JUSTICE DELAYED: SS; EIGHT

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
DNA evidence was obtained from the clothing of a murder victim who was killed thirty-six years ago.
Two jurors realize that they were near the crime scene at the time of the murder.
Now the 911 operator says the 911 call was not from a land line.
She also has testimony about the nature of the call that shifts everything in the trial so far.

Submitted: September 11, 2016

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Submitted: September 11, 2016

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JUSTICE DELAYED

A Short Story in Chapters

Nicholas Cochran

Chapter Eight

 

Mrs. Clark continued.

“It took me a while because with all the static and such but I’m sure it was a woman. And it was like she was trying to disguise her voice and sound like a man. But it wasn’t.

“After hearing thousands of voices it took only a few seconds to realize what was happening.”

Once again, the courtroom went frosty; total freeze. Even Hilo was chilled.

The judge had her glasses slipping to the end of her nose while she looked at the witness.  

I guess everybody was running all the possibilities and their ramifications through their brain at warp speed.

I know I was.

I remembered that I had seen those two jurors talking far down the hall by another courtroom on a few occasions.

All kinds of strange imaginings almost took my fingers off my machine.

I made a special effort to concentrate. But it was difficult. Very.

“And what, specifically, was your realization, Mrs. Clark?”

“That someone was trying to disguise their voice and announcing—rather than screaming for help—the murder of a young woman. She was using . . . well, I don’t know; but she was not calling from a land line phone.”

Even Hilo went silent.

The only thing moving in the entire courtroom was—were—my fingers, slowly, up and down, waiting for the first person to speak.

Finally, Hilo: “I have no further questions,” turning to Gail, “Counsel?”

Gail was still entranced by the last words of the witness. I could tell that she also was reviewing all the possible meanings for her client about this unusual call. 

Hesitantly, “Yes. Yes, thank you counsel.”

She slowly walked around toward the witness box but stopped at the far corner of  the jury box.

I felt that she had a plan.

From her position, she could ask her questions and at the same time, she could pick up any movement by any juror.

Only if every juror kept looking at the witness while Gail asked her questions, could her plan be wasted; fruitless. 

“Mrs. Clark, you have testified that the voice on the 911 call was a woman and that she wasn’t screaming for help, right?”

“Yes.”

“That her tone was more of an announcement were your words, correct?”

I could see Hilo getting ready to get up and object to the next question

“Did this person announce to you in a manner which you understood to be a confession to murder?”

“Ye . .”

“I object your honor, I strenuously object.” Hilo.

I’d never seen her so angry.

“This woman is telling us some imagined impression from a conversation of thirty-six years ago that is mere speculation”

Judge Tan turned to Gail.

“Well Ms. Bernal; isn’t this mere speculation on the part of the witness?”

“No, Your Honor, because she is in the unique position—was—in the unique position of hearing hundreds—thousands of calls for help. She is surely able to distinguish a call for help and an announcement of a murder.’

“Well,” began the judge, “she has already testified to that counsel. Ms. Falange’s objection is that she is speculating about the real purpose behind the call—behind the announcement if you will.”

Gail was silent for a moment. “I think it goes to her state of mind, Your Honor, and the hundreds of calls heard on previous occasions form the reason for that state of mind.”

Hilo: “But this is pure guesswork on the part of the witness, Your Honor; her theory.”

“I agree, Ms. Bernal,” Judge Tan addressing Gail, “it’s a close call but I think that the conclusion reached by this witness as to facts which preceded the call, is speculation.

“Objection sustained and strike that last answer, as well as the question.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have stricken that last question and answer as speculation on the part of the witness.

“You will totally disregard both the question and the answer and it shall not even be raised at any time during your deliberations. Thank you.

“Ms. Bernal, do you have any further questions?”

“Not at this time Your Honor, but I may in the morning.

"I know we’ve gone well past five and so I would ask the court to order the witness to return tomorrow when I will probably have a few more questions.”

 

“Surely,” turning to the jury, “as counsel has stated, we have gone well past our usual time for adjournment. Again,” with her very sage smile, “let’s make it nine-thirty tomorrow morning.

“See you all then. Good evening and remember the admonition. You are not to talk to anyone about this case and especially not husbands or wives, and definitely not your fellow jurors, until the matter has been finally submitted to you.”

When I looked over at the jury they were all getting up and looking down, picking up items and I could not read anything from their actions; especially from those two.

*  *  *

This morning we are going to begin at nine-thirty. 

Sally, Bob, and I have obviously taken the judge’s words of last evening to heart, even though we are not jurors or witnesses.

I think we all want to avoid talking about the case with each other, just to keep it all separated in case something is done to nullify the proceedings so far; like a mistrial.

All of us—even the judge seem jumpy this morning. I had the distinct impression that no one had slept well last night.

Sally makes the coffee, by her choice, because she is a magician when it comes to grounds. But today’s offering was well below par. The donuts were icky and the Danish were stale. And we were out of butter.

I looked out into the courtroom about nine-fifteen like one in a show or a play would peek around the curtain to see what the house was like; the number of people present; the looks on their faces; the chatter –or not—of the audience.

Today, there were a number of people in the audience already.

Oddly, so far, the Jemma Jefferson murder case had attracted only the occasional habitual court-watcher. Usually old men and sad-faced women.

Today there were at least ten court-watchers. They sat as far apart from each other as the geometry of the audience space, as well as the number of seats, would permit.

I guess that’s one set of birds that don’t flock together.

I could read some sense of pride on each of their faces, as though they had chosen not only the right seat but also the right case to watch.

I made this point to he others. 

The judge laughed and made a very witty remark about show business. 

Bob wasn’t quite so calm. His look told me that he anticipated something unusual to happen today.

 

I looked out again at twenty-five past nine and was shocked to see that most of the jurors’ chairs were empty.

I told the judge.

She turned away while nodding thanks to my announcement but she didn’t turn quickly enough to hide the creases in her brow and the thinness of her lips.

This unnerved me.

I guess it was because, after yesterday afternoon’s witness, Mrs. Clark,  I had thought about not only what she said but also how it affected what we had heard so far.

Mr. Sanderson was still the defendant but my mind was troubled by that thought. I felt like he was and he wasn’t. Very conflicting emotions  had jumped around in my head all night.

My husband, Taylor, asked me several times if I was okay. I told him it was just this case.

I certainly didn’t tell him that I now thought Mr. Sanderson might be guilty of something; perhaps rape, but not murder.

I kept thinking that there was another suspect and the caller to Mrs. Clark had tried to disguise her voice and throw us off track. 

Then I realized that I was mixing the past into the present. 

I was thinking that back then, Mr. Sanderson had done something wrong, but I also felt that now, in our courtroom, we were dealing with the real murderer who was tied to all the testimony so far. But who?

I made a mental note to review all the testimony at breaks today and see if what I suspect may be true; or at least partially true.

When we all went into the courtroom, the audience was filling all the seats and there were at least ten people standing off to each side in the corners of the courtroom, while some were standing near or in front of the double doors.

Now, jurors filled all but two chairs. Mr. Hamilton and Mrs.Barnstable.

A court aide came in from the back of the courtroom and handed Sally a note. She read it quickly and handed to the judge.

Judge Tan moved her glasses half way up her nose to the optimum reading position and read, while the rest of the courtroom grew quiet and Mr. Hamilton silently sat..

“Mrs. Barnstable was . . .won’t be available for jury duty today. Or ever.”
The judge motioned for both attorneys to approach the judge’s bench.

The courtroom reached a point of maximum stillness as everyone appeared to be thinking his or her own thoughts.

Doctor Davies had a look of concern or perhaps it was fear. He was now going to be juror number eleven.

It turned out that Mrs. Barnstable had been hit by a hit and run driver as she was crossing the street to her house, around nine o’clock last night. She died on the way to the hospital.

“Doctor Davies, would you please take seat eleven. Thank you.

“Mrs. Clark, would you please resume your seat in the witness box. We’ll pick it up from yesterday. Ms. Bernal?”

Gail followed Mrs. Clark and stopped just before the witness stand and waited while Mrs. Clark took her seat.

“Mrs. Clark, yesterday you answered several questions asked by both the District Attorney and myself about the phone call—the 911 call that you received about Jemma Jefferson’s death. Have you thought over that call since you left the courtroom yesterday?

“Yes.”

“And have you remembered anything else about that call?”

Hilo was on her feet objecting to the question as too broad and calling for a narrative answer.

“Sustained. Please ask your question properly, Ms. Bernal.”

“Yes, Your Honor. 

“Mrs. Clark, was there a significant fact that you remembered that you had forgotten to tell the jury yesterday?”

Hilo was half way up to object but sat down again very slowly. 

“Yes.”

“And what was that?”

“Good riddance. She muttered: “and good riddance.””

 

End of Chapter Eight.


© Copyright 2017 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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