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The Defense

by John U about a year ago in fiction
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short story

The Defense
Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

Marcus Thornwood is led into the courtroom from a door to the side, his hands are handcuffed behind his back. He’s wearing a Goodwill purchased suit that his State appointed attorney brought him at the jail earlier that morning. He’s taken to his seat by a tall man in uniform. Marcus sits next to his lawyer as soon as his cuffs are taken off, his lawyer is a run of the mill man, average looks, average intelligence, just very average. His name is Theodore Wright, and unbeknownst to Marcus this is Theodore’s first case. His face is slightly red and drops of sweat line his hairline. The prosecution is full of celebrity lawyers, Danika Andrews, a beautiful, highly intelligent lawyer, in comparison to Theodore, and next to her is Robert Newman, a man who often appears on TV commercials. Marcus only knows them from TV, not familiar with who exactly they are.

There’s a news crew present in the back of the room, Marcus turns his head and does his best to smile, “I don’t recommend looking back at the media,” Theodore says to him under his breath. Marcus quickly turns to the front as the Judge walks in the room.

“All rise for the honorary Judge Alfred Kauffman,” the four people at the tables in front of the Judge stand, as there’s nobody in attendance, not even a jury. Marcus wrote to the court system requesting a bench trial, believing that there shouldn’t be anyone who can sway the opinion of a Judge.

The Judge waves his hand signaling everyone to be seated, and looks through his folder on the case. “Marcus Thornwood,” he looks at Marcus, “You are being charged with first degree murder and assault, how do you plea?”

Marcus stands, “Not guilty your honor,” he looks at the judge, he’s heard stories of what he’s supposedly done, it happened a week ago.

The morning after the incident Marcus was driving to work, when he gets pulled over. It was a normal Tuesday morning until the police officer walked to his window with his pistol drawn. Marcus’ hands shoot up from fumbling in his glove box, the officer talks on his walkie, “We’ve got the suspect stopped, back up requested.” The police officer opens Marcus’ door and unbuckles his seatbelt, pulls him out of the car forcefully. Tears start to form in his eyes, as the officer pulls out his nightstick and hits Marcus’ hands, he pulls his hands away instinctively and gets hit square in the face. Next thing he remembers is being in a holding cell laying on the bench, nose bloody and broken.

His lawyer walks in, not Theodore, his family lawyer, “Marcus can you stand?” Marcus stands and walks over speak with his lawyer, “I’m afraid I won’t be able to help you moving forward, good luck with your future.” He stands dumbstruck, mouthing words that didn’t come out.

He was finally able to speak, “Can you at least tell me what happened?” The lawyer, Marcus’ brother Adam, looks at his cell phone and turns it off.

“All I know is there’s been a string of murders stretching back a few years, until very recently there hadn’t been any evidence, but with the most recent one, they supposedly found something.” He looks around, whispers, “You are screwed here brother, I’m sorry.” Adam pats Marcus on the shoulder and walks out.

“Mr. Thornwood, we have mounting evidence to be able to convict you, not only on this case but several other murder charges are being brought up,” Marcus’ face turns a sickly white, he wants to stand and shout but his lawyer holds his shoulder. “We have one key witness today willing to testify. You may enter Mrs. Thornwood.”

Marcus’ head shoots toward the entrance, he sees his wife walking down, not looking at anything other than the floor. The man in uniform next to the stand walks toward Mrs. Thornwood holding a bible. He watches as she’s told to hold up her hand and swear to tell the truth, and she nods glancing ever slightly at Marcus. She slowly makes her way to the witness stand.

“Mrs. Thornwood, would you like to make a statement.” Marcus would have been feeling relieved by the sight of his wife, but the way she ignored him since entering the room, made him feel uneasy.

“Yes sir, your honor.” She stares at her hands as she speaks, her voice shaking. “My husband is an unfaithful man, he’s been sneaking to this motel every so often. He hires street walkers, to do lord knows what.” She takes a moment to gather herself.

The Judge lets her know she can just answer questions now if she’d prefer, and she nods her head. “First, Mr. Wright, please come forward with any questions.” The man next to Marcus stands and moves toward the witness.

“I have only one question.” Marcus stares at the lawyer jaw slightly lowered. The thought ‘Only one question! I have at least a dozen and he only has one!’ Crosses his mind over and over. “About how long have you suspected your husband of, these acts?”

Marcus’ wife quickly opens her hand, “I’ve had my suspicions for over 2 years. When I would read the newspaper the day after his affairs, I would always see something about a dead hooker. For the longest time I knew it had to be Marcus. I just didn’t feel safe to say anything until he was finally caught.”

“No further questions your honor.”

“Mrs. Thornwood, you are very brave for being here today.” Danika walks toward the stand. “Your testimony today will be very helpful in putting away a deranged serial killer.” She looks at Marcus. “We have more than enough evidence to convict him, and make sure this never happens again.” She turns to the Judge, “I believe we’ve heard enough from Mrs. Thornwood.”

The Judge looks at the pair of women, “Mrs. Thornwood you’re free to leave, next we can hear from Mr. Thornwood.” Marcus’ wife stands and starts walking toward the exit, as she walks past him he can almost see tears falling down her cheeks, and she mouths the words, ‘I’m sorry.’

Marcus stands and watches his wife walk out of his life forever. His heart hurts. The man standing next to the stand walks over to Marcus holding the Bible. “Do you swear to tell the truth during your testimony?” Marcus swears and walks to the stand. “Mr Wright you’re up first,” his lawyer fumbles, and slowly walks to the Judge, Theodore whispers something Marcus can’t hear. His lawyer retreats back to the desk, “Prosecution, you’re up.”

Danika stands and walks over to the stand, wants to make a grand speech for the media, “Your honor, we have evidence for over a dozen cases that had been dormant up until this past week. DNA samples from the defendant, that testimony from his wife, all make for an open and shut case your honor.” The Judge reviews the file in front of him, Marcus looks over and sees a small black notebook sitting next to the file, a small piece of paper hanging out. He thinks it looks familiar, his brother was holding that exact notebook a week ago.

Marcus raises his hand, “Can I say something your honor?” The Judge looks over and nods his head. “I am innocent, I have no idea what is going on.”

The Judge looks at Danika, “I’m more than happy to show you what you’ve done,” a large TV is brought over and Danika walks over to her desk and pulls out a laptop speaking in whispers to Robert for a brief moment, when she pulls out the laptop Marcus sees a small black notebook flash out of the bag for the briefest moment. Danika walks over to the TV and hooks it to the laptop where a slideshow is at the ready. Pictures of dead women, each of them have a large black and blue line around their necks, pictures of DNA with Marcus’ name at the top of each.

Marcus get sick looking at the pictures, almost wrenching into a wastebasket by his feet. One of the picture catches his attention, “Can you go back?” He asks as the picture quickly changes, Danika has a confused look on her face, looks at Robert who nods his head, she goes to the picture before. Marcus waves to have the TV moved closer and Danika moves it closer. Marcus looks at the picture where he sees a condom wrapper at the bottom, he can barely make out the brand, Trojan, but notices something that clears his name. “Your honor,” his heart is slowing briefly, “It couldn’t be me who committed these atrocities.”

The Judge looks at the lawyers in the room, Robert stands, “Objection. New evidence can’t be involved at this time.” The Judge looks over at Marcus, an almost sad look comes on his face.

“Sustained,” Marcus felt his heart sink, and tears fill his eyes.

“But…but…. I,” he whimpers. Danika turns off the TV and walks back to her desk, Robert is red faced, Theodore is awkwardly shuffling through papers.

“Mr. Thornwood, please return to your table,” the Judge says. Marcus slowly lifts himself from his chair and makes his way to the seat next to Theodore. “Mr. Wright and Ms. Andrews please come forward.” The two lawyers stand and walk to the Judge. Marcus notices Theodore leaves his bag open next to the chair, as the two lawyers are speaking to the Judge, Marcus looks into the bag. Sitting there at the bottom is a small black notebook, he pulls it out and sees Robert in his background vision eyes widening, his yells something and everyone turns their heads. Theodore runs toward the table, but Marcus opens the book up and sees a check for $20,000, before the notebook is snatched out of his hand he sees at the top left the name, Jon Kauffman. Theodore’s face is bright red, the police officer who escorted him into the courtroom runs over and shoves his face into the desk and handcuffs him.

Marcus’ mind is racing, “Who is Jon Kauffman?” He stares at the Judge, is Jon his brother? Standing in front of the Judge, who has the smallest smile on his face, the Judge calls out his sentence, the death penalty, to be executed as soon as possible. As he’s being dragged out of the court he yells out, “I’m allergic to latex! I’m allergic to latex!” It fell on deaf ears, besides one of the news crews caught it on camera.

Feeling lost, Marcus sits in his cell awaiting his judgement, questions flying through his head. “I’m caught in a spiderweb, I’m just a fly who was dragged into a trap.” He holds his head in his hands, tears falling through his fingers.

A knock on the bars gets him back to life, his former lawyer, his brother Liam, is standing there. A jailer unlocks his cell and leads him to an interrogation room, where he finally gets to talk to a real lawyer. “Why me brother?” He starts crying again.

“Listen, we don’t have much time.” Marcus lifts his head. “How much do you know?”

“All I know is I saw many small black books, but only had eyes on one check. $20,000, written from a Jon Kauffman.” He looks sternly at his brother. “How many were paid off, who’s Jon Kauffman?”

“All of us, Jon is the lawyer to a very prominent State Senator.” Liam looks sadly at his brother. “I came here to only ease your mind, I can’t do anything about your death penalty.” He gives Marcus a hug. “I love you brother, I’ll do whatever I can to make it right.”

A man walks through the door, grabs Marcus, “Tell my family I love them,” tears stream down his cheeks as he’s dragged to a chair with straps.


About the author

John U

amateur writer, professional screw up

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