JUSTICE DELAYED: SS; ONE

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
When cleaning out the evidence locker a the country Sheriff;s office, some clothing form a homicide victim from thirty five years ago, is found and sent to the lab for DNA testing. As a result of the DNA testing, Mr.David Sanderson, now fifty-three, is arrested and charged with first degree murder.
What appears to be an ordinary case fires off in all directions and the muddled mess results in a stunning conclusion.

Submitted: August 11, 2016

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Submitted: August 11, 2016

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JUSTICE DELAYED

A Short Story in Chapters

Nicholas Cochran

 

Chapter One

 

I heard some muffled screams coming from the hall outside our courtroom.

A juror had dived head first through the seventh floor window. Those nearest the window were unable to grab a leg or an arm and the body fell in stillness to the street below.

*  *  *

My name is Elaine Badwell and I am a court reporter.

I report all murder cases in the county. This is murder case number forty-nine. Including the other types of cases, I have reported four hundred and ninety-three.

As murder cases go, this one was a strange one right from the start.

The murder happened thirty-six years ago.

Someone was cleaning out and tidying up the evidence locker in the basement of the sheriff’s office.

They found the victim’s clothing and decided to have it tested for DNA . There was some, and it matched Mr. Sanderson’s. He’s now fifty-three. Ever since his first appearance when  formally charged with first degree murder, he has looked dazed.

I think he was dazed because he was either innocent and not believing what was happening to him; or he’s guilty, and after so many years, he thought he’d gotten away with it.

Mr. Sanderson is in court this morning for the first day of the trial. Apparently he was sick and being treated at the General Hospital but he was released and joined the trial here before any potential jurors were questioned by Hilo Falange from the  District Attorney’s office and Gail Bernal, his Public Defender.

Mr. Sanderson has insufficient money, funds, or property to hire a private attorney. He told this to the first judge he saw when he was arraigned for first degree murder. Gail Bernal has been representing him since that time almost six months ago. This is a no bail case and so he has been in jail all this time.

*  *  *

He was juror number fourteen. His name was Doctor Davies. He and Harold Jenkins had been chosen by the agreement of the Hilo and Gail. This had all happened in the judge’s chambers, on the record with me typing, while the rest of the chosen jurors were on a break.

*  *  *

Harold mused on this seemingly unorthodox manner of choosing a jury of your peers. But he also felt a tinge of specialness in his heart; a sense that he was being honored by the  attorneys—and, perhaps, even the judge, who he thought probably had to approve these things.

*  *  *

There were four of us sitting in the seats of fifteen through eighteen and rather than ask us a lot more questions, they decided to do this in the Judge’s office; her chambers.

Look at that Dr. Davies guy, man. He’s right out of central casting; I mean this guy you’d peg for a doctor right away; well, maybe a lawyer, but I don’t think so.

He has this manner, you know, like a public bedside manner. He couldn’t be anything but a doctor; yeah; very nice.

*  *  *

Doctor Davies was much more than simply ‘nice’ to everyone who heard him answer all the questions. I enjoyed recording his answers; they were both clear and concise. Hilo and Gail—as well as Judge Tan asked him a lot about death and DNA and other scientific questions about evidence that Hilo said she was going to present.

He doctored with Doctors Without Borders—also some other groups. He had been in Haiti for six months and just got back when he received the jury duty notice. All his particulars made it clear that he did—almost exclusively—free work.

* *  *

I guess, thought Harold Jenkins, I have to tell them all these things; an absolute pain in the ass; but, maybe the District Attorney will view me as too kind, too liberal, too caring to sentence a man to prison for the rest of his life. I can do that. Maybe the Public Defender woman will sense that and bump me—or whatever term they use.

Harold noticed that after answering his questions, the doctor sat and appeared to be upset or something.

I wonder if he wants to get back to practicing; volunteering; or, hmmm I wonder if he does anything for money. He said he was a sole practitioner of general medicine. I think he called it primary care. I’ll have to Google that at home.

He did explain that but I didn’t hear any dollar amount from his practice; oh well, what could that matter. Maybe he made a lot early and is sitting on it and saving it and clipping coupons even.

***

Why was I was chosen as juror on this goddamned case, Webster Kingman steamed inwardly, Christ, I’m going to miss a shitload of work time. And just after I got back onto the number one welding gang.Jesus; and number twelve. Shit. Just about slipped by . . .yeah, but there’s the alternates; Doc and that guy who sings in the can every time I’ve gone to take a leak. Must admit; his voice is damn good; I wonder if he sings professional. He was asked a lot of questions about the San Bruno explosion just because he works for PG& E. What the hell has that got to do with anything for crissakes. I have no idea why. It’s a murder case.

*  *  *

That poor man looks like he won’t make it thorough the trial thought Emily Fountain. There seems to be something wrong with him. I thought I knew hang dog looks, but his is a corker. My jurors on either side I think are just wonderful, if a little too prying about a lot of things that’s really not their business. But it’s okay. Anyway, I think we’ll get along. We’ll probably have a lot of time together. We should know all about each other if the case really lasts the three weeks the Judge was talking about.

*  *  *

Doctor Davies realized that once the attorneys went into chambers with the judge that he was probably stuck on the jury.

And I’ll probably be elected foreman—foreperson..

*  *  *

When I reported the Preliminary Examination of Mr. Sanderson, to see if the judge thought there was enough evidence produced by the District Attorney to bind Mr. Sanderson over for trial in the Superior Court on the charge of first degree murder, he looked absolutely terrified the whole way through.

Try as I might, I couldn’t gather from any evidence that the DA presented, just what it might be that was spooking him.

*  *  *

Harold was musing again while waiting for the judge and the attorneys to return from her chambers and get started.

When I look at the composition of the jury, I’m thinking that if I was up for murder, I think I’d get a real good shake from these guys. I bet the Doctor thinks so too. He’s also a very distinguished looking guy. He’s only fifty-five, but he looks like a diplomat in his seventies. Not a knock on the Doc, but . . . in fact, I think he’d take that as a compliment. It is sure meant as one.

Well, here we go.

*  *  *

The lawyers were coming out from behind a door beside the Judge’s bench, while the judge popped up from a separate door behind her bench and took her seat. She was a tall Asian woman in her forties. She was slight, but seemed to radiate a sense of strength and at the same time, her smile and her eyes projected a very pleasant persona.

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, we—the attorneys and I—have been going over some further aspects of this trial and they have agreed—and I agree with them, to tell you some other aspects of the case before we begin.

“However, I want to stress; to make very clear to all of you that what we have agreed to tell you about the case, what we have been discussing in my chambers, would in no way effect their decisions to choose you as a juror. I, too, have agreed with them on that score.  

“Let’s begin, but first, Madame Clerk, please swear in the jury.

The clerk, a young blonde woman in her late twenties with a pleasant manner but too much red lipstick, rose and began to swear in the jury.

Following the administering of the oath, all jurors including the two alternates said: “I do.”

The Clerk and the jurors then sat down.

Looking over to the jurors and alternates the Judge began.

“You already know that the case is a homicide matter; a murder. I should also tell you that the defendant, was a minor—seventeen—at the time of the alleged crime and, if he had been arrested at that time, he could have been tried as either an adult or as a juvenile.

“In this case, the District Attorney, Miss Falange, has requested that the Defendant be tried as an adult. The Office of the District Attorney is not asking for the death penalty. I repeat, this is a not death penalty trial.

“I wanted to make sure that all of you understood that evidence will be presented about the age of the defendant at the time of the alleged crime but that defense counsel and the district attorney have agreed that the evidence will and should be considered as if he was a  young man who could have been tried as an adult if he had been arrested at or near the time of the homicide.

“Both attorneys have stipulated—stipulated is just our jargon for agreed—that the case involves a homicide—the death of a human being.

“However, the defense attorney, Miss Bernal, has not agreed that the death was a murder. 

“You should all keep that in mind until you have heard all the evidence surrounding the death of Miss Jefferson, the deceased in this case.

“I usually would not do this, but you and I are together in this case and I want to make sure that we share all the facts with you which are proper for you to hear.

“Yes. Juror number five.”

“Your Honor, are we—can we in any way take the defendant’ youth—like him being underage, into account in deciding the case?”

“Absolutely not. The facts and evidence produced here are to be viewed in a vacuum with respect to age. You are only allowed to determine the  guilt or innocence of the defendant based upon the facts; not his age—with one caveat; one exception: if there is testimony about facts or other evidence that is presented in the context of the defendant being a minor; for example: buying alcohol, then those facts that relate solely to a ‘seventeen year-old thing’ can be viewed in the light of a seventeen year-old and you will weigh that evidence with the surrounding elements in view and as they relate to a  seventeen year-old male.

 

*  *  *

Don Maters, juror number four was musing; I’m very pleased that she answered that question; I can’t really say why that seemed important to me except that all of us, the guys—and a lot of the women as well, would have some little thing that they did when they were fifteen—sixteen; shoplifting maybe.

Doctor Davies –I happened to be looking at him as the Judge was talking and he looked to me like he flushed a bit.

 

End of Chapter One


© Copyright 2017 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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