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Plea of insanity, p.43
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       Plea of Insanity, p.43

           Jilliane Hoffman

  He moved toward her. ‘Julia …’

  But she held her arms up in front of her, keeping him away. ‘I don’t want your pity, John. I don’t want anyone’s pity. No, no, no, no. No pity.’

  ‘Is that why you never said anything?’ he said, his voice rising in frustration. ‘You’re so damn strong you think you can handle all this alone? You’re gonna prove yourself to everyone watching? That you can take on bad judges, and you can take on the criminals and you can take on the system? This case – Marquette – it’s so close … I can see that now. It’s unreasonable to think it wouldn’t have gotten to you.’

  ‘I read the paper this morning on the plane. The New York Post. A little girl watched her momma’s boyfriend kill her and then kill himself. Then this little girl, she sat in the house for two days next to the bodies before someone finally came and rang the bell and found her. And I felt bad, Lat. I felt pity for her – for what her life is now, and for what it will be like for her, growing up, so different from everyone else. But tomorrow there’ll be another tragedy to read about. Maybe it will even be worse. And in a week or two, I’ll forget all about the little girl who was found with the dead bodies. Right? I mean, we all do. We forget about the tragedies that are bad enough to make the paper. There’s too many of them, and they always happen to someone else, don’t they?

  ‘But the headline makers, you know, they grow up, John. They ride the bus next to you, they work in the next cubicle over. They’re people whose tragedies define who they are to everyone who meets them. You’re not the nice girl in algebra anymore – you’re the girl whose parents were murdered by her crazy brother. You’re not the secretary with the terrific laugh – you’re the chick whose family died in a house fire. And I’m … I’m just so tired of being defined. I’m tired of being different. Of being the girl in the headlines.’

  ‘Julia …’

  ‘So I don’t tell anyone, and maybe I do try and prove myself everyday. Maybe I have to. Prove that I can get through life, that I won’t be swallowed up by my tragedy, by memories that never, ever go away, no matter how much I wish them or lie about them.’

  He was next to her now, his arms wrapped around her shaking body. She tried to break out, but he just held her until the fight was finally gone and she collapsed crying against his chest. He smoothed her hair back off her face, stroking it, his fingers running against her wet cheek and down her neck.

  A long, long while passed until he finally spoke. ‘I still think you’re the hot prosecutor with the great laugh and the nice chest,’ he whispered softly in her ear.

  He felt her body shake up against his and he knew she was laughing. He moved his hand gently under her chin, cupping it in his hand. She tried to move away, not wanting him to look at her. ‘Sshh, sshh,’ he said, bringing her face up toward his own.

  Her fiery green eyes were red and swollen. She must have been crying for days. Longer, maybe. He wiped her cheeks with his thumbs. Funny, she looked so beautiful. So defiant. So vulnerable. So strong. So scared. He bent down, close to her face.

  ‘You said no rebounds,’ she whispered. But she didn’t move away.

  ‘This,’ he said, pulling her even closer to him, ‘this is no rebound.’ Then he did what his body and soul had ached to do for so long, and he kissed her.

  I Felt a Cleaving in my Mind

  I felt a Cleaving in my Mind –

  As if my Brain had split –

  I tried to match it – Seam by Seam –

  But could not make it fit

  The thought behind, I strove to join

  Unto the thought before –

  But Sequence raveled out of Sound

  Like Balls – upon a Floor.

  Emily Dickinson


  ‘Mr Bellido?’ Farley grumbled as he swept to the bench on Tuesday morning. Jefferson had once again missed his cue but this time the judge didn’t care. He waved off the bailiff and motioned for the packed courtroom to sit. He was already three days past his promise and his deadline, and only four short days away from missing his boat to the Caribbean. The antics and delays of the past few days had worn him thin. ‘Are you ready to proceed with closing?’

  ‘I am, Your Honor,’ said Rick, as he rose from his seat at the State’s table. He carefully buttoned his jacket and walked over to the jury box. ‘David Marquette is a murderer. On October eighth, two thousand five, at approximately four thirty a.m., the man who had taken an oath to save lives, the man who had made a promise to love, honor and cherish his wife and their children, grabbed a baseball bat and crept into the bedroom where his wife, Jennifer, slept peacefully in their bed. Then he struck her over the head with that bat so forcefully, she was probably rendered unconscious after the first blow. I stress probably, ladies and gentlemen, because the ME can’t say for certain and we don’t really know. We all hope that she was, though. Because that’s when Dr David Marquette took out his knife and he stabbed her. Not once. Not twice, but thirty-seven times. Over and over and over again. With such force, he went through her body and into the mattress.’ He paused again for a long moment, not taking his eyes off Marquette, who still sat expressionless. ‘Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen of the jury– he is a murderer.’

  Rick walked slowly over to where the smiling portraits of the Marquette victims had been mounted on easels across from the jury box. Beside each portrait was a graphic crime-scene photo of each victim. He knew that the jury hated looking at the pictures. He had watched them cringe when he had first introduced them at trial. Even for him, they were disturbing and difficult to look at, and he knew that particularly the women wanted to turn away. But they could not. He would not let them. Like a skilled hypnotist, he held them there – fast in their seats while he took them back in time.

  ‘David Marquette then left his wife, dead on their bed in the master bedroom, and he walked down the hall to the rooms where his three children lay sleeping. Little Danny, baby Sophie, big-girl Emma. And with that same bloodied baseball bat and that same knife, he intended to deliver that very same fate to his own small children.

  ‘But something went wrong. Something David Marquette had not anticipated, ladies and gentlemen. His daughter woke up. What woke her, we will never know – maybe it was the cry of the baby or the screams of her brother – but she woke up and she found Danny, either dead or dying in his bed. And that little girl – who was all of six – was smart enough to call nine-one-one for help. Smart enough to make sure she named the man who would go on to murder her with that knife. “Oh no, no,” we know she cried out in terror when he called her name in that dark bedroom. “No, Daddy!” was what she said.’

  Rick stepped aside and let the jury look over at the defendant. He let them take the image he had so artfully and vividly painted for them and put the expressionless man with the new suit just ten feet across from them into the disturbing picture. The courtroom was completely still. It was almost as if people were afraid to breathe, lest they miss something.

  ‘That’s when the plans changed, ladies and gentlemen,’ he continued. ‘That’s when David Marquette – who had been smart enough to plan his own alibi – realized there would be no escape back to a comfy hotel room in Disney World, where he could feign surprise and shock in the morning when someone called with the horrible news about his family. That’s when David Marquette needed to think of a way out. And he needed to think fast, because he now knew that within a matter of minutes the police would be knocking on his front door downstairs. The plans had to change.’ He paused. ‘There was someone else. An intruder.

  ‘He had driven down from Orlando earlier that night to be with his family because he missed them so. He had been away for a couple of days already at this medical conference and he just couldn’t wait another night to spend time with Jennifer, to hold the baby and kiss the kids. Because he was such a great father, a great husband, just like everybody always said he was. One of the many faces we know David Marquette wore.

t four thirty in the morning, he was in the bathroom taking a shower, getting ready to head back up to his conference, when his wife – his beautiful wife, Jennifer – was murdered in her sleep by an intruder. A would-be rapist. An intruder, or maybe even intruders for all he knew, who then took a bat and a knife and slaughtered his whole family, like Charles Manson. He stepped out of the bathroom into a dark bedroom to find his wife dead, and his daughter, Emma, screaming his name. He ran to her room, to her aid, surprising this intruder, and that’s when he had been attacked himself, stabbed brutally in the stomach.

  ‘The reason he wasn’t stabbed thirty-seven times, like his wife, or twenty times, like his daughter? The reason he was still alive? The intruder didn’t have the time. Thanks to Emma, he knew the police were coming now, and he fled out into the night, leaving his murder weapon behind, carefully placed right in our poor, destroyed defendant’s stomach. Carefully, I say, because, as you all know, the very knife that had butchered David Marquette’s entire family somehow missed all of his vital organs. Conveniently, loaded with only the good doctor’s prints, because, of course, this intruder must have worn gloves. It was a horrible, dramatic wound that the defendant knew would bleed a lot and would seem serious and life-threatening on scene, but wouldn’t be if you knew how to place it – if you’d had the surgical training – if you got the proper medical attention right away. Medical training, of course, we know David Marquette did have. Medical attention he knew was on the way, because he’d heard his daughter make that call.’

  The jury stared at David Marquette. One woman shook her head and looked down at her lap, crying.

  ‘A perfect back-up plan, wasn’t it, folks?’ Rick continued. ‘Not so bad for thinking on the spot. For someone who had only minutes to rinse off all his family’s blood in the shower and then delicately perform surgery on himself with the very same murder weapon. Not bad at all. In fact, some might say thought processes made under such pressure were brilliant, not disorganized. Cunning, not illogical. Maybe even genius. But there was one problem. Dr David Marquette had forgotten one minor detail in that perfect plan, or we might not be here today as he enjoyed the proceeds of his wife’s multi-million-dollar life insurance policy and a life free of kids and responsibilities. Free to do what he wants, when he wants, with any one of the many girlfriends colleagues have testified he’d been fond of entertaining.’ Rick paused again. ‘He forgot to unset the alarm, ladies and gentlemen.’

  The courtroom murmured.

  ‘Objection!’ Mel Levenson said, rising to his feet. He knew the way this was turning out. He could smell it in the courtroom, the change in the air. He had to break the spell. ‘This is all conjecture, Your Honor.’

  ‘This is closing argument. Overruled,’ said Farley, motioning with his hand for Mel to sit back down.

  ‘The damn alarm,’ Rick continued, shaking his head. ‘Out of habit, David Marquette had unset it and then reset it when he snuck home that night. When he came home to murder his family and begin his new life. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans …

  ‘When David Marquette lay on the floor of his bathroom – the knife already in his stomach, the plan already in motion – he heard the alarm go off as the officers made entry into his house. As he listened to them race up the stairs and scream at the sight of the dead bodies of his wife and three children – he was smart enough to realize that there had to be some other explanation. The plans had to change once again.

  ‘So in a hospital bed in Jackson Memorial, he turned to the familiar. The only disease that could offer an explanation for the unimaginable carnage he could no longer deny he had committed. Schizophrenia. His own identical twin suffers from it. Mimicking the bizarre symptoms he had watched unfold in a mirror image of himself over the years would not be that difficult a task. Especially not when you’re a doctor and you’ve done a rotation on a psych ward. Let’s face it, ladies and gentlemen, Dr David Marquette knew the symptoms to manifest, the voices to offer up to the psychiatrists that would examine him. He knew enough not to claim it was little green men he saw, but the devil. He knew enough to flatten his emotions, to feign catatonia. He even knew how to compensate for the physical and mental effects of the antipsychotic drugs they would be sure to give him. The stint he’d done in a private rehab for cocaine psychosis during his second year in college could now be considered his first misdiagnosed psychotic “break.” The young man whom a caseworker had noted during that very stay as, and I quote, “manipulative and deceitful, superficial in thought and speech, with egocentric and grandiose ideals that are not grounded in current reality”. The man who had demonstrated, as far back as fifteen years ago, evidence of a psychopathic personality, was really a misdiagnosed schizophrenic. Just like his twin brother.

  ‘It was this horrible disease that had corrupted his brain with sick thoughts. That had made him believe his family would be forever damned if he did not save their souls. That had made him try to kill himself, to save himself from possession, too. That knife wound was a half-hearted attempt at hara-kiri, he wants us to believe. A horrible suicide attempt so that he could join his family in the hereafter.

  ‘Don’t buy it, ladies and gentlemen. Don’t believe any of it. Dr Barakat, a forensic psychiatrist with sixteen years of experience in the field, didn’t. Neither did Dr Hindlin. See the cunning pattern of behavior. See the brilliant thought processes that are actually involved here.’ He looked over at the defendant once again. ‘Truly brilliant, I have to admit.’ But Marquette did not look up.

  Rick turned back to face the jury. He waited a few moments until all of their eyes were focused back on him. Even the criers. ‘David Marquette has fooled some people with his story and his act, but he hasn’t fooled us all. The facts are the facts. They speak for themselves, and he can’t get out of them. David Marquette hasn’t fooled the seasoned homicide detectives or the State’s psychiatrists, and he hasn’t fooled me. Don’t let him fool you. He’s not a man whose illness manipulated him to commit murder; he’s a man who’s using an illness to manipulate the system into exonerating him. He’s not a schizophrenic, ladies and gentlemen. He’s a cold-blooded psychopath. And he needs to pay for what he’s done.’


  The courtroom was completely quiet as Rick sat down by himself at the State’s table, which everyone could notice had a conspicuously empty seat at it. Her absence this morning had been the talk of all the papers, all the tabloids, all the talk shows, all the news programs. All morning, all over the world.

  After the hush of stunned silence finally broke into excited whispers, Farley declared it was time for lunch and recessed court till 2 p.m.

  Julia sat on her living-room couch chewing on what remained of her thumbnail, in her pajamas and slippers. She stared blankly at the TV as the commentators quickly took to the air to analyze what Rick Bellido had said, and what it meant, and what the jury must be thinking, and what this must mean for the defense. The consensus among all, she saw as she flipped through the channels, was that Rick had delivered a brilliant closing argument.

  As she watched, one by one, the parade of well-coiffed, smiling analysts disparaged her name, seemingly disregarding everything that had transpired just last week. Rick had exacted his revenge on her. He had discredited her and her direct exam of Barakat as much as he could without discrediting his case. She was the inexperienced, naïve fool here.

  She finally walked into the kitchen and made herself a pot of coffee for lunch. She opened another pack of cigarettes and sat at the kitchen table, her head buried in her hands.

  And she didn’t answer the phone, no matter how many times it rang.


  At 61 years of age, 6′2″ and 310 pounds, Mel Levenson might not be a match for Rick Bellido’s looks or his suave Spanish charm in a courtroom, but he certainly had more experience with a jury. Thirty-six years of it. And that was a hell of a lot more than what Bellido and his Cupcake of the Month had. He rose slowly from his seat and lumber
ed over to the jury. He could tell from the jurors’ faces – those that would look at him, anyways – that he was down a point or two. So he knew he’d better make every word count if there was any hope of keeping his client off of death row.

  ‘I’ve been doing this a long time, folks,’ Mel began with a smile in a friendly, conversational tone. ‘A long time. And I always like to remind the jury that whatever the prosecutor or I say in closing arguments is not evidence. No matter how we say it, no matter what we say, and no matter how convinced we may look while we’re saying it. Closing arguments are just an opportunity for the State and the defense to sum up the case, and what they think the evidence presented during the trial. But it’s not evidence. That’s not always easy to remember when you have someone as well-dressed and good-looking and convincing as Mr Bellido up here telling you how it is you should see things,’ he said, throwing his smile in the direction of the State’s table. The courtroom tittered and a couple of female jurors looked sheepishly down at their shoes for a moment.

  ‘The prosecutor has offered us a, to use his own term, “brilliant” theory of the case to consider. But it’s his theory, and it’s just that – a theory. It’s what he thinks the evidence showed, not what it did. And Mr Bellido has a very active imagination. He has concocted a far-off convoluted tale – three different tales, actually – of what he says my client really meant to do that night. But he’s no psychic. He’s no mindreader, folks. And none of this theory he’s expounded is grounded in any facts that we heard here during this trial. Remember that. He’s built you a huge castle out of nothing but buckets and buckets of sloppy mud, but it has no factual foundation and so it doesn’t stand up. It can’t be supported. His story doesn’t work.’

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