Plea of Insanity, p.46Jilliane Hoffman
Julia had that sickening, exciting feeling now. She looked at her watch. It was only 5:18. They’d been out officially only three hours. A quick verdict couldn’t be good for the defense in an insanity case, not with all the issues they had to consider. She paced her office for a long while, feeling her heart race, as that familiar shot of adrenaline hit her bloodstream. Now would be a good time to throw the rest of her desk in a box, she thought. Take her diplomas and her Bic pens and hightail it the hell out of Dodge while everyone was busy looking the other way.
But she couldn’t.
She looked out her window again and across the street. The steps of the courthouse were virtually empty now. Everyone had already gone in.
This was her case. Her last verdict. She wanted to take that walk across the street one last time. And she wanted to see the faces of the jury she had picked. She wanted to look in their eyes and know what they were going to do before the clerk announced it to the world. And perhaps, most importantly, she wanted those three men and nine women to see her there, too. She wanted them all to know it was not just another case for her. It never was. She left her boxes on her desk and headed across the street.
No one paid any attention as she slid in the very back of the packed courtroom, because everyone – every correction officer, every police officer, every camera, every microphone – was trained on the somber-faced jury that was filing back into the box from the jury room. None of the jurors looked up from the floor or out at the crowd. None of them, she noticed, looked over at the defendant.
Lat came from somewhere and stood next to her in the back of the courtroom. Without a word, his hand found hers, grasping a pinky and rubbing it gently. Her palms were drenched in perspiration.
‘Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I understand you’ve reached a verdict,’ said Judge Farley, folding up the verdict form he’d just read to himself. He passed it back to the clerk.
‘We have, Your Honor,’ said the red-faced foreman, swallowing the back half of his words as he finally looked up and spotted the wall of cameras trained on him from every angle in the courtroom.
‘Will the defendant please rise,’ said Farley, looking over at David Marquette.
Want to get out of here?’ Lat whispered in her ear. We don’t have to stay …’
‘I want to hear,’ she whispered. She swallowed hard. ‘I want to hear them say it.’ She never took her eyes off the foreman.
A somber-faced Mel leaned in and whispered something into his client’s ear before they both stood. Mel straightened his jacket and buttoned it, but David stared straight ahead, his hands held behind him. Julia noticed they were shaking ever so slightly.
‘Will the clerk please publish the verdict, then,’ said the judge.
Ivonne nodded and stood herself. She put on her reading glasses and opened the verdict form. We the jury,’ she began, ‘in the county of Miami-Dade, Florida, on this the twenty-fourth day of March, two thousand and six, as to count one of the indictment, to wit, the death of Jennifer Leigh Marquette, find the defendant, David Alain Marquette—’
The clerk gasped just a little as her eyes rolled over the words before her mouth spoke them. She looked up into the cameras, her eyes wide. She finally stammered out what the entire world was waiting to hear.
‘We find the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity …’
The courtroom exploded as a stunned Ivonne continued to read all four verdicts. One after the other, not guilty by reason of insanity. Judge Farley had known what was coming, and he’d wisely hit the Liaison security button under the bench as soon as he’d handed the form over to Ivonne. Liaison was the division of MDPD on the third floor of the courthouse that provided contact services between most of the County’s police departments and the criminal courts. More than just making sure officers received subpoenas and showed up for court, Liaison also provided armed plain-clothes police for the courts. Because correction officers didn’t carry firearms, as a security precaution, Liaison had already sent a few officers over to Farley’s courtroom to help the judge maintain order. Judge Farley’s emergency under-the-table buzz had tipped them off as to just what the verdict was going to be, though. Ten more Liaison officers were already through the door before Ivonne got the final verdict out of her mouth.
‘Oh my God!’ shouted one reporter into a camera, breaking the courtroom code of conduct. ‘Not Guilty! He’s Not Guilty! All counts!’ That started the rest of them as Farley’s rules got chucked out the window. Reporters began to air directly from the courtroom, not wanting to be beaten out in the hall in the ratings department by the shouts and screams of the competition.
Farley was yelling at Jefferson. Jefferson was yelling, ‘Be quiet! Court is still in session!’ at everyone. And no one was paying any attention. Julia had never seen anything like it. It was bedlam.
Rick Bellido sat alone at the State’s table, stunned, staring out at the jury, who were now unable to look at him. Reporters snapped pictures and shoved microphones over the gallery railing in his face, demanding comment. For once, though, Ricardo Alejandro Bellido had nothing to say.
David Marquette hung his head on the table as Mel slapped his back. Alain pushed his way up to the railing and hugged his son’s attorney, tears streaming down his face. Julia scanned the crowd for David’s mother, but she wasn’t at her husband’s side, where she had been every day since the start of trial. She finally spotted her a few moments later, further back in the crowd. While the whole room surged forward to the gallery, Nina Marquette – dressed in a conservative navy suit, her white-blonde hair pulled into a classic chignon – slipped further and further back to the door. Reporters shouted questions at her, but she held her hand up, turned and walked out of the courtroom without her husband. Her eyes met Julia’s for a simple moment as she pushed open the mahogany doors, but Julia could see that she wasn’t crying today. And she wasn’t smiling. Her skin was ashen, matching her hair, and she looked physically ill.
A reporter finally noticed Julia, pointed his microphone at her and began to scream her name. An army of cameras spun in her direction, their lights blinding her, while another set attacked Lat. She pulled her hand away from his.
Ms Valenciano, are you happy with the verdict? ‘Was justice done? ‘Have you spoken to David Marquette? ‘Can you confirm that you have been fired by the State Attorney’s Office? ‘Were you prepared to testify for the defense in the penalty phase? ‘Should the death penalty be abolished? ‘Do you have anything you’d like to say to the jury?’
‘Detective, are you angry with the State? Do you believe Ms Valenciano is responsible for the verdict? ‘Are you continuing to try and link Marquette to the North Florida murders?’ ‘Is there any further evidence that you can now reveal to the public? ‘Will he be charged in those, even if you do have enough evidence, now that he’s been found insane? ‘Is he a serial killer?’
The questions came so fast, it was almost as if the reporters shouting them didn’t really want answers. Julia just kept shaking her head as the world began to spin and the cameras and faces closed in on her. She didn’t know how she should feel, what she should say. It was all so surreal. So unexpected. And there were so many emotions. Part of her, she supposed, felt vindicated – the jury had heard her, and they’d listened. They had placed the blame where it should be – on the disease, not the man. Part of her felt unfathomable guilt and sorrow for Jennifer, Danny, Sophie and, especially, Emma, who knew only terror in the final minutes of her life, and would never understand why. Julia hoped that, in their eyes, she had done right by them. They all were consequential victims of madness. And, finally, part of her felt ashamed – as if she’d betrayed her office and her oath as a prosecutor. Justice was never as black and white as it seemed in the case law and statutes.
The judge finally found something heavy to slam on his desk and, with the help of Liaison, finally brought the courtroom back under control. He was done making nice with the cameras. T
‘So help me, I will find everyone in this courtroom in contempt if I don’t get quiet in the next five seconds,’ he barked into the microphone. ‘The defendant might be the only one here who I don’t sentence to jail tonight.’ His eye caught on the crowd of reporters in the back. ‘There will be no interviews in this courtroom while court is in session! And even when it’s not, do you hear me? Do that in the hall or on the front lawn for all I care,’ he said, his eyes flickering with surprise when he saw it was Julia they were trying to talk to, ‘do it with whoever you want, but you will not do it here.’ He threw an icy stare in the direction of an exasperated Jefferson. ‘Next time, do your job and make sure these people are kept under control. This is a courtroom, not a damn rock concert.’ Finally he looked out with general disgust at everyone else. ‘Now let’s get this over with,’ he grumbled. ‘There’s no sense in putting it off another day and keeping the circus here in town.’
The judge turned to the jury, while motioning to Jefferson to escort them out. His face and his body language instantly told them he was not pleased with them or their verdict. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your service,’ he said abruptly. ‘It is no longer needed. Jefferson will show you back out through the jury room. If you want to speak with the press, you may do so, because God knows they want to speak with you. If you don’t, you can remain in the jury room and Jefferson will eventually escort you out to your cars, although I can’t guarantee when that will be.’
As Jefferson began to usher the jury out, Julia saw some of the men and women cast a final, halting glance over at the defense table. The expression shared on their faces was one she had seen before, but not here in a courtroom, and she swallowed hard at the sight. It was the same look strangers would afford some disheveled, crazy, babbling bum on a street corner that they’d reluctantly just given a dollar to. It was a look of pity. Of contempt. And of unmistakable fright. But there was a flicker of something else, too. As they dashed to safety on the other side of the street to gossip with their friends, as they filed back into the comfortable security of their jury room, it was the look of self-righteous pride that Julia recognized. Pride at their own generosity and understanding.
As soon as the jury was gone, Judge Farley turned to the defendant, who was still standing. ‘Mr Marquette, the jury has found you not guilty by reason of insanity on all counts of the indictment. I think we can agree – Mr Levenson, Mr Bellido – that the evidence has shown that you are indeed mentally ill and, further, that you are manifestly dangerous to yourself and to others. Can we dispense, then, with the need for an evidentiary hearing on that issue, gentlemen?’
Both Rick and Mel nodded. ‘Yes, Your Honor,’ said a visibly emotional Mel. It was clear that even he had not expected the jury’s verdict. Rick’s ‘yes’ was almost inaudible.
‘As such, pursuant to section 916.15 of the Florida Statutes, and any applicable sections of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure,’ the judge quickly continued, ‘I find that the defendant most definitely meets the criteria for involuntary commitment, and as such, am hereby committing him to the custody of the Department of Children and Families. The department shall decide what is the appropriate maximum-security state facility the defendant shall be sent to for treatment, but this court will continue to retain jurisdiction. Ivonne, set this down for report status in six months. At that time, Mr Levenson, I will review the hospital’s report on your client’s progress and we will proceed from there with any further extended commitment that I may then order.’ Farley looked at the gaggle of press in revulsion. ‘That’s it, court’s concluded. We are done here.’
Julia knew the judge had seen her in the back of the court, and she waited for him to maybe say one final thing to her before he stormed off the bench, but he didn’t. The door to the back hallway slammed shut behind him and she never saw Judge Farley again.
Lat attempted to lead her toward the doors, his hand held protectively against the small of her back, as the questions and shouts started back up again now that Farley was gone. The crowd had thinned, as some of the cameras hurried after reporters into the hallway to grab the jurors before they left the building, and others went to hunt down Rick Bellido, who’d apparently ducked out the back hallway after the judge. Julia turned to look one last time around the courtroom where her career had abruptly, unfortunately ended. It was not lost on her that she might never be in another one again.
In the gallery, David Marquette held his hands out patiently in front of him for Corrections to cuff them. Another CO knelt at his feet, busy locking the shackles that held his feet in chains. She watched him for a second, his shoulders slumped, his arms and legs bound, as the remaining spectators talked excitedly about him, and the cameras continued to shoot him. That was when David Marquette suddenly turned his head and looked behind him.
Maybe he was searching for his father to say goodbye. Or maybe his mother. Maybe he was even searching for her. Or maybe, she would come to wonder later, he was actually looking for the cameras that filmed him. Whatever the reason, in a courtroom full of people, his ghostly gray eyes found hers once again, just like at the competency hearing. Across a room full of chaos, he locked in on them and held them fast as Corrections clicked his chains in place.
She couldn’t look away. She couldn’t move, even with Lat and the press that surrounded them pushing her gently to the door. Sound swirled in a vacuum, everyone, everything moved in slow motion. And as Corrections finally began to lead David Marquette across the gallery to the door that would take him to the bridge and DCJ, he did something Julia had never seen him do before. Not even once. Something that made her heart stop and her blood suddenly turn to ice water.
He smiled at her.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I understand you’ve reached a verdict.
The judge’s words sounded thick, as if they’d been dipped in molasses. All around him, he noticed, time had somehow suddenly slowed to a virtual stop. Seconds had stretched into hours, like a bad movie with too much slow motion in its direction. He heard the restless crowd around him suck in a collective breath and then hold it as the judge spoke. The moment seemed so fragile, as if he had just watched someone drop an expensive glass vase and was just waiting for it to shatter into a thousand pieces. He imagined, as he looked straight ahead at nothing, that if they did sentence him to die, this might be what his final moments alive would feel like. The last few hours lasting as long as days; final seconds becoming an eternity, until, he suspected, there’d come a point he’d actually be anxious for it to just end. His body was physically tingling, from both the terror and the excitement, as a million little fingers delicately crawled across his skin under the ill-fitting, cheap black suit his attorney had made him wear. The prickly feeling was at once euphoric and also insatiably itchy and uncomfortable, and he resisted the urge to claw himself out of his restless skin. It was imperative that he remain here, in the moment, no matter how anxious he might be. The end was almost here.
Will the defendant please rise …
They were all here for him, he knew as his eyes took in the room without ever moving. Not for his brilliant father or his cold, society mother or his sorry-ass, tragedy of a brother. This time it was for him. They had traveled from as far away as China and France and Germany – all around the world – to see him. To hear him. To watch him with their cameras. And as he sat there, waiting to rise up and hear his fate, suspended in this fragile moment, he knew that in dozens of countries, millions of people, right now, were talking about and shedding tears over him. Of course, the attention was never his intention, yet he couldn’t help but find it funny how things worked out sometimes. And he couldn’t help but be more than a bit proud of himself at how far he’d come with this. At how far he’d made it. But, of course, it was not time for smugness. The vase was still out there in mid-air.
His attorney gripped his arm and leaned into h
Will the clerk please publish the verdict …
The judge kept up his angry stare as the clerk rose, unfolded the paper and finally put on her reading glasses. Sitting up stiffly in his seat, he moved closer to the bench, tapping his wrinkled fingers impatiently on the wood, and surveying his courtroom with a suspicious, anxious stare.
And that was when he saw the judge blink.
It had happened so fast, he was sure no one else had noticed. But he’d played enough poker in his life to know a tell when he saw one. Judge Farley, with the flicker of panic in his cold, angry eyes, had just choked right in front of him and given away his hand. And in that brief, fragile instant, he knew what the clerk was about to say.
Plea of Insanity by Jilliane Hoffman / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes