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Plea of insanity, p.34
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       Plea of Insanity, p.34

           Jilliane Hoffman

  There it was, out in the open. She’d finally said it. The night before she was going to pick a jury in the single most important case of her career, she’d finally said aloud what had been quietly gnawing at the back of every thought since David Marquette had pled NGImonths ago. Since Andy had come back into her life. Since she’d looked into the eyes of her own brother and instead of seeing a monster, had seen sorrow and frustration, confusion and anger, as he fought with invisible demons that Julia now knew didn’t just go away with medication and group therapy. Since she’d witnessed first-hand the effects of an insidious disease that took on many forms. A disease no one seemed to really understand, including the very doctors who treated it. Or diagnosed it.

  The same body, two completely different men. The same story, two completely different tales.

  Four different forensic psychiatrists had delivered two radically different, irreconcilable diagnoses of the same man. And so it would soon be up to a jury of twelve men and women – none of whom were likely to be an MD or have a degree in psychology or social work – to deliver the ultimate verdict: was Dr David Alain Marquette a brilliant psychopath or a paranoid schizophrenic? Brutal killer or selfless savior?

  Dr Jeykll or Mr Hyde?

  But Julia knew that those twelve jurors would look to the State to help guide them to the right decision. They would look to the State to present the evidence that David Marquette was the cold and calculated killer they had charged him with being.

  Julia Valenciano on behalf of the people of the State of Florida …

  Even if it was her trial partner who discredited the contrary opinions of other psychiatrists, the jury would look to her because she sat at that table. They would rely on her word, her arguments, her cross-examinations, her directs. And that was the problem. That was what kept her up all night, whispering her fears aloud in the dark. You could only play for one team and the sides had long ago been chosen – Julia Valenciano was on Team State.

  But what if they were wrong?

  ‘You’re kidding me, right?’ Rick asked after a long silence. ‘I guess not,’ he said with a sigh when she didn’t respond. He rolled away from her and onto his back.

  ‘What if we’re wrong? Imean, what if he really is sick?’ she asked. ‘Haven’t you ever just once wondered that, Rick? Haven’t you ever been unsure?’

  ‘Honestly, no. Look, Julia, you’ve been to the depos. You’ve read the reports. What’s there to wonder about? You’ve been a lawyer long enough to know that for enough money, you can find an expert to say just about anything for you. And that’s just what Mel has bought himself. Listen, honey, I’ve been at this job for twenty-plus years now, and I’ve seen some sick crimes and some sick people in that time. But what I’ve mostly seen is bad people pretending to be sick.’

  She was quiet for a long moment. ‘So you think most people fake it?’

  He almost laughed. ‘In the criminal justice system? Yes. I think most people fake it. Wouldn’t you? Look at what the man has to lose here.’

  ‘But do you believe that some people are mentally ill?’ She felt her stomach flip-flop. Never ask a question you don’t want to know the answer to.

  ‘Jesus,’ he said with a yawn looking over at the clock. ‘Most women like to cuddle after making love, Julia. Not cross-examine.’

  She said nothing.

  ‘Okay, I’ll bite.’ He propped himself up against the headboard and tried to look at her in the darkness. ‘Yes, I do think that a lot of people have mental problems. Serious ones, like schizophrenia and manic depression and maybe even post-partum psychosis. And I think that a lot of those that do, end up, unfortunately, spinning through the revolving doors of the system. It’s just a sad fact of life, sweetheart.

  ‘And Ifeel bad for those people,’ he continued when she still hadn’t said anything. ‘It must really suck to have something wrong with your head. But Idon’t believe in the “devil made me do it” crap, Julia. Idon’t. I think that even the mentally ill can control themselves and their actions. And if you do hear voices, Ibelieve you also know that it’s wrong and against the law to drown your five children in the family tub, no matter who’s telling you to do it.

  ‘Now before you count me in with the Tom Cruise “psychiatry is a fraud and there’s no such thing as a chemical imbalance” crowd,’ he continued, ‘let me just say this: while Imay be sympathetic to someone who’s mentally ill, most brutal killers in this world know exactly what they’re doing when they’re doing it. Just because the crime is sick or repulsive or heinous by all definitions normal, doesn’t mean the person who committed it is legally insane or, for that matter, mentally ill. People – even prosecutors sometimes – tend to look at those acts, at the crime itself, and think, “Jesus, there must be a reason someone turned out this way. He must be insane to burn someone alive or torture another human being or lock his own kids in a cage and slowly starve them to death.” Then come the psychiatrists, parading about with their DSMs and medical jargon, half of whom are bleeding hearts who want to believe everyone has something wrong with them. But the truth is, Julia, BTK knew exactly what he was doing when he broke into women’s houses, tied them up, and tortured them for hours before killing them. Just listen to his Dateline interview if you’re not so sure. Same goes for Cupid, when he drugged and raped and slaughtered those women, and Son of Sam when he trolled the streets of New York looking for couples to execute in the middle of the night, and the Menendez brothers when they blew their parents away with a shotgun to get a head start spending their inheritance. The list goes on, since the beginning of time. Pick up a paper anywhere in the damn country on any day of the week and you’ll read about some crime that defies moral comprehension. The crimes are sick, yes, but these are not sick people, Julia. They’re evil. A psychiatrist may give them each a medical diagnosis and tell them that they have an antisocial personality or are bipolar, or maybe are even schizophrenic, but we certainly shouldn’t give them an excuse.’

  ‘No excuses,’ she said softly.

  He sighed again. ‘You’re having pre-trial jitters, that’s all. It’s totally normal. We’re picking a jury tomorrow. The past few months have been draining on both of us, to say the least, and the press coverage has been intense. A million voices on the TV every night – half of whom don’t have the wits to comment on the weather, much less a complicated legal case – helping you second-guess your decisions. It’s your first homicide and it’s an insanity case and we’re seeking the death penalty. Iwouldn’t have thrown all three at you your first time up at bat, but there’s no undoing it now.’ He paused for a moment before looking over at her. ‘Unless you want off.’

  ‘No,’ she replied quietly, still watching the shadows dance.

  ‘I hope not. It’s kind of late for that.’ He rearranged the pillows underneath his head and laid back down, his hand finding her shoulder under the covers and rubbing it gently. ‘Look at it this way, maybe they do hear voices, and maybe those voices are mean and tell them to do horrible things, but that doesn’t give someone the legal excuse to go out and butcher their family.’ He yawned again. ‘If I told you to go out and kill your mother right now would you do it? Hell no. I’m just as real a voice. The point is, you still have to make the decision to do the crime, honey. That’s why it’s not insanity. It’s murder.’

  Julia bit her cheek hard. For what seemed like an eternity, she watched the shadows and waited until Rick finally rolled over on his side and she could tell by the sounds of his deep breathing that he’d fallen asleep. Then she got out of bed, stumbled into his bathroom, and in the darkness, where she was sure he could not hear her, she began to cry.


  John Latarrino was so conditioned to his phone ringing in the middle of the night, he sometimes thought he heard it before it actually rang. This was one of those times. He reached over Lilly, his snoring eighty-pound golden retriever who had snuck up on the bed again, and grabbed the cell off the nightstand. He didn’t recognize the n
umber. He looked at the clock and rubbed his eyes. It was three in the morning. Maybe it was one of his snitches.

  ‘Hello?’ he asked, his voice scratchy with sleep.


  He knew immediately who it was and he sat up with a start. ‘Julia?’

  ‘I’m sorry to bother you—’ she started.

  Maybe it was the connection, but her voice sounded so small and unsure. Vulnerable. Distracted. Lat felt a strange panic, and his chest grew tight. Something was wrong. He knew it. ‘No, no, that’s fine. Ididn’t recognize the number, is all.’

  ‘I’m at a pay phone.’

  ‘A pay phone? Ididn’t even think they made those anymore.’ Now he was out of bed, parting the blinds and looking out the window. Looking for her, somewhere out there. He watched as the palms whipped about under the streetlights. A couple of his neighbors’ garbage cans had toppled and tumbled out into the street, where they aimlessly rolled about. The wind was nasty tonight. Judging from the small puddles that dotted the sidewalk and the smattering of drops on the window, it had rained, too. He must’ve been in a pretty deep sleep not to have heard it. ‘What’s wrong? What’s the matter? Are you okay?’

  She hesitated. ‘I’m okay, but I need another favor, Lat. I … Iwent for a run and Ilost track of where Iwas.’

  ‘A run? Like jogging?’

  ‘Yeah, yeah. I’m in North Beach, at a gas station, but I don’t think it’s a very safe area,’ she said rather breathlessly. ‘I … Ihave to get back to my car. Iwas hoping maybe you could help me.’


  She stood under the hot shower, her eyes closed, her head resting against the tiled wall. Through the steam that fogged the room, she could hear her favorite morning DJs, Paul Castronovo and Young Ron Brewer, cracking jokes about the Marquette trial and all the ‘crazies’ that had camped out on the courthouse steps hoping to win an opening-day seat in the clerk’s morning lottery. While their producers scrambled to try and get O. J. Simpson on the line, they invited listeners to call in and play the Name That Nut! game, offering a ‘Paulie’s Pick’ gift certificate if the nut in question turned out to be French. Changing the station wouldn’t change the subject, either. Down the hall in the living room, David Marquette was the top story on the morning news; Doctor Death sure to be the headline on her doorstep outside. For at least the next few weeks, Julia knew that there would be no escape from the madness that had once again descended on Miami as it readied itself for another high-profile murder trial.

  She was so exhausted, both physically and mentally. After Lat had picked her up – thankfully without quizzing her as to how she’d come to be in that crappy part of the beach at 3 a. m., jogging in the rain in shorts and an oversized T-shirt, nothing but car keys and five dollars in her pocket – he’d simply taken her back to her car, which was parked on a side street down the block from Rick’s condo on SoBe. No questions asked. Maybe he’d figured out who she’d gone home with and didn’t want to get into it. Or maybe he’d just correctly assumed she had nothing to talk about – that she was in whatever she was in alone.

  She shook her head to get the stream of embarrassing thoughts out of it. She wished she could just redo last night – she wouldn’t even have gone out. She wouldn’t have had that conversation with Rick. She wouldn’t have asked the question that she didn’t want to know the answer to. She hadn’t wanted to call Lat, but there was no one else and she’d been scared when she’d finally stopped running and realized she was a long way from Kansas. A really long way. Surrounded by a lot of strange faces in a lot of darkened doorways who’d realized the very same thing.

  There was no way that she was going to go back up to Rick’s apartment, hop back in bed and pretend everything was dandy in the morning. She wasn’t that good an actress. So she’d just headed home. And although she’d tried, she hadn’t slept more than twenty minutes once she did lay her head down on the pillow. Besides just the nagging worries she’d finally voiced to Rick, there were too many things to think about with the rapid approach of morning. In just a few hours, she’d be picking her first death jury in her first murder trial, and although Rick would be the one asking the prospective jurors questions, she’d still be there in the camera-filled courtroom, helping to ensure that, out of a pool of hundreds, thetwoofthem picked thetwelveright ones. Menandwomen who – in spite of the intense publicity, and the death-penalty protestors and mental-health advocates swinging from the palm trees outside – could set it all aside at the end of the day and cast their vote to flick the switch.

  Rick. She blew out a long breath and rinsed away the shampoo that burned her eyes. Today was sure to be awkward. Was he awake? Did he even know she was gone yet? Would he notice? Would he care? Just the fact that the last question had crossed her mind was a sad commentary on the state of their affair. Things had maybe not been right for a long time, but still she’d stubbornly plugged along, not willing to pull her finger from the damn just yet. Blaming their growing distance on long hours and exhaustion and closing her eyes and ears the whole time to the real reasons they would never make it.

  The water finally began to turn cold, snapping her out of her thoughts. She quickly finished rinsing off, wrapped herself in her oversized purple terry robe and headed for the kitchen with Moose at her heels. The comforting scent of fresh-brewed coffee drifted through the apartment, and she could already taste a cup with a cigarette. The Breakfast of Champions, she thought as she tapped a fresh pack of Parliaments on the counter. It was amazing how quickly she’d let herself get hooked again on a bad habit.

  She poured herself a steaming mug, lit a cigarette and opened the kitchen window that looked out on the complex’s deserted pool area downstairs. Empty beer cans and a couple of liquor bottles overflowed from one of the garbage receptacles; pizza boxes were left behind on a lounge chair. Someone must have had a heck of a party last night.

  She wondered, as she blew a smoke ring out the window, if it was just coincidence that her brother liked to smoke the same brand of cigarettes. Then there was coffee – Andy took two sugars and cream in his, too. No sugar at all in tea. And foods – they both hated tomatoes, but loved pizza. Pepperoni pizza with black olives. Juicy Fruit gum and 3 Musketeers bars. Little stupid, strange peculiarities that she’d only recently found out the two of them shared. Invisible, innocuous ties. She couldn’t help but wonder sometimes with a bit of unease, just how many more of those there might be …

  Andrew’s transfer to Rockland was now just weeks away from finally happening – which was exciting, but also unnerving. Although it was still a lock-down psychiatric facility, Rockland wasn’t maximum security and the rules were sure to be much more relaxed there. Instead of just visiting a few hours every couple of weeks under strict supervision, Andy might actually be able to leave for the day or come home with her on a weekend pass. And, of course, as Dr Mynks had expressed at Christmas, the ultimate goal was for her brother to one day be released back into the community. What an overwhelming, exhilarating, frightening moment that would be for him. And for her. The man hadn’t been on the other side of razor wire and barred windows in fifteen years. He hadn’t been able to sleep past seven or stay up after ten or make it through the night without bed checks every thirty minutes. He hadn’t picked what he wanted to eat or when he wanted to eat it. He hadn’t played in a park or eaten in a restaurant or stepped foot in a grocery store. What would freedom feel like for him? What would it sound like, taste like, look like? It made her think of all the defendants that, as an ASA, she’d pled to lengthy prison sentences without much thought at all. After a while, for a prosecutor, years just became numbers; the defendants, just names on a calendar.

  The defendant scores thirty years state prison. The offer’s twenty, followed by five probation.

  The defendant’s a habitual. The offer’s ten and ten.

  He pleads to the charge, does the statutory max with a three-year min-man for the gun.

  She closed her eyes. Even in the q
uiet of her kitchen, with no one else around, she felt this overwhelming, almost debilitating pressure, squeezing her head like a vice. A pressure to please, a pressure to succeed, a pressure to do the right thing, when she wasn’t sure just what that was anymore. A pressure that seemed to be growing more intense everyday. She had a sudden urge to call her brother and just hear his voice before she got in her car and drove back down to the circus that was waiting for her at work. She knew the nurses would have him up by now. Even though he didn’t know what case it was, or what it was about, he did know she was starting a big trial today and he knew she was anxious about it. Last week he’d confessed to her that before he’d dreamed of playing baseball, he’d wanted to be a lawyer, too. Another invisible tie.

  A lone pink foam noodle slowly drifted across the blue water and she thought of the empty pool in the back of the Marquette house, the kiddie toys that floated across still water, never to be used again. The elaborate swing set in the backyard and the slip-and-slide in the front. The hopscotch board – the game Emma and Danny had never finished playing – that she’d stepped carefully past, down a brick pathway that led up to the perfect house. But things were never as they seemed, were they? Behind the grand door a real-life horror story had awaited her.

  Never pretend to know someone’s life, Julia. You’ll only know what they want you to know, when it is they want you to know it.

  We’re talking three little kiddies bludgeoned and stabbed in their sleep by their daddy.

  God willing, the little guy never knew what hit him. Just went to sleep with a kiss from Mommy and never woke up.

  Look at me, Daddy! Look at what you’ve done to me!

  She shook the creepy thoughts away, crushed out her cigarette and shut the window.

  The same body, two completely different men. The same story, two completely different tales.

  The same troubling thoughts, going full circle in her head. Round and round and round. Nothing was black and white anymore; everything was gray and all she wanted was for the disquieting insecurities to just stop. She wanted someone to stop them for her. And everyone else besides Andy seemed to have an agenda.

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