Witness to a trial, p.3
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       Witness to a Trial, p.3
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           John Grisham
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  Wilton seated next to him. Losing his mother was incomprehensible. Losing his father would be the end of the world.

  Wilton had explained the truth. He knew his father was innocent.


  In his closing argument Wag Dunlap decided to trash the victims. If Son and Eileen were not having a fling, then what the hell were they doing? Can you think of another good reason why Son, who knew Eileen very well, would drop by her house around 2:00 p.m. on a Tuesday, with Junior at work and the kids at school? There was no other reason, and the defendant, who has proven to have a rather vivid imagination, has been unable to pull one out of the air.

  What should be obvious, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is actually quite obvious. They were having a fling, and Junior either knew about it or was highly suspicious. He timed his movements almost to perfection, giving himself a brief but plausible window to zip by his house and see if Son’s pickup was in the driveway.

  And it was! His worst suspicions were true.

  He caught them, killed them, did what he had to do, and got on with his propane deliveries. Later, when reality set in, he got drunk, got caught, and showed no remorse for the killings, at least not in jail.


  The Chief. From the front row in the small balcony, the Chief looked down on the courtroom with sadness. His people were so divided. To his left and behind the defendant were members of the Mace family and a few friends. To his right and behind the prosecution were members of the Razko family and a few friends. Two deputies guarded the aisle, ready to make sure the factions caused no trouble. Scattered around the courtroom were other Tappacola, all more curious than concerned. They favored the casino, could almost see and feel its riches. For or Against. No gray areas, no indecision. Every Tappacola stood firmly in one camp or the other.

  His tribe had voted no almost three years earlier, back when Son Razko and Junior Mace had been agitating against the casino on tribal land. They viewed gambling as nothing more than another white man’s curse, and they had narrowly won. Now, with Son dead and Junior on his way to prison, the tribe would vote again and the casino would be built. Prosperity was just around the corner, and this pleased the Chief. Perhaps in a few years the money could heal the divisions. With money they would build nice homes and fine schools, plenty of roads and parks and clinics, and every Tappacola would share in the wealth. The casino would lift them out of poverty and reunite his tribe. That was his dream.

  For now, though, the spectacle of Junior being prosecuted was heartbreaking. The Chief knew what all of his people knew. They could argue, fight, and hold grudges for decades, but the Tappacola did not kill one another.


  Larry Swoboda’s best moment of the trial came during his final summation. He told the jurors they had no choice but to believe Junior’s claims of innocence because he refused to avail himself of the most obvious defense. Swoboda posed a hypothetical: Any husband who walked in on his cheating wife would almost certainly be claiming that what followed was an act of rage, an act of passion, an irresistible impulse that could not be controlled. Such a defense has long been recognized in the criminal laws of our nation, and juries have often shown sympathy in those cases. The fact that Junior refused to claim that he had acted in a fit of temporary insanity meant only one thing: He did not catch and kill his wife and his friend.

  Junior was not conniving for his life and gaming the system; rather, he was simply telling the truth.


  The Jurors. Maybe. The defendant’s problem was that he had no proof. His alibi witnesses were not solid and convincing. He could claim he was drugged and framed and then victimized by planted evidence, but where was his proof?

  Indeed, all the evidence was lined up neatly in favor of the State.


  The jury deliberated for only four hours before returning with a unanimous verdict of guilty on both counts. There were no gasps or shrieks or groans from the spectators, no outbursts at the injustice, no smiles, only a few quiet tears from the Razko family and a few slumped shoulders from the Mace crowd. Junior absorbed the decision without flinching. Swoboda seemed to know it was coming. Wag and his gang hid smug little grins. The jurors were poker-faced, certainly not pleased but determined to finish their tasks.

  Only young Patrick was overcome, and he collapsed into the arms of his uncle Wilton.

  Judge McDover dismissed the jury with instructions to return promptly at nine the following morning, when the trial would resume with the sentencing phase. The issue of guilt had been settled. Next, the jury would determine either death or life without parole.


  The Spectator. He delayed a moment after adjournment, and as the crowd silently drifted out of the courtroom he watched them handcuff Junior and take him away. Delgado felt no sadness at all. No remorse. Just the opposite. Throughout his long career as a killer he had often wondered how thrilling it would be to pull off the perfect job, a job so incredibly well done that they convicted someone else. How cool would it be to watch the trial?

  At that moment, he had to admit that it was very cool. And the thrill was impossible to describe.

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