Theodore boone kid lawye.., p.12
Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, p.12Part #1 of Theodore Boone series by John Grisham
“All right, all right,” Judge Gantry said, and glanced at his watch. “I can’t stop the trial at this point. We’re almost ready for the jury to begin deliberations. If a surprise witness appeared now, it would be difficult to stop the trial and allow him to testify. And we don’t even have a surprise witness. We have a phantom witness. I can’t stop the trial.”
These words echoed around the room and fell heavily onto the table. All Theo could think about was Mr. Duffy sitting with all his lawyers, smug and confident that he was about to get away with murder.
“Judge, can I make a suggestion?” Ike asked.
“Sure, Ike. I could use some help.”
“Gossip is that you’re going to hold court tomorrow, on Saturday, and wait on a verdict.”
“Why not send the jury home until Monday, like most trials? Bring them back Monday morning to start their deliberations. This is a trial, not emergency surgery. Things aren’t that urgent.”
“So what’s your plan?”
“I don’t have one. But it would give us some time to think about this witness, maybe find a way to help him. I don’t know. It just seems wrong to rush to a verdict, especially a verdict that might be wrong.”
“Yes. I’ve watched some of the trial. I’ve watched the jurors. The State started with a weak case and it’s gotten even weaker. Pete Duffy is about to walk.”
Judge Gantry nodded slightly, as if he agreed, but he said nothing. He began getting ready. He buttoned his cuffs, adjusted his tie, stood and reached for his black robe hanging near the door.
“I’ll think about it,” he said, finally. “Thank you for your, uh . . .”
“Intrusion,” said Mr. Boone with a laugh. The Boones were pushing back and standing up.
“No, not at all, Woods. This presents a unique situation, something I’ve never encountered before. But then, every trial is different. Thank you, Theo.”
“Yes, Your Honor.”
“Are you watching the rest of the trial?”
“We can’t get a seat,” Theo said.
“Well, let me see what I can do about that.”
Once the jurors had taken their seats and the courtroom was quiet and all eyes were on Judge Gantry, he said, “Mr. Nance, I believe you have one more witness.”
Clifford Nance stood, straight and important, and said, with drama, “Your Honor, the defense calls Mr. Peter Duffy himself.”
The tension was suddenly thick as the defendant made his way to the witness chair. Finally, after four long days of trial, the accused would take the stand and tell his side of the story. But, in doing so he would also subject himself to questions from the prosecution. Theo knew that in 65 percent of murder cases the defendant does not testify, and he knew the reasons why. First, they’re usually guilty of the murder and cannot withstand a clever and nasty cross-examination from the prosecution. Second, they usually have a record of prior criminal activity, and once on the witness stand the record becomes fair game. In every trial the judge tries to explain to the jury that the defendant does not have to testify, does not have to say a word nor produce any witnesses on his behalf. The burden is on the State to prove him guilty.
Theo also knew that jurors are very suspicious of a defendant who will not testify to save his own neck. If they were suspicious of Pete Duffy, Theo could not tell. They watched him closely as he settled into the witness chair, raised his right hand, and swore to tell the truth.
Theo could see it all because, thanks to Judge Gantry, he was sitting in a ringside seat in the second row, behind the defense, with Ike to his right and his father to his left. His mother had appointments back at the office. She said she couldn’t waste the afternoon sitting through a trial, though it was obvious to the other three Boones that she really wanted to.
Clifford Nance cleared his throat and asked the defendant to state his name, a necessary but rather silly thing to do under the circumstances. Everyone in the courtroom not only knew Pete Duffy, but also knew a lot about him. Mr. Nance then began a series of simple questions. He took his time establishing the basics—Mr. Duffy’s family history, education, jobs, businesses, lack of criminal record, and so on. The two had spent hours rehearsing all this, and the witness settled into a routine. He often glanced over at the jurors in an effort to establish an easy conversational tone. Trust me, he seemed to be trying to say. He was a nice-looking man in a stylish suit, and this struck Theo as a little odd because none of the five male jurors wore a coat or a tie. Theo had read articles about the strategy of what lawyers and their clients should wear during a trial.
The back-and-forth finally got around to something important when Mr. Nance brought up the subject of the $1 million insurance policy on the life of Mrs. Myra Duffy. The witness explained that he was a firm believer in life insurance, that when he was a young man with a young wife and young children he had always saved his money and invested in life insurance, both for himself and for his wife. Life policies are valuable tools to protect a family in the event of an untimely death. Later, when he married his second wife, Myra, he had insisted on purchasing life insurance. And Myra agreed. In fact, the $1 million policies had actually been her idea. She wanted the protection in case something happened to him.
Though he seemed unable to completely relax, Mr. Duffy was believable. The jurors listened carefully. So did Theo, and more than once he reminded himself that he was watching the biggest trial in Strattenburg’s history. Plus, he was also skipping school, with an excuse.
From the life insurance, Mr. Nance moved the conversation to Mr. Duffy’s business ventures. And here, the witness scored well. He admitted that some of his real estate deals had gone sour, that some of the banks were squeezing him, that he’d lost a few partners and made some mistakes. His humility was touching and well received by the jurors. It made him even more believable. He strongly denied that he was even remotely close to bankruptcy, and rattled off an impressive series of steps he was taking to unload debt and save his assets.
Some of it was over Theo’s head, and he suspected a few of the jurors were slightly confused, too. It didn’t matter. Clifford Nance had his client thoroughly prepared.
Under the State’s theory, the motive for the killing was money and greed. This theory was looking weaker and weaker.
Mr. Nance then moved to the delicate matter of the Duffys’ marital troubles, and here again the witness did a fine job. He admitted things had been rocky. Yes, they had gone to marriage counselors. Yes, they had consulted separate divorce lawyers. Yes, there had been fights, but none violent. And yes, he had moved out on one occasion, a miserable one-month period that made him even more determined to patch things up. At the time she was killed, they were together and happy and making plans for the future.
Another whack at the prosecution’s theory.
As the afternoon wore on, Clifford Nance steered the testimony to the subject of golf, and there they spent a lot of time. Too much time, in Theo’s humble opinion. Mr. Duffy was adamant in his assertions that he had always preferred to play golf alone and had been doing so for decades. Mr. Nance produced a file and explained to the judge that it contained his client’s scorecards that dated back twenty years. He handed one to the witness, who identified it. It was from a golf course in California, fourteen years earlier. He had shot an eighty-one, nine over par. He’d played alone.
One scorecard followed another, and the testimony soon became a tour of golf courses all over the United States. Pete Duffy played a lot of golf! He was serious. He kept his records. And he played alone. He went on to explain that he also played with friends, played for business, even played with his son every chance he got. But he preferred to play alone, on an empty course.
When the tour was over, there seemed little doubt that another of the prosecution’s theories had been shot down. The notion that Pete Duffy had been planning the murder for two years, and that he began playing golf alone so he could pull it off with no witnesses around, seemed unlikely.
Theo kept thinking: There are four people in this crowded courtroom who know the truth. Me, Ike, my dad, and Pete Duffy. We know he killed his wife.
Ike kept thinking: This guy’s about to walk and there’s nothing we can do. It’s the perfect crime.
Woods Boone kept thinking: How can we find the mysterious witness and bring him in before it’s too late?
The last scorecard was from the day of the murder. Mr. Duffy had played eighteen holes, shot six over par, and played alone. Of course, the scorecard had been kept by him, so its accuracy could be questioned.
(Theo had already learned that, in golf, most scorecards reflect something other than the actual number of strokes.)
Mr. Nance became much more somber when he questioned his client about the day of the murder, and his client responded well. Mr. Duffy’s voice grew quieter, sort of scratchy and pained as he talked about his wife’s brutal death.
I wonder if he’s going to cry, Theo was asking himself, though he was moved by the testimony.
Pete Duffy held off the tears and did a superb job of describing the horror of hearing the news, racing home in his golf cart, and finding the police there. His wife’s body had not been moved, and when he saw her he collapsed and had to be assisted by a detective. Later, he was seen by a doctor and given some medication.
What a liar, Theo thought. What a phony. You killed your wife. There is a witness. I have your gloves hidden at the office.
Pete Duffy talked about the nightmare of calling her family, his family, their friends, and planning and enduring the funeral and burial. The loneliness. The emptiness of living in the same house where his dear wife had been murdered. The thoughts of selling it and moving away. The daily trips to the cemetery.
Then, the horror of being suspected, accused, indicted, arrested, and put on trial. How could anyone suspect him in the murder of a woman he loved and adored?
He finally broke down. He struggled to control himself and wiped his eyes and repeatedly said, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” It was very moving, and Theo watched the faces of the jurors. Total sympathy and belief. Duffy was crying to save his life, and it was working.
As his client tried to regain his composure, Clifford Nance decided they had scored enough. He announced, “No more questions, Your Honor. We tender the witness.”
Mr. Jack Hogan stood immediately and said, “May I suggest a short recess, Your Honor?” A recess would break the action, take the jurors away from the emotional testimony they had just heard. And, it was just after three thirty. Everyone needed a break.
“Fifteen minutes,” Judge Gantry said. “Then we’ll start the cross-examination.”
Fifteen minutes dragged into thirty. “He’s running out the clock,” Ike said. “It’s Friday afternoon. Everyone’s tired. He’ll send the jury home and come back Monday.”
“I don’t know,” said Woods Boone. “He might want the final arguments this afternoon.”
They were huddled in the hallway, near the soft drink machines. Other little groups of spectators were waiting, watching the clocks on the wall. Omar Cheepe appeared and needed something to drink. He put some coins in a machine, made his selection while glancing at the Boones, then retrieved the can from the dispenser.
Ike kept talking. “Hogan won’t touch him. He’s too slick.”
“The jury will find him not guilty in less than an hour,” Woods said.
“He’s walking,” Theo added.
“I really need to get back to the office,” Woods said.
“So do I,” Ike added. Typical Boones.
Neither made a move because both wanted to see the end of the trial. Theo was just glad they were together and having a discussion, a rarity.
There was movement down the hall, and the crowd began to shuffle toward the courtroom. A few had left during the recess. It was, after all, Friday afternoon.
When they were inside and seated again, and quiet, Judge Gantry assumed his position on the bench and nodded at Jack Hogan. It was time for the cross-examination, and when a defendant was on the stand and a prosecutor had the right to question him aggressively, the result was usually pretty ugly.
Jack Hogan walked to the witness stand and handed Pete Duffy a document. “Recognize this, Mr. Duffy?” Hogan asked, suspicion dripping from every syllable.
Duffy took his time, looked it over, front and back, for several pages. “Yes,” he finally said.
“Please tell the jury what it is?”
“It’s a foreclosure notice.”
“On which property?”
“Rix Road Shopping Center.”
“Here in Strattenburg?”
“And the Rix Road Shopping Center is owned by you?”
“Yes, me and a partner.”
“And the bank sent you that foreclosure notice in September of last year because you were behind in the quarterly payments on the mortgage. Is that correct?”
“That’s what the bank said.”
“Do you disagree, Mr. Duffy? Are you telling this jury that you were not behind in the mortgage payments on this property in September of last year?” Jack Hogan waved some more papers as he asked this, as if he had plenty of proof.
Duffy paused, then offered a fake grin. “Yes, we were behind in the payments.”
“And the bank had loaned you how much money on this property?”
“Two hundred thousand dollars.”
“Two hundred thousand dollars,” Hogan repeated as he looked at the jurors. Then he walked to his table, put down one handful of papers and picked up another. He situated himself behind the podium and said, “Now, Mr. Duffy, did you own a warehouse on Wolf Street in the industrial park here in Strattenburg?”
“Yes, sir. I had two partners in that deal.”
“And you sold the warehouse, didn’t you?”
“Yes, we sold it.”
“And the sale took place last September, right?”
“If you say so. I’m sure you have the paperwork.”
“Indeed I do. And my paperwork shows that the warehouse was on the market for over a year, that the asking price was six hundred thousand dollars, the mortgage at State Bank was five hundred fifty, and that you and your partners finally sold it for just over four hundred thousand.” Hogan was sort of thrusting the paperwork in the air as he spoke. “You agree, Mr. Duffy?”
“That sounds about right.”
“So you lost a chunk of money on that deal, right, Mr. Duffy?”
“It was not one of my better deals.”
“Were you desperate to sell the warehouse?”
“Did you need the cash, Mr. Duffy?”
The witness shifted weight and seemed a bit uncomfortable. “We, my partners and I, needed to sell the warehouse.”
For the next twenty minutes, Hogan hammered away at Pete Duffy and his partners and their financial woes. Duffy refused to admit that he had been desperate. But, as the cross-examination grew stressful, it became obvious that the witness had been scrambling to prop up one deal while another fell through. Hogan had plenty of paperwork. He produced copies of two lawsuits that had been filed against Pete Duffy by ex-partners. He grilled the witness about the allegations in the lawsuits. Duffy adamantly denied he was at fault and explained that neither case had merit. He freely admitted that his business had been struggling, but clung to the position that he had been far from bankruptcy.
Jack Hogan did a masterful job of portraying Duffy as a cash-starved wheeler-dealer who barely managed to stay one step ahead of his creditors. But linking his problems to the motive for murder was still a stretch.
Changing subjects, Hogan began to position himself for another bomb. He politely poked around the issue of the Duffys’ troubled marriage, and after a few easy questions, asked, “Now, Mr. Duffy, you testified that you actually moved out, is that correct?”
“And this separation lasted for one month?”
“I wouldn’t call it a separation. We never referred to it as that.”
“Then what was it called?”
“We didn’t bother to give it a name, sir.”
“Fair enough. When did you move out?”
“I didn’t keep a journal, but it was July of last year.”
“Roughly three months before her murder?”
“Something like that.”
“Where did you live after you moved out?”
“I’m not sure I actually moved, sir. I just took some clothes and left.”
“Okay, and where did you go?”
“I spent a few nights at the Marriott, just down the street. I spent a few nights with one of my partners. He’s divorced and lives alone. It was a pretty lousy month.”
“So you were just here and there? For about a month?”
“Then you moved back home, patched things up with Mrs. Duffy, and were in the process of living happily ever after when she was murdered?”
“Is that a question?”
“Strike it. Here’s a question for you, Mr. Duffy.” Jack Hogan was back with the paperwork. He handed a document to the witness, and with one glance Pete Duffy became pale.
“Recognize that, Mr. Duffy?”
“Uh, I’m not sure,” Duffy said, flipping a page, trying to stall.
“Well, allow me to help. That’s a four-page lease for an apartment over in Weeksburg, thirty miles away. The lease is for a nice, two-bedroom furnished apartment in a swanky building, two thousand dollars a month. Ring a bell, Mr. Duffy?”
“Not really. I, uh—”
“A one-year lease, beginning last June.”
Duffy shrugged as if he had no clue. “It’s not signed by me.”
“No, but by your secretary, a Mrs. Judith Maze, a woman who’s lived with her husband at the same address here in Strattenburg for the past twenty years. Right, Mr. Duffy?”
“If you say so. She is my secretary.”
“Why would she sign a lease for such an apartment?”
“I have no idea. Maybe you should ask her.”
“Mr. Duffy, do you really want me to call her as a witness?”
“Uh, sure. Go ahead.”
“Have you ever seen this apartment, Mr. Duffy?”
Duffy was rattled and dazed and clinging to a slippery slope. He glanced at the jury box, offered another fake smile, then replied, “Yes, I’ve stayed there a couple of times.”
“Alone?” Hogan barked with perfect timing and great suspicion.
“Of course I was alone. I was over there on business, things ran late, so I stayed in the apartment.”
“How convenient. Who’s paying the rent?”
“I don’t know. You’ll have to ask Mrs. Maze.”
“So you’re telling the jury, Mr. Duffy, that you did not lease this apartment and you’re not paying the rent?”
“And you’ve only stayed there a couple of times?”
“And the leasing of this apartment had nothing to do with the problems you and Mrs. Duffy were having?”
“No. Again, I didn’t lease the apartment.”
To Theo, who knew the truth, Pete Duffy’s honesty had been severely questioned. It seemed obvious that he was lying about the apartment. And if he told one lie, then he would certainly tell another.
Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham / Young Adult / Mystery & Detective have rating 4.2 out of 5 / Based on55 votes