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Plea of insanity, p.40
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       Plea of Insanity, p.40

           Jilliane Hoffman

  Maybe it was a reporter. Or a protester. That had to be it. A right-to-lifer messing with her. Reporters had somehow found out the direct line to her office and had been calling her for weeks. Hell, they were like cockroaches, waiting for her everywhere now. Outside her office. Outside her apartment. On the beach when she jogged, she’d spotted a few. And now the protesters that yelled nasty things at her on her way into court every morning had obviously found her too. They would say anything, too, she knew. Anything to draw attention to their cause. Anything to get rid of the death penalty, she told herself as she sped out of the parking lot. They’d do anything.

  That had to be it. But questions flew at her as she tried to navigate 195 at eighty miles an hour. Why would they call her and not Rick? He was the lead. Maybe they had. Or maybe they knew what she’d found out last week about the Handley murders … She thought for a moment about when David Marquette had said those three words to her in the courtroom back months ago. I saved them. The only words he’d ever said in court and they were to her. It was almost as if he knew what she was thinking at that moment when she looked into his white eyes. It was as if he knew about her past. As if he knew about Andrew.

  And how did they know she was still in her office tonight? Court had gotten out hours ago. Was someone watching her car? Her office window? Was someone watching her right now? Ready to jump out of the bushes with his creepy breathing and anti-death-penalty poster and scare her half to death when she opened the car door at the curb? She looked at the cars all around her to see who might have their eyes on her instead of the road. The flesh on the back of her neck prickled and she sped up.

  She thought of a funny comment Andrew had made to her once when she was up at Kirby. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone’s not following you. Now she was paranoid. But now she had a reason. And she was taking no chances. So she got off a couple of exits before Stirling and took the back roads home, careful to keep checking her rear-view mirror to make sure she wasn’t being followed. She didn’t park in her spot, though, instead parking in the complex across the street and ducking through the walkways of the buildings adjacent to her own.

  She wanted to call Lat. She wanted to tell him what had happened, what she’d found out. What the protesters knew now. She wanted him to come check her apartment for her. She wanted to hear his voice tell her it would be okay. But she couldn’t. He’d made it clear what their relationship was and she’d have to accept that. And besides, he also knew that Marquette was an unofficial suspect in the North Florida murders and he hadn’t told her, either. He, too, had kept secrets.

  She locked her apartment door, turned off all the lights and closed the blinds in every room. She wished she had Moose here with her. He was little, but he was very protective. And he could warn her if someone was out there, watching. Waiting.

  It was a protester, she told herself as she locked her bedroom door and slumped down on the floor in the dark with her back against it, both the cordless phone and her cellphone between her legs. That’s all it was.

  There was no reason to be afraid.


  ‘It’s as if a cataclysmic earthquake has happened inside David’s head.’

  The courtroom remained perfectly silent as Dr Al Koletis took a long sip of water and looked up from the notes of his psychological evaluation of David Marquette, his reading glasses perched on the tip of his hooked nose.

  ‘That’s how I explain schizophrenia to the parents or loved ones of patients I have diagnosed, Mr Levenson,’ he explained. ‘In the simplest terms I know how. Here we have a normal person. Everything is fine. He or she has friends, a job; they’ve developed normal, loving relationships. They’re functioning, thriving, well-adjusted members of society, oftentimes headed for a bright future, perhaps preparing to leave for college, as the disease tends to historically strike young men in their late teens, women a few years after that. But far below the surface, undetectable seismic changes deep within the brain’s structure have already begun. These changes then cause – let’s call it a pre-existing fault line – a genetic weakness or genetic predisposition, perhaps, far below that surface to collapse and catastrophically fail. Suddenly and seemingly without warning. Like an earthquake.

  ‘Now, sometimes earthquakes can just jolt you out of bed, or knock a few paintings off the wall. But other times, they can have a far greater effect. They can change the integrity of the structure, so that it might appear fine at first glance, but one look inside the walls and you’ll see how fragile they are, how they can fail at a moment’s notice. And, of course, sometimes an earthquake of a great enough magnitude can change the entire landscape, leveling mountains and relocating seas.

  ‘That is the disease of schizophrenia. The period of this gradual build-up of stress factors and seismic changes in the brain is called the prodromal stage. Looking back on that stage, you might be able to see subtle early-warning signs that something was not right. Depression. Withdrawal. Changes in sleep patterns. The earthquake itself is acute psychosis – when reality has collapsed and catastrophic-ally failed. That is when the hallucinations and paranoia begin. And the aftermath is called, appropriately enough, the recovery period.

  ‘Like an earthquake, the disease strikes every person differently. Some come through psychosis and do fine on medication. Some even without. The very lucky few are fortunate enough to never experience another psychotic episode. But then there are the ones who live on the fault line and are in constant danger of aftershocks and more quakes. These are the victims of the disease who might look fine on the surface – with two arms and two legs and a college degree in their pocket – and yet they can’t live by themselves; their foundation is unstable and their walls are cracked. And, finally, there are those whose whole landscape has changed. They are the ones who go into a hospital and don’t really ever come out. They cannot function in society. They are almost a completely different person because of their illness.

  ‘David was living on a fault line,’ he continued, taking off his glasses and thoughtfully chewing on the tip. ‘He had experienced a psychotic break at the age of nineteen. It was a matter of time before he had another, especially since he was not taking preventative medication. It’s perhaps a miracle he did as well as he did until that point. But outside stress factors – like the distant forces that work to destabilize the earth in and around a fault zone – such as, perhaps, his new baby and pressures at work and within his marriage, caused that fault line to break once again. This time with truly catastrophic results.’

  ‘You have testified that David Marquette is a paranoid schizophrenic,’ Mel began slowly. ‘That he suffers from a mental infirmity or disease. You and Dr Hayes have testified that on the night of October eighth, because of this disease, he was psychotic and delusional, hearing voices and experiencing visual hallucinations that told him his family was possessed by demonic spirits, that told him he needed to save the souls of his children and his wife.’

  ‘Objection,’ said Rick. ‘Is there a question in there somewhere? Or is counsel making his closing argument?’

  ‘Don’t be picky, Mr Bellido. I gave you leeway, too,’ cautioned Farley. Then he looked at Mel over the brim of his coffee cup. ‘Move this along into a question please, Mr Levenson. Tempus fugit.’

  Mel shrugged. ‘I ask you, Doctor, due to this mental infirmity, this mental disease of schizophrenia, did David know that his actions were wrong? Was he able to distinguish right from wrong at the time the crimes were committed?’

  Mel was very careful not to label his own client a killer or a murderer. It was a delicate dance with words. He needed to match the language of the law that Judge Farley would instruct the jury on before they headed in for deliberations without further alienating them from his client.

  ‘Objection. Leading.’

  Farley shot Rick another dark look.

  Dr Koletis didn’t wait for a ruling. ‘In my opinion, David was indeed legally insane the night his famil
y was killed. He was acutely psychotic and delusional. He still cannot and will not discuss his actions in detail, other than to say he saved his family, because he fears reprisals. From whom, he refuses to say, but I suspect it is the demon spirits he rid his family of. He has buried those intimate facts, because they are too difficult and frightening for him to deal with, given his fragile state of mind. But he saw fangs on his three-year-old and his daughter’s eyes glowed yellow. His wife burned a Bible and his baby daughter sprouted a horn. He believed these spirits were hypnotizing him with subliminal messages broadcast over the radio. The visual hallucinations were corroborated by audio hallucinations that continued to tell David his family was not human. That continued to tell David that his own life was now in danger, and that if he, too, became consumed by the devil, there would be no one left who could save his family from damnation. Don’t you see?’ he asked, looking over at the jury, demanding their attention. ‘He didn’t kill his family, because he knew that they were already dead. What he did was save their souls from eternal damnation by ridding their bodies of the demonic spirit that had murdered them. It was all part of the paranoid delusion he was suffering from.’ Only one member of the jury nodded. The others looked away and down at the floor.

  Dr Koletis slowly turned back to Mel, shaking his head. ‘So to answer your question, Mr Levenson, no, he did not know that what he was doing was wrong.’

  ‘And now?’ asked Mel.

  Dr Koletis paused for a moment and then looked over at the defense table, where David Marquette still stared blankly out in front of him – as he did every day in court – rolling his tongue and tapping his foot.

  ‘Sadly enough,’ he finished, ‘in his mind he still thinks he’s done nothing wrong.’


  The man with the stringy long hair and gladiator sandals sat in the rain on the courthouse steps, dressed in a straitjacket and shorts. Taped to his chest was a sign that read ‘Don’t Medicate Me Just to Kill Me’. The rain had gotten the sign wet and the words had started to run and drip. He was being interviewed by a reporter.

  Julia hustled into the courthouse past them – and the rest of the large, strange crowd of protesters, reporters and trial watchers – obscured thankfully from view by her oversized umbrella. She moved along with the restless herd of defendants, witnesses, attorneys and cops, through the metal detectors and lobby, pushed like cattle onto the escalator. At this time in the morning, waiting for a spot on an elevator might take hours. She could feel people pressed up against her, touching her with their wet clothes and umbrellas, breathing on her. Counting from ten wasn’t good enough anymore, so she started at forty, clenching and unclenching her fists, trying hard to breathe through the silk scarf she’d wrapped around her neck and buried her head into.

  ‘Hey there,’ a voice whispered in her ear. ‘Where’ve you been hiding?’ She felt a hand on her shoulder and it made her jump. She sucked in a breath and turned around to see John Latarrino standing on the step below her in a pair of dress slacks and a crisp white shirt that was dotted with raindrops, his gold detective’s badge around his neck, his gun holstered at his side next to his cellphone, a sports jacket casually slung over his shoulder. His hair was wet, and a couple of drops ran down off his neck and into his shirt. He smiled at her.

  Mel had invoked the rule of sequestration – better known simply as ‘the rule’ – the second the jury was sworn, which excluded all prospective witnesses from the courtroom during trial, so that their testimony wouldn’t be influenced by listening to someone else tell a different version of events. Since Lat might be called back in rebuttal, he was still considered prospective. Julia hadn’t seen him since he’d testified last week.

  ‘I stopped by your apartment this weekend,’ he said as they stepped off the escalator on four and into the utter bedlam that waited for them. ‘But you weren’t in. I was looking to see if you wanted to take a Sunday-afternoon spin with an outlaw.’ The smile suddenly melted into a concerned frown when she didn’t respond. ‘Are you okay?’ he asked her in a low voice, gently grabbing her elbow and turning her to face him.

  She nodded quickly, but turned away from him. Without uttering a word, she disappeared into the sea of cameras and strangers that waited outside 4–10. A sea held back by a few police and correction officers, a portable metal detector as an extra security precaution, and plastic retractable movie-theater stanchions.

  With her head down, she made her way through the crowd and onto the metal-detector line behind those reporters and bystanders who were lucky enough to have won their courtroom seat in Judge Farley’s lottery. A couple of signs bobbed up and down in the crowded hallway, as they did outside. Some were handmade by angry people with magic markers and time on their hands, others were supplied and held up by volunteers from organizations like NMHA, the National Mental Health Association, NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and, of course, the ACLU. Someone suddenly stuck a sign that read ‘The Death Penalty Is Murder!’ in her face, hitting her in the forehead. ‘You know, you’ll be going to hell, too!’ its holder sneered as she passed, so close Julia could feel the spray of his spittle on her face.

  ‘Back off, asshole!’ she heard Lat shout behind her as she pushed her way past a wide-eyed and amused reporter who had turned to watch the scuffle. ‘Take your shit outside. Cormier! Get him out of here! Nobody should be touching her!’

  ‘Let’s go, pal,’ said another voice. ‘You’re out. You crossed the line.’

  ‘Freedom of speech, Officer! I can say whatever the fuck I want to a prospective murderer! Does it make you feel important to put an insane man to death, lady?’ was the last thing she heard as she made her way down the aisle to the State’s table.

  …7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, I… breathe.

  Until Monday morning, the focus of the trial of the century had been on the murders. On the cold, calculated brutality of the facts. On Jennifer and Emma and Danny and Sophie. On Jennifer and David’s marriage. On David Marquette as a vicious psychopath: a cunning, manipulative, abusive and secretive man who wore two different faces – one for the outside world of doctors and patients, friends and colleagues, and a very different one at home behind closed doors. This focus was not just in the courtroom, but also in the press, as news commentators wrapped up the day’s events in court, and then speculated about the testimony of tomorrow’s witnesses.

  But Mel Levenson had changed that focus. At least temporarily. For the past three days, the defense had put on their case. Defense psychiatrists Al Koletis and Margaret Hayes had told the courtroom about David Marquette’s bizarre delusions. All about the world he supposedly lived in since he was a teenager. About the voices he heard and the twisted faces he saw. The defense and their witnesses and their doctors had dissected Marquette’s childhood, his family life, his marriage and his institutionalized twin brother. Now the topic du jour for the international press and around every water cooler in the country was insanity. What it meant legally. What it was medically. And that publicity, in turn, had flooded the streets and the hallways with the curious and the concerned. Legal commentators for CNN and Fox and MSNBC now debated the morality and constitutionality of medicating the mentally ill so that they could stand trial or even be executed, while famous criminal cases of those who’d pled insanity before were discussed ad nauseam on primetime television as the video reels of their trials ran over and over again. Most of those defendants, the legal analysts noted, had failed miserably. David Berkowitz. Jeffrey Dahmer. Ted Bundy. Sirhan Sirhan. Henry Lee Lucas. Charles Manson. John Wayne Gacy. Andrea Yates. Spitting out statistics alongside mug shots, analysts pointed out that insanity was offered as a defense in less than one percent of all criminal proceedings, but was actually successful in only a quarter of those cases where it was pled.

  Now was Julia’s turn as the State began rebuttal. She hadn’t wanted to ever come back to the courtroom. To this circus. After Friday night’s strange phone cal
l, she’d spent the weekend again holed up in her apartment with Moose, sorting through her Marquette file boxes, afraid to venture out even if just to get the morning paper, for fear that a hidden reporter might snap her picture and put it on the front page. Then the protesters might be able to find out where she lived. The invisible pressure in her head made it feel as if it were about to explode, and she willed herself not to look behind her at the sea of strange faces who watched her. He could be out there right now. In the rain. In the hallway. In the courtroom. Right behind her with his raspy breathing and creepy laugh. Ironically enough, it was Andrew who’d talked her into coming back, cautioning her about what might happen to the rest of her legal career if she left now and moved back to New York on the next plane out like she wanted to. Andrew’s transfer to Rockland was set for this Saturday morning and she was flying up late tomorrow night to be there when it happened. To help him get settled in. No one knew how long he’d be at Rockland. It could be another ten or fifteen years. It could be as little as two. It all depended on his evaluations and what the psychiatrists said. But Julia knew one thing for certain: she wanted to be near her brother. She wanted to support him and his recovery and she wanted to be able to visit every weekend, not just once a month when she could get a decent airfare. He was all she had left, and she was all he had, and she wanted to build a life for him to eventually come home to, be that in two years or twenty. And she wanted it to be far away from Miami.

  She looked up from her seat as the door to the hallway opened and watched as David Marquette, flanked on all sides by police and correction officers, was shuffled into the courtroom. The jail had gotten so many death threats after the ME testified last week that, in addition to the standard metal accessories, Marquette now sported an armed entourage and wore a bulletproof vest whenever he stepped foot out of his cell, lest some nut try and take him out with a bullet.

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