Friday, April 27, 2012

Chapters 12-14, Kate and Matthew work on the Weenie Whacker's trial; Private Attorney Day and a panty incident; What is Sexual Intercourse anyway?

(Haven't read the previous chapters?  Start  here.)
(Haven't read chapters 6 and 7?  Find them here.)
(Haven't read chapter 8? Find it here.)
(Haven't read chapter 9?  Find them here.)
(Haven't read chapters 10 and 11? Find them here.)


            Our first hearing on Ryan’s case was a “status conference” scheduled with Judge Stewart, the superior court judge assigned to the case.  Neither Matthew nor I knew what a status conference was.
Matthew and I walked together to the third floor of the courthouse, where the superior court judges had their courtrooms.  Groups of lawyers in dark suits huddled in the wide hallways, apparently discussing important matters.  I had forgotten about the status conference when getting ready in the morning, so I was wearing a peach A-line skirt and black sweater.  After getting my first dry cleaning bill for my three suits ($100!), I was trying to save my suits for trials.  I noticed that Matthew’s pants leg was stuck in his sock.
Matthew led the way to Judge Stewart’s courtroom, at the end of the hallway.  We entered the room a few minutes early, and I looked around, impressed.  Where the district court courtrooms were small and shabby, this room was vast and impressive, the high ceilings and dark polished wood imbuing the space with a sense of gravity.
            “There she is,” Matthew said, “the devil herself.”
I looked around, interested in seeing this woman that even Matthew didn’t like.
“Where?” I asked, not seeing her.
            “Right there, Kate, sitting in front.”
I had discounted the woman sitting in the front row as possibly being Penny Pickens.  She had silver-gray hair, curly and cut close to her head, and wore a matching floral skirt and blouse with a cable-knit cardigan.  Her glasses were round, her face powdery, and her cheeks rosy.  She looked like Mrs. Claus.
            We walked over to her, and I introduced myself, “Hi, I’m Kate Hamilton …”
            “What are you doing here?” she demanded.
            “I’m just helping Matthew,” I answered politely.
            “Well!” she said sharply, “I don’t see why he should need any assistance.”
            “Oh, he just had a few areas where he needed help …”
            “Well!  And I suppose your office is so overflowing with lawyers that it can afford to staff every case with two lawyers.”
            “I’m not helping on every case, just this one …”
            “Well!  We’ll see about that.  I think we’ll have to have a little chat with the judge.”
            Matthew and I walked to the back of the courtroom.  “What was that, Matthew?  Did I say something wrong?”
            “Don’t worry,” he said, “I think she’s that way with everyone.”
At exactly 1:30, Judge Stewart’s bailiff came to the doorway that led to the judge’s chambers.  “The judge will see you now,” the bailiff said.  I felt like we were receiving the privilege of a royal audience.  The judge’s desk occupied the back corner of the long office.  She did not stand to greet us.  Penny immediately sat down in one of the chairs facing the judge’s desk, while Matthew and I remained standing, too intimidated to sit.
“Sit down, please,” Judge Stewart said with a commanding smile.  We sat.
The judge wore her dark hair in an old-fashioned chignon.  Her face was coated in a heavy layer of pale makeup.  Her stern countenance, however, was unmitigated by the makeup and hair.  Overweight, she had jowls that continued to move after she turned her head.
Despite her intimidating appearance, Judge Stewart was friendly in a formal way.  We agreed on a trial date one month away and established a timeline for exchanging witness lists and legal memoranda.  I was hoping it was time to leave when Penny addressed the judge.
            “Judge, I think Ms. Hamilton should be removed from this case.  There is simply no reason that two lawyers from the public defenders’ office should be used on this case.”
            The judge turned to me.  “Ms. Hamilton?”
            “With all respect, your honor, I can’t see what business it is of Ms. Pickens, or of the court for that matter, how the public defenders’ office chooses to allocate its resources,” I said, wishing we had checked with Ed if it was OK for me to help with this case.
            “As the representative of the people of the State of Washington, it is my duty to insure that public funds are not squandered by misappropriation,” Penny countered.
            I felt my temper rush.  “Perhaps Ms. Pickens would like to come and look through my files,” I said as calmly as I could, “because I’m sure I’m not handling all of them as efficiently as I should.  Or maybe she would like to look through our recycling bin—we may also be wasting paper.  Ms. Pickens doesn’t represent the people; she represents the police version of events.  How we choose to represent our client—as long as it is within ethical bounds—is none of her business.”  Matthew was looking at me with large eyes.
            “Well!  Of all the impertinence!” Penny said, feeling that the judge had her back.  “Maybe when Ms. Hamilton is more than a year out of law school, she can come into superior court and tell me …”
            The judge cut her off.  “I have to say, Ms. Pickens, I can’t see how the public defender’s office conducts its business is any of your concern.”
            I smiled at Penny.  She literally turned her nose up in the air.  I sure had a lot more enemies than I used to.


That Friday I worked until six, later than usual for a Friday, but I was trying to return all of my phone calls before the weekend.  When I finally made it to Moezy’s around 6:30, Jose and Janice were there, but not Matthew.
“Where’s Matthew?” I asked.
“Haven’t seen him today,” Jose said.
“Maybe he has a date,” I said.  We all laughed at the thought.
“We shouldn’t be laughing,” I said.  “Matthew doesn’t live with his parents any more.  He’s allowed to date.”
“Kate,” Jose said, “as far as you know, has any of us gone on a date since you got here?”
I thought for a minute.  We all hung out at the bar on most week nights.  On Saturdays and Sundays we usually did our own things, although I occasionally went to a movie with Matthew.  I was about halfway through my so-called voluntary year off of dating.  I was starting to get pretty antsy.
“What are you trying to tell me?” I said.  “That my hopes of future romantic life are done?”
“No, but it’s hard,” Jose said.  “Our job eats us up and doesn’t leave us with anything else to talk about.  Bring some non-lawyer here sometime.  You’ll see.  Their eyes glaze over after five minutes of Judge Piddle stories and then they either leave or quietly drink themselves to oblivion.”
“How can I meet people, anyway?” I asked.  “College was easy.  But here the only people I know are courthouse people and clients.”
“You’re smart to take time off dating, Kate,” Janice said.  “Get through this stage of your life and you can worry about real life later.”
“But what about my, um, well, my needs?”
“That’s why I have this.”  Janice pulled a shiny red plastic card out of her wallet and put it on the table.
“A credit card?  You mean you pay for … ?”
“No, it’s my Gold Card.  I started ordering some movies from a brochure I got in the mail.  Porn.  Soft-core with a plot and everything, but still porn.  About a month ago, I got a letter in the mail congratulating me on achieving Preferred Customer Status.  And with it came this Gold Card, signifying my status as a Preferred Customer.”
“What kind of stuff you got?” Jose asked.  “Do you have any where the UPS guy comes?  I love those.”
I ignored Jose’s comment.  “But what if I feel like I’m going to explode?”
“I’ll sleep with you, if that’s all it is.”  Jose covered my hand with his and scooted closer to me.  I batted my eyes at him.
“I’m in, too, Kate,” said Janice.  “There’s some scenes in this movie that look pretty interesting.”

The next Friday, I had to go to Judge Piddle’s chambers to have an order signed.  I hated going to see him, but if I wanted to subpoena records, I needed his signature.  Because I didn’t have court on Fridays, I was dressed casually, wearing black jeans, a black turtleneck, and my new high-heeled Dr. Martens.  While my $35,000 salary was enough to pay for my apartment, food, beer, and the occasional new pair of shoes, it was not enough money to persuade me to wear pantyhose everyday.  I hoped Judge Piddle would not take offense at my attire.
            As I walked into the courtroom, I noticed that I didn’t recognize any of the attorneys.  Also, there was something different about the clientele: everyone was dressed nicely.  I wondered if I had stumbled into a wedding, or maybe a civil case.
            Don led me back to see Judge Piddle in his chambers.  Surprisingly, the judge was in a jovial mood.  He signed my subpoena, and then commented, “Miss Hamilton, those are some interesting boots.”
            “Why, thank you, Judge,” I said, looking down at them.  I noticed something white at the cuff of my jeans.  That’s funny, I thought to myself, I wore black socks today.
            “Yes, Judge, all the kids are wearing those things these days,” Don said.  “My daughter has a pair in blue.  They’re really quite hideous.”
            I stood still in the middle of his office chambers, looking down at my feet.  What could that white cloth be?  It was really bugging me.
            “Yes,” Judge Piddle said, “my own children have convinced me to purchase footwear I’m not sure I approve of.”
            I was thinking.  I got my jeans out of the closet this morning.  No, off the floor.  I had worn the same pair of jeans after getting home from work yesterday.
            I looked up at the end of Judge Piddle’s last comment, my eyes large.  Panties.  Yesterday’s panties were sticking out of my pant leg.
            The judge and Don continued chatting about today’s crazy fashions, while I stood like a statue in the middle of the cheap Oriental rug.  I was afraid to move, afraid that if I took a step, the panties would fall out of my pant leg.  I inched backwards towards the door as the judge and Don conversed about the folly of youth fashion.
            When I got to the door, I turned, and as I turned, the panties fell to the floor.  Quickly, I bent over and scooped them up.  When I stood up, I was standing right next to Doug, holding my white panties in my hand.
            “What are you doing here?”  I asked, trying to pretend that I did not have panties in my hand.
            “I’m one of the prosecutors in this courtroom, remember?”
            “But it’s Friday.  We don’t have court today.”
            “You guys don’t have court today.  Friday is the private-attorney docket.  Even private attorneys need a prosecutor.”
            “You mean that defendants with public defenders have a different court day than defendants with private attorneys?”  I slowly moved my hand with the panties down to my waist level, hopefully out of sight.
            “Doesn’t that seem a little strange?”
            “You should stick around and watch,” he said, taking the panties out of my hand and sticking them in my shirt pocket.  “It’s more than a little strange.”
            I didn’t have time, but I took a seat in the back row anyway, thinking I would watch for a couple of minutes.
            Two hours later, I had a new sense of outrage.  Everyone—attorneys and defendants—was treated with respect on private-attorney day.  Continuances were granted without question.  All of the defendants received the minimum sentence.  If a lawyer wasn’t present due to a conflicting court date elsewhere, Judge Piddle was accommodating, stating the lawyer could just call in his response at a later date.  No one had to sit by the steel door.

            Back at the office, I entertained Janice with a live reenactment of the panty incident, omitting the part about Doug being there.  I told the story with some flair, I thought, putting the panties back in my pants leg, reaching down, and pulling them out with a flourish at the point in the story when I realized the unidentified white cloth was my underwear.  José walked by right when I was waving the panties around.
            “Can I have those?”
            “Only if you wear them.”
            “I’m afraid they would be too small for me.”
            “You are disgusting,” I said, pulling my panties away from him.  “Tell me something.  Why does Judge Piddle have a special docket for clients with private attorneys?”
            “Judge Piddle says it’s for convenience in scheduling,” José explained, “so the private attorneys don’t have to come to court every day, and the public defenders can have a day off to do interviews.”
            “That sort of makes sense in theory …”
            “Just like it makes sense for black kids to go to black schools and white kids to go to white schools.  Separate, Kate, is never equal.”


            Matthew and I needed to interview the girls who had been in the park with Ryan.  I called Kimberly first, but her mother answered, and refused to let us speak to her without having a prosecutor present.  I didn’t like the idea of Penny sitting in on our interviews, but we didn’t have a choice if the witness wanted her there.  Unlike the police, I didn’t get to bully and badger witnesses into talking to me.  Penny’s secretary arranged the interviews for the following Friday at 1 o’clock, instructing us to be on time.
When we arrived at the prosecutors’ office for the interviews, Brittney and Kimberly were already waiting in the reception area.  Their appearance was trampy-chic:  tight jeans, skimpy shirts, heavy on the make up and jewelry.  I had embraced a similar lack of subtlety when I was 15.  I knew the girls would be wearing pilgrim dresses and flats with opaque stockings at trial, but their current outfits gave me insight into the personalities.
            Matthew and I had decided that I would conduct the interviews with the girls.  Neither of us believed that Matthew could ask the girls the questions that needed to be asked.
            Penny led us down a hall to the prosecutors’ interview room.  We sat down at the shabby conference table and I fumbled with my briefcase and notepad.  I wanted to appear as non-threatening as possible.
            “I’m Kate,” I said.  “And this is Matthew, also a lawyer on this case.”  Matthew blushed at the mention of his name.  “I’m here to interview you,” I continued.  “And that’s just so I can find out what you’re going to say at trial.  I’m not here to trick you or any crazy thing like that.”  I turned to Penny.  “I would like to talk to each of the girls separately.”
            Penny stiffened.  “I have them both in here as a support system for each other.  They will both remain.”
            I stood up nonchalantly and reached for my briefcase.  “Come on, Matthew.”  Matthew stood up too.
            “What are you doing?  Where are you going?”  Penny demanded.
            “We are leaving.”
            “What! You can’t leave an interview that I arranged.”
            “Are we under arrest?”
            “This is your only chance to interview these girls.  If you leave, you won’t get to talk to them before the trial.”
            “Yes, we will.”
            We walked out of the office.
“Stop,” she called out after us.  “Wait!”
            “What are we doing, Kate?”  Matthew asked, more than a little worried.
            “I’m not going to interview those girls together, so each gets to hear what the other one has to say.”
            “I thought that was a little weird.”
            “Penny is wrong on this one.  Let’s ask Judge Stewart to schedule a conference.”

            A week later, we were seated in the same interview room with only Brittney.  Again, her clothing revealed more than it covered.  She looked bored or stoned.
            “Why did you wait a day to call the police?” I asked her.
            “I didn’t.”
            “You didn’t? Then why did Kimberly wait a day?”
            “She didn’t call the police.”
            “All right, if you didn’t call and Kimberly didn’t call, who did?”
            “Kimberly’s mother.”
            “Kimberly’s mother called,” I repeated, pausing for a second.  “Why did Kimberly’s mother wait a day?”
            “She didn’t.”
            “What do you mean—the incident was on Saturday, but the police were called on Sunday.”
            “Kimberly’s mother didn’t find out until Sunday.”
            “OK, then why did Kimberly wait until Sunday to tell her mother?”
            “She didn’t.”
I raised an eyebrow.
            “She didn’t tell her mother.  Her mother found out,” she finally said.  I continued to look at her, waiting for the rest of the answer.
            “Kimberly wrote a note about what happened to her friend Cameron.  Cameron lost the note and it ended up in the street.  Cameron’s next-door neighbor found the note and recognized the names.  The neighbor gave the note to Kimberly’s mother, who called the police.”
            Interesting, I thought.
            We interviewed Kimberly next.  Surprisingly, Kimberly was less guarded than Brittney, openly answering the questions I asked her.  She explained that she and Brittney had been hanging out in the park after school.  Ryan was a friend of theirs, although they hadn’t come to the park together.  At first, she described the incident exactly as it had been detailed in the police report.  She said that Ryan had come up to the two girls, asking them for “head.”
“Did you know what that term meant?” I asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Head.  Did you know what the term ‘giving head’ meant?”
She looked at me like I was an idiot.  “Yes.”
Kimberly said that Ryan then wrestled her to the ground, pulled out his penis, and started slapping her in the face with it.
I started thinking about when I was 15 years old.  I remembered that any mention of sex would cause me to giggle.  It didn’t matter if it was appropriate or inappropriate; if sex came up, I giggled.
            “Tell me, when Ryan came up to you and asked for head, was there any giggling or laughter?”
            Kimberly blushed and giggled.  “Yes.”
            “And when he wrestled you to the ground, were you still giggling?”
            “And also when his penis came out?”
            Another giggle.  “Yes.”
            Apparently this was not quite the brutal penis-slapping described by the police.  There was no mention of giggling in the report.  I wasn’t sure what all the giggling meant, but there was obviously a big difference in what the police described and what actually happened.

            Two weeks before Ryan’s trial, my parents announced that they were coming from Texas to visit me the same day Ryan’s trial was scheduled to start.  I discouraged this visit.
            “It is the only time your father can get away from work,” my mother said.  “Don’t you want to see us?”
            “Yes, but I have a trial starting that day …”
            “Perfect.  Your father and I can’t wait to see you in court.”
            Not perfect.  I had never said a bad word in front of either of my parents, much less discussed sexual scenarios.  I wasn’t as repressed as Matthew, but I wasn’t sure I could say “blow job” in front of my mother, either.
        “We’ll see you in a couple of weeks,” my mother said cheerfully.
            “Great,” I said, trying to sound sincere.
            A few days later, Matthew tracked me down in Judge Piddle’s courtroom.  “What is it?” I asked, following him out to the hallway.  I was concerned, because I didn’t usually see Matthew in Judge Piddle’s court, as he was assigned to a different judge.
“Penny says she’s going to amend the charges to second-degree rape if we go to trial on Ryan’s case.”
“Rape?  There was no rape.  What are you talking about?”
“That’s why I came.  Here, I brought a copy of the statute.”
I looked at the copy of the statute and read out loud:  “‘A person is guilty of Rape in the Second Degree when the person engages in sexual intercourse with another person by forcible compulsion.’  There’s that ‘forcible compulsion’ thing again.  What makes Rape different than Indecent Liberties?”
            “Ummm, I think it’s that ‘sexual intercourse’ part,” Matthew said.
            “Right.  But what is ‘sexual intercourse?’”  A question only a lawyer could ask.
            “I think there’s a definition,” Matthew said.
            “Here it is,” I said, looking farther down the statute.  “‘Sexual intercourse has its ordinary meaning and occurs upon any penetration, however slight, and also means any penetration of the vagina or anus however slight, by an object’ … bla, bla, bla … here’s the part:  ‘and also means any act of sexual contact between persons involving the sex organs of one person and the mouth or anus of another.’”
            I looked up at Matthew, who would clearly rather I didn’t read out loud.  I read the definition again, this time to myself.  “I think it’s saying that any sexual contact of one person’s penis and the other person’s mouth can be rape, if it’s by forcible compulsion.”
            “Did his, um, penis touch her mouth?  Or was it just her face?” Matthew asked.
            “I don’t know, I didn’t ask her that in the interview.  It wasn’t an issue.”  I was worried now.  “What about penetration?  Does there have to be penetration?  What was ‘sexual contact’ again?”
            “It was that thing about contact for the purpose of sexual gratification,” Matthew whispered.
            “But I don’t think it was for the purpose of sexual gratification.  They were just kids fooling around.”
            “Kate, he asked the girls to give him a blow job,” Matthew said, for once without blushing.
            “What’s he looking at if he gets convicted of the rape?”
            “Five years.”
            “I can’t believe the issue of whether his penis touched her cheek or her mouth can make a difference of two and a half years.”
            “And we don’t even know whether his penis touched her mouth, because we didn’t ask.”
            “I think we need to interview the girls again,” I said.
            “Penny is going to love that.”
            Matthew and I played rock-paper-scissors to decide who had to call Penny.  I lost.
            “What is it?” Penny demanded, picking up the phone after the first ring.
            “I’m calling about your motion to amend the charges to Rape in the Second Degree.”
            “What about it?  The state has the right to amend the information at any time.”
            “Yes, but if you change the charge, we’ll need to interview the girls again.”
            “You’ll do no such thing!  You have already traumatized these girls enough with your prying questions.”
            “Look.  I’m not trying to traumatize anyone.  But if you change the charge, you change the elements of the crime, and I’ll need to ask them some more questions.”
            “You defense attorneys are all alike.  You just want to re-victimize these girls.”
            “I’m not the one who’s asking to change the charges.  But if you do amend, we’ll need to interview the girls again.  It’s your choice.”
            “Well!  I could see this type of tactic coming from a man, but I never thought I’d see another woman act this way.”
            “It’s your choice, Penny.  Let me know if I need to schedule a conference with Judge Stewart.”

            A few days later, Matthew came to my office.  “Penny just called.”
            “Thank God she called you and not me.”
            “She’s not going to amend the charges.”
            “You’re kidding.  Why?”
            “She didn’t say.  She just called and said she was canceling her motion to amend the charges.  I figured that was good news, so I didn’t ask any questions.”
            Because I was helping with Ryan’s case, I needed to continue all of the misdemeanor cases that were scheduled the same week as Ryan’s trial.  I called Bradley—Doug was out—and told him that I would need to continue all of my misdemeanor trials for the week.  He agreed that continuances would be no problem—he had another jury trial going out that week anyway.  José would cover for me, and request the continuances that Bradley had agreed to.
            Matthew and I divided sections of Ryan’s trial between ourselves.  I chose voir dire, cross-examination, and direct examination.  Matthew chose opening statement and closing argument.  We worked in my apartment over the weekend before the trial, taking breaks only for food and caffeine.  By Sunday night, we were somewhat prepared.
            “What if we lose?” I worried.
Matthew gathered his books and papers to take home.  “Try not to think about that.”
            “I can’t think about anything but that.  I can’t stand the thought of Ryan going to prison.  He’d get eaten alive.  Can you imagine?  A skinny 18 year old in Walla Walla.”
            “Stop it, Kate.  I’m already stressed enough.”
            “You know, Mr. Roberts and Mr. Davidson were only looking at a day or so in jail if they got convicted.  And now Ryan is facing a couple of years? Years of a person’s life should not be in my hands.”  I hated the intense stress that trials brought on.  “Let’s just run away,” I said.
            “Kate.  Enough.  I’ve got to go home and get some sleep.”
            “I know,” I said.  “A car accident.”
            “If we got in a car accident, we wouldn’t have to do the trial.  We’d probably need to be injured.  Just enough, say, for a week’s stay in the hospital.”
            “You are crazy.”
            “I am serious.”
            Matthew sighed.  “Get some rest, Kate.  Don’t work anymore tonight, OK?”
“I think I’ll just run through my opening a couple of times, make sure I have it down.”
“Kate.  No.  You have to rest.  We both have to be fresh tomorrow.  Promise me—no more work tonight.
“Fine,” I said grudgingly.  No one had ever had to convince me to stop working before.

Want to keep reading?  Find the next chapters, 15 and 16, the Weenie Whacker trial; and a skirmish with Judge Piddle, here.


jbontrager78 said...

Love this. So glad you're back.

carol d said...

Im glad youre back too, Jbon! Thanks for hanging in there.