betterHALF
Author: Sketch

Chapter 5
‘Opening Statements’

 

chapterFIVE

‘Opening Statements’

 

 

 

 

 

 

david’sPOV

 

August 19, 2005

 

 

              judge gennyCOLEMAN took the bench. “Ok, let’s have the opening statements from the prosecution team.”

Out of the corner of David’s eye, he noticed Newman’s lead attorney, Thomas Vanderland, looking at him. Vanderland, turned his head towards the jury before standing his enormous torso up.

“Your honor—jury—this country is a free country. These rights we have, leave a lot of room for those seeking justice. There are nice people in this world, like my client the late, great, Winston Newman Sr., who gave new writers a chance to flourish into the potential they have.”

David listened to this lawyer, and it struck him what route they were going to take. They were out to make it look, as usual, like he was an ungrateful boy who tried to greedily steal from them. The irony of the actual story, though, is unbelievable and David knew he’d have to figure out a way to make them believe him—without lying. Hopefully Erica is a good lawyer, he thought.

David’s view had changed at this point. Now that he had Erica back in his presence, he didn’t want to go to jail. He had something to be free about. She picked right up where she left off at giving him hope beginning with the hope that she could get him out of this mess that he had so irresponsibly landed himself into.

Vanderland continued,

“In 2002 my client, Mr. Newman, gave the defendant Mr. David Summers Jr. a chance to expand his horizons as a poet and writer, by affording him the opportunity to be a published poet in this publication entitled, ‘In a Word.’ And how does he show his appreciation? A thank you letter? No. In November of that same year he attempts to rob my client’s house with a handful of other hoodlums. A night of horror in which, when it came down to it, the defendant, in a panic, ended up killing a great man when plans went awry. We need to put ungrateful kids like this to rest. We need to teach them that they cannot just do what they want to and get away with it. There are responsibilities when you are an adult.”  

After the prosecution was finished with their opening statement, the judge turned to Erica.

“And the defense?”

Erica shuffled her papers and stood up.

“My client isn’t the greedy, ungrateful, thief that Mr. Vanderland has made him out to be. Misguided? Yes. Mislead? Yes. A lack of couth at times? I suppose. But ‘a mean greedy and ungrateful murderer?’ Absolutely not. I’ve gotten to know my client pretty well over the past few years and one thing I know is that David hates spiders. Still, he wouldn’t kill one. If he could move the spider out of his vision, he’d do that. If it was far enough away, and it wasn’t bothering him, he’d attempt to ignore it. He hates killing insects. Even in the panic of a sudden spider sighting. Now, I know that’s not a sufficient defense for a murder case, but over the proceeding of the trial, I will be able to demonstrate that to you the jury, to you, your honor, and to you, America the real nature of this young man that sits before you and the lack of evidence that they actually have. Just open your minds and give me the chance. The coincidence that happened that day is the same thing that happens when someone in Jersey plays the right numbers and wins the Jackpot. Or when someone decides to take an innocent trip to the store and gets hit by a drunk driver. Rare? Yes. If I told you that it was going to happen to someone here, after this hearing, would you believe? Well, this is the same kind of thing. Please, ladies and gentlemen—your honor—open your mind. Consider the facts.”

David knew Erica’s intimate interaction with him for the time she had is what was going to have to defend him.

“I’ve known my client very well, for several years now, and he has not displayed even the desire to harm anybody. He’s caring, compassionate, loving, but at times, he’s irresponsible—but he is not what was just painted by Mr. Vanderland. We have seen the video, and we know the things that have been said, but there is another side that the world has not heard. And I’m sure you Judge Coleman, and you the Jury, and you the people, deserve to hear it.”

 

When Erica sat back down, she looked at David and said, “This better be good.”

David knew that he had told Erica the story, but he had forgotten what he had told her as David, and what he had told her as Tim. All of his ridiculous lies and recklessness has led him to a place where he just needed to let go and suffer all of his various consequences. So I said to her,

“You know the whole story.”

She said, “Yeah, I know. I’m just saying, you better have told the truth.”

Mr. Vanderland called his first witness to the stand. The courtroom doors opened and it was Carlos. Carlos got on the stand and told the court that he wanted to rob a house and “everyone” decided to rob Newman “as a team.”

He said they formed the plan “as a team,” and unless anyone was dumb and/or airheaded, that everyone involved should hold responsibility for what they have done. Including David, who he said messed up the whole plan, and threw the entire thing off. Carlos said he didn’t see, for sure, who shot Newman, but he knew that only two people would come in close contact with Newman: a guy he named, “Vince” and who he said was the most likely at the time and place of the said shooting—David.

“So the defendant, David Summers Jr. drove to the house himself?” Vanderland asked Carlos,

“Yes. He took Newman’s car from the car wash, where Newman was, and drove it to Newman’s house, where Newman later arrived shortly after David—”

“By himself?”

“Yes, by himself.”

Vanderland addressed the Jury,

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this man, David Summers Jr., knew full-well what was going on, even having a hand in the planning of this robbery. How would he have pulled all of this off without knowing the plan?”

Vanderland looked toward Carlos again. “Mr. Santiago. Would you say David was nervous? Or had any reserves about doing this?”

“Iffy did, he nevva menchened them to me. By the looks of it, though, he did seem a little shoogen up.”

It’s ‘shaken,’ idiot, David thought to himself.

“Is it true that you guys canceled the mission, and David still carried it out?”

“Daz chue.”

“Did you ask him to do so?”

“No, sir, I din’t.”

Mr. Vanderland looked towards the Jury pacing in a sort of rocking motion from leg to leg over to the jury box.

“So ‘what evidence’ you may ask.” He said putting his hand on the front wall of the jury box. “What proves all of this?” He pivoted 180 degrees back to the witness stand where Carlos watched as intrigued as anyone else in the room. He punched the palm of his left hand,“Mr. Santiago, you took a recording of the conversation after Summers’ attempted robbery?”

“Yes, sir, I did.”

“We have that recording here,” he smiled and looked at David, “for all to listen.” A few court officials rolled out a tape recording of the phone conversation Carlos and David had, directly after the robbery:

“Hello." 

"It’s Carlos, dee you get away?"

 "Yes, just barely."

 "Alright, dee they see your face?"

 "No.”

“Everything is on schedule for next week—“

"Carlos—“

"David, you’re not included this time, I could tell by talkin to your friend Ronnie, dat you were not ready for this. You shouldn’t have done what you did. Go find what you need to do son. No more assignments, Ok? Danks for your effort."

David leaned over to Erica, “They cut stuff out of that conversation!” he alertly whispered.

She looked at David and nodded.

David couldn’t tell if she believed him or not. “You’ve gotta believe me Er, they cut stuff out.”

“Ok, Dave, I have to listen. We’ll talk about it later. Write your thoughts down, so we can discuss it another time.”

They stopped the recording, Mr. Vanderland stood at the front again. “Nothing further.”

Everyone’s eyes turned to Erica as she organized the specific papers she wanted to look at.

 

erica’sPOV

 

Erica got out of her chair. All eyes were on her. She went into the law library otherwise known as her brain, and began to think about how she should approach the prosecution’s witness.

She stroked her hair smooth back into the bun, and made sure her bun was tight as she approached the witness.

 “Mr. Santiago. You were the ring leader, were you not? That’s how you knew all of this, right?”

“Well, I don know if I call myself the ring leader.”

“Oh so humble, huh? Well we heard on the recording the exact phrase, and I quote, ‘no more assignments.’ Says who, Carlos? Did someone tell you, or instruct you, to order that?”

Carlos’ face had visibly changed from the comfortable interview face to the uncomfortable ‘I’m being interrogated’ face.

Erica continued, “Where did the order that he couldn’t do anymore ‘assignments’ come from?”

“I guess I made that decision.” Carlos answered.

“Ok, so what gives you the right to do so? What is your position in all of this?”

“Objection,” Vanderland interrupted. “Why does she keep asking this question? She needs to get to the point or drop the subject. We’re wasting our time, Your Honor.”

Erica said, “I think it’s important to get to the bottom of who operated this whole thing.”

“Overruled. Proceed Miss Wilkinson.”

Erica continued, “In an organized robbery, everyone has a job. Correct? Most likely someone is the brains of the operation and I want that person identified, because if it isn’t Carlos, that man should be here. I have questions for him.” She looked back at Carlos. “Is that man here, Carlos?”

Carlos shrugged. “If someone had to be that man, I guess it’s me. It still wasn’t my idea; I had just helped to keep it organized.” Carlos said faintly.

“Ok, so, you robbed Winston Newman?”

“I called the project off and David still went. Apparently he had it out for Newman.”

“Apparently, Mr. Santiago, that makes no sense. Could you please tell the jury what your plan was?”

“There was no plan, just rob the house, that’s all!”

“Really? In the recording you called it an ‘assignment.’ The definition of assignment is what Carlos?”

Carlos shrugged while shaking his head in acknowledgement of irrelevance, “It’s when someone tells—“

“Objection, where is this going your honor?” Vanderland said in an exasperated voice.

“Sustained, Miss Wilkinson, please get to the point.”

Erica took a deep breath. “Your Honor,” she said very quietly, “this is a very rare situation, and there are more complicated issues that I need to get to here…trust that these questions in time will be sufficient.”

“Carry on.” The Judge granted.

“An assignment according to Mr. Webster here,” She picked up a dictionary out of her briefcase, “is defined as, ‘to assign a specified task or amount of work assigned or undertaken as if assigned by authority’ so, either you don’t know the definition of the word, or your crew had an authority, and specified roles.”

Carlos sat there speechless.

It looked as if he wanted to speak, but nothing was coming out. “So now, Carlos, what we need from you sooner or later—is what David’s assignment entailed—maybe you should thank my client, for sitting in your seat for this trial—“

“Objection! That’s totally—“

“Nothing else.” Erica interrupted back.

Erica walked back to the seat. “Wow Er, you’re amazing.” David said.

Erica liked to hear that. She was wondering how she did. “Well, the truth is hard to argue.” She smiled.

Erica felt, for her first session in court, the day went well. She successfully turned the attention to Carlos while chipping away at the irony of the situation.

Later that night, they took a cab to an Italian restaurant in King of Prussia named Maggiano’s where, of course, the press followed. As if the place wasn’t packed enough, the two had to deal with the pushiness of the media and paparazzi. Once inside, it wasn’t long before they were given a menu.

           “How long before you met me was this robbery?” She asked.

“Not too long.”

“Well, what really made you move to L.A., were you running from the law?”

“No…” David said chewing his food without making any eye contact with Erica.

“Then, why, David?”

“Erica, what if I had one final secret to tell you?”

“About what?”

“Another lie.”

Erica’s heart sank. Is he still lying? “Go ahead, David.”

“Well, it’s not a new lie. It’s an old one I haven’t cleared up yet.”

“Well how is that any different than a lot of your lies? I’m aware I still don’t know certain things about you. That’s what happens when you lie about everything.

“No. This one is the worst.”

“Alright. Well, let’s enjoy dinner.” Erica didn’t want to risk anything in public with cameras and microphones in places only God knows. “Tell me later tonight.”

“Alright.”

Erica noticed David stopped eating. “I’ll tell you what brought me to you, in the meantime.” David said, “It was almost like destiny.”

“OK.” Erica said, “That sounds like fun—shoot.”

 

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