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Plea of insanity, p.21
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       Plea of Insanity, p.21

           Jilliane Hoffman

  Then, without another word, he picked her up and carried her into his bedroom.


  ‘Hool-ee-ah!’ The voice called across the lobby of the Graham Building. ‘Hool-ee-ah!’

  Because it sounded nothing like her actual name, Julia kept walking with the crowd from the elevator across the lobby, dragging three humongous file boxes on a metal dolly behind her. As usual, she was running late, and today was her plea day, which the judge began right after morning calendar. She’d gotten three new cases this week alone, and five others in the two weeks before that, so just to keep her already unmanageable docket status quo since her last plea day, Julia knew she’d have to either try, plea, or in some other way get rid of, at least eight cases. With the state guidelines as strict as they were, and half her defendants qualifying either as habitual offenders or for minimum-mandatory sentences, she knew it wasn’t likely she’d be able to plea much out, unless the PD was in a good mood and willing to work with her on a bunch of crap drug cases. If not, she’d probably be in trial all next week, and because she’d surprised Farley yesterday by announcing she was counsel on Marquette – thereby making him look unprepared in front of the cameras – there was a strong chance the judge would look to even the score by sending her to back-up court the week after that.


  The voice was almost at the level of an insistent scream now, and as people turned to look, so, finally, did Julia. That was when she spotted an obviously annoyed Marisol Alfonso across the crowded lobby. Dressed in a light-pinkcorduroy mini-skirt and matching jacket, she practically blended in with the dull Pepto-Bismol-colored lobby walls behind her.

  ‘Hool-ee-ah! Over here, honey!’ With one hand on her pinkhip, the other impatiently waved Julia over. Marisol her self did not move an inch.

  There was really only one reason why Julia, already stressed and already late, actually turned around and began to walk quickly back across the lobby with a smile on her face – and even she knew it was pathetic. ‘Hi there, Marisol,’ she said sweetly as she rushed up. ‘I’m running really late,’ she began, trying hard not to sound impatient.

  ‘What? You no hear me calling you?’ Marisol said with a frown, her fleshy face growing dark.

  ‘No, I guess not. I’m in a real rush and I was thinking,’ Julia replied. Perhaps if you’d actually said my name right I might have heard you, was what she wanted to say, but, of course, didn’t.

  ‘Tha’s alright,’ Marisol said, dismissing the excuse with a wave of her hand. As quickly as it had come, the frown was gone, replaced by a big, toothy grin.

  Julia could picture Marisol nailing a boyfriend in the head with a frying pan one minute, and then having hot sex with him on the kitchen floor the next. Her on/off switch flicked fast. Way too fast. ‘What’s up?’ she asked.

  ‘Look,’ Marisol said, dangling a yellow mailing envelope in front of her, ‘I have something for you. It just came in and I was going to bring it upstairs to Rick, but I thought maybe you want to see it first. Ees, ah, on your case with him. The one from yesterday. The doc-door.’ She leaned in a little closer and grabbed Julia by the wrist, with her long pinkclaws and jingling bracelets. The dark look was back. ‘My friend in the mailroom says it come in this morning by messenger. He says ees really important,’ she said with a wink of her ultra-long lashes, dragging out the syllables in the word ‘really’ for as long as possible. ‘I thought you should take it upstairs yourself.’

  Julia didn’t know if Marisol was just trying to spare her self a trip backup to the second floor, or if she was really trying to help her out. Either way, she figured this must be progress. ‘Sure. Thanks,’ she said with a nod of her head and a smile. ‘I’ll give it to Rick. I’m heading over to court—’

  Marisol shook her head and the dark look disappeared again, replaced by another pinksmile. ‘Don’t wait, honey. My friend says you need to look at this now,’ she said with a toss of her blackmane before walking off. She held her hand up to silence any further discussion. ‘You can thank me later,’ she called back over her shoulder and then teetered off into the lobby crowd on a pair of three-inch pink platforms.

  Julia looked down at the envelope and saw that it was already sliced open. She slipped her hand in and brought out a five-page notice, neatly paper-clipped together in the corner and styled The State of Florida vs. David Alain Marquette. It was already stamped by the SAO mailroom with today’s date, and the time of 9:43 a.m.

  Less than thirty seconds later, she was running like hell for the elevator.


  With Marisol busy getting coffee in the lunchroom, there was no one to call down to Rick’s office anyway, and no point in calling to announce her self. Besides, although they weren’t up to steady date-nights yet, they should at least be at the point in their relationship where her presence in his office didn’t always have to be announced by his secretary – Major Crimes Assistant Division Chief or not. She walked down the hall as fast as she could, past the secretarial pool and a sour-faced, surprised Grandma at the copy machine.

  ‘Come in,’ Rick called out gruffly when she knocked at the door, but he actually looked pleasantly surprised when she opened it. ‘Hey there,’ he said, breaking into an intimate smile and settling back into his chair with a mug of coffee.

  ‘Hey yourself. Good morning.’

  ‘What a coincidence. I was just thinking about last night. Mmmm …’ he said, with a shake of his head. ‘Sit down. Are you just getting back from court?’

  She shook her head and took a seat in front of his desk. ‘It’s my plea day. I was on my way across the street when I ran into Marisol downstairs. She handed me something that got clocked into the mailroom less than a half-hour ago on Marquette. It was brought over by messenger from Mel Levenson’s office.’

  ‘Okay. What is it?’ he asked slowly, trying hard to read her expression. The smile disappeared.

  ‘It’s a change of plea,’ she said, handing him the envelope across his desk.

  ‘A change of plea? What the hell do you mean?’ he asked. Now his face grew dark and suspicious. ‘Is Mel throwing in the towel already and pleading guilty? Saving the taxpayers the time and trouble of a trial? How kind.’ But Julia could tell by the look on his face that he wasn’t joking. And she also thought he’d just guessed what was coming.

  ‘It’s a 3.216 notice. He’s pleading insanity.’

  ‘You’re kidding me.’

  ‘I’m not.’

  He slammed his coffee cup down on the desk. Coffee sprayed everywhere, but he ignored it. He stroked a long finger against his temple and said nothing for a minute while he stared down at the envelope she’d just handed him. ‘Surprise, surprise,’ he finally said, but more to himself, she thought, than to her. ‘That damn freaked-out blank look in court. All the sickness crap from his dad. I should have seen this coming. The set-up.’ He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a stack of napkins. He shook his head while he mopped up the coffee splatter. ‘I thought Levenson might try an insanity defense out once he realized he wasn’t gonna get the one-armed man past that alarm and an army of cops on the front lawn. But, you know, maybe it’s smarter for him to go in full force with an insanity claim from the beginning, even before discovery. Maybe this way he figures he’ll have a better shot at me actually believing him, and maybe give his piece-of-shit client a plea. Get him into a warm bed in Chattahoochee and off death row. Like that’s gonna happen,’ he scoffed. He reached for his reading glasses. ‘Have you ever had a defendant plead insanity before, Julia?’ he asked, abruptly regaining his composure.

  She shook her head.

  ‘You know why that is? Because insanity defenses don’t work.’ He slid the notice out of the envelope. ‘Not in Florida.In twenty years, I’ve seen maybe fifteen, sixteen attempts. Let me tell you, all but two have failed miserably. The two that did work, the guys were nuttier than fruitcakes and they weren’t charged with murder, so I actually pled them both NGI.’

  NGI stood for Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. At least she knew that much.

  ‘What’s the law on insanity in Florida?’ Julia asked. ‘The bar exam was a while ago.’ All she could remember from her law-school days was that each state had a different legal test for sanity, and that some were stricter than others.

  He shot her a quick look that she couldn’t quite read. ‘Florida follows M’Naghten, as about half the states in this country do. “Every person is presumed sane, and to be found not guilty by reason of insanity, a defendant must establish at the time of the act he suffered from such a defect of reason from disease of the mind such that he did not understand the nature of the act, or that it was wrong.” End quote. What does that mean? Unless Mel Levenson can come in and demonstrate that his client had some mental disease, defect or infirmity that remarkably no one ever knew he had until now, and because of that condition he either, A) didn’t know what the hell he was doing or, B) he knew what he was doing, but he didn’t know it was wrong, then he’s legally sane. The emphasis, Julia, is on cognition – on a defendant’s ability to know what’s going on and discern right from wrong. An inability to control one’s actions or rage is of no consequence, as long as that person knew what he was doing. So being commanded to kill by God or Satan or Santa, and irresistible impulses of rage due to seeing your wife fornicate with the plumber in the marital bed don’t fly in this state.’

  ‘Well, Mel Levenson just might have that first part down,’ she said quietly as Rick started to read.

  ‘What first part?’ he asked, looking back up at her, his glasses precariously perched on the tip of his nose.

  She blew out a low breath. ‘The mental disease, defect or infirmity part. Keep reading – it’s all in there. Levenson is claiming David Marquette’s schizophrenic.’


  They sat in silence while Rick finished reading. When he was done, he spun his chair around to look out the window at the Miami skyline and the overpass of the Dolphin Expressway, which, even though the HOV signs all said it was past rush hour, still looked like a parking lot. A few more minutes passed in silence. Then, without a word, he spun backaround, picked up the phone and dialed, staring at Julia somberly as he did. ‘This is Bellido,’ he said in a quiet, controlled voice, though obviously angry. ‘I need you to call me the second you get this message. I’m in my office, or try my cell, 305-794-0114. We have a problem.’ Then he hung up and turned back to the window.

  She wasn’t sure, but Julia could pretty much guess that the call was made to one John Latarrino. And she could also venture a guess that Lat had seen who was calling him and let it go directly to voicemail. Despite displaying a unified front at yesterday’s arraignment, she knew things were tense between the two men, although she had yet to figure out why. This latest news was definitely not gonna make their bond any stronger. Latarrino was the lead, the one who had conducted the interviews, asked the questions, written the reports. Even though the investigation had only just begun, and no one had suspected the case would take this direction, she knew Rick hated being caught unawares. Chances were that Lat would take some heat for that misfortune, especially if, in Rick’s eyes, that investigation should have raised everyone’s suspicions a while back.

  ‘What now?’ she finally asked, breaking the silence.

  Rick blew out a long, slow breath. ‘We get both Lat and Brill in here. We get them to dig up everything and anything on Dr David Marquette – dating from the day he was born to what he ate for breakfast this morning in DCJ.’ He spun backaround to face her. ‘There’s no way something like this should come as such a big surprise, which means either we’re all idiots or, much more likely, Marquette’s faking it, because there is no past.’

  ‘Levenson claims Marquette spent some time in a psychiatric hospital outside of Chicago when he was younger, but under an alias. That’s probably why no one knew about it,’ she offered. ‘I mean, how could they? No one in Marquette’s family is talking to us, and Jennifer’s family obviously didn’t know. Maybe Jennifer didn’t even know. Remember what Lat said about her family holding back, seeing only what it was they wanted to see all these years?’

  ‘Well we sure as hell know now. Now we get ourselves a court order and get those medical records from his three-weekstint at Parker Hills, along with any other psych or medical records he might have here in Miami. I didn’t know that he was being housed on nine over at DCJ. Where to cell an inmate is a CO decision. Nine’s the crazy floor. They sometimes put high-security inmates there who’re on suicide watch. Maybe Marquette picked up a couple of ideas while he’s been up there. We interview every guard who works on that floor to see what Marquette’s like when his lawyer’s not around and the cameras aren’t looking and the jail doc’s not taking notes. We research all we can about the disease, in the event he actually does have it: what it is; what causes it; what the treatment options are; what the effects of the illness are. I know some of the answers from cases I’ve had over the years, but I’m betting you don’t, and I need current information. Because what I do know is this: just because you’re schizo, or manic, or have whatever flavor-of-the-day mental illness there might be out there, that doesn’t give you a license to kill without responsibility. Especially not here in Florida. And not with me.’ He paused. ‘Have you handled a competency hearing before?’

  She so badly wanted to tell him yes, but she couldn’t. She shook her head.

  He sighed and motioned to her West’s Criminal Laws and Rules soft cover book that sat on top of her file boxes. She could tell in just that one split second that he was having second thoughts about her – the case was getting far too complicated for a rookie.

  ‘Rule 3.210, 3.211,’ he said. ‘I suggest you not just learn it, you memorize it. First up, besides being insane, Levenson is claiming Marquette’s incompetent to proceed to trial – which has nothing to do with his client’s sanity on the night of the murders, and everything to do with his ability to remain in the here and now during court proceedings. Insanity’s only a legal term – there’s no actual medical diagnosis of ‘insanity’. But before we get to have a trial to decide if he was legally insane, Farley first has to determine if he’s competent. Does he understand the nature of the charges against him and the penalties he’s facing? Does he understand what a lawyer is for, why he needs one? Will he sit in a chair at trial and assist his attorney or will he scream for the mothership in his pajamas?’

  He paused for a long moment, lost somewhere in his thoughts. ‘We can’t forget that this is a man who, just weeks ago, was performing surgery and lecturing on the beauty of hip replacements to colleagues at the AMA. We need to make sure both the judge and the psychiatrists know that. And ultimately, of course, a jury. Marquette’s educated and he’s bright, which makes him much more dangerous than your average criminal. And he’s facing four murder counts and a death sentence, which makes him much more desperate. It behooves him to try his best at winning a spot on the next bus going to the state mental hospital up in Chattahoochee.’

  ‘I don’t mean to be difficult,’ Julia interrupted softly, with a shake of her head, ‘and I know this is new for me, but what if he really is sick? I won’t pretend to know anything about schizophrenia, but you’re planning three steps ahead, as if he’s got to be faking. Isn’t there a real possibility that he could be ill and we just didn’t know enough to look for it before today?’

  She couldn’t forget those vacant albino-like eyes. Dead eyes. Staring at her. Staring through her. Her uneasy feeling from yesterday was still with her, and it was growing – spreading through her bones with a chill, settling in them like a cold for the winter. The deeper she was drawn in on Marquette, the closer she inevitably seemed to come back to her own past, no matter how much she resisted.

  This case … It’s too close, Julia. Too close … It can only bring … despair.

  She pushed Aunt Nora’s prophecy out of her head. ‘Maybe we should let the doctors who examine him decide.’<
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  ‘Almost every day,’ Rick began, with a shake of his head, because she obviously wasn’t getting it, ‘somewhere in this courthouse, someone tries to win a spot on that bus, Julia. Why? It’s simple. Because if they can get to Chattahoochee, then they can get out one day. It’s the golden ticket. And any time they might have to spend fooling the docs locked away in a mental hospital is not like life over at Florida State Prison. It’s a hell of a lot sweeter. For someone like David Marquette, who’s ultimately looking at either death row or life behind bars without the possibility of parole, Chattahoochee is the only door out. And, of course, if he’s ultimately found NGI, that’s it, you know. Once the doctors say he’s no longer a danger to himself or others, he walks away, free as a bird and there’s absolutely nothing either the State or a judge can do about it. No matter if he killed one person or a hundred – he walks.

  ‘Listen, I’ve seen everything from feces-throwing to devil-worshipping in a courtroom, but only two real nuts in twenty years. Two. Forgive me if I’m a bit skeptical when someone suddenly tells me they’re crazy. Someone who, as far as I know and you know at this moment, was fine until two days before he decided to Ginsu his entire family. We simply can’t afford to hedge the bet that the man’s a little off and let him take an extended vacation in Chattahoochee to collect his thoughts while we workout our case. If he’s found incompetent, it’ll be another six months before he comes up on calendar for report and another eval. That’s time spent in the loony bin perfecting the craft with the real loons, and time doesn’t help a prosecutor, Julia. Remember that. Witnesses forget, die, retire, relocate. Evidence gets lost and destroyed. Juries feel bad for defendants who have spent a long time locked away in a mental hospital. They tend to think there’s really something wrong with them. They tend to think they’re not responsible for their actions after all. They tend to acquit them. So Marquette’s competency is the first and most important hurdle we need to jump right now. After we get past that, then we can tackle his sanity.’

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