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What's The Verdict?

by Cathy holmes 11 days ago in Mystery · updated 8 days ago

You tell me

Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova on Pexels

Jacob Miller knew he should leave the store the moment he started to imagine “Coupon Lady” with her brains splattered all over the cash register. The only thing that kept him there was the even more horrific vision of his wife's battered carcass being stuffed in the trunk of his car if she screamed at him again for going home without the milk. If she hadn’t been such a miserable bitch all the time, he wouldn’t have forgotten to pick it up in the first place and wouldn't be in this damn store right now.

Jacob had just arrived home from another lousy day at work when she started nagging. Admitting fault, and just to avoid a fight, he put his coat back on, grabbed his car keys and headed out. Of course, they didn’t have any at the convenience store. That would have been too easy, and nothing is ever easy for Jacob; not work, not home, not even trying to buy a bloody gallon of milk. So here he stood, in line behind Coupon lady, getting more frustrated by the second.

“She said the damn coupon was expired,” Jacob barked. He'd had enough. The line was now ten customers long, and this stupid bitch wouldn't stop arguing with the clerk over 50 cents. He searched his pockets, threw a handful of change at her and screamed, "Take this, for Christ's sake, and get the hell out of the way." Upon hearing the kerfuffle, the manager opened a new checkout and served Jacob first just to get him on his way and out of the store.

Jacob apologized to the store manager for causing a scene and calmly left the store, questioning his sanity for getting so angry over being delayed a few minutes. Lost in his thoughts, he unwittingly stepped in front of a car exiting the parking spot next to his.

A burly tattooed man in a muscle shirt and ball cap, Morris Antle, jumped out of the driver's seat and started screaming at him. Jacob was usually a quiet, unassuming man who would never dream of getting in a fight. Some may even have considered him a coward. This day, however, was not the day to get on his wrong side. Filled with the rage of a rabid badger, he wasn't backing down. "Go fuck yourself, asshole," he yelled while showing his middle finger.

Jacob stumbled when he felt the punch and managed to duck out of the way of the next one. When his attacker raised the tire iron, Jacob charged at him, knocking him to the ground. He then grabbed the iron rod, smashed him on the knee, then threw the weapon in the back seat of his car before jumping in, locking the doors, and attempting to start the vehicle. Within seconds, Morris got back up and began slamming his fists onto the driver's window, shouting at Jacob to give him back the tire iron and threatening to snap his neck. Fearing for his life, Jacob grabbed his gun from the glove box and pointed it towards the window. Instead of backing down, the man furiously punched the window and tugged at the driver's door. The pane smashed as the gun went off.

*

“Mr. Miller, did you want to make a phone call?” Detective Rice asked Jacob for the third time, snapping him out of his trance. He was still in a state of shock. One minute he was sitting at his kitchen table, drinking his morning coffee, the next minute, he was at the police station being questioned in a shooting death.

Before Jacob left home that morning, he thought it might be a pretty good day. His wife Irene was enjoying a coffee with him, and she seemed in a pretty good mood for a change. They even made plans to have dinner together. They never did that anymore.

Jacob had known Irene since college and had been smitten with her since the first day they met. With dark brown flowing locks, sparkling blue eyes, and a smile that could outshine the sun, she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Even better for Jacob, she had the personality to match. Bright and bubbly, highly intelligent, and always happy to join him on an adventure, she had a lot of the same dreams and hopes as Jacob. They got married six months after they met and lived together as happy newlyweds for five years.

Then something changed. After trying for two years to have a baby and then being told it would never happen, something changed in Irene. She lost interest in everything, was depressed most of the time, and never wanted to go anywhere with Jacob. They fought more and more and as the years went on. It had now reached a point where Irene was mad at her husband every day, and for the most minimal of things. When he arrived home from work without the milk she asked him to pick up; she threw a fit. Then she threw the TV remote at him while screaming what a useless idiot he was and how she couldn’t depend on him for anything. After the day Jacob had, he was in no mood to fight. He had no fight left in him, so he just got back in the car and went out for the milk. There was a time he would do anything for Irene because he loved her so much. Now, he would do anything just to shut her up.

“If you don’t want your phone call, we’ll start the interview now.” Jacob's thoughts were once again interrupted by the detective. "Yeah, I'll make a call," he replied. Jacob now had to decide who to call. It had been two hours since he left on his errand. He knew his wife would start screaming at him as soon as she picked up the phone. She had already called him seven times, to no response. He thought of just calling a lawyer, but he didn't know where to find one and couldn't think about it right now. He’d need Irene to do that. He reluctantly called home while still trying to wrap his brain around what had happened. Irene answered the phone and started yelling, just as he knew she would. "Shut the hell up, for once." Irene went immediately silent, shocked that Jacob had spoken to her in that tone. "I need a lawyer. They say I shot someone". Jacob informed his wife where he was, provided a brief review of what had happened in the last two hours, and then confirmed that she would get him an attorney.

When Jacob had finished his call, Detective Rice re-entered the room and asked him if he was ready to be interviewed. He declined, stating he preferred to wait for a lawyer. Jacob had a lot of time to think about his day while waiting. He left for work that morning in a great mood, knowing Irene was happy for a change and that his supervisor was taking the day off. Unfortunately for Jacob, it was too good to be true. His supervisor, Tim, came to work after all. The little bastard was there, with his triple chin leaning over Jacob’s cubicle, reeking of Axe body spray and sweat as he always did.

Demeaning Jacob was Tim’s favourite way to start the day. He always had some nasty, degrading joke which nobody laughed at, nobody but him at least. Jacob and Tim had both been competing for the same promotion six months ago, and ever since the smug little prick got picked over Jacob, he loved lording his authority over him. He always gave Jacob the most meaningless tasks; things he knew would never catch the attention of upper management, and always made sure to remind him how he was the one chosen for the promotion. Today was supposed to be Tim’s day off, but he decided to come in when one of Jacob’s co-workers called in sick. Jacob didn't know why he bothered, though. It's not like he did any of the extra work. He assigned it all to Jacob and harassed him every half hour about getting behind in his own tasks. "Pick up the slack, Jake," he said. "What's wrong, Jake, too much for you to handle? If you can’t keep up, maybe we should get someone else, someone better.” Jacob, tired of being constantly demeaned by this little prick, yelled at him to do it himself if he thought he could do a better job. Tim, furious with Jacob’s insubordination, gave him a written reprimand and sent him home early. Rather than having to explain to Irene what happened at work, he decided to go for a beer at the local pub first. Two hours and three beers later, he headed home, forgetting to pick up a stupid gallon of milk.

*

Six months later, Jacob was sitting in the defendant's chair facing his second-degree murder charge, claiming self-defence.

PROSECUTION:

Tim Smith: On the witness stand was Jacob’s supervisor from work. He testified to the defendant’s mood on the day, telling the judge and jury that Jacob was agitated at work all day and had to be sent home early, leaving out all context of his role in Mr. Miller’s state of mind. On cross-examination, he admitted Jacob's terrible day may have been partially his fault and stated that he had never before witnessed him display anger in the ten years that he's known him.

Parking lot witness # 1: Testified the defendant was the instigator. He insisted Jacob started the fight when he walked in front of the victim’s car and screamed vulgarities at him. He also said that Jacob tackled the victim and hit him with a tire iron. When asked who started the physical interaction, he claimed to have seen the defendant throw the first punch. On cross-examination, he admitted that he didn't really see how the fight started but did witness Jacob throwing a punch and swinging the weapon.

Parking lot witness #2: Arrived just after the fight started and also claimed to have seen Jacob tackle the victim to the ground and hit him with the tire iron. He stated that he saw the victim hitting Jacob’s window but said he was just tapping on it and trying to get his tool back. Witness claimed that the defendant shot the victim while he was knocking on the window. Cross: Witness admitted he didn’t see how the fight started, didn’t know who swung the weapon first. He agreed that the victim was screaming at the defendant while knocking on the window but swears he did not hear any threat.

Coupon lady – Stated Jacob was tense all the while he was waiting in line behind her. Says he threatened her if she didn't get out of his way. On cross, she admitted that he didn’t actually say anything threatening, but she felt intimidated by his agitation and was scared when he threw the change at her.

Marcie, Jacob’s sister-in-law: Testified that Jacob had been an angry man for years and always fought with her sister. She described him as a selfish, uncaring person who had no empathy and constantly demeaned his wife due to her depression. Marcie also informed the court that Jacob had threatened his neighbours with a gun a couple of weeks before the incident for which he was being tried. She admitted on cross that she had never personally witnessed fights between Jacob and his wife or heard Jacob threaten anyone. She was relaying information that her sister had told her.

DEFENSE:

Defendant’s wife Irene: When Irene took the stand, she described her husband as a kind, loving man who “didn’t have a vicious bone in his body." She informed the jury she had known him for 17 years and had never seen any indication that he could be violent. Under cross-examination, she admitted that she had heard Jacob complain about the noise from the neighbours who liked to party all night and that he had said he wanted to go over there with his gun. She insisted he didn’t mean it, that he could never hurt anyone. Irene went on to tell the jury that the only reason he had a gun was for protection because the neighbours threatened him when he lodged a noise complaint about them.

Grocery Store witness #1 – Told the court Jacob was waiting in line for at least 10 minutes while another customer argued with the cashier. The witness stated that the defendant’s growing impatience was evident in his foot tapping and vocalizations but was no more so antsy than anyone else in line. She did hear him yelling at the customer in front but insisted he was perfectly calm by the time the manager offered to serve him at another checkout. On cross, she admitted his anger scared her when she was behind him in the lineup.

Grocery store witness #2 – confirmed testimony of #1. Agreed on cross that she was also afraid, so much so that she thought Jacob was going to hit the “coupon lady."

Parking lot witness #3: confirmed Jacob’s version of events, saying the victim started the fight when he punched Jacob and attacked him with the tire iron. When questioned by the prosecution, he admitted it was possible the victim may have been afraid of Jacob because of the rage in his voice and eyes and that he grabbed the weapon as protection.

Forensic witness: Testified that the window was broken from the outside as most of the glass splatter was inside the car, agreeing with the defendant’s testimony that the victim smashed the window before the gun was fired. On cross-examination, he admitted that, since there were many fragments on the outside as well, the possibility existed that the window was broken when Jacob fired his gun, or at least almost simultaneously.

PROSECUTOR’S CLOSING: `

"Jacob Miller had a bad day. He felt bullied and berated at work, went to the pub for a few beers, then fought with his wife when he got home. Because of this bad day, he ran out of patience standing in line at the grocery store, screamed at and assaulted the customer in front of him, and killed a man who was simply trying to drive his car out of a parking spot. You have heard witness testimony from strangers describing the defendant as an enraged, terrifying man. You have heard testimony from family describing the defendant as selfish and entitled, having no empathy for anyone, not even his wife. You have been told that he previously threatened to visit the neighbours with a gun when they didn’t turn their music down.

The defendant started an altercation in the parking lot because he got yelled at when he stepped in front of the victim’s car. Morris Antle was simply trying to drive away when Mr. Miller screamed vulgarities at him. Yes, Mr. Antle should have stayed in his car, but he didn’t. No, he should not have grabbed the tire iron, but he did. Do those decisions justify Mr. Antle’s murder? Witnesses have testified that Mr. Miller started the fight, hit the defendant with his fists and the tire iron, then stole the tool from the victim and shot him in cold blood when he attempted to get it back, rather than just drive away. Yes, Jacob Miller had a bad day, but Morris Antle had a worse day, a day that ended with him losing his life. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you need to let Mr. Miller know that having a bad day is not a license to kill, not a justification for murder. You need to find Mr. Miller guilty.”

DEFENSE CLOSING:

“Morris Antle attacked Jacob Miller in a parking lot because he yelled at him. A physical altercation ensued, in which both participated, according to witness testimony. There are differing accounts as to who swung the first blow. When Mr. Miller attempted to leave, he was assaulted again, this time with a tire iron. The defendant was attempting to get into his car when Mr. Antle punched him and swung the weapon. Mr. Miller fought back, knocking his attacker to the ground and wrestling the weapon away from him. He struck one blow to Mr. Antle’s knee in an attempt to prevent him from regaining his footing to continue the assault. Mr. Miller then jumped into his car to try to escape. He was attempting to drive away when he dropped the key. When he attempted to pick it up, Mr. Antle was already punching his window. The prosecution says Jacob stole the tire iron. While it’s true that he did take the weapon, he did so to prevent his attacker from using it against him. Mr. Antle then tried to smash the driver's window of the defendant's car while threatening to “snap his neck.” Jacob’s fear was the reason he reached for his gun, and his fear was the reason he pulled the trigger when he heard the window crack. Mr. Miller has never been known to have a propensity to violence. Before that day, he had never been in a fight in his life. He lost control temporarily, and when he regained composure, he became terrified of Mr. Antle and his own behaviour. His only motivation was to get out of there as quickly as possible.

Jacob’s wife, his work colleague, and sister-in-law all testified that he has never shown any indication of being violent and rarely even got angry. The defendant shot his gun to protect himself. That is the only reasonable conclusion. Yes, Mr. Miller had a bad day, but that doesn’t make him a murderer. That makes him human, and the last time I checked, being human was not against the law. This was a clear case of self-defence. You must find Jacob Miller not guilty.

*

Four days after the closing arguments, the jury reached a verdict. The court was called back into session as the judge took his seat on the bench. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, have you reached a verdict?”

Jury foreperson: “We have your honour. On the charge of second-degree murder, we the jury find the defendant, Jacob Miller.......”

Mystery

Cathy holmes

Canadian family girl with a recently discovered love for writing. Other loves include animals and sports.

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