Friday, May 25, 2012

Chapters 22 and 23, Ed's Going Away Party; and Night Court!

(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 it here.)
(Haven't read chapters 10 and 11? Find them here.)
(Haven't read chapters 12 through 14? Find them here.)
(Haven't read chapters 15 through 16? Find them here.)
(Haven't read chapters 17 through 19? Find them here.)
(Haven't read chapters 20 and 21? Find them here.)


            “Are you guys coming to Ed’s going-away party tomorrow night?” José asked at Moezy’s after work a couple of days later.
            “We’re having a party?” Matthew asked.
            “Ed’s leaving.  We have to have a party,” José said.
            “Where are we having it?”
            “The best I could do on short notice was the Rebecca Lodge.  It’s going to be a costume party.”
            “But it’s not Halloween, it’s almost Christmas,” I said, master of the obvious.
            “Exactly,” José said.  “Ed will like it that way.  Our party’s theme will not be dictated by the strictures of the calendar.  I sent out an e-mail inviting all of the public defenders from this side of the state.”
            “What about you, Matthew?  You going?” I asked.
            “I really have a lot of work to do.  I’m behind on all of my cases.  I should work late tonight and tomorrow.”
            “We’re all behind on our cases,” I said, trying to persuade him with a flirty smile.
            José stepped between us.  “Matthew, my friend,” he said in a fatherly tone, putting his arm around Matthew’s shoulders, “you have to understand that you must be strong if you are to survive in this job.  It takes great discipline to fuck off in the face of responsibility.”
            “Get your hands off me already.”  Matthew was unconsciously homophobic, and José’s sexuality was somewhat ambiguous.
            “We should go, Matthew,” I said.  “For Ed.”
            “I don’t know if I have a costume,” Matthew said.
            “You can come up with something,” I said.  “We could wear two pillow cases: Me with an ‘X’ on mine, and you with a ‘Y’ on yours.  A zygote.”
            Matthew shifted uncomfortably at the word “zygote.”  “I’ll see what I have around my apartment,” he said.

            I left around 8 o’clock the next evening to pick Matthew up for the party.  It had just begun to lightly rain, but thunder in the distance promised more violent weather later.  I had thrown together a go-go dancer outfit, thanks to a 2/3 length white leather coat I had, some white, patent-leather platform boots I had found on extreme sale, and a Cher wig with long, straight black hair.
            I pulled into Matthew’s apartment complex.  Identical beige buildings containing identical gray apartment units stretched as far as I could see.  At least Matthew had gotten away from his parents.
            I knocked on Matthew’s door.  He greeted me wearing a knee-length burlap smock, a gray wig, beard, and sandals made of rope.  In his left hand, he held a large wooden staff.
            “My goodness, Matthew, is that a staff, or are you just glad …”
            “Stop it, Kate.  This is the only costume I had.”
            “You’ve worn that before?  What are you, Jesus?”
            “There’s a difference?”
            “Jesus is the son of God, while Moses led the people out of the desert … Stop teasing me.  Is it OK to wear?”
            “Sure, I think it’s great.”
            “Come in for a second, then.  Your going to freeze your, um, thighs, off.”
            I sat on Matthew’s gray velour couch and looked around.  Matthew’s apartment was tidy and boring.  It had very clean gray carpet and many plastic plants.  Above the couch hung a print of a Thomas Kincaid painting.  If Matthew hadn’t been so adorable, I would have hated him.
            “Want a 7-Up?” he asked from the kitchen.
            “Got anything stronger?”
            “No thanks,” I said.  “So, how come you have a Jesus costume?”
            “Moses costume.”
            “My parents have this thing about Halloween being an unholy holiday.  I was never allowed to celebrate Halloween—no dressing up, no trick-or-treating, no candy.  Finally, in high school, I was allowed to go to a few costume parties, but I could only dress as my favorite biblical character.”
            “And your favorite biblical character?”
            “What about the devil?”
            “I never thought of that.”
            “You know if we come to the party dressed like this, people are going to think we’re together.”

            Matthew drove us to the party in his beige Saturn.  The rain had picked up, and I trusted his ability to stay sober better than mine.
            We walked into the doors of the Quonset hut that our office had rented for the party.  I could hear muffled music behind the closed double doors that led to the main hall.  Matthew opened them a little, and a blast of music and smoke assaulted us.  A strobe light gave the smoke an eerie glow as dancing demons and Catholic school girls twisted in and out of it.  It looked like a prom scene from Hell.
            “Kate, I think people are smoking in there,” Matthew said, hesitating at the door.
            “Yes, and I don’t think it’s cigarettes.”
            “Should we go in?”
            “Come on,” I grabbed him and pushed him through the doors.
            I pulled Matthew through the crowd until I spotted José, who was dressed as a biker, with a red bandana tied rakishly over his hair, a leather vest, and matching leather pants.  A group of girls gathered around him, seemingly awed by his bad-boy appearance.
            “You call that a costume?” I said, coming up from behind him.
            He gave me a high five when he realized it was me.  “Kate, you look delicious.  In fact, I’m going to start calling you ‘Katalicious,’” he said, hugging me.  He was drunk.  The girls all giggled.  Somebody needed to tell them that we didn’t make very much money.  “And look, everyone, she brought Jesus.  Jesus, my friend, have some punch.”
            “It’s Moses,” I heard Matthew mumble as he took a plastic tumbler of punch.  I wondered if Matthew realized that the punch was probably spiked.  Matthew rarely drank more than a single glass of light beer.  I reminded myself that I was not Matthew’s mother, grabbed a drink, and headed for the dance floor where I thought I had spotted Ed.
            A tall, muscular skeleton with white face paint and a black eye mask took my arm and motioned to the dance floor.  I showed him my fresh drink, which I needed badly.  He made a drink-up motion with his hand.
            “What are you, a skeleton mime?” I asked.  I squinted, trying to figure out who he was.  I guessed he might be one of the public defenders from a neighboring county.
            He shook his head, then again made the drink-up motion with his cupped hand.
            “All right,” I said, and drained my drink.  He clapped his hands in silent applause, and then grabbed my arm and towed me to the dance floor.  The music was a mixture of retro funk, pop, and hip hop, and my skeleton was a hilarious dancing partner.  I tried to keep up with him, but sometimes he was almost break-dancing in his tight skeleton outfit.  Since I couldn’t do what he was doing, I just jumped around and moved my arms in a silly fashion.
Next came a song that I loved to jitterbug to.  Jitterbugging was my only dancing talent, and I adored it.  Unfortunately, most of the boys I knew were amateurs, at best.  Sometimes I would try to lead, but this never worked very well, and tended to hurt their masculinity.
            As the song started, however, the skeleton held out his arms in invitation.  I looked at him skeptically, but took his hands.  He pulled me in close, and then suddenly I was swirled around, and back into his hands again.  I didn’t have to plan or know what was happening—I was responding to the slightest of clues.  We were twirling and swirling and the only thought in my head was where his hands were, where I should look next, and the thrill of completely letting go.  I saw his hand outstretched and took it, and then a twist, and I was over his back.  Then, under his legs, and back up.  As the song ended, he swung me to his left, and then to his right, and then out and over with a flip.  I noticed that I was standing, so I must have landed on my feet.
            A slow song began and he pulled me in close.  I danced with my body pressed against his, too out of breath to do anything but sway to the music.  I thought I shouldn’t dance this close with a stranger, but didn’t pull away.  The skeleton looked down at me and shook his head.  “What am I going to do with you, Kate?” he said.
            “You know me?  Who are you?”  His voice was familiar, but I couldn’t place it.  I reached for his mask, but he easily grabbed my hand and held on to it.  Just then, I heard a faint ring, and, with his other hand, he took a cell phone out of his pocket.  He looked at the screen. “Sorry, I have to take this,” he said, still holding my hand.  “I’ll see you later.”  He squeezed my hand and let it drop.
“Wait,” I called out.  He kept walking.  Must be his girlfriend, I thought.
            As the last note of the slow song ended, José ran up to me.  “Kate, we have a situation.”  He looked drunk and worried.
            “Matthew’s on-call and the phone is ringing.”
            “He should answer it then.”  I wasn’t happy with cell phones at the moment.
            “Matthew can’t stop giggling.”
            Matthew appeared beside José.  He was holding the on-call cell phone and cracking himself up.
“Matthew,” I said sternly.  “Answer the phone.”
            “I can’t remember how,” he giggled, and then bent over he was laughing so hard.
            “José, what did you do to Matthew?”
            “Nothing, really.”
            “OK, Mr. Nothing Really, you take the call.”
            “I’m not going to do it.”  José crossed his arms self-righteously.  “I’ve had too much to drink.”
            I rolled my eyes.  The on-call phone was shared by the felony attorneys.  I had never had on-call duty, although I had heard that it was mostly answering drunk driver calls.  “Just give me the phone, Matthew.”
            Matthew, however, was randomly pushing buttons and saying “Hello?” into the phone.  Finally, I wrestled it away from him.
            I pushed the “talk” button.  “Hello?  Hello? I can’t hear you, I’m at a party.  Just a second.”
            I tried to find a quiet place, and finally ended up in the women’s restroom.  I sat down on a toilet seat in one of the stalls.  “Hello?  This is Kate Hamilton.”
            “This is Detective Reynolds.  Is this the on-call public defender?”
            “Yes.  Does he want to know whether to blow or not?”   I assumed the call was from a drunk driver.
            “Not that kind of call.  There’s been a murder.  The suspect is asking to talk to an attorney.  We show the on-call public defender as Matthew Nelson.”
            “Mr. Nelson isn’t available right now.”
            “What are you, his secretary?”
            “No, his friend.  Who happens to be a public defender, not a secretary.”
            “Sorry.  We just need to make sure we have the proper person.  This is going to be a big case.”
            “Can I speak to the guy?” I asked.
            “If you come down here.  We can’t let him use the phone.”
            “Where are you?”
            “The apartment complex at 8th and Marion.  North parking lot.”
            “All right.  We’ll be right down.  Don’t talk to him until we get there.”
            “Wouldn’t dream of it.”


            I drove José and Matthew through the rain to the apartment complex.  We screeched into the parking lot to find a half dozen cop cars parked erratically with their lights flashing silently.  Yellow crime-scene tape stretched around one of the buildings.
            “Wow, they really do use that yellow tape,” Matthew said with the wonderment of a child.  “I thought that was just on TV.”  He started giggling again.
            “Matthew, you just stay in here.  Don’t leave, OK?”  He was barely sitting upright, holding his stomach from laughter.  José had the front passenger seat pushed back as far as it would go.  I couldn’t tell whether he was sleeping, but his eyes were closed.  I shook his arm.  “Come on José.”
            “Why do I have to come?”  He said, turning onto his side, eyes still closed.
            “Because I don’t know what I’m doing.”
            “But I’m drunk.”
            “Just don’t talk unless I ask you a question.”
            José and I got out of the car, locking Matthew inside.  We walked to the crime-scene tape.  “Should we go over or under?” I asked, bending down and examining the tape.  José started to giggle.
            “Stop it.”
            “Hey, Lady!  This is a crime scene.  Back away.”  I turned to see a burly, uniformed police officer standing about 10 feet away.
            I reached for my purse to show my identification.
            “Stop!” he shouted, pulling his gun.
            José and I immediately held up our hands.  My purse fell to the ground.
            “Don’t shoot, officer, we’re just here …” I started.
            “Shut up.”
            “I think I’m sober now,” José whispered out of the side of his mouth.
            “You shut up, too,” the cop growled, pointing his gun at José.
            We stood stiffly with our hands in the air as the cop slowly approached us, gun still drawn.  I was too afraid to breathe.  I had never had a loaded gun pointed at me before.
            The burly cop grabbed my purse and patted us down for weapons.  I noticed he didn’t spend nearly as much time with José’s breasts as he did with mine.
            “I don’t know if you’re part of this situation,” he said, checking under my hair, “or were just out walking the streets with your pimp, but you should know better than to mess with a crime scene.”
            “But I’m …”
            “Shut up, lady.  I didn’t ask you any questions.”
            A tall man with dark hair and a neat mustache, wearing khakis, a button-down shirt, and a tan, corduroy sports jacket walked over to us.  “What you got here Carl?” he said, looking us over.
            “Got a hooker here, Detective Reynolds.  Caught her messing with our crime scene.”
            “Messing with how?”
            “She was looking at the crime scene tape,” he said with a nod.  “I think maybe she was involved in the murder.”
            The detective turned to me, taking notice of my boots, coat, and wig.  “Are you the lawyer I talked to a few minutes ago?”
            “Yes,” I said, relieved.  Maybe we were not going to be shot.
            “Carl, why don’t you check her identification.  I think you’ll find that she’s the lawyer I requested to respond to the scene.”
            Carl pawed through my purse and pulled out my wallet.  “Kate Hamilton?”
“Yes,” I said.  “You’ll find my bar card in one of the credit card slots.”
            Carl shuffled through my stack of credit cards and lunch discount cards, finally finding my lawyer identification card at the bottom.  “Seems to check out, Detective.”
            “Thank you, Carl.  Would you mind checking to see if the back of the complex is secure?”
            “Thank you, Detective Reynolds,” I said once Carl was gone.  “I thought he was going to shoot us.”
            “Carl does seem the type who might kill impulsively,” the detective agreed.
            “How did you know who I was?”
            “No street walker wears Bruno Maglia boots.”
            I raised an eyebrow.
“Remember the boot stalker back a couple of years ago?  That was my case.  I am familiar with every top-of-the-line boot maker  I figured you were a young lady, wearing expensive boots, driving a beater car.  It only made sense that you were the public defender.”
“All right, Sherlock, where’s the guy?”
            I was surprised to see Doug walk up, looking sleepy in black jeans and a turtleneck.
            “What are you doing here?” I asked.
            “Do I know you, Miss?”
            “It’s me, Kate.”
            “Oh, right.  Didn’t recognize you for a second.  Kate, the hooker.”  He smiled at me in a funny way.  “I’m on-call.  Someone from the prosecutors’ office has to respond to every murder scene to tell the police to be sure and beat the hell out of the suspect so that he confesses, and to make sure that attractive hookers don’t mess with the crime scene.”
            I noticed he had what looked like white toothpaste on his jaw line.  “You’ve got toothpaste on your face, by the way.”  I always pointed things like this out to people.  I figured they would want to know.  He reached up and rubbed his jaw line.
            “Oh, that.  It’s just some night cream.”
            “Night cream?”
            “You know, to prevent wrinkles.”
            I looked at him for a second.  “It is true that men should take better care of their skin,” I said deliberately, my eyes narrowed suspiciously.  There was something bothering me about him.
            I turned to the detective.  “Where’s our guy?”
            “In the squad car.  Want to talk to him?”
            “I guess.  What did he supposedly do?”
            “Raped and stabbed a college student who lived in that apartment.  She called 911, but died before medics could get here.”
            “How did you catch him?”
            “When she called 911, she told the dispatcher that she didn’t know the man, but he had a tattoo on his chest of a snake that started in his groin area and ended at his neck.  On both sides of the snake she described two large blobs of ink.  The suspect was found in the area, covered in blood, with a tattoo matching that description.”
            “And is she …”
            “Dead?  Very.”
            “All right.”  I grabbed José’s arm.  “José, come on.”
            “There’s only room for one of you in the patrol car,” the detective said.  “Since you seem to be the sober one, Ms. Hamilton, I suggest that person be you.”
            I was about to say, “Police do not get to choose which lawyer a suspect consults.”  Then, José giggled again as he tripped over the curb.  Realizing this was not the time to argue, I said, “José, why don’t you go wait in the car?”
            Detective Reynolds walked me to the police car.  Its lights were flashing and I could see the silhouette of a man in the back seat.  I had no idea what I was supposed to do.  I took a deep breath, and got in the car.
            The man was cuffed, both hands and feet, and was still wearing his blood-covered clothes.  He smelled of alcohol, cigarettes, and something sickly sweet.
            “Hey sister, what are you going down for?”
            “I’m a lawyer.  Sorry about the outfit, but I was at a costume party.”
            The man began laughing maniacally. “Now that is funny.”
            “You asked to talk to a lawyer.  Here I am.  What do you want to talk about?”
            He continued to laugh, slapping his knee.
            I looked through my purse and pulled out my business card.
            He looked at the card, then looked at me, and then looked at it again.  “You sure are different from my last lawyer.”
            “Sir, the most important thing for you to know right now is to keep your mouth shut.  As in, don’t talk to the police. Don’t say a word.  Don’t talk at all.”  I was repetitive, but it was amazing how few suspects could grasp this simple concept.
            “I know my rights.  I want to know why I’m here.”
            “Apparently, you’re a suspect in a rape and murder that happened in these apartments.”
            “What makes them think that I did it?”
            I thought it would be too obvious to point out the blood on his clothing.  “The detective said that the woman called 911 after she was attacked and described her rapist as a man with a tattoo of a snake on his chest with two blobs of ink on either side of the snake.  The detective says that you were found in the area, matching this description.”
            The man suddenly became incensed.  “They have the wrong guy.  I can prove it.  You have to get the detective.  I’m the wrong guy.”
            “Why?” I asked, intrigued.
            “I don’t have a tattoo like that,” he said, lifting his shirt. “Look!”
            I looked at a tattoo of a large snake that started in his groin area and wound its way up his chest.  On one side of the snake was tattooed the words “Mother” and “Sheila,” on the other were the words “White” and “Pride.”
            “Do those look like blobs to you?  They’re words,” he said angrily.  “Is she going to try to claim she can’t read?  She was in college, for God’s sake.  They’ve got the wrong guy.  You’ve got to get me out of here.”
            “I think that tattoo may actually hurt you more that it helps.”
            “What?  What are you, another cop?  I want to talk to the detective.”
            “Look, sir, the worst thing you can do right now is talk to the police.  You need to keep your mouth shut.”
            “Listen here, hooker lawyer lady.  I don’t have to listen to a thing you say.”
            “You’re right,” I said.  “Bye.”  I knocked on the window and Carl opened the door for me.  I walked back to the apartments.  I crossed the crime-scene tape and found Detective Reynolds in the apartment supervising the crime-scene photographer.  Doug stood nearby, watching.
            “He doesn’t want to talk to you or to the police and is formally invoking his right to remain silent,” I said.
            “There’s a surprise,” Doug said.  “Is he going to waive his probable cause hearing?”
            “Waive his what?”
            “Because we are arresting him now, he has the right to have a judge determine whether probable cause exists to hold him in jail.  If he agrees that there is probable cause to arrest him, though, he can waive the hearing.”
            I looked back at the police car where our new client was pounding his head on the window.  “I’m thinking he wants a hearing,” I said.
            José and Matthew were both dozing when I got back to the car.  “Wake up.  We’ve got to go to court.”
            “Oh no, not a probable cause hearing,” José groaned.  “Why didn’t you just get him to stipulate?  That’s what everyone does.”
            “If you had been sober and awake, you could have told me that.  Come on,” I said, reaching over and buckling his seat belt.  “I’m not doing this alone.”
            José and Matthew stayed in the backseat as I drove to the courthouse.  We were almost there when I smelled a funny smell.  I looked in the rearview mirror.
            “José, what are you doing?”
            “We have to go to court.”
            Matthew giggled.
“Tell me you didn’t, José,” I said.
            “Didn’t what?”
            “Give some to Matthew.”
            “It was just one hit.”
            “You know how he is.  And he should do the hearing, he’s the official on-call person.”
            “It’s not that hard, Kate, it’s just a probable cause hearing.  It’s not like he’s going to win.”
            “We’re all going to get fired.”
            “Listen to me, Grasshopper,” José said.  “We won’t ever get fired, because they can’t find enough suckers to do this ridiculous job.”

            José led the way to the jail courtroom, a small room with cinderblock walls painted white, harsh fluorescent lighting, and three folding tables set up for the judge and the counsel tables.  Doug was sitting at the counsel table closest to the door.
            “That outfit reminds me of old times in Judge Piddle’s court,” Doug said to me as we walked by.  I ignored him.
            Matthew suddenly got the giggles again, and started pounding his staff on the floor.
            “What’s that smell anyway?” Doug asked.  “It is vaguely familiar.”
            I pushed Matthew toward the counsel table.  “Just go up there and sit at the table,” I said.  “You won’t have to say very much.”  I prayed that he could hold it together.
            “What do I do?” he asked.
            “Just make an argument that the facts don’t add up to probable cause and that the judge should let your guy go.”
            “Oh, I get it,” he said, looking confused and worried.
            “Just pay attention,” I said, again pushing him to his spot at the table.
            Guards led the suspect into the courtroom.  He was highly agitated.  He sat down next to Matthew, but leaned across to the other counsel table.  “I think I may need to go to the mental hospital,” he said to Doug.
            Doug looked at him.
            “I’m telling you the truth.  I’m starting to see things.  There was this lady, who was like an angel.  Except that she was a lawyer.  Except that she was a hooker.”
            “I can’t talk to you, sir.  Please talk to your lawyer.”
            “Who’s my lawyer?”  Doug pointed to Matthew.  The suspect turned his head and saw Matthew sitting there in his robes and wig, still holding his wooden staff.  His eyes became very large.  He was on the verge of panic when the judge came out.
            As Doug introduced the case, I saw the judge notice Matthew’s costume.  Doing Matthew a favor, Doug said, “Just so the court knows, Mr. Nelson comes here directly from a costume party.  He responded to the beeper and didn’t have time to change.”
            “I see,” the judge said wearily, like this happened every day.  “You may proceed.”
            I crossed my fingers, hoping that Matthew could hold it together.
            Doug recited the facts relayed by the detective, and asked the judge to find probable cause to hold the suspect in jail.  After he sat down, nothing happened.
            “Mr. Nelson,” the judge prompted.  His eyes were completely glassed over.  He perked up for a second, but then looked completely lost.  Outside, the storm had intensified, and the old-fashioned windows rattled with each blast of wind.
            “Do you have an argument on release, Mr. Nelson?” the judge asked.
            Matthew stood up at the counsel table, still holding his staff.  Why hadn’t I taken that away from him?  “Judge, the facts here do not constitute probable cause.  Even though the suspect was found in the general area of the incident, no one can tie him to the murder.  The blood found on his clothing has not been identified and thus should not be relied upon.  As I stand here before you, I urge the court to Let My People Go!”  Matthew struck his staff on the ground for emphasis.  The lightning strike was deafening, and the thunder that followed almost immediate.  Matthew stood still, stunned, in the now-silent courtroom.
            The defendant began sobbing, “Jesus is my savior, I swear, I give my life over to him.”
            “For the last time, I’m Moses!”  Matthew said, again striking the ground with his staff.  Again, the lightning cooperated.
            The suspect fell to the ground, sobbing with his head at Matthew’s feet.
            The judge cleared his throat.  “I’m not sure what just happened, but I do make a finding of probable cause.  The prisoner will be held in custody pending formal charges being filed.”

Want to continue reading?  Find the next chapters, 24-26, A New Director, here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Chapters 20 and 21; B.Y.O.C.; and Ah, Ed

(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 it here.)
(Haven't read chapters 10 and 11? Find them here.)
(Haven't read chapters 12 through 14? Find them here.)
(Haven't read chapters 15 through 16? Find them here.)
(Haven't read chapters 17 through 19? Find them here.)


            I would have gone to trial on Eddie Keller’s case whether I had a defense or not, just on principle, but luckily, we actually had something to argue.  My client was an attractive, articulate, young black man who was stopped on the highway driving a stolen pickup truck.  He insisted he was innocent, telling me that he had not known the truck was stolen.  When I talked to him, however, he was vague about the facts, saying that he borrowed the truck from a friend, but providing few details.
            Two weeks before the trial, I went to see Eddie in the jail to try to get a straight story from him.  After 30 minutes, I finally said, “Look, you’re not going to win at trial, because you’re hiding something.  Why won’t you tell me the whole story?”
            Eddie looked down and sighed.  “I’m embarrassed,” he said.  “I was doing some stuff I shouldn’t have been doing, and I’m afraid you’ll think less of me.”
            I looked at him patiently.
            “OK,” he said, “we were doing drugs in my apartment, and this one guy wants more, but is out of money.  He tells me I can use his truck for a week if I give him some more drugs, and I agree.  I didn’t have a car myself, and I wanted to drive to Athens to look for work.  I swear to God that’s what happened.”
            I would have preferred that he had borrowed the car from his minister in order to deliver food to the elderly, but I had to work with the facts I had.  And while my client may have committed the crimes of drug delivery and possession, he did not knowingly possess stolen property.
“I can’t tell that story at trial,” Eddie said.
“Why not?”
“Then they can get me for drug delivery.”
“Not unless the drugs and the people you gave them to are still around.”
“Why is that?”
“There has to be some evidence of a crime besides your own statement.  I doubt the drugs you sold that night still exist—they were undoubtedly consumed.  Without the drugs, they can’t prove drug delivery.  You can tell your story to the jury.”
“They’re not going to like it.”
“Probably not.  But if it’s the truth, it’s all we’ve got.”

Felonies were even more frantic than misdemeanors.  While I had a larger number of cases when I was in Judge Piddle’s courtroom, most had settled with plea bargains.  I was still trying to figure out what I was doing in felonies, but I was finding that I had to work the cases more; that is, interview witnesses, research legal issues, write suppression motions.  My work days seemed to consist of running from meaningless and time-wasting court appearances, to interviewing witnesses, meeting clients, and jail visits.  Legal research and writing had to wait until the weekend.  I couldn’t imagine where time for trial preparation fit into all of this.

The week before Eddie’s trial, I was in Doug’s office, interviewing a 16-year-old girl who had witnessed a burglary.  When she described seeing the prowlers enter her neighbor’s house, her eyes suddenly filled with tears.  Doug was oblivious, apparently daydreaming as he doodled on his legal pad while I asked the girl questions.
            “Doug ...” I said, trying to get his attention.  He was engrossed in his drawing of a motorcycle at the bottom of his legal pad.  “Doug!”  I said again, with added force.
He jolted from his daydream.
“Do you think we could get some tissue here?”
            He looked up at the girl’s tear-streaked face and was immediately embarrassed.  He opened a few desk drawers.  “I, uh, don’t have any.  Just a sec, I’ll be right back,” he said, leaving the girl and me alone in his office.
            I knew I only had a few seconds.  “Oh, my goodness,” I said to the girl, who wasn’t paying attention to me, anyway.  “I just realized I’m late for an appointment at my office.  I’ll just send a fast e-mail to my secretary.”
            I quickly moved to Doug’s chair, where I accessed his e-mail program.  I clicked on “Tools,” then “AutoCorrect,” and made a few adjustments.

            Doug called me that afternoon.
            “Dammit, Kate.  What did you do?”
            “What are you talking about?”
            “My computer.”
            “Someone stole your computer?  It wasn’t me.”
            “No, it’s my e-mail.  Whenever I type the word “think,” my computer changes the word to ‘thunk.’”
            “Hmm.  Maybe it’s a new form of past tense—you know, like think, thank, thunk?”
            “I’ve tried at least a hundred times to type ‘think,’ using all caps, italics ... but as soon as I press the space bar, it changes to ‘thunk.’  The only way I can use the word “think” in an e-mail is if I put it in quotation marks, which tends to change the meaning of what I am trying to say.”
“Can you type the word ‘thinking’?”
            I heard a few clicks.
            “Yes.  That seems to work.”
            “Then you’ll just have to use the present perfect.”  Finally, a practical use for my English degree.
            “As in, instead of writing ‘I think,’ you type ‘I am thinking.’  I’ve actually always been fond of the present perfect.  ‘I think’ sounds so straightforward.  ‘I am thinking,’ on the other hand, implies that you have an opinion about something, but are still thinking about it, and could be persuaded otherwise.”
“I am thinking I am going to come over there and kill you.”
            “But then you would have to prosecute yourself.”
            “It would be justifiable homicide.”
            “I am thinking not.”

            I worked over the weekend on Eddie’s trial, which would be my first solo felony trial.  I surprised myself by not panicking over the weekend.  When I analyzed the facts of Eddie’s case, I realized they were really fairly simple, despite being labeled a felony.  The state’s case was:  Eddie was driving a stolen car.  Our case was: Yes, but he didn’t know it was stolen.  I even took a few hours off and watched TV down in the bar.

Eddie’s trial was assigned to Judge Aaron Black.  Judge Black was a tall, handsome man with dark hair and a salt-and-pepper goatee.  His appearance could have been intimidating, and I imagined that he could be fierce on occasion, but the few times I had seen him he was always smiling or laughing.  José had told me that Judge Black was one of the most normal judges in the county.  He said he was a “mensch,” and hadn’t let the power of the robe go to his head.
I arrived at Judge Black’s courtroom about 30 minutes before the trial was scheduled to start.  I chose the counsel table closest to the jury.  My theory was that the jury would feel more connected with my client if he was close to them.  This theory would probably not work with a client who had an unfortunate resemblance to an ax murderer; luckily, Eddie was nice-looking and likeable.  Thus, I arrived at court early to ensure I could claim the table closest to the jury.  I spread my trial books and binders out on the table and hung my jacket on the back of one of the chairs.
Rodney, Judge Black’s bailiff, offered me coffee while I waited for the jail staff to transport my client.  I spent the next 20 minutes talking with Rodney, who proved to be friendly and opinionated.  Rodney had thinning hair that he wore greased back in an old-fashioned way.  I wondered if his hair product would work on Doug’s hair.
“What’s this trial about, anyway?” Rodney asked.
“Possession of a stolen car.”
“Was your guy caught driving it?”
“Any evidence he knew it was stolen?”
“Nope—just that he was in it.”
“Criminy.  Don’t the prosecutors have anything better to do?”
“Apparently not.  It has something to do with Bradley’s stats.”
“That’s the whole problem with this system.  A bunch of ambitious knuckleheads wasting everybody’s time on minor offenses.  They should put me in charge.  I’d save the state millions of dollars.  I’d lock the seriously scary ones up forever and send everyone else to treatment.”
At exactly 9 o’clock, Bradley breezed in to the courtroom, put his briefcase down on my table, and started spreading out his legal pads.  I couldn’t figure out what he was doing.  Surely he had seen all my stuff on the table.
“Hey Bradley,” I said from the judge’s office, where I was still having coffee with Rodney.  “What are you going to do—sit with me at the counsel table?  Don’t you think it will look funny for us to both sit at the same table?”
Without looking up, Bradley arranged his pens in a straight line next to his yellow pad.  “The plaintiff always sits next to the jury in superior court,” he said officiously.
I shook my head.  “Not today.”  For Rodney’s benefit, I said, “Hey, Bradley. Why don’t we arm-wrestle for it?  I’ve been working out.  I think I could take you.”
Bradley turned to me, and said, “Now, that wouldn’t be a very good legal solution to our problem.”
            I turned to Rodney, and, with an effort to be overheard, said, “You know what?  I think he’s chicken.”
Rodney looked at Bradley and then back at me.  “I think you’re right,” he said.
A few minutes later, Rodney told us that the judge would like to see Bradley and me in his chambers.  Judge Black welcomed us warmly, shaking hands with each of us.  He invited us to sit in the chairs opposite his desk.  We discussed the trial’s schedule and Bradley told the judge the names of the few witnesses he would call.
“Looks like the trial will be fast, anyway,” Judge Black said.  “I assume the issue will be whether your client knew the truck was stolen, Ms. Hamilton.”
I nodded my head slightly.
“I presume you offered a misdemeanor to settle the case, Mr. Boldham.”
I raised an eyebrow.  Bradley pulled at the collar of his shirt.  “The state was not in a position to extend such an offer.”
As we were getting up to leave, Bradley said, “One more matter, your honor.  It is my understanding that the plaintiff traditionally occupies the counsel table closest to the jury in superior court.  May I presume that this custom exists in your honor’s courtroom as well?”
            The judge looked from Bradley to me, leaned back in his chair, and said, “Nah, first come, first served.”
            I knew this was a tiny battle to win, but my pleasure was immense as I watched Bradley walk to my table and gather up all the books and notepads he had so carefully arranged.  I looked over at Rodney, made a fist, pointed to my bicep, and smiled.
            By noon, we had completed voir dire and opening statements.  After we returned from a quick lunch break, Bradley called his first witness, the police officer who had stopped Eddie in the stolen car.  The officer testified that he had pulled my client’s car over for speeding.  After running the car’s license plate number, dispatch informed him that the car was stolen.  Eddie would testify that he did not know the car was stolen, because he borrowed it from an acquaintance.  As long as the jury followed the law, I should win this case, because Bradley had no way to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Eddie knew the car was stolen.  Unless, of course, Bradley destroyed Eddie with his cross-examination.
            Eddie told his story during direct examination.  He did well, I thought, just telling facts, explaining the hotel he lived at, and that on the weekends he occasionally used drugs.  He told the jury that a man from a nearby apartment had come to party with him, wanted more drugs than he could afford, and had offered Eddie the use of his truck in exchange for more drugs.
            At the very end of the direct examination, I asked the ultimate question.  “Mr. Keller, did you have any idea the truck was stolen?”
“No, Ma’am, I did not.”
I smiled at Eddie and walked to my seat.  I hated letting Bradley cross-examine Eddie; I felt helpless, like I was some how failing my duty to protect my client.
            Bradley stood up and slowly walked to the lectern.  He removed his glasses, and gave Eddie his most lawyerly look.
            “Now, sir,” he said, “You’ve testified that you were using drugs in your apartment.  What drug were you using?”
            For some reason, Eddie hesitated, “Ahh, well … it was an illegal one …”
Bradley smelled blood, “Sir,” he said, his voice a little louder, “What drug were you using?”
Eddie hesitated again.  What was he doing?  Just answer the question, I tried to send through mental telepathy.
            Finally, he answered.  “The ‘C’ one.”
            What was going on here?  I could feel my face becoming hot.
“Sir,” Bradley said, this time loudly and with great authority, “What Drug Were You Using?”
            “It was cocaine,” Eddie said in a quiet voice.
            Bradley went in for the kill.  “Well, sir,” he said, pausing for emphasis, “if you were indeed using cocaine on the night in question, why did you have such a hard time telling the jury about it just now?”  I wanted to put my head down on the table and cry.
            “Sir,” Eddie said with an abashed look, “because I am embarrassed to have to tell these nice people about how I was behaving back then.”  He looked over at the jury and smiled shyly.  Most of the jurors smiled back.  “I didn’t even want to tell my lawyer about me using drugs—I didn’t want her to think badly of me.  But I finally told her, and she told me that I just have to come in here and tell the truth, so that’s what I’m doing.”  I had to restrain myself from running up to give him a big kiss.
            Bradley stumbled along after that, basically having Eddie repeat his story in great detail.  Finally, Bradley was wrapping up his cross-examination.  He decided that he was going to get Eddie to admit all the elements of the crime.  In this case, the state would have to prove that 1) in the State of Washington, 2) the defendant possessed a motor vehicle 3) knowing that it was stolen.  Obviously, we were only contesting element number 3), but Bradley wasn’t going to let anything slip by him.
            Once again, Bradley took off his glasses and increased his volume.  “Do you concede, sir, that you possessed a motor vehicle?”
            Eddie was confused by the question, which he thought must be some kind of a trick.  “What?” Eddie said with a puzzled look.
            With greater volume and pomposity, Bradley asked, “Do you concede, sir, that you possessed a motor vehicle?”
            “Well, it was a truck …”  I had to work hard to suppress a giggle.
For the third time Bradley began, “Do you concede, sir, that a truck is a motor vehicle …”  I was starting to shake my head when the judge rolled his eyes and said, “Why don’t you just move on, counsel.”  Thank goodness, I thought.  I was afraid I was going to laugh out loud.
            “Do you concede, sir, that you possessed the truck in the State of Washington?”
            Again, Eddie looked lost.  “I was in Athens …”
“Yes, sir,” Bradley said with a booming voice, “but do you concede that Athens is in the State of Washing …”
A chirp of laughter escaped my throat.  Fortunately, just as this happened, the judge said in a weary voice, “Mr. Boldham, don’t you think that’s enough?  I think even Ms. Hamilton will agree that Athens is in the State of Washington.”  Bradley sat down.
            The court took a ten minute break before closing arguments.  I headed to the ladies’ room in the hallway.
I noticed a distinguished looking man sitting in the back of the courtroom.  He was actually quite handsome with a tanned face and brown hair touched by gray at his temples.  As I passed by him, I asked, “Can I help you, sir?  Are you here for this trial?”
            “I’m Bradley’s father.”
            “Really.”  I had a mental image of Bradley being created, rather than born.  “You look familiar,” I said, trying to place him.  “Have you been to court before?”
            “Maybe you’ve been to my church.  I’m the minister at First Methodist.”
            “That must be it,” I said, not wanting to mention that I had never entered a church in this town.  “Well, nice to meet you.”
            “And you too,” he said with a genuine smile.  He seemed much more human than Bradley, who must have taken after his mother, I decided.

            As I came out of the restroom by the courtroom, I stopped in the alcove to straighten the seam of my skirt.  I heard Bradley’s voice.  “You don’t understand, Dad.”
            “Did it ever occur to you, son, that this young man may be telling the truth?”
            “You’ve got to be kidding me, Dad.”
            “Anyway, son, don’t you just feel sorry for him?  What good is it going to do to lock him up in jail?”
            “I can’t believe you’re saying this, Dad.  I’m on the side of righteousness.  They’re the bad guys.”

My closing argument was short and matter-of-fact.  I emphasized that the state had the burden to prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt; that Mr. Keller testified that he did not know the truck was stolen; and the state produced no evidence that proved he knew it was stolen.
Bradley, however, was not going down without a fight.  “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury.  There is only one question before you today,” he announced loudly.  “What would a reasonable person at a cocaine party know!”
            Reasonable person at a cocaine party?  I was pretty sure that Bradley had never been to a cocaine party.  A reasonable person would bring clear sinuses and plenty of cash, I thought to myself.  I could just see the invitations:  You are cordially invited to: A Cocaine Party!  (B.Y.O.C.)
“Thus, you must ask yourself that question,” Bradley said dramatically.  “What would a reasonable person at a cocaine party know?  I’ll tell you the answer to this question.  A reasonable person at a cocaine party would know that the motor vehicle was stolen!”

            A couple of the jurors smiled at Eddie as they left the courtroom to begin deliberations.  I wondered if Bradley knew that he had already lost.
            As we were leaving the courtroom, Bradley’s supervisor, a mousy man with out-dated plastic-framed glasses, stopped by to see how the trial was going.
            “So,” he said to me, putting his hand on Bradley’s shoulder, “How’s our new felony lawyer doing?”
            “OK,” I said, trying to be generous, “but Bradley has a hard time thinking outside the box.”
            I thought Bradley might bristle at this light insult, but instead, he straightened his posture, and proclaimed, “Kate, you don’t understand—I am the box!”
            I looked at him in amazement.  “That may be the smartest thing you ever said, Bradley.”


            When I arrived at work the next morning, I saw that Janey, our receptionist, had red, puffy eyes.  I wanted to ask her what was wrong, but she was busy simultaneously misdirecting five different calls.  I went upstairs to investigate.
I couldn’t find anyone on the felony floor, so I went up the stairs to Wall Street.  I immediately knew something was wrong.  There was no noise.  Janice was not in her cubicle, so I went to the kitchenette, which was on the same floor.  There, sitting at the lunch table, were Janice, José, and Matthew.  They held cups of coffee in their hands, but weren’t saying anything.
            “What is it?  Did someone die?”
            “Ed’s leaving,” Janice said flatly.
            “What?  He can’t do that.”
            “He’s doing it, all right.  He’s leaving in a week.”
            I left the three of them staring at their coffee mugs and went searching for Ed.  I found him in his office, his back to the door, typing something on his computer.  I didn’t bother to knock.
            “You can’t leave,” I said, hands on my hips.
            Ed slowly swiveled around in his chair to face me.  “That was fast.”
            “Tell me it’s not true.”
            “I’m 68 years old.  There are some things I want to do before I die.  One of them is to sail around the world in my wooden boat.”
            “A wooden boat?  Why wood?”
            “Because it’s more real than plastic.”
            “You know, I used to be a purist about cotton, but now with what they’re doing with micro fibers … It’s probably the same with wood …”  I was babbling.
            “It’s not about that, Kate.”
            “You can’t go.  You’re the only authority figure I’ve ever liked.”
            “That’s because I’m not really an authority figure.”
            “Exactly.  But who would take your place?”
            “A committee of judges and county commissioners will pick someone.”
            “But we drive the judges crazy.  Should they really be allowed to pick who our boss is?  And the commissioners, they don’t want us to spend any money.  What if they pick someone who doesn’t get it?”
            “It will be fine.”  Ed tried to sound reassuring, but I was far from convinced.
How could Ed abandon us?  Even though I was new to the office, Ed’s presence seemed essential.  He had founded the office back in 1963 after the Supreme Court ruled that poor people were entitled to a lawyer when accused of a crime.  Ed occasionally joined us at Moezy’s and told us stories about the early days, when six lawyers shared a large room and a single telephone.  He was feisty and funny and didn’t let the judges tell him how to run the office.  Ed couldn’t leave—he was the heart of the office.

Want to read more?  Find the next chapters, 22 and 23, Ed's Going Away Party; and Night Court!, here.