Authors: G. E. Mason
Table of Contents
Copyright © 2013
G. E. Mason
Copyright © 201
3 Cover Design by G. E. Mason
This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to actual persons,
places, things, alive or dead, are purely coincidental.
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Lauren Heath looked over the file for her next case one more time hoping for something in it that made sense. She sat on a bench outside the courtroom as various cops, defendants and witnesses traipsed by her. Thankfully no one she knew so she could concentrate on the words she'd read too many times.
Nothing in the papers about the murder should have her washed in uneasiness. Still she knew something was off.
From a prosecutor's standpoint the case did make sense, but Lauren's gut told her there was more to this story than what was in this manila folder. She scratched her head, hoping to jog the part of her brain that resolved these issues. No enlightenment came. No last minute "Aha!" There was nothing.
The door to the court opened then closed momentarily letting the silence of the courtroom enter her consciousness.
She frowned, then sighed. She brushed her brown hair out of her face, silently cursing herself for not putting it up in a bun.
An eighteen year old girl was accused of murder and what should be a clear case of guilt and an easy trial for Lauren would not be. Only because she knew the case was not simple.
No matter how much time she spent as a prosecutor, she still couldn't be cutthroat enough to let an innocent person go to jail.
The facts were clear enough. The girl had motive and was witnessed leaving the scene of the crime. Still, something did not sit right with Lauren. She couldn't go into the judge and tell him that.
"I have a feeling there is more to this."
She'd get laughed out of the courtroom.
As a young woman, only a few years out of law school, she had to hang onto all the credibility she could.
The judge in this case was also a stressor for Lauren. Before she could think about Ethan her old lover, opposing counsel sat next to her
on the worn, wooden bench. A large man, despite sitting on the opposite end of the seat, he still entered her personal space.
She looked him over. His suit screamed money and refinement.
The courthouse was not her usual stomping grounds, but she liked it anyway with its carved oak benches lining the hallway. Lauren glanced at the other lawyer hoping he'd get the hint she didn't want to be disturbed.
"For a prosecutor, you don't look so sure of yourself," Brad Kennedy said.
He unbuttoned the middle button of his double breasted, probably tailored, gray suit. The defense side of things obviously made more money than she did.
"The case is pretty straightforward," she said, finally.
He tapped his own tanned forehead.
"But the wrinkle of concern between your eyes is telling me you don't think it will be open and shut. I like that."
He leaned back on the bench, stretching his long legs out in front of him. An observer might not think he was about to defend someone accused of murder.
Lauren wasn't going to give him any ammunition, especially if it was only her gut. She needed this win. Her boss had accused her of getting soft. And her boss was up for re-election in a month. Soft wouldn't do.
Closing her folder and tucking
it into her leather briefcase, she said, "I think it will all be fine."
"Do you know anything about this judge? Ethan Grogan?"
The events leading up to the trial had received so much press that Brad had successfully argued a change of venue.
"Other than he's been on the bench for less than a year
No need for Brad to know she'd known Ethan in another lifetime. In college, when she'd been young and stupid.
"I heard he has political ambitions?"
Lauren shrugged. "Were you expecting the pos
Brad flashed a too white, too perfect smile. "No. I'm just a guy trying to get cr
iminals their fair day in court. Due process and all that."
A chuckle rumbled out of her.
She knew all about Brad's political ambitions. He didn't want to be a judge. He wanted to be a senator.
Didn't anyone just want to be a trial lawyer anymore?
The bailiff opened the large wooden door.
"First case. People versus Claire Smith."
Brad rose first, but indicated she should head into the courtroom before him. "Good luck."
"I don't think I need it," she said with a cockiness she wasn't feeling.
Ethan Grogan entered the courtroom with a presence Lauren remembered well from their dating days. Even if the bailiff had not said his usual, "All rise," everyone probably would have. Ethan could part crowds when he walked down the street.
She expected a spotlight to appear out of nowhere and a choir to begin singing.
He'd been appointed by a conservative governor despite being a liberal. Lauren was sure there was a story behind that.
"Be seated," Ethan said.
His gaze took in the crowd, stopping briefly on Lauren. She hoped her face remained aloof despite her nervousness. She saw a quick twinkle in his eyes as recognition dawned on him. Not wanting to be first to blink, she returned his stare with an impassive smile.
Ethan finally l
ooked at Brad, then at the jury that inspired a lot of confidence in Lauren. She'd fought hard for most of the jurors. She hoped they wouldn't let her down.
"The court shall come to order. Do we have the accused?"
The bailiff escorted a young girl into the courtroom. Wearing a conservative suit, she looked as if she were playing dress up instead of here to face a murder charge.
Lauren looked down at her file. According to her notes, Claire Smith had her eighteenth birthday six months before this trial.
Today, she'd put her blonde hair up in a ponytail which showed her round face that still held some baby fat. Lauren would have pegged her age at fifteen.
This girl was only eight years older than Lauren's daughter. Part of her heart went out to the young girl accused of murder.
Claire stood next to Brad who patted her on the shoulder, while whispering in her ear. The young girl turned her big blue eyes toward Lauren. A tear slipped out and slid down the Claire's face.
The small audience murmured. The press in attendance scribbled notes. Lauren was glad the judge disallowed cameras during the trial. He also had forbidden anyone to tweet during the proceedings.
Lauren steeled herself for what would be a high profile case.
"Would the defendant like to enter a plea?" Ethan said.
"Your honor, my client pleads not guilty by reason of self-defense."
A few gasps came from the audience. Ethan remained stoic while the jurors glanced at each other.
Lauren remained silent having known the plea beforehand.
Ethan looked at the jury. "The defendant pleads not guilty." His gaze went back to the defendant then to Lauren. "Are we ready for opening arguments?"
Lauren nodded as she saw Brad do the same movement in her peripheral vision.
"We'll begin, then." He turned back to the jurors. "You are charged with listening to all the facts of the case and decide if Claire Smith is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
All the jurors nodded.
"We'll begin with the Prosecutor's opening arguments."
Lauren took a deep breath, letting it loose slowly. Everyone was seated as she stood. She brushed her brown hair behind her ear and began.
All eyes turned to her. This part of the trial always reminded her of a performance. She wasn't averse to being in the spotlight, but she didn't crave it the way Ethan and Brad did. She also figured Brad would put on quite a show.
All she really wanted to do was come across as credible. Hopefully the jurors would not be swayed by Brad's smoke and mirrors.
Most importantly, she didn't want her doubts about the case to shine through.
Lauren sauntered over to the jury box, feeling all twelve sets of eyes on her.
You've done this a thousand times in the last five years. This one isn't any different.
Despite the internal pep talk, her palms itched while her heart almost beat out of her chest.
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury," she began. The room quieted down. "Before you, you see Claire Smith, accused of brutally murdering John Sheffield. The state will prove that she, with malice aforethought, went to Mr. Sheffield's house that day in October to snuff out his life. That she knew exactly what she was doing when she stabbed this upstanding member of the community seventeen times.
Seventeen times, ladies and gentlemen of the jury."
gazed at each one as she let that number sink into their brains. In a softer voice, she refrained, "Seventeen times."
She motioned towards Brad. "Mr. Kennedy, on the other hand will try to convince you that Miss Smith was a victim of abuse. But don't be mesmerized by his performance. Be ever vigilant for the facts. Because ladies and gentlemen, the facts are what you need to make a decision.
" She pounded her fist on the jury box. "What you need to come to the guilty verdict I'm expecting from you. The verdict you must come to given the facts that will be presented during this case."
Pausing, she drew herself up tall. Well
, as tall as she could at her diminutive height. "Don't let me or the public down. Thank you."
She patted the jury box,
and then walked back to her table, glancing at Brad for only a moment.
Brad stood, smiling and buttoning his suit jacket. "Thank you Ms. Heath."
He approached the juror box with much more confidence than Lauren had. One of the women on the jury, scowled at his swagger. Lauren smiled internally.
"The state would like you to think that my client, Miss Smith," he indicated the young girl. "The state would like you to think that my client murdered a man in cold blood. I'm g
oing to convince you otherwise. Based on facts."
He threw a glance over his shoulder at Lauren. "Facts which are what my defense will be based on. Facts that Miss Smith did not in fact murder anyone
except someone who had habitually abused her. I am confident you will see our side of things. I am confident you will see the facts as we see them and acquit Miss Claire Smith of premeditated murder. Thank you ladies and gentlemen of the jury."
He bowed to them with a flourish that had Lauren wanting to gag. Several of the jurors rolled their eyes.
"I'd appreciate if you keep the courtroom theatrics to a minimum Mr. Kennedy," Ethan said.
Lauren had to hide a smile behind her hand.
"Court is adjourned until tomorrow at 9 in the morning," Ethan said before banging his gavel.
The jurors filed out while the guard escorted Claire Smith away. She'd done nothing but cry in the courtroom. Her blue eyes would probably be puffy for the next few hours.
Brad came over to shake Lauren's hand. "Good day in court counselor."
Lauren looked down at the hand that was better manicured than hers. She shook it, but not with a lot of vigor. "Sure."
"Can I buy you a drink?"
Brad never changed. He'd been asking her out for a drink for almost the whole year she'd been divorced.
"Brad, you know better."
He nodded his perfectly coiffed hair. "Forgot. You don't fraternize with the other side while the trial's going on. Would it make it any better if I asked the judge also?"
She laughed. She couldn't help herself. "And you think he'd go with you?"
"I think it would be unethical."
"Maybe. Well see you tomorrow," Brad said, before he strode out of the courtroom.
No one remained in the audience. Lauren had the place to herself. She took a moment to reflect on the day's happenings real
izing she couldn't do anything else about what went on.
"Time to go home."
She smiled. Her daughter, not yet a teen, not really a child would be glad to see her. She hoped.
As Lauren walked to her car, she reviewed what she would need to accomplish tonight. A voice startled her out of her thoughts.
Standing a respectful distance away, no longer wearing his dark judge's robes, Ethan smiled at her.
Instead, he wore a tailored suit and designer shoes. All the men in the trial dressed better than she did.
For one brief moment, Lauren was back in college, staring at the star quarterback. Tongue-tied, she could only smile. Then she remembered she was an accomplished lawyer who used words in her job every day.
He cocked his head.
"Nice to see you."
"Is that why you followed me?"
She sounded like a shrew even to herself.
Ethan threw back his head, laughing. "Same old ball buster Lauren."
She leaned against her car, crossing her arms. "What can I do for you Ethan?"