[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
For §§ 1-110 (Chapters 1-18), see here.
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 119
Chapter 19 (9 of 13): Trial – Phase One
Natalie rises vigorously and her heels click on the courtroom floor as she strides firmly up to the witness stand. All eyes follow her willowy walk. She props herself on long legs and hesitates a long moment in front of the lab technician, who, having done his duty by Jeff Kerzy, now relaxes in his chair. She knows Joey Sung and she likes him. He’s not a bad sort. But this is a trial and she means to win.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Sung,” she smiles disarmingly at him.
“Hello,” he says, no less dazzled than anybody else in the room by this drop-dead gorgeous Chinese honey. He sits up a little straighter.
Natalie leafs through some sheets on her clipboard.
“How much are you being paid for you testimony here today?”
Jeff Kerzy, utterly astonished, inflates at the prosecution table. Did he hear that correctly? He knows exactly where Siu is going and he can’t believe his good luck. She wants to make the jury think Sung is saying what he says because he is being paid to do so. But of course he is not an expert witness pulled in from the outside at ludicrously astronomical fees. How can Siu have missed this one? It will backfire beautifully on her. Who would tell false tales for the nickels and dimes this lab tech earns? He is so busy gloating that for half a second he fails to realize that both Buzulethi and Jin-Soon have sproinged up like jacks-in-the-box and are almost shouting at the judge.
“Objection, Your Honor. Objection.” It is as though they had rehearsed this duet, each using exactly the same words.
Panicking, Jeff grabs each one by an arm and pulls them down to the level of his face. “What? Are you guys crazy?” he stage whispers. “Forget about it. She’s walked into her own trap. Withdraw the objection. I want him to answer her question.” His co-counsels shoot each other a furtive glance of frustration and roll their eyes.
“Sir,” Buzulethi gives it the old college try, “I think that would be a mistake.”
“A serious one,” Jin-Soon gravely backs up his colleague.
“Forget about it,” Jeff snorts. “I’ve been at this game a lot longer than you guys and I know what I’m doing here. Both of you, sit down. Right now.”
A light rustling flutters across the courtroom like a gust of wind over dry autumn leaves.
“Is there an objection before the court?” the judge asks dryly from her lofty aerie.
Kerzy stands up, buttons his coat and then unbuttons it, and smiles engagingly at the jury and the judge. “Your honor, the prosecution withdraws its objection. With an apology to the court.”
“Very well, Mr. Kerzy,” the judge says, making another notation. An inner smile never registers on her opprobrious lips. She turns to the witness. “You may answer the question, sir.”
Sung is befuddled.
“Would you like the court reporter to read the question back to you?” the judge asks solicitously.
The witness shakes his head. “No, no, Your Honor.”
“Very well, proceed, please.”
Sung looks at Natalie, who, throughout this legal maneuvering, has not moved. “I’m not getting paid anything,” he answers. Simply, and still puzzled.
“Oh?” Natalie feigns surprised and turns her face to the jury. “Nothing? So you are here for free, is that your testimony?”
Sung wriggles in his chair.
“Well, no, that’s not exactly right.”
“I’m confused, Mr. Sung. You’re not getting paid. You are getting paid. Which is it?”
Jeff Kerzy is growing uneasy and fails to see his two young and inexperienced co-counsels once more rolling their eyes at the ceiling. Most of the jury catch them in half-roll, as it were.
“Of course I’m getting paid. I mean, I have a salary.”
“Ah, so you are being paid then. For being here today?’
“Well, of course I am.”
“I see.” She turns to face the jury and raises an elegant index finger tipped with glossy red to her crimson lips, which shape themselves softly into a small moue of mystification. “And who pays for this salary you have?” She is still facing the jury as she asks the question.
Kerzy finally gets it. But much too late to shunt the approaching train wreck to a safe siding. He wishes that a cavernous vastness might open under his chair and magically whisk him away from the horrible mortification that is coming and now unstoppable. Jin-Soon and Buzulethi stare rigidly straight ahead, their faces wiped of all expression. Only the sag in their shoulders tell of their enraged frustration.
“Well, the city does. I guess. Yeah, the city.”
“The taxpayers of this city. Is that what you are testifying?”
“Yes. Of course. I work for the city?”
“Yes, of course you do. You have a position in the police laboratory, don’t you?”
“Yes. I said so earlier. I’m a lab technician. Employed by the police department.”
“Is this the same police department that worked up the evidence sufficient to indict my client for murder and put her on trial?”
“I guess so.” He is now sullen.
“I guess so too, Mr. Sung. So both the police who gathered the evidence and you and your colleagues who interpreted this evidence have the same paymaster, don’t you? The people of the city?”
“Your honor,” Kerzy was standing, red in the face, “the prosecution gladly stipulates that Mr. Sung is on the city payroll.”
Lombard-Golde motions with her hand for the prosecutor to sit down. “Sit down, Mr. Kerzy. Let’s see where this goes.” She nods to Natalie Siu to continue.
“And the prosecutor, Mr. Kerzy, and his co-counsels, Mr. Yook and Ms. Rowan, are also on – as Mr. Kerzy himself just put it – the city payroll, aren’t they?”
“Yes, I think that’s the case.”
“Indeed it is.” She taps her finger against her lips. “So, Mr. Sung, just to be sure I’ve understood this matter, would the following be an accurate statement of the facts? Again, the police gather the evidence, you interpret that evidence, and the prosecution uses the same evidence in an effort to convict my client? And all of you are paid,” here she lets her eyes roam over the faces of the jurors, each of whom, she feels certain, has a basic sense of fairness, “by the same entity. The city. The people. Would you say that’s a pretty accurate statement?”
“Yes.” Very quietly.
“I beg your pardon, sir, I didn’t quite catch that.”
“Yes,” he said, strongly, his eyes shooting armed Exocets at the prosecutor.
Natalie Siu, the damage done, turns to walk back to her table. “Gee,” she says, as if to herself, but loud enough for the entire courtroom to hear clearly, “somehow that doesn’t really seem fair.”
TO BE CONTINUED