Courtroom is in session, Who murdered a defenseless woman? What was the weapon of choice?
I walked into the room, and sat down, thinking, This is going to be great!
“So, you deny putting your wife’s body in the freezer,” The prosecutor, Jim Morrison's steely blue-eyes made the little man on the witness stand shrink back in his seat. He turned, playing to the jury by sadly shaking his head.
Turning back to the witness, “What would you say if we have proof that you put her body in the freezer and even figured out how you did it?”
“I didn’t kill her,” wailed Stan, the defendant.
“Come on, you know you killed her. You threw a large wheel of cheese at her, knocking her unconscious, and then you proceeded to choke her ...”
“Objection, counselor is leading the witness,” red-faced, Benjamin Peyton, an overweight defense attorney glared at Jim Morrison.
"Sustained!" Judge Orin Grayson's gavel sounded.
Jim Morrison just smiled and once more proceed to question his witness. “Why did you put her body in the freezer, to hide ...?”
“Objection, counselor is still leading the witness.”
"Sustained! Stop leading the witness, counselor." Judge Grayson admonished Jim.
Jim Morrison waved his hand as if in defeat, then stared at Stan until he raised his eyes, “Did you love your wife?”
“Yes,” Stan hung his head.
“Did you kill her?” Jim asked.
“No, I did not,” Stan looked up and stared back at Jim.
“Then who put her in your freezer if you weren’t the one?” Jim boomed out, his voice echoing throughout the courthouse.
“I don’t know,” Stan wailed, looking defeated.
“Weren’t you home all day yesterday when she was killed?” Jim looked down at Stan, his steely blue eyes pinning him to his chair. "Did you see anyone come into the room?"
“Y-yes and N-no,” Stan stuttered, shrinking back in his seat. “B-but I was taking a nap.”
“Are you saying someone snuck into your house, knocked out your wife, then proceeded to strangle her all the while you were taking a nap?”
“You must be a sound sleeper to not wake up while someone is killing your wife in the other room.”
“I didn’t hear anything, I swear,” Hanging his head, sobs could be heard from the defendant.
This doesn’t sound possible, does it? You lived in a small, four room house, the bedroom is near the living room where the murder occurred. Right?”
“Y-yes.” Stan blew his nose in his handkerchief.
“Was the door closed or open?”
“O-open, I think.”
“The door is open, but you didn’t hear her scream? Not even a whimper.”
“She didn’t scream,” Stan sounded confident for once, making me wonder how he could've known that if he was sleeping.
“How could you know she didn’t scream if you were asleep?” Jim asked, sounding astounded at such a feat.
Stan shrank back, crying out, “I don’t know, I didn't mean – I'm n-not su...” His eyes opened wide in surprise, trying to think back on what he just said.
“You didn’t mean to what?” Jim pinned him with his steely-eyed stare.
Stan sat there, defeated, shaking his head in denial.
“You didn’t mean to WHAT?” Jim asked, wanting an answer to his question.
Stan slumped in his seat, when the Judge Grayson spoke up. “Answer counselor’s question.”
“Okay, okay, I did it. She kept nagging me and I couldn’t take it anymore. I swung the wheel of cheese around and let it loose, and it accidently hit her. She stumbled back, and hit her head on the edge of the chair. That’s all I remember ... Honest!”
It looked as if Stan looked relieved that he confessed, scared at the prospect of what was going to happen next. I sat in the back watching his demeanor. Was he guilty, or did Jim break him down? Some people confessed to anything just to get out of Jim’s line of vision. I’ve seen it before and I'm seeing it again.
“No more questions,” Jim said and sat back down.
Stan looked so relieved that he got up, ready to exit the witness stand.
The judge turned to Benjamin Peyton, “Any redirect?”
“I have a couple of questions, your honor,” Benjamin got up and walked towards the defendant.
Stan reluctantly sat back down.
“You do realize that you admitted on this stand that you killed your wife,” Benjamin shook his finger at Stan.
“I couldn’t take it anymore! I didn’t know how to answer any more of the prosecutor’s questions, so I confessed.”
“Even though you told me you didn’t do it; you swore to me your were innocent.”
“I am innocent! But, I’m so tired, I just want to rest.”
“You admitted to hitting her with a wheel of cheese, and she fell over unconscious, that was all you did?”
“That's all I remember, I must have blacked out, too.”
“When you woke up, did your head hurt?”
“Could someone have knocked you on the head, too?”
“I guess s ...”
“Objection, Counselor is leading the witness.”
"Sustained," Judge Grayson's gavel sending the message home.
“I have no more question,” Benjamin Peyton strolled back to his seat, confident that he put enough doubt in the minds of the jury.
Wow! Good job, Benjamin Peyton. I sat back in my seat wondering what was going to happen now. Stan looked a bit like Popeye in his sleeveless shirt, sitting next to his attorney.
“This case will convene at eight o’clock tomorrow morning.” The gavel sounded, and the judge left the bench.
This is getting better and better! I thought as I walked out with the other spectators. I knew if I came to watch Jim in action, he would put on a good show. Being a small-town prosecutor myself, I didn't get the glory cases that always came his way.
The next morning, the court convened once more, and when the bailiff came forward, “All rise, the Honorable Judge Grayson presiding, please be seated. I looked around at the packed-to-the-brim courtroom, and complimented myself on getting an early start.”
Judge Grayson entered, sounding his gavel for silence. "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Calling the case of the People of the State of California versus Stan Carter. Are both sides ready for their closing arguments?
"Yes, Your Honor," Jim Morrison said confidently.
"Yes, Your Honor," Benjamin Peyton stated with the same confidence.
As each side gave their closing argument, I was watching Stan. He looked rested but nervous. Well, of course, I would be too, in his position. I turned to watched the jury, they seemed mesmerized, taking in each word. When it was Benjamin's turn, the jury listened, but there wasn't the same respect that was shown Jim.
As the judge was giving the instructions to the jury, I wondered how this case would all turn out. The defendant's caving in to Jim didn't help Stan, but Benjamin's questioning brought out enough doubt that it could go either way. I watch the jury file out, hoping they came to a unified decision soon.
As I waited out in the hall for the jury, it was a longer wait than I thought it would be. I paced back and forth, thinking about the case. Sometimes people confessed when they didn't even do it, is this what Stan did? The jury took six hours! What was so hard to figure out, the guy confessed already. I guess that's why I wouldn't make a good juror. I returned to the courtroom for the verdict to be read.
I watch the jury file back into the courtroom, I looked at each juror, trying to get some kind of vibe from them. Jim sure looked confident, but so did the defense lawyer. The defendant sat there, looking hopeful, peaceful almost. I guess time will tell.
The judge asked to see the verdict. The foreman of the jury handed it to the bailiff who passed it on to the judge. He opened it up, looked at it, then asked, “Mr. Foreman, members of the jury, have you reached this verdict unanimously?”
The jury members said in unison, “Yes, your honor.”
The judge looked at the defendant, “Stand up to hear your verdict.”
Stan Carter stood up to face the judge as the verdict was read.
“The jury finds you, Stan Carter, guilty of murder.” Pounding his gavel for silence, the judge continued when everyone settled down, “Sentencing will be on Monday, 9:00 A.M. Court dismissed.”
"I'm innocent, I tell you, I'm innocent! Somebody framed me!"
I could hear Stan whine all the way out the door and down the corridor. He shouldn't have confessed, that's what cinched his faith. Confessing to a crime when you didn't do it is not the best way to go free. Then there's the evidence, showing him to be guilty. Otherwise, the jury wouldn't have convicted him. I felt sorry for him all of a sudden thinking out loud, "What if he didn't do it, then who did?"
As the courtroom once more was emptied, I stood back to observe the bench, the witness stand, and the two tables in front. The stenographer got up and left through the side door. The bell on the courtroom clock chimed the hour of two. Once again justice was served, but was it? I shook my head, turned and walked down the long hallway, out into the afternoon sunlight.