Plea of Insanity, p.39Jilliane Hoffman
‘I don’t need to work any more than I already do in this place, thank you very much.’
‘What’s her business on that doctor case?’ Nurse Lonnie asked.
‘I think she’s the prosecutor,’ Samuel replied.
‘The prosecutor? No friggin’ way!’
‘Again with the friggin’…’ Nurse Lonnie sighed.
‘Sorry. So what’s she doing showing up here all of a sudden?’ Nurse Barbara asked with a shudder as she looked out into the rec room, her eyes scanning the crowd of inmates. ‘Research?’
He knew they didn’t see him standing there on line. Or maybe they did and just didn’t care if he heard them. If anybody heard them. After all, the men in here were not human, anyway. They were the keepers of the monsters.
Andrew stepped off the line and into the rec room. He watched as his little sister stepped out of the courthouse and into a waiting crowd of photographers, like a movie star. Her briefcase in hand, she looked so smart, so confident, so important.
She stood on top of the bed in her pajamas, a pink and red striped scarf wrapped dramatically around her neck, a pair of mismatched mittens on her hands. When she jumped, her long black hair seemed to just float on the air, spreading out around her like a huge parachute. ‘I don’t want to be a vet anymore, Andy,’ she said with unflinching conviction in between jumps. I’m gonna be an actress. I want to be in movies and on TV.’
‘That’s a stupid idea,’ he said, watching her.
‘No, it’s not.’
‘Yes, it is. Do you know how hard it is to be an actress?
‘So? I can do it if I want.’
‘Fine. Go ahead. You have to take your clothes off if you want to be famous, though, you know. All famous actresses do.’
The jumping slowed. ‘Nuh-uh.’
‘Yup. Just watch R movies. The girls are all naked. And they curse, too.’
She was silent for a long time and he suddenly felt bad for trying to pop her balloon. Before he could apologize, though, she sullenly asked, ‘Whatta you gonna do? Play baseball? Duh.’
I’m gonna be famous, but you got to have aplan to get there, Ju-Ju. I mean a real plan.’
‘Give me a break.’ The jumping resumed full speed.
‘Playing ball’s not enough. Dad says little-league fields are full of dreaming ballplayers. You gotta be special.’ He looked down at his right hand and wiggled his index and middle fingers. ‘This … is the secret weapon. This hand’s gonna take me places, Ju-Ju. I’m gonna work on my split till I can get it up to maybe ninety-five. Coach Rich says I have it, too. I got the stuff. If I can throw a split faster than ninety, I’ll definitely make the bigs one day. Ya see, you gotta have something special, Ju-Ju. Somethingnobody else has. And ain’t nobody’s gonna have a split finger like mine.’
He looked down at his maimed hands, the ones that were supposed to take him places. On his pitching hand, his thumb flopped listlessly back toward the wrist. He couldn’t wrap his fingers around a baseball anymore even if he tried. Deep scars sliced haphazardly across his palms, all the way up to his fingertips. That’s where they’d implanted the chip so many years ago. Rusted and rotting now, its wires probably frayed and poisonous, he knew it was still in there, somewhere.
He could feel it.
Then he hung his head and started to cry.
‘The knife was placed almost straight into the umbilicus. There was no tearing, ripping or pulling of the surrounding tissue, like you would expect to find if there was a struggle, or if the target was moving about when stabbed. The tissue below the navel is not vital, unless the blade were to puncture the loop of small intestines, which, as I testified before, didn’t happen in this case.’ Dr Larry Price, the trauma surgeon from Jackson who’d operated on David Marquette sat on the very edge of his seat in the witness chair, his entire face hovering less than an inch above the microphone. He was more than just a little uncomfortable being a witness; he was a nervous wreck. He’d been in that seat for an hour and twenty minutes already – on direct and then cross and now back on redirect – and that was an hour and nineteen minutes too long. For everyone. He shifted in his seat, wiped the sweat from his lip and cleared his throat. An ear-piercing twang of feedback blasted the courtroom. Judge Farley rubbed his ear and rolled his eyes.
‘And, again, if the intestines had been punctured, Dr Price?’ Rick asked.
‘I would’ve had to repair it. And, of course, there’s a risk, you know, of infection from spillage of the intestinal fluids into the abdominal cavity. So it can be serious, no doubt. But if you know what you’re doing, you know there is no vital, life-sustaining organ in that area.’ He looked over at the jury, his eyes finding one of the women jurors in the front row. Alice Wade, an elderly retired librarian from Iowa who lived in Leisure City now. ‘That’s why when the Japanese samurai would commit seppuku – a ritualistic form of suicide, known to the western world as hara-kiri – they would actually disembowel themselves by digging the knife in and then dragging it across their belly,’ he explained, gesturing with his own hand on his stomach, ‘and then pulling sharply upward at the end. More than a knife wound, it pretty much ensured death in the event they didn’t have an assistant – a kaishakunin – to cut off their heads and finish the job,’ he finished with a smile. Alice Wade turned green and looked away.
‘Objection,’ said Mel, standing. ‘Inflammatory and irrelevant.’
‘Definitely sustained,’ said Farley with a shake of his head. ‘Are you done with redirect now, Mr Bellido? I think the jury gets your point. I think we all get your point. It didn’t look like a suicide attempt to Dr Price. Let’s move this along.’ He tapped his watch.
‘Thank you, Doctor,’ said Rick, sitting down. ‘I have nothing further, then.’
‘Mr Levenson? Tell me you’re done with this witness, please.’
‘Yes, Judge. Nothing further,’ Mel replied.
Dr Price practically ran for the courtroom doors.
‘Alright, then,’ said Farley with a sigh. ‘State, who’s next?’
Rick took a long, deliberate moment to look up from the table. The courtroom had excitedly learned to hang on his every pregnant pause now. He rose and straightened his expensive suit. ‘The State rests, Your Honor.’
A loud murmur broke out in the crowded courtroom. To the surprise, maybe, of the reporters, legal analysts and news commentators who were expecting the fourteen-week marathon of a Michael Jackson trial, it had taken just five days to put on the State’s case in chief, which included calling twenty-two witnesses to the stand. Leonard Farley might have the biggest docket in the courthouse by far, but when you finally got the man to actually go to trial, he was no nonsense. He’d told the pool during jury selection that if they were picked to serve, the case would take up only two weeks of their time, and he meant it. At whatever cost. So court had started at 10 a.m. – the second he finished his morning calendar – and it had ended most nights well past seven or eight. In the event the jury did find Marquette guilty of first-degree murder, they were told that the penalty phase would be carried out six weeks later, at a separate mini-trial where both sides would present witnesses. Then they would get to recommend whether David Marquette lived his life out in a maximum-security prison cell, or died for his crimes by either lethal injection or in the electric chair. And no matter what, Farley had assured the pool, that would take only one week.
It was Rick’s case, so he had handled most of the witnesses and the evidence, but Julia had been there beside him every day at the State’s table. She’d participated. She’d stood and asked all the right questions of her witnesses on direct. The Coral Gables PD records custodian, the Crime Scene techs who’d shot the video and taken the pictures, the techs who’d dusted the house for prints, the nurse anesthetist from Sinai who ID’d David Marquette’s voice on the 911 tape, the Marriott manager who testified that the defendant had been a registered guest at the Orlando W
But all along, Julia felt as if she were watching someone else acting as her. Someone who was crumbling and slipping away a little piece at a time, day after day, until she feared she might not recognize the person that was left at the end of it all. And it frightened her.
‘Alright, then, Mel,’ said Farley after he’d dismissed the jury for the weekend. ‘Who’s on for Monday and what’s your time frame?’
‘I’ve got several defense witnesses, Judge. I’m not sure what order I’ll be putting them on in.’
‘Does your client plan on testifying?’ Farley asked doubtfully, looking over at the defense table. His white eyebrows crawled into a frown.
‘I’m not sure, yet,’ said Mel with a shrug. There was no way he was going to give away his hand in front of Rick Bellido and a courtroom still filled with cameras, but based on the peculiar behavior of his client, it wasn’t just Farley who was obviously doubting Marquette would testify. Through jury selection and now five days of oftentimes brutal and graphic testimony, Marquette had sat expressionless, tapping his foot under the table, and staring out into space, rolling his tongue about the inside of his mouth. Julia had often wondered how she would look if she stood accused of murder. She’d observed defendants in court before – defendants she’d brought to trial – and wondered how she would act if she were innocent. How she would act if she were guilty, but trying to look innocent. If there was a difference. Then there was the third category. How she would act if she were crazy …
‘I want to go to closing by next Friday. Is that going to happen, gentlemen?’ As an afterthought the judge looked at Julia and added, ‘Ladies?’
‘I know you have a schedule, Judge—’ began Mel.
‘No. I have a cruise. I’m leaving on the thirty-first. That gives us an extra week if we need it.’ He climbed off the bench and headed for the door, which Jefferson held open for him. ‘But I’m sure we won’t,’ he called out gruffly without turning around as he disappeared down the hallway.
‘I want you to handle Christian Barakat when we put him on,’ Rick said to Julia in a low voice as court emptied and they packed up their files. ‘You did well at the competency hearing. Even Farley commented on it. Your opening was great, too.’
She just stared at her briefcase.
‘You’ve done well with this whole trial,’ he said, hesitating when she hadn’t said anything. ‘I should tell you that.’ A long moment passed. ‘Listen, Julia,’ he continued, his voice a little softer, ‘I know it’s been, difficult between us, but, you’ve handled it. It hasn’t been easy. I know it definitely hasn’t been on me, at least.’
She wondered just what he meant by that, considering she didn’t think he knew that she knew the reason why her DC now wore a permanent smile and had an extra spring in her step. She certainly wouldn’t put it past him to work the two of them if he could. She suddenly thought of those intimate moments in his apartment, in his bed, his hands on her body, and she wanted to cringe. But still she said nothing.
‘I think the jury needs to see you take on this issue,’ he continued when she hadn’t acknowledged his emotional pain. ‘We’ve clearly made our case here and the only problem is going to be how believable Marquette’s shrinks are, starting Monday. We had a couple of liberals, unfortunately, get through on jury selection. So I’ll do the cross of Koletis and Hayes, but I think it’s a good idea for the jury to see you dismantle the defense with our own psychiatrist. I might even have you handle Pat Hindlin, too, so look over his depo this weekend. It’s getting your face in front of that jury again before we close. That’s one of the reasons I asked you to second-seat in the first place, your demeanor with a jury. Your presence. They can identify with you. With our victims.’
One of the reasons. The other was over now.
‘Are you okay with this?’
Julia nodded slowly. ‘Yes,’ she heard herself say. ‘I’ll do it.’
‘Because they like you,’ he said as he headed out the small gallery swing door and down the aisle. Outside in the hall a mob of reporters still waited anxiously for him to make an appearance. Rick might not be allowed to talk to them anymore, but they definitely could take his picture. ‘The jury really likes you. And more importantly, they trust you. That I can tell,’ he said, pushing open the courtroom doors with a serious, but confident smile.
When Julia finally got back from court herself – after ducking through the judge’s garage in the basement again – there were three new cases on her desk, a dozen phone messages on her voicemail and thirty-two emails in her in-box. She might be a prosecutor in the murder trial of the century, but in the pits of the State Attorney’s Office that didn’t mean shit. The Chief Felony Assistants who handed out the new cases didn’t care she already had 102 of them, and, of course, her DC didn’t want to know how she prepped her calendar, as long as it was prepped. She was probably praying nowadays that Julia would slip up.
She felt so overloaded, so out of touch with everything, with everyone. So alone. This double life that she’d been leading was catching up to her, no doubt. The pressure was all around her, pushing her from every direction and no matter how hard she tried to get it all done, no matter how much she withdrew, she couldn’t seem to distance herself from it. And that was what worried her so much.
Rick. Karyn. Charley Rifkin. Even the State Attorney himself. There was no one to trust anymore in the office. Even her detractors wore smiles and handed out praise. And there was Nora and Jimmy. God, how she missed them sometimes. She missed having a family, even if it was a mess. But she, like Andrew, was an outcast now. A misfit. A Charley in the Box. She picked up the phone and dialed their number, but got the answering machine instead, like she always seemed to. She hung up without leaving a message and looked at her watch. It was too late to call Andrew, and even if she could speak with him, what could she really say? She was in this by herself.
She put her head in her hands and rubbed her temples. This case. The sneaky press releases, the details no one told her – the details she should have known. The political motives. The underhandedness of it all. She had heard every sleazy lawyer joke in the book while she was in law school, but they were never about prosecutors. That was what had taken her by surprise the most. Maybe she should have seen Rick and Karyn coming. Or Rick and any other female in the office for that matter. Maybe that was her mistake. But she never would have thought he would manipulate a case for his own political benefit. She always thought he was better than that.
It must be like this for other prosecutors who have tried high-profile cases, she told herself. Launched out of obscurity, everyone was watching your every move now, critiquing your every sentence, every hairdo, every outfit. You’re constantly in the spotlight and yet you never asked to be a celebrity. The pressure-cooker feeling was to be expected. She just had to get a grip, and leave it at that. It would all be over soon enough, anyway.
It was almost eight o’clock already. Once again, she was sure the building was empty except for her. She checked out the window for signs of either Karyn or Rick’s car in the empty parking lot as she quickly packed up her briefcase and file box, because that was the last thing she needed – catching an elevator down with the two of them.
Her eyes caught on the Dade County Jail. While South Beach just got the party started when nighttime descended, this part of the city definitely emptied at the stroke of five. Especially on a Friday. Law firms, medical offices, the courthouse, commercial high-rise offices, the PD’s, the Graham Building – all lifeless till Monday
The phone rang at her desk, pulling her out of her thoughts and making her jump. Out of habit she answered it, although as soon as she did she instantly regretted it, realizing that it was probably a reporter trying to hunt down a quote for tomorrow’s headlines.
‘State Attorney’s. Valenciano,’ she said, slinging her purse over her arm and pulling out her car keys.
There was silence.
‘Hello? Can I help you?’ she asked again, impatiently.
It was a male voice. Deep and scratchy, but yet muffled. There was something very familiar about it. Julia tried to place where she’d heard it before. Maybe it was that reporter from the Post who’d called yesterday.
‘Yes?’ she asked.
‘Julia Cirto Valenciano?’ he repeated. ‘The prosecutor?’
‘Yes? This is she.’ A strange, uncomfortable feeling washed over her then as she listened to his labored breathing. In and out. In and out. Maybe he had asthma, but just his breathing was creeping her out. ‘Can I help you with something, sir? I don’t mean to be short, but it’s late and I—’
‘It wasn’t him,’ whispered the voice. ‘Are you listening now, Ms Prosecutor? Do I have your attention? He didn’t do it.’
Then he laughed and the line went dead.
Maybe it was a prank, she told herself over and over as she pushed open the glass doors of the Graham Building and hurried across the deserted parking lot to her car. She threw her file box, briefcase and purse into the back seat, quickly climbed in behind the wheel and locked the doors, breathless. She looked around her. Hers was the only car left in the lot.
Plea of Insanity by Jilliane Hoffman / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes