[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 120
Chapter 19 (10 of 13): Trial – Phase One
“Your Honor,” Kerzy shrieks, pounding his table, “I object in strongest terms to this … this comment. I ask that defense’s characterization be struck from the record.”
“I withdraw the characterization of prosecutorial unfairness,” Natalie graciously offers while Kerzy turns a rich shade of plum purple. His co-counsels are trying to soothe him as Natalie turns to the judge and adds, shyly, “Your Honor, I apologize for my …”
“Yes,” the judge interrupts, barely concealing a smile, “yes, Ms. Siu. Fine. I think that will do for now.”
Indulging the meaningless ritual, she admonishes the jury to ignore the characterization of the issue just offered – and so precisely withdrawn — by the defense. “This is a good time to take a fifteen-minute break,” she says, rapping her dark gavel.
The press rush for the hallway where they can activate their cell phones.
The corridor is jammed with television cameras and instant experts holding forth about the trial and how things are going for each side. Reporters seem to be cornering anything that moves for some kind of comment, anything, anything they can put in the stories that are taking shape in their fertile imaginations. There is a constant milling and jostling and backing and filling as people try to secure what they believe to be the advantageous location of the moment. Nobody wants to miss out on anything, and the crowd is as restless and nervously aimless as a herd of zebras scenting lions on the wind.
When court is back in session, the judge reminds Joey Sung that he is still under oath.
“Now, Mr. Sung,” Natalie begins, “I’d like to turn to this hair evidence that you testified about earlier.”
“Fine,” he says tersely.
“You testified that the hairs sent to you for analysis in this case were of Asian and of Caucasian origin, correct?”
“And the hairs in the evidence bag that we have now all seen, were they of Asian or Caucasian origin?”
“Did you analyze the Asian hair?”
“No. There was no need to. It obviously came from the victim, who was Asian.”
“I see. So if, for example, you had a Caucasian corpse and you found Caucasian hair on that corpse you would not bother to examine it because you would assume it would obviously have had to come from the Caucasian victim? Is that correct?”
Sung was not good at hiding his feelings. He squirms in his seat. “Well, not necessarily,” he said lamely. Kerzy is not at all happy the way this is going, but he can do nothing to derail this train wreck his own expert witness is driving.
“How is that?”
“Uh … there are a lot of Caucasians in the city.”
“And not Asians?”
“I don’t know.”
Natalie approaches the judge. “Your Honor, the defense submits the attached data from the U.S. census bureau on the latest demographic breakdown for our city.” She hands a copy to the judge, who looks at it and hands it on to the clerk of court. Danny leans across the aisle and hands the prosecution its copy. Natalie continues with Sung. “Would it surprise you to know that there are approximately one hundred ninety thousand people of Asian origin in this city?”
“Yes, I guess it would.”
“But you assumed the Asian hair on the body belonged to the one Asian who happened to be the victim.”
“I guess I did.”
“You guess you assumed, or you did assume?”
“All right, I did assume that.”
“I see,” Natalie says and scratches something on her yellow pad. She walks back to the defense table and picks up a folder, and slouching back languidly towards the witness box she taps it lightly against her rippling thigh. She has the undivided attention of every person in the entire room.
“Let’s turn our attention to the Caucasian hair that you examined. You studied it under a microscope?”
“A comparison microscope?”
“And can you please tell us just what that is?”
“It’s a microscope that allows you to look at two specimens at the same time and in that way compare them visually.”
“And you determined that these Caucasian hairs, as you put it in your lab report,” here she opens the folder and leafs to a third page, running her finger across its mid-point, “‘are consistent with the samples gathered from Mazarine Cape’. Is that correct?”
“How did you get the hairs for comparison?”
“They were plucked from the defendant’s head.”
Now Natalie wheels and faces the jury while still addressing the witness. “Mr. Sung, what is the anagen phase of hair?”
Kerzy, bewildered, turns to his acolytes for answers. Where, his face says, is this coming from? They simply shake their heads and shrug their shoulders.
“That is the first, and longest, growth phase of a hair. In effect, it’s hair that is still anchored to the scalp.”
“And the telogen phase?”
“That’s an end phase, when the hairs are no longer firmly imbedded in the scalp, but can easily fall out.”
“Can you tell which phase the hairs you examined from the corpse were in?”
“Yes. In the telogen phase.”
“How can you tell?”
“The root of the hair has fallen out. That is typical of telogen phase hair.”
“And the comparison hair plucked from the defendant, what phase were they in?”
“Anagen. They did not fall out, but had to be yanked out.”
“What is the significance of that?”
Sung knows exactly where this is headed, and he would like to be helpful to the prosecution, but he is not a liar. He simply goes with the science. Let the lawyers sort it all out. “Anagen phase hair still has the root intact.”
“And the significance of that?”
“The cellular material in the root contains the person’s DNA.”
The first mention of this talismanic word sends a ripple of murmurs across the courtroom. Lombard-Golde looks up fiercely, and the noise dissipates.
“So did you test the DNA in these comparison hairs?”
“There was no point. Since we knew they came from the defendant, we did not need to test them.”
“But for comparison purposes?”
“Pointless. In telogen phase hair the root has shriveled or disappeared. In fact, that’s why telogen hair falls out of its own accord. It’s lost its anchor to the scalp. And without the root, you have no DNA.”
“The strand of hair has no DNA?”
“No, just the follicle, the root. And that was gone. So there was no way to make a comparison.”
“I’m confused, Mr. Sung. You just said you could not make a DNA comparison between the Caucasian hair found on the murder victim and the hair you plucked from the defendant, yet you’re telling us you know they’re the same. What am I missing?” Her face registers astonished bewilderment in front of the jury. They are as caught up in this forensic deconstruction as every other person in the room.
“I never said they’re the same.”
TO BE CONTINUED