Plea of Insanity, p.35Jilliane Hoffman
While she hadn’t expected her relationship with her brother to be what it was when they were kids – on many levels they were still strangers – she was surprised by how easy it was to know him again. How comfortable she felt around him, even when there was nothing to say. She’d been very careful not to go near the night their parents died, but maybe, hopefully, they’d never have to. Maybe, she thought, they could just go forward. She didn’t want to know the details. Julia understood Andy’s illness now. She understood what it had done to him. And she knew she could forgive him. That was enough, wasn’t it?
She poured herself another cup of coffee, grabbed a couple of Advil from the cupboard and headed back to the bathroom. Her head hurt from the lack of sleep and from thinking too much. On her way through the living room her eyes caught on the chaos playing out on the TV. A perky blonde FOX News reporter stood in front of the Miami courthouse, where news vans from every conceivable station in the country – and even from around the world – already lined the streets. A split-screen aerial view from the helicopters hovering overhead showed clusters of small white tents dotting the parking lot and sidewalks – underneath which ran elaborate mini-command centers for the various media outlets. A large, red BREAKING NEWS banner ran across the bottom of the screen.
‘Jamie, the Miami Herald is reporting this morning that Marquette is now being named a suspect in the unsolved homicides of two other North Florida families in Wakulla and Santa Rosa counties. In January of 2004, thirty-six-year-old Diane Tebin and her nine-year-old daughter, Lilly Rose Tebin, were found slain in their home in Milton, just outside of Pensacola. Mrs Tebin had been raped and stabbed repeatedly, but no suspect has ever been identified in those murders. Then, the following November, another family and another brutal murder. Forty-three-year-old Sharon Dell of Craw-fordville, Florida, her teenage daughter and toddler son were all discovered dead in their home on the outskirts of Tallahassee by Mrs Dell’s mother. Ms Dell, a recent widow, had, like Diane Tebin, been raped and then stabbed repeatedly.
‘Now, neither Miami-Dade Police nor Coral Gables officials are commenting, but our sources have learned that these murders have been linked somehow back to the slay-ings here in Miami. Calls to Marquette’s defense attorneys have gone unanswered, and Major Crimes lead prosecuting attorney Ricardo Bellido – who, it was also announced this morning, will be succeeding Miami’s retiring State Attorney, Jerry Tigler – also wouldn’t comment on the latest developments in the case. David Marquette, as you know, Jamie, is the Miami doctor who’s pled insanity in the grisly October murders of his wife and three small children in Coral Gables, Florida and is set to begin trial this morning here, at the Miami courthouse behind me. His case, as you can see, has garnered much international attention, sparking an often heated and bitter worldwide debate on capital punishment. Dr Marquette, a dual citizen of both France and the United States, claims he suffers from schizophrenia. Just last week, France filed an official complaint with the International Court of Justice in The Hague against the United States concerning their treatment of Dr Marquette at the time of his arrest. Death-penalty protests in Miami and Washington have …’
Julia practically dropped her coffee and ran to the front door. She grabbed the Broward Edition of the Miami Herald off her mat, ducking quickly back inside when she spotted the news van in the parking lot.
Jesus, they’d found out where she lived …
She slammed the door shut and leaned back against it, breathing heavy. She remembered Charley Rifkin’s warning, prophesied months ago.
If Dr David Marquette becomes the next Scott Peterson du jour … the press will be camping out in both your backyards until Corrections finally sticks the needle in.
She stared at the headline in her hands in complete disbelief.
DOCTOR A SUSPECT IN OTHER GRISLY UNSOLVED FLA HOMICIDES
‘You’re right, Jamie. You are so right,’ Perky continued excitedly back in the living room. ‘This is sure to affect the sympathy factor. Death-penalty opponents and mental-health advocates around the world are also likely to feel the reverberations. And, no matter how you might personally feel about these issues, it’s once again Miami that’s in the unwanted glare of the international spotlight. It was only a few short years ago when the serial killer Cupid was tried and convicted in this very same courthouse for drugging, raping and killing eleven young women. Now here we are again, back in Miami with perhaps another brutal serial killer …’
The phone rang. ‘Hello?’ she asked hesitantly, her eyes glued to the television.
‘Julia! Jesus Christ!’ Rick shouted. ‘Where the hell have you been? Iroll over this morning, the phone’s ringing off the fucking hook, and you’re gone. You gave me a damn heart attack!’
She said nothing. She couldn’t.
‘No note, no phone call – Jesus. What time did you leave? Hello? Are you still there?’ he asked when she still hadn’t answered him.
‘Yes,’ she said softly.
‘Look, Idon’t know if you’ve turned the news on yet,’ he finally said with what sounded like an angry, exasperated sigh, ‘but you better. Something’s happened. Ivonne Ledo called – Farley’s JA. The judge wants everyone in chambers asap.’
‘This is outrageous, Judge! Twenty minutes before we’re set to pick a jury and this is the story the whole damn pool is reading downstairs!’ Mel Levenson bellowed, waving a copy of the Miami Herald about in his balloon hands. He looked like he’d just been boiled: his face was as red as a lobster, large beads of sweat dripped from his hook nose and off unruly, gray Elvis sideburns.
‘You may be giving some of that pool way too much credit,’ Farley replied with a dry chuckle, looking around at the crowd in his chambers from his throne at the head of a long conference table. ‘So don’t get yourself all worked up now, Mel. But Ido agree that it’s rather interesting this breaks today.’ He looked at John Latarrino for an answer, his eyes narrowing. ‘Detective? What’s the story here? Is he a suspect in these killings?’
‘He has not been named a suspect,’ Lat replied carefully. Across from him, Bellido leaned casually back in his chair, almost removing himself from the conversation, long fingers thoughtfully stroking his chin, probably covering up a toothy, smug smile, Lat thought. The longer this case went on, the more intolerable he was finding Ricardo Alejandro Bellido, the name the guy now made sure the press addressed him by. The thought of the man becoming the next State Attorney was enough to make Lat seriously consider moving departments north and over the county line to Broward. ‘At this point, I’d have to say he’s just a person of interest, Judge. There are certain similarities between the crimes, which, obviously, I’m not at liberty to discuss. We’re working with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the local authorities in both Wakulla and Santa Rosa counties.’
At the far end of the table he watched as Julia settled into a seat with her coffee, but he noticed she wasn’t looking over at him. And she wasn’t looking over at him on purpose, he figured. She was probably a little embarrassed about last night’s late-night phone call and North Beach rescue mission, which was definitely a little weird, but then again, he’d had his share of weird nights himself over the years. A lot of regrets swallowed along with his morning coffee. Everybody had. And the pressure of this case was sure to get to people in different ways, especially the major players. He just hoped she wasn’t worried he’d hold it against her. Whatever she had going on in her life – whoever she had it going on with – he knew she’d figure it out. She was a smart woman.
‘There you have it, Mr Levenson,’ said Farley with a shrug. ‘He’s not really a suspect. No harm intended, says the detective.’
‘This is bullshit, Your Honor!’ Mel yelled, leveling a fat fist on the table. ‘The prosecutors and detectives here are just not happy that on the eve of trial, public opinion in this case is not in their favor. They’re not happy that their attempts to prosecute and execute a clearly insane man – who
Rick didn’t even blink.
Mel turned back to the judge. ‘And that “do anything and say anything” mentality includes making my client look like a psychopathic serial killer in the public eye! All it takes is the allegation he’s involved in another couple of murder investigations to taint the whole pool downstairs. Just the allegation, and Mr Bellido knows it. I’m telling you, Judge, you won’t find one prospective juror in that courtroom this morning who hasn’t heard this story already and formed an opinion – and if you do, I’m removing him for cause, because he’s lying. Ican’t even move this mess to another county now – hell, even to another country– because it’s world news. World news. And these detectives – and Mr Bellido here, with his hidden smirk – sure as hell know it! The news hounds have up and done it again, Your Honor.’
Lat sat straight up in his chair, his blood boiling, while Brill pushed his back hard from the table.
‘Alright. Enough with the name-calling,’ the judge said with a sigh, holding up his hands as if to separate the two sides. Mel plunked back down in his seat, breathing heavy, pulling his shirt cuffs back down and out his sleeves. Rick maintained the disinterested stare.
‘Well, you just said it, Mel,’ Farley continued. ‘He’s tainted the world. So don’t bother asking for a change of venue now to Martin County. I’ll be sure to give the pool a curative instruction when they get up here.’ The judge turned to Rick. ‘While Iwas very happy to hear on The Today Show that you’ll have Jerry Tigler’s endorsement on county bus benches across Miami-Dade come September, this isn’t how we’re gonna try this case.’ His icy stare drifted back and forth between Rick and Julia now. ‘Do you both understand me? Nice try.’ He sat back and perused the entire table. ‘You’ve all been gagged. And that includes your detectives and your private investigators. Your mothers and your grandmothers, too. Idon’t want to hear about another suspected leak unless it’s coming from underneath someone’s kitchen sink. Got it?’
‘Fair enough, Your Honor,’ said Rick, rising. He smoothly buttoned his jacket. ‘I don’t know how the press got a hold of this information, but Icertainly won’t mention another word about it.’
‘Including, I’m sure, the fact that David Marquette is not actually a suspect. How convenient,’ scoffed Mel, grabbing his file from Stan Grossbach’s hands. ‘Your Honor, if I’m not going to get a venue change, I think I should at the very least get a continuance charged to the State. We should wait until the press dies down on this and people at least forget what they heard this morning on CNN.’
Farley actually laughed. ‘Have you been looking out your window for the past few months, Mr Levenson? The press is going nowhere. If anything, a continuance will just encourage a few more diehards to pick up a camera and cross the pond. Or even worse for you, your client could actually be charged as a defendant in the North Florida murders. You want a continuance, it’s a defense continuance, so say goodbye to speedies. And you can try this case maybe next March, because I’m sure my docket is pretty full till then.’ He shot a look over at the court reporter, who obediently stopped typing. ‘And, let’s be honest here, Mel, Ijust don’t think your client’s daddy is gonna be too happy to hear that. Especially with Junior enjoying the luxurious accommodations of Hotel DCJ across the street. ’Cause that’s where he’ll sit till we try this thing.’
Mel shook his head. ‘I’m between a rock and a hard place on this, Lenny,’ he said between gritted teeth.
‘Then let me make it easy for you. I’m not giving you a continuance anyway, even if you want it. There. Ijust handed you your first issue on appeal.’ The judge turned to Jefferson, who stood by the door, fidgeting with his glasses. ‘Jefferson!’ he said, making the bailiff jump in his skin and drop them to the floor. ‘Go bring up the first fifty from downstairs. We’re picking this jury in an hour.’
‘How could Inot have known this?’ Julia demanded once they were all across the street in Rick’s office and away from the boom mikes. Her voice was shaking with anger.
‘You did know,’ Rick said quietly.
‘Bullshit. Iknew there were some unsolved homicides that Lat and Brill had looked at a while back, but there’s no link here.’
‘Apparently Marquette was within a thirty-mile radius on the night each family was murdered, attending medical conferences in Tallahassee and Pensacola Beach,’ Rick said with a shrug.
‘Jesus Christ, so were a million other people,’ she said, looking around the room.
‘There was no forced entry in the homes. Mom is raped and killed, posed in a prone sexual position; kids are killed in their beds. A knife from the kitchen cutlery set and a baseball bat are the weapons of choice. There are definitely similarities.’
‘You just vaguely described most sexually violent crime scenes. I’m sure there are another fifty unsolved homicides just like this across the country.’
‘Perhaps, but these two unsolved homicides happen to be in Florida, just a few miles down the road from where our psychopathic defendant was left all alone in some hotel brushing his teeth in the middle of the night.’
‘But there’s no physical evidence linking him to those murders! No DNA, no semen, no hair, no ID. Nothing.’
‘Which is why they’re unsolved, Julia. I think there are enough similarities that it’s worth looking into,’ Rick said slowly, restraint obviously tempering his words.
‘Maybe looking into, but the press now thinks it’s a hell of a lot more than that.’ Julia felt like the only one in the room not in on the joke. She felt them all watching her and it made her angry. ‘Mel Levenson is right. All we’re doing now is tossing out a frightening serial-killer angle to taint the pool and tip the scales of public opinion back in our favor. We all know that there’s nothing to make these murders stick on Marquette, save for him being within a thirty-mile radius when they were committed. So let’s not kid ourselves why it is the press even found out about them today.’ She turned back and looked at Lat for the first time that morning. ‘I want to know, did you leak it?’
‘No,’ said Lat with a slow shake of his head. ‘I didn’t leak it, Julia.’ And she knew he didn’t.
Brill held his hands up. ‘Don’t look at me, Jules. Idon’t even watch the news.’
She turned to Rick. ‘I don’t need to leak anything, Julia,’ he said before the question was even asked, his dark eyes narrowing. ‘I’ve got a great case and I know it.’
‘Look, you don’t need the two of us for jury selection,’ Lat finally said when the silence in the room had lasted too long. He tapped Brill on the shoulder and the two of them headed for the door. Lat looked at Julia as he walked past. ‘Why don’t you give me a call when you’re done today?’
She said nothing. The cold silence remained in the room even after the door closed behind them.
‘What happened to you last night?’ Rick asked coolly.
‘I went for a jog.’
‘A jog?’ He shook his head in disbelief. ‘You left clothes at my house.’
‘I’ll have to pick them up.’
‘And your purse.’ He opened up his desk drawer and handed her pocketbook to her. ‘You still have a couple of things at my apartment.’
‘He’s never been linked to those cases, Rick,’ she insisted again. The thought came out before she could stop it. ‘Was all the bad press and The Hague complaint going to hurt your run at State Attorney? Or is convicting Marquette going to give you the winning vote? By the way, Iguess congratulations are in order.’
He stared at her for a long time. His
She said nothing for a long moment, wondering just how he meant that statement and just how she should take it. Thoughts rushed in from every direction, threatening to collide like a dozen freight trains.
Maybe he was right. Maybe now was the time to get out of this case. Head back up to New York and find herself a new profession, a new life. Maybe change focus in her career and do tax work or civil litigation. Or do nothing with the law anymore. She could just waitress if she had to, like she had in college. A nice, stress-free, simple life. She could be near Andy when he went to Rockland. Maybe get a life ready there to bring him home to one day.
She looked past Rick at the skyline behind him, the mirrored windows on the high-rises twinkling like diamonds in the brilliant sunshine. Maybe there was nothing for her in Miami anymore, anyway. She knew Nora and Jimmy could never accept Andrew in their lives, or accept the fact that she’d welcomed him back into hers. Even though Jimmy had promised he’d work on getting Nora to pick up the phone, she still hadn’t. Everything was so different now. It would be impossible to get back to the comfort and familiarity of the way things used to be, wouldn’t it? There were too many secrets to navigate through. Too many lies to forget. And forgive. And, of course, there was Andy. She couldn’t desert him again; she owed him that as his sister. But, for Nora, there could be no future with Andy in it. And while Jimmy might be the calming voice of reason, at the end of the day, it was Nora who he went to bed with. It was Nora who he would grow old with. It was Nora who he’d ultimately have to side with if sides were drawn and ultimatums declared.
Plea of Insanity by Jilliane Hoffman / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes