mention that to him.’

  ‘Please do. And don’t forget to credit the author.’ There was a slight pause before Day asked, ‘How does it feel to be on a death case? Are you okay with it? Pretty heavy shit.’

  ‘No. Yes. I’m not sure,’ Julia replied softly as the conversation subtly changed direction. ‘I didn’t know that was coming today, Day, so I can’t answer that question right now.’ She kept expecting things to be either black or white in the courtroom, like they’d always been. For her feelings to be as sure and as unwavering as they’d once seemed to be …

  Your client scores to twenty months state prison; take the plea or go to trial – that’s your choice.

  This is the law, right here in the statute, and this is what the law means, right here in the case. I didn’t write it and I didn’t interpret it, but you broke it and now here’s the penalty – conveniently spelled out for you, right here in the sentencing guidelines.

  Now the lines seemed to be dulling, the sharp colors that demarked the all-important boundaries of order were fading, and all she could see today was gray – a defense attorney’s favorite color – and it was making her uneasy.

  ‘As probably the only registered Democrat in this county,’ Day said, ‘I can tell you that I’m not a proponent of the death penalty. But your defendant, Julia, is a damn freak. Gives me the creeps just looking at him, the way he looked in court today. He’s got nothing – no emotion whatsoever. And those eyes of his – they’re like what you’d see on a horror-movie poster hanging outside the theater. Dead eyes. When the judge started talking about the things he did to those kids …’ she said with a shudder as she finished off the last bite of burger. ‘Well, you’re not gonna have any problem finding twelve people to vote for the needle. So be prepared, is all I’m saying.’

  Julia nibbled on her straw but said nothing. A Channel Ten news truck pulled into the crowded parking lot. She recognized one of the three faces that stepped out as a reporter from court and she turned her head away from the window. ‘Time to go,’ she said to Day.

  ‘Better prepare yourself for that, too,’ Dayanara said, slipping on her sunglasses and nodding in the direction of the trio as they came in and joined the long line at the counter. ‘I have a feeling you just might make the big time after all with this one. Forget Lover – you may need to hire a stylist to dress you.’

  ‘I’ll take that under advisement,’ Julia whispered, her head bowed, as the two of them ducked out the back door of the restaurant.

  33

  Charley Rifkin opened one of the gray double doors that led into the fourth-floor private office of the State Attorney and stuck his head in. ‘I’ve got Rick Bellido with me,’ he said.

  Jerry Tigler sat behind an enormous cherry desk, his slight body swallowed up in an oversized leather executive chair that was turned facing the row of windows and the skyline of Miami. Sheets of rain whipped against the glass, then ran down in jagged streaks, making the windows appear shattered from a distance. ‘Good, good,’ he answered absently, although he didn’t turn around. ‘Bring him in, Charley.’

  Rick straightened his tie and followed Rifkin into the State Attorney’s office, as he had a thousand times or more in his long career as a prosecutor. But instinctively, he knew this time was different.

  The Graham Building had been built only twelve years ago, but it would be at least another decade before the SAO would see one more penny from the state legislature for renovations. The room looked and felt tired: the mauve carpet was worn thin in a few spots; the gray walls scuffed and beaten from too many run-ins with office furniture.

  ‘Take a seat, Rick,’ said Rifkin, as he settled himself in one of the two leather chairs in front of the desk.

  A few moments passed in polite silen
ce. Finally, Tigler spun the chair around, leaned across the desk and shook Rick’s hand. He was smiling, but definitely distracted. ‘Rick, good to see you, son. How’d it go this morning?’

  ‘Good. You know we have Farley?’

  Tigler shrugged his small shoulders and settled back into his chair. ‘I heard. And yet you still said it’s going good. That’s encouraging.’

  ‘The case is pretty open and shut. I don’t think even Len Farley can screw it up,’ Rick replied with a laugh.

  ‘We need to get that disaster off the bench somehow,’ Tigler said, scratching at the back of his head. ‘I’m working on Putnam to put him over in civil where at least he can’t hurt anybody. Let the big boys over there try to oust him – hell, they got more clout and more money and a lot less patience than me. But, you know, there’s not much Gene Putnam’s gonna do. Lenny’s blood.’

  ‘Which means Len Farley isn’t going anywhere Len Farley doesn’t want to go,’ Rifkin finished with a resigned nod. ‘I was in court watching this morning, Jerry. Even with a cantankerous judge doing his best to muddy waters, your boy here did a great job. You think Mel’s gonna try and plead him, Ricky?’

  ‘I’m sure. What Mel’s going to try is to get his client a life sentence. But I don’t want a plea, Charley. The man killed his whole family. There’s a price to pay, and I’m going to make sure he pays it.’

  Rifkin let out a low whistle. ‘A dog with a bone.’

  ‘Send the message. Loud and clear to the masses. They’ll listen.’

  ‘You announced today?’ the State Attorney asked.

  ‘There was no sense in waiting, Jerry,’ Rickexplained. ‘The Grand Jury took twenty minutes to come back with an indictment. Martin was offering them tissues on their way out of the courthouse. The facts on this are so outrageous, the murders of the children cold-blooded and premeditated. I’ve definitely got the aggravators. If anyone deserves the death penalty, it’s gonna be this guy. I have no problems with it.’

 
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