Plea of Insanity, p.44Jilliane Hoffman
He rested his big hands casually against the railing. For such a large man, he displayed a very laid-back, down-to-earth, intimate persona. ‘The law in Florida is this, plain and simple: if, at the time he committed the crime charged, the defendant suffered from a mental infirmity or disease, and because of this condition, either he didn’t know what he was doing, or he didn’t know what he was doing was wrong, then he is legally insane. It’s really as simple as that. And,’ Mel said, holding up a finger and suspending the moment, ‘it doesn’t matter if he was sane last year or last night, or even if he is sane right now as we look at him – what only matters is if he was legally sane at the moment he committed the crime. That’s all.’ He paused for a long moment as everyone looked over at the defense table.
‘Mr Bellido doesn’t want you to believe my client is a paranoid schizophrenic. He doesn’t want you to believe he hears voices in his head, or that he has disorganized thoughts, or that he suffers from paranoid delusions. He doesn’t want you to believe that the voices – which never let up, ladies and gentlemen, as Dr Koletis and Dr Hayes both testified – that these voices told David his family was possessed by demonic spirits. He doesn’t want you to believe that these voices told him he was not killing his wife and children, but that he was saving their souls. Saving their souls from a damned eternal existence in hell. Mr Bellido doesn’t want you to believe that in David’s mind – in David’s reality – he did not know what he was doing was wrong, because in this reality, his wife and children were already dead. He wasn’t killing them – he was exorcizing the devil that possessed the shell of their dead bodies. The devil that was soon to consume his soul as well. Then no one would be left to save his family. And no matter what a prosecutor or a seasoned homicide detective or even his own attorney might tell him, David knows this was true. There is absolutely no reasoning with him, even if you could reach him, because that is David’s reality. And he knows he did the right thing. And, I’ll tell you this much folks, that in his reality – he did do the right thing!’ He slapped the railing and turned around to face the rest of the courtroom. It was as if he were addressing not just the twelve-member panel, but the world.
‘And it’s easy to not believe, isn’t it? It’s easy to question how could someone actually think these crazy things. So, folks, I want you to imagine for a moment you are in the delusion that David was living with. And then I want you to imagine it’s not a delusion. That it’s really happening. I want you to imagine what it’s like to constantly hear different voices chattering and screaming and whispering away in your head. Voices that sound just as real, to you, as I do or Judge Farley or Mr Bellido does. Voices that talk to you constantly, even when you’re sleeping. And you don’t know that you’re ill, folks. You can’t recognize something’s wrong because that’s part of the disease, after all. So close your eyes, if you would, and imagine the terror that David lives with every day.’
‘Objection!’ said Rick, rising to his feet as the jury members closed their eyes. ‘This is a Golden Rule violation. He’s asking the jury to place themselves in the position of the defendant!’
‘I’m asking them to step into a delusion and imagine that that is real. I’m not asking them to imagine they are the defendant.’
‘Mr Levenson is splitting hairs,’ barked Rick.
Farley raised a skeptical white eyebrow. ‘Maybe. But he makes a good argument. Overruled.’
‘The voices whispered to him – all day, all night, every day, every night – that his children were slowly being possessed by Satan,’ Mel continued. ‘He saw the signs of possession – the mark of the beast – in the growths on their skin and head. He saw the signs of the devil’s presence in the way they chewed their food, and grasped at their toys. He saw the signs when his wife cut her finger on a kitchen knife, but it didn’t bleed.’ Mel paused. He needed to tread cautiously, or else risk disparaging the reputation of the victim. ‘We know from the semen stain on her shirt, that Jennifer had engaged in relations with someone else,’ he said softly. ‘But to David her infidelity was twisted into a sign that his wife was sleeping with the devil himself. It was these signs that confirmed for him what the voices had been saying all along.
‘Okay, so now David knows he’s not paranoid – he’s right. Now the voices can truly be trusted. And these voices that have befriended him with their prophetic whispers, they tell him that his children’s souls will be consumed – forever condemned to burn in hell if they are not saved by the father who spawned them. He looks at his children from across the breakfast table and now he suddenly sees the red flash of demon eyes before they look away, or the dark yellow teeth when they smile at him. When he kisses his wife, he feels a piece of rotting skin slip off her cheeks. The devil has just shown his face to David Marquette. And the voices are right once again. Satan is in his house, he has possessed his family, and only David Marquette knows it. Only David Marquette can see it. Only he can stop it. Think about it, folks. It’s like being trapped in a horror movie, but for David, there’s no theater to run out of. No one to tell him, “Whew! It’s only a movie!” There is no escape. For him, this is reality.
‘I ask you, folks – no, no,’ Mel said, shaking his head, ‘I implore you – put yourself into the delusion and imagine that that is your reality now. This is your reality. This is what you see, and smell and taste and hear and believe. And maybe now you can imagine the frightening hell that is my client’s everyday existence. That is the disease of schizophrenia. And that is what David Marquette suffers from.
‘The law recognizes that someone who is insane is not responsible for his actions, no matter how brutal those actions might be.’ Mel looked over in Rick Bellido’s direction. ‘Sure, it would make us feel better to blame someone for the deaths of four people. It would be neater to wrap it all up and call David Marquette an evil SOB. A cold-hearted psychopath, as Mr Bellido contends, that didn’t care about his family and only wanted a carefree life to spend his newfound millions. But that’s not what the facts showed. We heard from all different witnesses, including Jennifer’s own family, who told us that David was a great father, a great husband. Yes, he had a couple of affairs over the years, but that doesn’t mean he wanted to kill his wife. It doesn’t mean he wanted to kill his children. And the State has offered no witness to testify that he did. But the prosecutor knows that by calling David Marquette a psychopath, it actually makes the whole nasty, brutal crime easier to explain to the voters of Miami.’
‘Objection!’ Rick said, jumping defiantly to his feet once again.
‘Sustained,’ Farley said, looking down over his glasses at Rick with a coy smile. He motioned for him to sit back down. ‘Try not to characterize Mr Bellido as pandering his case to the good people of Miami in hopes of getting them to vote for him in his election bid next November.’
The courtroom tittered. Rick sank back in his seat red-faced.
Mel looked back at the jury. ‘Let’s face it. It would be easier for us all to hate David if he is a psychopath. There would be no pity in that instance, only loathing. And it would be a lot less frightening than the truth – that a debilitating mental illness could actually drive a once-brilliant surgeon, a loving father, a wonderful husband to commit the crime of murder without even any provocation. It would be a lot less frightening than finding out that there is no one we can blame.’
Mel waited a moment then continued, almost thoughtfully, ‘Schizophrenics, as Dr Koletis and Dr Hayes and Dr Barakat and Dr Hindlin explained, don’t all suffer from the same delusion. They don’t all hear the same voices, and they don’t all see the same hallucinations. As it is with any mental illness, the disease manifests itself in the mind, and so it affects each victim in a horrifyingly unique way, so there is no standard universal psychiatric litmus test. There’s no rash that erupts on the skin, or wayward cell that can be examined under a microscope to identify it, to verify that what the patient is telling them is the truth. Dr Barakat, the State’s own psychiatrist, c
‘That brings us full circle, folks, to my final comment,’ Mel said, making sure he made eye contact with every jury member. Making sure they all heard him, that each was listening. ‘We have become a society of “I’ll believe it when I see it” people. Church attendance around the world has fallen off, people are suing to have “In God We Trust” removed from our dollar bills.’ He held up his hands defensively in front of him. ‘Don’t get me wrong, this is not about religion, folks. I’m only making a point. And that point is, we know schizophrenia is a real disease, even though we can’t “see it” on a microscope slide or in a blood test. We know that this disease makes people who have it suffer from horrible auditory hallucinations, terrifying paranoia, and sometimes even vivid, twisted visions that can make them legally incapable of knowing what they are doing or the consequences of their actions. That can affect their ability to distinguish right from wrong. We know that inside the brain of a schizophrenic, reality – as we all know it exists – is actually seen completely differently by one who is afflicted with this disease. We know this, even though we ourselves cannot see it. Even though we cannot hear it. In this instance, we can only close our eyes and thank God, or whoever else you want; we can only imagine.
‘My job during this trial was to prove to you that my client, David Alain Marquette, was legally insane at the time he committed those murders. I have done that. The only way Mr Bellido’s theory works – the only way that my client can be found guilty of murder – is if you do not accept that David suffers from schizophrenia.’
Mel looked over at the defense table, but his client just stared down, rolling his tongue around in his mouth. It was as if he’d been in another room with a set of earphones on, and hadn’t heard what everyone had just been saying about him. His eyes remained as ghostly gray and lifeless as they had since the first day he had stepped foot in a courtroom.
Mel shook his head sadly as he headed back to his seat. ‘The man has already been sentenced to a lifetime in hell,’ he said softly. ‘Please don’t sentence him to death.’
The damage was already done before Rick’s feet managed to find the floor again. ‘Objection!’ he yelled. ‘The jury is only determining guilt at this phase of the proceedings, Your Honor. Mr Levenson’s comment leads them to believe that if they find the defendant guilty he’s going to be sentenced to death!’
The eyebrow went up again. ‘That is what the State is seeking, right?’ asked Farley.
‘As Your Honor is aware, sentencing is separate and apart from a finding of guilt. That is determined only after the penalty phase. And in any event, sentencing is imposed by Your Honor, not by the jury.’
‘But you are seeking the death penalty, right, Mr Bellido?’ Judge Farley’s back was arched and he clearly was annoyed. He hated being challenged, especially in front of cameras. ‘Isn’t that correct?’
Rick gritted his teeth. ‘Yes, Judge, but—’
‘I thought so,’ said the judge. Then he looked over at the jury. ‘If you find the defendant guilty, then we’ll proceed to the penalty phase, where you all get to decide if the defendant should be put to death. However, I’ll be the one who actually sentences him.’ He turned back to Rick, his eyes narrowed. ‘Anything further, Mr Levenson?’
Mel settled in his seat again and gently patted his client’s back. ‘No, Your Honor. I think we’re done here.’ The courtroom was perfectly quiet, but there was an electric charge in the air. Everyone knew the end was near.
‘Mr Bellido, will you be giving a rebuttal?’ asked Farley with what sounded a lot like a sigh.
Rick thought for a moment. The judge was obviously pissed at him now and, knowing how vindictive Farley could be, he knew that that fact would surely be further communicated to the jury should he give another closing. He looked at the men and women in the jury box and saw that they were getting a bit restless, as well. It had been a long couple of weeks, and an overwhelming, draining day. Giving a rebuttal meant he would risk boring the jury, further confusing them with psychiatric terms, or worse – pissing them off. And that could translate into unintended sympathy for the defendant. The biggest problem for most lawyers, he’d observed over the years, was not knowing when to just shut the hell up and sit back down. Thankfully, as he watched the jury, he saw that no one on the panel was looking over at the defendant, and that was definitely a good sign. An inability to make eye contact with either Marquette or his attorney meant that they were siding with the State. It meant they felt guilty for condemning him.
There was no reason to push it just because he could. ‘No, Your Honor,’ Rick said finally. ‘There’s no need. The State will rely on its closing and the jury’s own recollection of the evidence in this case.’
‘Alright folks, then that concludes closing arguments in this matter,’ Farley finally said when the frenzied murmurs began again. He said nothing for a long while, his white brow furrowed, his face turning a deeper red with each passing second, until his silence finally had once again commanded everyone’s attention. Now he was pissed at the whole courtroom. ‘It’s late in the day,’ he finally said. ‘Let’s break here. I’m going to release the alternates and charge the panel on the law in the morning. They should be ready to go into deliberations around lunchtime tomorrow.’ Then he climbed down off the bench before so much as another whisper broke out, and stormed into the back hallway, letting the door slam behind him.
‘All rise!’ barked Jefferson, once again, just seconds too late.
The phone call came maybe an hour or so after court had recessed for the day. She knew right away from the 305 area code and the 547 exchange on the caller ID that it was the State Attorney’s Office. The last four digits told her it was someone in Major Crimes.
Julia didn’t bother picking up the phone and hearing the news that she was being fired directly, so she just let the answering machine get it, while she sat on her kitchen counter, listening with her eyes closed. She didn’t want to have to defend herself or banter back and forth about what had happened in court last week. She didn’t want to explain what had happened with her brother or why she’d suddenly disappeared from sight for the last five days. She knew that a desperate attempt to try and save her job at the last minute would sound just like that – desperate. And she didn’t want to give anyone, especially not Rick Bellido if it was him on the other end of the line, the satisfaction of hearing her cry or break down over the phone.
Please leave a message after the tone.
‘Ms Valenciano, this is Charley Rifkin over at the State Attorney’s Office. I was hoping to speak with you this evening. I have Colleen Kay in my office from Human Resources … Your behavior in trial last week was completely inappropriate, clearly rising to the level of insubordination … unprofessional and unbecoming … in such a hostile and aggressive manner … I am shocked and discouraged … Mr Bellido has commented that … Further, your failure to show up … necessary to terminate your employment … it is expected that your office will be cleaned out within the next forty-eight hours …’
At some point she just turned off the machine. When she flipped it back on again, she hit the delete button. There would be no need to ever replay that message. She’d heard all she needed to hear. She’d been fired over her answering machine. And if that wasn
She’d expected the call, she supposed, but it was still a blow. Being a prosecutor was the only thing she knew. And it was over. Her entire career had just crashed and burned right in front of her, and she’d piloted the plane. Only a couple of months ago her future had looked so promising.
She wiped the tears and looked around her messy kitchen. She couldn’t stay in this stifling apartment a second longer or she’d surely go crazy. She’d retreated into her tiny cave to lick her wounds, but now they’d found her and were shooting their bullets in here, too. She could feel the walls moving in, crushing her wherever she turned, and in the living room, the TV beckoned her to come back in and watch as the commentators talked about her in a dozen different languages. She ran into the bedroom and threw on a pair of running shorts and a T-shirt, pulled her hair back into a pony and headed out the front door.
She’d done her job. The protesters wouldn’t even be looking for her anymore. She blasted her MP 3 player as she ran, hoping to drone out the voices of Charley Rifkin, Judge Farley, Rick, Karyn, Dr Mynks. Everyone who’d wanted to see her fall now had themselves a front-row seat on national television. As the miles dragged on, and she hit her runner’s high, she saw Andrew, sitting in the visiting room at Kirby, waiting for her to come see him, his carved, bloody hands outstretched across the chipped pressboard table, his lips blue and swollen.
Plea of Insanity by Jilliane Hoffman / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes