MICHAEL LYNN GABRIEL
"This is death warmed over," whispered the man to the woman seated at his right while he squeezed her upper thigh.
"Shut up," she hissed while smiling though clenched teeth at the elderly couple that just passed them. From under the table, there came the sound of a muffled slap and the man quickly pulled back, "And keep your hands to yourself," she added with a light sneer at his discomfort.
"I don't blame you and Luke, sitting here alone. The company at these bar dinners is atrocious. Do you mind if I join you?" Without waiting for a response, the woman went ahead and placed a plate of food before the vacant seat next to the man. I know how you feel Luke," she gushed merrily as her blond wedged shaped hair spun from Lynn to Luke. "I would not be coming to these bar functions at all if my husband wasn't the County Public Defender. This is," she quipped, "just one of the spousal or significantly other duties that we have to provide the dears." Small but extremely well, if not overly, proportioned, in an expensive form fitting dress, cut low to show off the curve of her full breasts, her movements were restricted but she appeared not to mind.
While smiling at the woman, Luke again started to reach for Lynn under the table. Sensing his intentions, Lynn grabbed his fingers with both of her hands and slowly pulled his fingers apart while he tried to maintain his smile. "Michele, I haven't seen you for ages. How are you? You look great. Doesn't she dear," she sweetly intoned while squeezing his fingers even further.
With a sudden jerk, Luke pulled his hand free, "Yes, Michele, you look great. Do you or Lynn want another drink?" Both of the women shook their heads as he arose with an empty glass in his hand. Threading through the small clots of people dotting the floor, he ambled toward the food table in the middle of the hall.
As Luke receded from the women, another man walked over to them. Raising her head to espy the man, Lynn smiled, "Hi, Howard, here's your better half."
With a grin, a tall, thin man with short grey hair and dark brown plastic glasses sat rather gracelessly across from Lynn while laying a huge overflowing plate of food on the table. "The caterer outdid himself this time. Don't you think so?"
"Honey," Michele replied with a laugh, "that spicy food is going play havoc with your stomach. You know that."
A sigh of resignation emanated from her husband as he turned his plate around and ate the rather plain salad on it. "This is still one of the better bar dinners I've been to."
"Yes, dear." Michele agreed while pointing her head to a table of extremely old couples, "Even the walking fossils seem to be enjoying themselves."
It was hard for Lynn to suppress a laugh as she scanned the hall. This year the annual bar dinner held in Ukiah's Veteran's Hall which consisted of one rather large room. Three quarters of the way through the hall were floor to ceiling French doors that when closed separated the bar area from the main room. Now, however, the doors were open and the entire area was irregularly dotted with tables. Those attending the dinner had long before separated themselves into small cliques with very few people traveling from table to table. Of the few people bouncing from table to table were Howard and Michele Carter.
"What have you been up to lately, Lynn? I haven't heard much about you since the Mattox case."
Noticeably, Lynn tensed her shoulder and responded carefully, "I haven't had any more court appointed work, Howard. I'm back to simple estate planning and divorces."
"That can be easily remedied," a voice from behind her said.
Turning together, Lynn and Howard both said automatically and in unison, "Good evening, Your Honor."
Taking a seat at the end of the table between Lynn and Howard, the judge continued, "I understand that the P.D.'s office doesn't want to handle the Maxwell case."
"That's not quite right, judge," Howard responded as he quickly spooned a piece of spicy stew into his mouth while Michele's attention was momentarily engaged in conversation with the bored wife of elderly attorney. "We're just booked up at this time and can't fit anyone else in our schedule. It doesn't happen often but it does happen. The court is just going to have to appoint counsel."
Judge Herbert Kline was a short, thin wiry man with an immaculate pencil thin mustache. With clear, bright blues eyes, he appraised Howard and, while taking a slow sip of coffee said, "I'm glad to hear that it's only overwork that keeps your department from taking this case." In a quizzical tone, he asked, "If it were other reasons, you would tell me wouldn't you, Howard?"
"What other reasons could there be, Judge?" he retorted hotly. "You're aware of our case load as much as anyone else. While we don't have a lot of big felonies, we still have a lot of ordinary felonies and even more misdemeanors with more every day because of the bad economy. Most of our crimes, as you know judge, are drug related either dealing or possession. The Mattox triple murder was the biggest crime ever to face this county. We didn't handle that because of a conflict but there's no reason to assume that we are deliberately refusing to handle difficult cases."
"I'm glad you settled that point, Howard. It had to be clarified. We can't afford to have it be perceived that the P.D.'s office is afraid to tangle with the D.A.'s office on visible cases. Now, I will appoint private counsel for June Maxwell." Turning to Lynn, "Would you be interested in the case, Ms. Driskell?"
"I'm sure Lynn wouldn't want another Mattox case, Your Honor." So engrossed had everyone been in their attention on the conversation that they did not notice the slim woman, with short red hair, who had come to the table. She was not wearing a formal outfit but rather a light blue business suit that bestowed a cultivated, professional appearance on her medium sized frame. The double-breasted jacket was narrowly striped in white with solid trim, cuffed 3/4 sleeves and patch pockets. The skirt was a solid light blue with a small back slit. White shoes with matching blue trim completed the outfit. "Ms. Driskell is a civil attorney. Criminal law, as we saw in Mattox, is a different animal altogether," with a wry grin she continued, "Don't you agree?"
As the men sat mute and Lynn was pondering a reply, Michele piped, "Yes, I can see the difference but didn't she win the Mattox case? It seems to me that is was the result of sloppy investigation that he got off in the first trial. Isn't that the sign, Margaret dear, of a good attorney? Being able make the most of the other side's mistakes and win?"
"Quite right, Mrs. Carter," Judge Kline agreed with a nod. "I've always hay the highest regard for Ms. Driskell's abilities and," turning to her, "if you want the case you can have it." Raising his head up to look at the standing woman, he noticed a slight shudder and saw her lips disappear into a tight clenched line. The look of undisclosed anger made him feel uneasy and he stammered, "Ms. Hancock, as the District Attorney, who have you appointed to handle this case, probably Jon Haris, right?"
"No," she retorted shortly. "I'm handling this one myself. Excuse me I must go." Turning on her heels she marched off.
Michele leaned over to Lynn and whispered with a note of relish, "She blames her loss of the election to the state senate on your winning of the Mattox case. Actually, I always sought it was her public perception. After the loss, Howard told me she hired a political consulting firm." Nudging Lynn with her shoulder, she giggled, "Look's like it worked. She's lost, at least thirty pounds and dresses much more fashionable. I always though she was... well a bit butch but now, I'm not so sure."
Turning her head, Lynn followed the D.A. with her eyes. The woman had slowed down her pace but was still heading to the other side of the room. Luke then entered Lynn's field of vision and she watched him put his drink down on a table and turn around as Margaret Hancock careened directly into him. To keep them both from falling, Luke instinctively grabbed her waist and held her.
For an awkward second, she was suspended over his inside leg and felt a strong sexual response in him. Looking up at an odd angle, she heard him ask jokingly, "Shall we dance?"
Abruptly, standing up, she straightened her jacket and quipped, "I don't Apache dance but a quick tango might work. We already know how to dip. I'm Margaret Hancock." Extending her hand, she looked upward into the his clear blue eyes topped with short yellow hair.
"I'm Luke Elbet," he smiled while gently steering her out of the path of a rotund woman with a large plate of food. "Would you like a drink? I know the caterer, actually it's me, I have the Jeffie's franchise. I can," he bent forward and whispered in a conspiratorial tone, "give you the good stuff."
For some reason this minor joke struck home and she threw back her head and laughed, for the first time, in a light melodic ring, "That would get you killed. I've starved for months to lose thirty five pounds. I'll kill to keep it off."
"If I were your husband, I'd kill to keep them," he gallantly agreed. Then over her shoulder, he saw Michele and Lynn looking at him. With a broad grin, he waved to them and then looked down to Margaret, "Well, meeting you has been the highlight of this night but I must go."
"Goodbye, Luke." She stood there and watched him thread his way to the Lynn's table and kiss her on the cheek. For some reason, which she did not bother to analyze, her dislike of Lynn Driskell flared into hatred.
The Judge leaned back in his chair, "I've got to go. The arraignment is in three days, Lynn. You can make your bail presentation, at that time, if you want." Then pushing back from the table while taking a last sip of coffee, he blurted, "Got to go. See you Howard, tomorrow, bye all," and left without waiting for the others to say goodbye.
"I think we ought to go to. I'm going to take the Maxwell case maybe just to tick off Hancock." Taking Luke's hand, she led him from the table while he nodded goodbye.
"What's the hurry," Luke asked. "I'm not tired."
"I've got to get up early tomorrow. I'm not tired either, but I'm going to bed early. Any ideas?" As Luke bent over to pickup a throw away paper at the door, Lynn pinched him.
"Oh, I have a few."
"You better," she squeaked.
Turning over in the bed, Lynn was awaken with the smell of bacon and eggs frying. Pushing herself up from the bed, she squinted to keep the sunlight from her eyes. Standing nude, she felt a draft on her knees and without turning around she reached behind her and pulled down the window. "Luke, dear where are you?"
"I'm in the kitchen, honey. I'll be there in a minute as soon as I throw this stuff in the microwave."
Laying back on the bed, she drew coverlet over her and propped the feather pillow behind her head. Snuggled in comfort in the bright brass bed, she stared up at the filigree on the ceiling and decided wistfully to have it redone. Looking about the room, she mused, while in a languid state, about her old Victorian house which had once been a showpiece but was now a hulking mess. The remodeling was almost to much for her. Having never been trained to be useful with her hands, she could barely drive a nail. It was Luke who was the driving force in the remodeling project. Smiling, she thought that the entire house was one treasure chest. Together, she and Luke had discovered fragile glass transoms covered with delicate etching along with marvelous filigreed ceilings long covered by dropped ceilings or false fronts.
While in her reverie, Luke came into the room and dove under the covers. "Stop that," she squealed as he tickled her feet. Groaning softly, she stretched her arms and closed her eyes. Luke slid up beside her and slowly massaged her breasts. "Honey, I don't have time for this," she moaned while rolling over. "I didn't get much sleep last night."
"Neither did I, but you hear me complaining? I did all the work," he teased.
With her face buried in the pillow, she shot her arm out and smacked him on the shoulder. "Next time, you can do all the work alone," she teased mockingly.
"If you're in a hurry, you're going have to cut it short. Breakfast is in the microwave. It's good that you've got two bathrooms but you still need a bigger water heater."
Sitting up in the bed, she dropped her head and then quickly flipped it up whipping her long blond hair behind her head. "Okay," reaching over to the chair next to the night table she grabbed a large terry cloth robe. Burying Luke's head under a pillow, she stood and put robe on.
Before she could fasten it, Luke was off the bed and standing behind her. He cupped her bare breasts with his hands. His robe came open by the movements of their bodies. "Forget breakfast. we'll eat at Jeffie's."
Turning around to face him, she kissed him and then looked down, "Sorry, but I can't," she giggled, pulled back and pranced from the room as Luke roughly closed his robe.
In her bathroom, Lynn felt suddenly tired and quickly drew her bath water. Settling herself slowly into the tub, the warm water covered her chest and she relaxed to the gentle hum of air in the old pipes. her reverie was shattered when the phone on the wall began to ring, "Damn, every time I get into the tub." Standing up, she yelled, "I'll get it Luke." Snatching the phone, she sat back down in the tub as the cool air chilled her. "Hello,"
"Lynn, this is Adam Symthe."
"Hi, Adam. What's up?" The warm water in the tub had cooled so she turned on the hot water in a low stream as she spoke.
"If I am too early, I'm sorry. I heard that you're going to take the Maxwell case so I just called to warn you against it. Margaret Hancock intends to use the case as a way to redeem herself and her career. It's godsend to her. You know the facts don't you?"
"Some of them," she echoed.
"They found the murder weapon in her car along with a towel soaked in the victim's blood, her car was placed at the scene and the victim was having an affair with her lover. This is a slam dunk loser. That's why the P.D. won't handle it."
"What does that mean? The P.D. loses cases all the time."
"Yes, but if they do a good job, the conviction would be for Second Degree murder or even manslaughter not First Degree murder. A good heat of passion defense is the difference between the gas chamber and twenty five years to life. Don't kid yourself, no local attorney wants to tangle with Margaret Hancock. She can ruin any criminal attorney by refusing to plea bargain and forcing him to take all his cases to trial. In time, there would be no court appointed cases and when the word gets around no private clients because they would not want to go to trial instead of plea bargaining. Let them bring in outside counsel on this Lynn. This case is poison."
"I appreciate your advice, Adam but I am not a criminal attorney. If I never get another criminal case, that is fine with me. But I am not going to change my life to cater to Margaret Hancock. I don't trust her and besides," she said sweetly, "I can't resign before I start."
"Well," he sighed reluctantly, "I hope you can pull this off. Remember, even though you won the Mattox case many people feel you did it by withholding the truth. Only you and I know that isn't true. This case won't help your popularity."
"I know what you sat is true, Adam but I'm going to take the case, if for no other reason than, to show everyone that I can do it. Now, I must go." Hearing Adam say goodbye and hang up, she carefully, replaced the receiver in its cradle and slid under the water. Blissfully,, she laid in the tepid water and then abruptly sat up. Grabbing her large bath sponge, she lathered and ran it over her body while engrossed in developing her legal strategy.
Leaving the bathroom, she was preoccupied with wrapping her hair in a towel. From around the corner, Luke reached out and grabbed her breasts. Startled, she pulled away and knead him lightly in the groin, "Not now. I'm busy," she flared.
"Ok," Luke stated tersely while turning away so as not to show his pain.
Regretting that she kicked him harder than intended, "I'm sorry, Luke but it's your fault. You shouldn't grab me when I'm not ready. You're really too vulnerable and if you ever want kids it's something you shouldn't do." Giggling, she swatted Lynn across the legs. "Women don't have your problem."
Arousal replaced pain and reaching up, he grabbed Lynn's shoulders as she came forward. Tenderly, he began to run his hands along Lynn's body. "Forget the breakfast, for now." Luke ran his fingers through her wet hair as the towel fell to the floor.
"Oh, I think I can do without breakfast." Walking into the bedroom she turned to Luke and pointed to the bed, "Down, this time, I'll do all the work." She found it hard to keep a straight face.
It was mid-morning before Lynn arrived at her office.
Entering the building through the lobby of the first floor accounting firm, she waved at the secretaries while starting up the stairs. The door to her office is never locked so she just opened it and was stunned to see two people sitting in the two chairs before her desk. The first, and most attention grabbing, was a short, frail looking, elderly woman of indeterminate age who stood up with the use of a cane. "Ms. Driskell, I apologize for waiting in your office for you but the ladies down stairs said that we could since their chairs are not very comfortable." Stiffly, she started to walk towards Lynn.
"That's ok. Have a seat and tell me why you're here. What can I do for you?" The old woman slowly returned to her chair and, as she sat down, the other younger woman spoke up. "Ms. Driskell, I am Susan Maxwell and this is my great-grandmother, Sherril Lampel." June Maxwell is my sister. We heard from the Public Defender's Office that you would be representing my sister so we came over to see you." Immediately, Lynn appraised the young woman who appeared to be about twenty years of age, with a slim, firm body and small but pointed breasts. She was wearing tight blue jeans and a soft fuzzy yellow sweater that accented her bronze tan and complimented her dark blond hair.
Mrs. Lampel was on the verge of tears but contained herself with great difficulty. "I came here to tell you that June could never do what she is charged with. A nicer more god-fearing child never lived.
"Let's not delude ourselves, Mrs. Lampel," Lynn stated tersely while shaking her head. "I haven't yet seen the facts of the case but I understand the evidence is rather extensive."
Susan angrily retorted, "It's a frame. June would never have killed the woman. If any one, it would have been that bastard, Dean Hunter."
"What do you know of this?"
"I told June that Hunter was a skirt chasing heal. If he had been a dog, I would have had him fixed. If he comes around June again, I'll do it myself."
"How did they meet?"
"Both June and I go to Mendocino College. June works as a receptionist for Callon Printing. She spends every spare minute doing some type of volunteer work for the church. We have lived with grandma here since our parents died a few years ago. Summers, we work as counselors at Camp Cloud. June met Hunter last summer on the job. He's a sales manager for a radio station who came over to sell the camp some advertising." Wryly, she continued, "He also sold himself to June. Look, you know the type," she said with an impassive face, "smooth with enough money to spend on a woman to make her feel special but not so much as to be feel bought. June had never dated much, she either stayed home to help out or worked like a dog at the church. She never meets many unattached young men who are worthwhile and fell head over heals for him."
"How well did you know him?"
"I went out with him first and introduced him to June," she said ruefully. "Then, he spied virgin territory and struck gold."
"You're saying she's been having sex with him?" Lynn asked while leaning against the desk.
"No, not June!" Mrs. Lampel insisted as her face flushed.
"Now, grandma, we've got to tell the truth." Patting Mrs. Lampel's hand, "Yes, Hunter was the first and only man. Poor, June giving it up to such a rotten...rat," she hissed. "He must have been seeing this Lambert woman all the time."
"How often were they doing it?"
"They've known each other since last November but it was only obvious to me since, I'd say March. Look," Susan suddenly flared, "this was the first time she had someone who wanted her for herself not because she was expected to be a nice granddaughter or hard worker. That man had her mesmerized. She would have crawled over glass for him."
"Would she have killed for him?"
"I..no," Susan said while looking away.
"What is her story?"
"She doesn't know a thing. She can't explain why her fingerprints were on the knife or why it was in her car.
"Anyone could have taken her car. She keeps its unlocked."
A look of dubious belief crossed her face. Lynn queried, "Does she have an alibi?"
"We all share the same house," Mrs. Lampel answered, "but we can't testify that she didn't leave the house when the murder was committed. Yet, I'm sure that we would have been awaken because the muffler of her car has a hole in it and is quite loud."
"When did she find out about Hunter's infidelity?"
"I don't think," Susan Maxwell stated, "that she knew until the police arrested her. It was then they told her about this Lambert woman that she gave up and became despondent. She feels betrayed and humiliated. The thought of everyone now thinking her a loose, immoral woman has affected her terribly."
"How does it affect you?"
"Ms. Driskell," she said slowly while staring into Lynn's face. "June and I are quite different. I'm not and have never been an angel. I haven't been a virgin since fourteen." A gasp from Mrs. Lampel, interrupted her. "June was always the good girl bright and overly religious. It was difficult growing up without parents and having an angel as a sister. Some of my escapades might have been intended to draw attention from Miss Perfect but here is one thing I do know. She did not kill this woman. That thought is ridiculous. June is too gentle, too nice, too religious, too whatever you call it to ever deliberately hurt someone. Oh, mind you, she can get angry when provoked but physical violence is impossible for her. That is what makes what's happen to her all the more horrific. I'm sure she thinks that this is some visitation from God for her evil ways. That is nonsense. Someone framed her to cover up the murder, I will do anything to help you get her off. I will do anything to get her off."
"What happens next?" Mrs. Lampel asked.
"There's going to be an arraignment and bail hearing in two days. I will ask for reasonable bail and the D.A. will fight it.
"Is there bail in a case like this?" Susan asked.
"Usually not, but if June is the paragon you said, she might get out but it will cost a lot."
"We are a poor family. All I have is the husband's pension and the small house we built. It's worth $50,000.00. Will that be enough?"
"I don't know but I don't think so. Can you bring character references...a priest, minister, rabbi?"
"Reverend Karlin will give her a good recommendation," Mrs. Lampel nodded. "He was always interested in her and I thought...well that's over but I'm sure he'll still stand up for her."
"Ok, see if he'll testify as to her character. If so, have in court 9:00 A.M. Wednesday"
"OK, we'll do that." Getting up the women shook her hand and left.
Alone in her office, Lynn reflected over what she saw. If June did not kill the woman, might Susan have done it? Except for the fingerprints on the knife, all of the evidence applied equally to her even the motive jealousy. This way both rivals are removed with one killing thrust of a knife. Susan is a woman to watch, she decided while walking over to window and watching the women drive off in an immaculate 1982 Chrysler LeBaron.
Returning to her desk, she opened a rolodex and retrieved a card. Then picking up the phone, she dialed a number.
"Mendocino Jail," a woman's voice answered.
"This is Lynn Driskell, the attorney for June Maxwell. When is the earliest that she will be available for an interview?"
"Lunch starts from 11:30 to 1:30. Unless it's a emergency, we can have her ready at 1:45 is that ok?"
"That fine, thank you. I be over then."
"Ok, I'll sign out the interview room for you. Do you know how to check in?"
"Yes, no problem. I've done it before."
"Okay, bye, Ms. Driskell."
After a quick frantic lunch at a taco stand that threatened to repeat itself, Lynn entered the squat five story jail. The combination of industrial glossy green paint with the overpowering smell of disinfectant was an unpleasant assault on the senses. After tensing her stomach muscles, she realized it was a lost cause and made a beeline to the women's rest room. Fortunately, the only stall was unoccupied. Fifteen minutes later, she emerged a bit more irritable but relieved.
A glass, bullet proof partition separated the guards from those citizens waiting to enter the jail. Walking over to the partition, she leaned forward to speak into a microphone, "I'm Lynn Driskell, I have an appointment to see June Maxwell."
A young slim guard with her hair pulled into a tight bun behind her head tiredly came around the large desk and stopped at the window. "You're late. It's two o'clock, we expected you at 1:45 if you can't make it on time you should call"
Embarrassed at the reason for the delay, Lynn sheepishly apologized, "I'm sorry. I got delayed by an unexpected crisis."
The anticipated drawer came out of the wall. "Please put some I.D. and your bar card in the tray."
Dropping her driver's license and bar card into the drawer, she watched as it disappeared into the wall like a tongue being retracted. Slowly comparing the picture on the driver's license to Lynn, the guard finally took out of the desk a large name tag and wrote "ATTORNEY DRISKELL". Looking up, he said, "Come on in." A loud shrilling buzz echoed as Lynn opened a solid metal door. At the end of the narrow aisle was a metal detector straddled by two armed guards. Going through the metal detector was worse than at an airport. Her purse was emptied and her body scanned with portable metal detectors before passing through the permanent detector.
"Why the portable detectors?"
A tall black guard answered. "We're testing the portable detectors with the big machine. We may replace it with them. It is faster to use it than have someone strip every time they enter." Once through the metal detector, she turned back and retrieved her purse, pens, pencils and sundry items. The other silent guard, turned and waved to a video camera mounted over the door. Another loud buzz filled the air as Lynn entered the next room.
In the next room, a short, fat male guard got up from behind a desk and handed the tag to her. As she peeled the adhesive from the back of the tag and placed it on her coat lapel, the guard motioned her to follow him. Without a word, she tailed the guard through the vaguely familiar corridors that ended before a beaten, scarred and scratched elevator for which there were no buttons. The guard looked up into a video camera and waved. As the door opened the guard finally said, "Three." Together they got on.
When the elevator stopped, the guard wobbled out into a narrow green corridor, followed by Lynn. Suddenly, he stopped and pointed to a metal door with a sign "INTERVIEW" stenciled on it.
Opening the door, Lynn immediately saw a male officer standing against the far wall. At the table was a young woman with a scared expression stamped on her face. "I'm Lynn Driskell, Ms. Maxwell's attorney." For a moment, the officer stared at her name tag and then silently walked out of the room. Following the guard with her eyes, Lynn then turned bach to her client. June Maxwell had her hands cuffed in front while her feet were chained to the legs of the chair which was itself bolted to the floor.
The guard poked his head in, "I'll look in through the window in the door to keep an eye on her." Lynn merely nodded.
As the guard again left, Lynn went to the table and sat directly in front of the woman. Her client was on the slender side, of medium height and, according to her file, was nineteen years old. Medium length chestnut hair was tied in a loose ponytail which was accentuated by flawless skin which was deeply red and raw around the eyes. "I'm your attorney, Lynn Driskell. In case we're bugged, I want you write down your answers whenever it relates to something that you haven't already told the police."
"I feel like such a fool. I thought he cared for me, Instead, he was just using me when she wasn't available." June started to cry into to her cuffed hands.
"Can the waterworks," Lynn hissed tersely. That only works on men. We've got to plan your defense." As June daubed her eyes, Lynn continued, "They found the murder knife in your car. Is it yours? Don't answer, write." Laying a notebook and pen before her, she picked the pen up and wrote, 'Yes.'
June merely shook her head while avoiding Lynn's eyes.
"How did the stuff end up in you car?"
"I don't know. Someone put them there. I never lock my car," she uttered in a low monotone.
"What about your car? Do you keep your keys in it?"
"NO, but maybe it was hot wired like in the movies. That's possible isn't it?"
"Unlikely but possible."
"Where were when the murders occurred?"
"At home, in bed."
"Anybody see you?"
"No," with a short laugh, "Funny, the one time that I would have been glad to be caught in bed with him, Dean wasn't here."
"Your bail hearing is on Wednesday. We're bringing some character witnesses on your behalf to try to get it."
"Who will come?" she asked slowly and carefully.
"Reverend Karlin for one."
Suddenly, June livened up and unexpectedly declared, "I don't want him there. I don't want him to see me like that. He's tried to see me here but I won't." Lowering her eyes, she whispered "I feel so ashamed and violated."
"Is there something between you and Reverend Karlin?"
Bristling, June declared, "Certainly not. He is a fine gentleman. He asked me out a few times and was a perfect gentleman. He is a kind man I was never pressured for ... He's not like Dean."
"Oh one of those gay clerics," Lynn quipped at June..
"Certainly not! He's a handsome, virile man there's no question of that," she shouted. "I" she lowered her voice, "just don't want to see him."
"June, I won't deceive you. The evidence is really stacked against you and I don't have a clue as how to refute it. The jury might buy a reduced charge of second degree murder based on heat of passion. But a complete denial, might get you the death sentence.
"I will tell the truth and trust to God. I broke my faith with him but he won't with me."
"That's," Lynn said with a slow shake of head, "an awfully simplistic view to take when your life is on the line."
"If I had worried about my soul, I never would have to worry about my life. I betrayed my faith and belief and that's worse than anything that will happen."
"God," Lynn thought, "is she some kind of a religious nut or a martyr? Could she be protecting her sister or the preacher?"
"Is that it? I have nothing to say that I haven't said before. I never met the woman. I do not know how my knife was used to kill her or how my car was used or how that stuff end up in it." With a shrug she continued, "I know no one believes me. I wouldn't either if the roles were reversed but that's the truth and I'll leave it to God to sort it out." Weeping under the stress, "I don't know what else to do."
Picking up the notebook, Lynn said uneasily, "I'm done for now. Having God on your side isn't bad but remember he isn't going to be on the jury. Behave yourself in here. The last thing we need is to have you on report as a disruptive person. Do you understand?" Lynn waved to the guard peering in the door's window.
"Yeah, I'll be a good girl for once," she agreed while daubing tears from her eyes.
Two female guards entered. While one unchained June's legs from the chair, the other tapped her on the shoulder, "Come on dear." Sniffling, she stiffly got up and was led away flanked by the guards.
The male guard over and said to Lynn, "She doesn't strike me as
a killer but you can never tell. Follow me to the elevator."
When Lynn pulled into the parking lot of her office, she immediately recognized the Channel 13 KMLG television van. Throughout, the Mattox case, Channel 13 had been a hostile and constant critic. Gritting her teeth, Lynn pulled into the parking space across from the van.
"Ms. Driskell, I would like to interview you regarding the Maxwell case." Lynn got out of her car and with a small grin looked over the ever ebullient Annette Frome, a small, thin woman, who through the magic of television, appeared more favorably endowed. She was wearing a light gray shift with a broad belt and tailored shoulder pads designed to create the illusion of a more substantial person. "Ms. Driskell, may I have the interview?"
"How did you know that I was going to handle the case? It was only offered to me last night."
Frome laughed lightly, "In Ukiah, that's forever. We know everything including the fact that you just came from the jail. So you see, you might as well tell us everything."
"Useless or not, I'm afraid that isn't quite possible. Any interview that I give would be construed as an attempt to influence potential jurors. Remember, we had that problem before and I don't want to repeat it. Until I know what direction the case will take, I would be jeopardizing my client's right to a fair trial." Turning, she started towards her office.
"How do you feel about the District Attorney handling the case herself?"
Without stopping, Lynn answered, "I am not concerned with who represents the People. I knew before I even took the case that Ms. Hancock would be the prosecutor. I certainly have no objection and could do nothing about it, even if I had any. Whoever the prosecutor, I will handle it.
"How do you feel about them filing a complaint alleging death by special circumstances?"
Stopping, Lynn turned to the camera, "I can not comment personally on this case but I will state that a conviction of murder with special circumstances may carry the death sentence. However, in this case the facts, even at their most egregious do not support a finding of special circumstances. Now, I must go."
The camerawoman came over to the Frome, " We're going to see some excitement on this case. I heard that the DA has made it her comeback vehicle following her resounding defeat last November for the State Senate. She's not going to pull any punches."
"Even so Maggie," Frome countered. "If there is a rabbit to pull out of the hat Lynn Driskell will do it. That's why we're going to stick close to her. Don't you want a repeat of the Emmy we won last year for our coverage of her Mattox case? I have a feeling this case may get it."
"Why?" The camerawoman asked while wrapping a cable, "This is still just a local murder over jealously."
"It's lurid," Frome practiced her delivery. "Sex, violence passions unleashed. Young love defiled. The antagonists two gorgeous women ready for a cat fight. Hell, if we were a tabloid we'd have this case spattered all over the front pages."
"I have to agree with you there. Driskell's got style. To bad about the way the Mattox case ended. I always felt there was something we missed."
"Give the girl a Kewpee doll," Frome quipped while stowing the gear. "The ending of that case smelled to high heaven. I think the real ending is a lot different from what we've been told."
"So what do we do?"
"We'll just watch her more closely this time," Frome declared while unfastening the microphone from her lapel.
The day of the arraignment began in a very harried manner for all concerned. Judge Kline was engaged in a drug trial that ran over so the arraignment and bail hearing was transferred to Judge Horace Miller. This transfer disrupted the schedules of everyone.
The door to the courtroom was locked causing the hall to fill with milling press, spectators, defendants and attorneys. As Lynn walked up the stairs to the courtroom, she realized, by the crowd, that the door was locked. "Damn," she uttered under her breath, "I wanted to review the file a little before court. Now," she slammed her briefcase in a lone chair far down the hall from the courtroom, "I've got to wait till the bailiffs decide to pull themselves from their desk and open the doors."
As Lynn sat down and bent over to open her briefcase, Annette Frome spied her and, nudging the camerawoman, came over. "Ms. Driskell , would you care to give a statement as to the Maxwell arraignment and your bail motion." Recognizing that she was a captive until the door was opened, Lynn smiled weakly and shook her head.
"Really, Ms. Frome, I feel that I should not comment before the motion is heard."
"Could you tell us this," Frome continued, "Do you think that the Judge will grant bail to your client?"
"I don't see why he would not. The facts of this case are such that I feel the Court will understand the appropriateness of bail in this situation."
"Has there been an plea bargain offered?"
Surprised by the impertinence of the question, Lynn retorted, "There is no way that I would discuss any confidential communications regarding this case in the media." Opening a file folder, she continued, "Now, I must prepare for the arraignment. So please allow me to do so in peace." Then she turned to side and away from the camera.
Frome whispered, not very softly, "Let's go see Hancock. She's always good for a quote."
Frome walked to the elevator in the middle of the hall and pushed a button. While waiting in silence, the door opened and out walked, the prosecutor, Margaret Hancock.. Wearing a slim, dark blue business suit, she was carrying a thin, matching blue leather briefcase. Stopping, in front of the camera, "Excuse me, Miss Frome. I'm got a hearing."
"The hearing been continued to ten o'clock because Judge Kline is tied up in trial and they're bringing a substitute." Reaching for her microphone, Frome continued, "While we are waiting would you care to give a statement of the People's position regarding the charges and the bail motion?"
Hancock saw Lynn sitting down the hall and watching her. With a sudden smile, she replied, "Of course. There's nothing secret about our position. This was a premeditated murder. The victim was viciously attacked in her home. An attack all the more heinous because she undoubtedly felt safe and secure there. Instead, her life was viciously cut from her with the savage thrust of a knife. We are going to convict the defendant of murder."
"How do you feel about bail for the defendant?"
"It is my position that bail in such a case would be a terrible mistake. Here we have a woman who deliberately murdered another. We've seen that she is capable of great violence when she feels her interests are in jeopardy. I can think of no justification for running the risk of putting such a loose cannon on the streets."
"Is it the prosecution's position that this was a crime of passion?"
Hancock looked directly into the camera and said in an slow even voice that carried a slight pleasant lilt, "There I no doubt that this murder was prompted out of jealousy and not for financial gain or revenge. Despite television shows to the contrary, except for drug murders, most murders are committed for emotional reasons. That is what happened here. We have an unstable woman with a warped religious view of life. She is perfectly able to reconcile murder with her religious view of the sanctity of life."
"Since this is emotional crime would you oppose psychological treatment rather than prison?"
With a chirping laugh, Hancock continued, "I really can't comment on sentencing when we haven't even had an arraignment yet. However," she became serious at once, "I have always been on record of opposing leniency based on psycho babble. It has become the norm in our society to justify any crime on some type of mental aberration as though that pardons the conduct. It's got to stop. I read in a recent Reader's Digest that a woman got off for a drunk driving charge because she was also suffering from PMS, post menstrual stress. As a woman, I found that to be patronizing male chauvinism. Could you imaging a man getting off for drunk driving because of a prostate problem? As a prosecutor, I am acutely aware of the nationwide trend to permit women criminals to escape criminal punishment because of the "female problems defense". Women murderers have even escaped punishment for murdering their children because of alleged post partum depression. Frankly, as a woman, I am quite fed up with the view being fostered by the media that all women are psychological wrecks apt, at any time, to kill everyone around them because of some hormonal imbalance. If that were true, we never would have come down from the trees. So there is no way that I will meekly consent to leniency simply because of some supposed feminine psychological problem."
Frome asked, "Is this position based upon the law or upon your unique position as being a woman."
Hancock, set her briefcase on the floor and then gestured with her hands, "Both, I feel that women will never be treated as equals in our society as long as we, women, permit our legal system to perpetuate such ridiculous stereotypes. A criminal is a criminal."
"Isn't that a bit heartless?" Frome asked while enjoying the strength of the interview.
"Anger, whatever its cause, should never and must never be justification for a crime. Yet, in the last ten years we've seen hired psychologists elevating psycho babble to an inviolate law. Now every time, a woman commits a crime the defense automatically claims a variety of feminine psychological disorders that were nonexistent when you and I were growing up. Women are trying to earn the right to fight for their country on the front line. Yet at the same time, others are claiming that because of a woman's psychological makeup they can not be trusted to make competent decisions at certain times of the month. It was this bizarre logic that men used to keep women out of most of society. Now some women are perpetuating it as a defense to justify plain ordinary criminal activity. Frankly, as long as I am district attorney I will vigorously oppose any hormonal defense by a woman." Seeing the door of the courtroom open, she ended, "I've got to go now. Thank you."
While Hancock had been speaking with Frome, Susan Maxwell and Mrs. Lampel came over to Lynn. "What going to happen here?" Susan asked.
Lynn replied, "We're going to plead not guilty and try to get a reasonable bail set."
"Will they allow bail in a murder case?" Susan asked while listening to the prosecutor's interview in the distance.
"It all depends on the Judge," Lynn answered in a resigned tone. "Under California law, when the guilt is certain or evidence overwhelming, no bail is permitted. I must overcome that belief in order to get bail."
"How much will the bail be?" Mrs. Lampel asked. "I don't have much but I put it up for June."
"Bail may be $25,000 or more."
"I don't have that kind of money," Mrs. Lampel wailed. "My house is worth $50,000 but I'd have to sell it."
"You can go to a bondsman. They charge ten percent of the bond that would be $2,500. They would require your house to be pledged as collateral," Lynn said. "In the alternative, the court might accept the deed to your property in place of a cash bond if the property is worth the bond. It would save you the bond fee."
Relieved, Mrs. Lampel said, "Let's do it that way. I don't have $2,500 in the bank and would have to sell the bonds by husband left me to raise it. I use the income from the bonds to live on."
The bailiff came out into the hall and called, "Court Open." Lynn packed up her briefcase and walked into the courtroom. Taking her seat at the defense table, she looked over her shoulder while Mrs. Lampel and Susan sat in the gallery behind her. Most of the remaining seats in the gallery were taken up by the press who sensed lively entertainment in air.
Lynn felt a tap on her back and turned to see a tall, handsome man bent over to speak with her. "Excuse me, Ms. Driskell," as he stood up Lynn saw a clerical collar around his neck, "I am Reverend Richard Karlin. Mrs. Lampel suggested that I might be useful as witness for June. So I have come to offer any assistance that I may."
"Thank you, I doubt if Judge Miller or the prosecutor will allow any oral testimony but having you in the courtroom will help."
"You might be surprised. Both the Judge and the prosecutor are members of my church," he smiled.
"You don't say," Lynn looked pensive for a moment then heard the bailiff enter the room. "Take your seat, behind me. We'll see what I can do."
Horace Miller was a retired Superior Court Judge who occasionally filled in as a Temporary Judge when needed. Entering the court, the bailiff stood up and announced, "All Rise the Court of the Honorable Horace Miller is now in session."
Judge Miller scanned the courtroom and then stamped his gavel, "Call the first case."
The bailiff bent over and picked up the morning calendar and then announced, "People vs. Maxwell."
Hancock stood up and quietly announced, "People are ready."
Lynn stood up and shook her head, "Lynn Driskell for the Defendant. Your Honor, my client has not yet been brought down."
The bailiff bent over and whispered to the Judge who then said, "She's on the way." As he said that, June Maxwell shuffled into the courtroom from a back door. She was wearing a yellow jumpsuit with green stripes and on the back was stenciled, Mendocino County Jail. Her hair was still tied in a pony tail and her hands were handcuffed together with a chain running down to the fetters on her legs. On each side was an armed matron convoying June to her place next to Lynn.
"Are you ready, Ms. Driskell?"
"May I have a moment to confer, Your Honor?"
"Yes," agreed the Judge who opened a file on the bench.
June appeared more composed and accustomed to her state of affairs as opposed to when Lynn last saw her. "This is the arraignment where we plead not guilty," Lynn whispered. "I could have done this with the clerk's office but by doing it in court I can have the bail hearing motion heard at the same time and maybe get you out ten days earlier."
"I don't have money for bail."
"Mrs. Lampel has agreed to post it."
June turned around and for the first time noticed Reverend Karlin. Turning backed quickly, she shrank in the chair. "What is Reverend Karlin doing here?"
"He's here to testify for you."
"I'd rather he not," she whispered.
"Why?" Lynn asked.
Before June could answer, Judge Miller asked, "Is the defense ready to proceed at this time?"
Lynn stood up, "Yes, Your Honor. The defense is ready."
"Do you waive the reading of the indictment?"
"Yes, Your Honor."
"Then," Judge Miller asked, "what is the plea as to the charge in the complaint?"
"The defense pleads not guilty Your Honor."
"Very well, the plea of not guilty is hereby entered in the record. Preliminary Hearing is set for ten days. The next matter is a bail motion. You may proceed, Ms. Driskell."
Lynn then started, "Your Honor the Eight Amendment of the United States Constitution states that 'No excessive bail shall be required.'" Reaching into her briefcase and pulled out a book which she opened at a book mark, "The United States Supreme Court set the criteria to be applied in its case Stack vs. Boyle (1951) 342 U.S. 1 when it held that bail set.." she then began to recite:"
'at a figure higher than an amount to provide assurance that the accused will be present at trial was "excessive under the Eighth Amendment.'
Placing the book down, "In addition," she continued while reaching into her briefcase to pull out another book, "the California Supreme Court in the case, In Re Podesto (1976) 15 C.3d 921, held as follows:" Lynn opened the book and began to read,
"In applying relevant criteria, primary discretion on release on bail belongs to the trial judge, whose exercise of discretion will not be disturbed except for manifest abuse."
Setting the book down, Lynn looked to the judge and started again, "This is not an aberrant statement of the law. The California Courts have stated that position many times before. For instance, the courts in People vs. Bryant (1970) 5 Cal.App.3d 563, People vs Oringer (1961) 193 Cal.App.3d 19 and People vs. Hall (1953) 115 Cal.App.2d 144 have all held, among others, that discretion on release on bail is totally within the discretion of the trial judge."
Lynn concluded by saying, "The criteria in setting bail is essentially determining the threat posed to the community and that amount set is only high enough to assure appearance at trial. In this case, the defendant," Lynn paused to let the Judge get a good look at June, "has never been in any trouble before. She is an exemplary person. Her ties in the community are strong. It is not alleged that the motive of the crime was jealousy. If so, there is no chance of a repeat and thus the threat upon release of bail is nil. A reasonable bail given the financial condition of the defendant and her family will assure her attendance in court."
Lynn sat down as the prosecutor stood up.
Hancock reached for her brief filed in opposition to the bail motion. "Your Honor, the People oppose the bail request. This is not a traffic offense where a person may simply forfeit bail and avoid appearance at court. This is murder. Murder most foul. A defenseless woman was slain in her own home. Her body sliced like a pig and the defendant did it. The argument that she would not do it again is ridiculous. She never should have done it in the first place."
Lynn jumped up, "Your Honor this is outrageous. The defendant is being tried and convicted without ever being given an opportunity to defend herself. For the record, the defendant did not murder the victim. As such the entire argument of the prosecutor is misleading and should be disregarded."
Judge Miller stamped the gavel, "Ms. Hancock, please confine your argument to the constitutional issues regarding bail and not the facts or your interpretation of the facts in this case."
"Very well, Your Honor." Hancock paused and then continued, California Penal Code Section 1270.5 forbids bail in cases involving the death penalty. It is a simple section that states as follows..." from her brief she read:
"A defendant charged with an offense punishable with death cannot be admitted to bail, when," Hancock looked up and raised her voice for emphasis, "the proof of his or HER guilt is evident or the presumption thereof great."
"In addition," lowering the brief to look the judge in the face, "the California Supreme Court held in Ex Parte Scraggs 47 C.3d 416 that," she raised the brief just below eye level so that she could read and look at the judge at the same time,
"Before conviction, a defendant charged with a felony NOT PUNISHABLE WITH DEATH," she emphasized, "is entitled to bail as a matter of right."
Then taking a breath, she continued, "That shows that bail in capital case is not a matter of right." Shaking the brief, Hancock flung it on the table."
Standing perfectly straight, the prosecutor turned towards the defense table and concluded, "Your Honor, this is murder. The defendant is on trial for her life. The People oppose bail. Despite what the defense would say, the evidence is overwhelming that the defendant is the knife wielding murderess. It would be a mistake and a great threat to public safety for this Court to release her on any bail." Hancock turned slowly to face the Judge. "In Podesto, a case cited by the defense, the Supreme Court made it clear that in determining whether a defendant should be allowed bail, that the judge such look to the ties to the community, the defendant's record in making past appearances, and the severity of the sentence. In this case, the ultimate sentence could be death and we should not give a person accused of murder the chance to do it again. The defendant should be held in custody for public safety." Hancock sat down as Lynn slowly stood.
"Your Honor, your job is to judge the character of a defendant and determine if it is likely that the person will commit a crime or jump bail." Taking a deep breath, she continued, "It's true that the defendant is charged with a capital crime. But the charge alone is not sufficient to deny bail. There must be a certainty that she committed the crime or at least an overwhelming preponderance of evidence that she did. The prosecutor failed to read the last sentence of Penal Code Section 1270.5 which reads as follows..." Lynn picked up a piece of paper and recited,
"The finding of an indictment does not add to the strength of the proof or the presumptions to be drawn therefrom."
Waving the paper at Hancock, she continued, "What we have here is circumstantial evidence that is open to different conclusions. A person should not be kept in jail on circumstantial unless it is of the most overwhelming and irrefutable nature. That is not the case here." Walking toward the gallery, she turned back to the Judge, "In addition, there is another person, in court today, that has a similar job and knows the defendant and will testify that the defendant poses no such threats. I would like to call the Reverend Richard Karlin of the Ukiah Methodist Church."
"I object Your Honor. The prosecution should have been given written notice of the intention to put on oral testimony," Hancock snapped while turning to look at the Reverend.
Reverend Karlin had stood up and the Judge looked directly into his eyes and smiled, "Objection overruled, I think you can adequately cross-examine Reverend Karlin. For the record though, I want it stated that I am a member of Reverend Karlin's congregation as, I must say, is the prosecutor. Does anyone think that either or both of use should disqualify ourselves?"
"No," Hancock said in poor grace while sitting down.
"No, Your Honor," Lynn chirped.
"Very well," Judge Miller stamped his gavel, "Take the stand Reverend Karlin."
After Reverend Karlin was sworn and took the stand, Lynn came forward and asked, "What is you name and occupation?"
"Richard Martin Karlin. I am the minister at the Ukiah Methodist Church."
"Do you know the defendant?"
"Yes, I do."
"How long have you known her?"
"I've known her and her family since I became minister for the church five years ago. That is since she was fourteen."
"How well do you know her?"
"I know her quite well. She is a fixture in the church and a fine young lady."
"What does she do for the church?"
"The question should be," he replied, "what doesn't she do? Except for marriages, christenings, baptisms," he laughed, "she runs the place. We would be lost without her. She runs the church's meal on wheels, the day care and assists with the teaching of the handicapped children."
"Would you feel that she is a risk to the community if released on bail?"
"That is as ridiculous a question as is this charge," he sternly declared. "June is the kindest and finest person that I know."
"Thank you, Reverend. I have no further questions."
The prosecutor came forward, "Reverend Karlin, you state that you the defendant well?"
"What is our churches' position on premarital sexual relations?"
"Sex before marriage is forbidden."
"If the defendant were to have engaged in a sexual affair with a man while unmarried would she have broken her compact with God?"
Lynn started to arise and object but then stopped.
"Yes," the Reverend replied.
"Is a woman who broke who faith with God to be trusted?"
"God is love and is forgiveness," the Reverend replied, "Whatever happened in the past does not change the person who I have known for years and for whom I have the highest regard."
Lynn looked at June who was trembling slightly and whose eyes had filled with tears. Seeing the effect of the testimony on June, Lynn stood up and prepared to object when Hancock said, "No further questions."
Judge Miller then stated, "I find that the witness does not pose any risk to public safety and set bail at $50,000. Penal Code Section 1270.5 is not, in my mind an absolute bar to my granting bail when guilt is to be proven by circumstantial evidence and therefore may have other interpretations besides those of the prosecution."
Lynn stood, "Your Honor, Mrs. Lampel, the defendant's great grandmother would like to place her home up for the bond instead of cash as permitted under Penal Code Section 1274. It is worth that amount. Otherwise, she would have to go to a bondsman and sell her all of her assets.
"Does the prosecution object?" the Judge asked.
"Your Honor, we object to any bail at all. But since bail has been set, we don't oppose the home being posted as bail. It is not the position of my office to render family members destitute in posting bond."
"Very well, the house may be taken as bond. See the clerk for the arrangements," the Judge stamped the gavel. "The court is adjourned." Getting quickly to his feet, he grabbed some loose files and walked out of the courtroom.
June stood up, turned around saw Reverend Karlin start forward. The dam broke and she began crying. Turning abruptly, the matron grabbed her shoulder and quickly led her away.
Walking up the stairs of the courthouse for the preliminary hearing, Lynn was suddenly engulfed by a sea of TV newsmen, cameras and reporters. Momentarily halted by the media, Lynn then proceeded to prod delicately through the throng while repeating "No Comment" to their questions and smiling profusely.
Inside, Lynn climbed the stairs leading to the courthouse addition. At the top of the flight, she had to avoid a milling, fluid crowd to enter the courtroom. Reporters had followed Lynn and had not stopped taking annoying pictures or asking questions. Once in the courtroom, the reporters scrambled madly upon themselves to get the best seats in the press section. The murder of Cathy Lambert had been the major news story for several days. As a result, the seats in the public gallery were promptly filled leaving many people awkwardly standing in the aisle and hallway.
The bailiff was a short, middle-aged woman with a large pistol hanging prominently on her hip. Slowly rising from behind her desk in corner of the court room across from the defense table, she ordered, "All stand and come to order, the court of Judge Herbert Kline for the Mt. Sanhendrin Judicial District is now in session."
After the announcement, from the side door to the left of the bench Judge Kline entered and took his seat while everyone was standing. Scanning the large audience in the gallery, he stamped cherry wood gavel on the ebony block before him, "Be seated. The Court is in session. Those without a seat must leave the courtroom." As the bailiff was ushering out those without seats, he looked to his left and saw the television cameras. "Damn, sensationalists," he thought, "They're never here for the day to day business that people would be interested or for showing the difficulties we have. Instead," he chafed, " they only come here when there is a spectacular case to build ratings."
Tall, with rapidly receding grey-streaked hair and wire-rimmed glasses, the Judge faintly and involuntarily sneered at the cameras before turning towards the prosecutor, Margaret Hancock.
In his morning paper, the Judge had read the article by Bert Hopkins, the resident newspaperman. Looking into the press section, the Judge saw Hopkins with a pen in hand. Hopkins's article had appealed to the morbid fascination of the reader and speculated that Lynn Driskell would be in the legal fight of her life. It had been Hopkins' considered opinion that Lynn would be forced to fight a continuing legal battle by objecting to question after question, striking non responsive answers, limiting others and utilizing every legal technicality in the effort to rival her previous performance in the Mattox case.
Hopkins' article had continued onward to state that the District Attorney possessed a seemingly iron clad case. Hopkins attributed sources "highly placed in the D.A.'s office" as stating that they have the defendant's fingerprints on the murder weapon and that it had been found in the defendant's car. Furthermore, it was rumored that the D.A. was bringing in forensic specialists on DNA analysis. If so, Hopkins had concluded this would be the first time such scientific evidence would be used in this county.
With a low gravelly voice, Judge Kline uttered, "Now is the time and place for the preliminary hearing of June Maxwell in the case People vs. June Maxwell case number W 34567. Is the prosecution ready?"
The district attorney arose, with a dignified grace, from behind her table wearing an exquisitely tailored gray, business suit complimented with red blouse the exact color of her hair. "Margaret Hancock for the People, Your Honor, We are ready to proceed. With a slight turn, she faced the cameras and smiled.
"Ready for the Defense, Your Honor," Lynn added.
June Maxwell was sitting at the table next to Lynn. Behind her, in the gallery were sitting her sister and great-grandmother who were each whispering encouragement. With a dejected look of mixed bewilderment and embarrassment, June had her hands folded together and sat quietly looking at them. Lynn reached over and lightly touched June's hands, "It's going to be rough but try to keep a smile up. We're here just to see what they have. This is just a dress rehearsal. Our time comes at trial." June replied with a weak, faltering smile. Glancing over her shoulder, she blanched upon seeing Reverend Karlin enter the courtroom and then turned beet red. Lynn took her hand and hissed, "What's wrong?"
Lowering her head, "I don't want him to see me like this," she responded sheepishly.
The bailiff asked Reverend Karlin to leave because there was no seat for him. As he slowly turned to exit, June visibly relaxed and her color returned to normal.
With a wry smile Lynn thought, "Call it woman's intuition but I think she's hooked, or smitten, as my grandmother used to say, with the good Reverend. She seems more interested in him than in dealing with this case."
Lynn's attention was roughly pulled to the court by Judge Kline's booming voice, "Call your first witness." Turning, she saw the Judge nod to the district attorney who countered with a slight bow as she stood up.
"Your Honor, We, the People," Hancock declared in a even tone, "will show that the defendant, June Maxwell, murdered her rival Cathy Lambert. We will show that the knife found in the possession of the defendant inflicted the fatal wound on the victim. We will show that the defendant was in the vicinity of the murder when it was committed and both the murder weapon and a towel drenched with the victim's own blood was found in the defendant's car. After which, Your Honor, we will ask that the defendant be bound over to the Superior Court for trial.
Judge Kline looked down at the prosecutor and took a low deep breath, "There is no need for an opening argument, Miss Hancock. This is just a preliminary hearing and as such the only purpose of this hearing is to determine whether a crime may have been committed and whether there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed that crime. There is no reason for you to put your entire case on at this time. You only have to show enough evidence to substantiate that a crime has been committed and that the defendant may have committed it."
"I am aware of that Your Honor," Hancock replied in a patronizing tone. "I was just laying a foundation for the presentation of the evidence that I will be producing and advising the Court as to what we intend to prove and how we will do it."
"Then proceed. Call your first witness."
"I call Sam Herton." A man of about sixty years of age rose slowly from the gallery and jerkily walked forward. Before he reached the stand, the court clerk stood and administered the oath to him.
"Mr. Herton, what is your full name and address?"
"Sampton Richard Herton. I live at 659 Low Gap Road, Ukiah, California."
"Did you know the deceased, Cathy Lambert during her life?"
"I knew her to see her but I never spoke to her."
"Did anything happen on the morning of July 7 of this year that you are aware?"
"On June 7 about seven p.m., I was awaked when a yellow 1964 Ford Falcon hit the my trash cans and knocked them over."
"How long did it take you to look out of the window and what did you see?"
"I'm a very light sleeper and was taking a nap. My bedroom faces the street and my bed is under the window. When I awoke, I just turned around to look out of the window. I saw the yellow Falcon driving over the curb and speeding away. Since all that happened was that my cans were knocked over, I picked them up. Later, when the police questioned me about the Lambert killing I did not think this was relevant but I mentioned it anyway."
"No further questions, cross-examine," Hancock abruptly stated.
Lynn arose and approached the witness. "You did not see the defendant driving the car. Is that your testimony?"
"Yes, it is."
"Do you know for sure if the defendant did the killing?"
"Objection," Hancock yelled, "the question calls for the conclusion of the witness."
"Objection sustained. Counselor, the question is improper not only because it calls for a conclusion but that it exceeds the scope of direct examination," the Judge admonished.
"Your Honor, this is a preliminary hearing and in order to bind my client over, the prosecution must show through competent evidence that my client might have been there. The witness's testimony is that he never saw the driver. As such, the driver might not have been the defendant."
"Your question as framed is improper. I've made my ruling now ask another," the Judge responded.
"Mr. Herton, do you know who was driving the car you saw?"
"Objection asked and answered."
"Objection overruled. The question is relevant. Answer the question Mr. Herton," the Judge stated smoothly.
"No, I don't know who was driving the car."
"How far is your window to the street?"
"About seventy five feet," Herton snapped.
"Is that portion of the street lit?"
"No," Herton replied warily.
"Isn't there a wooden fence between your window and the street?"
"Yes, but it is a low fence and I can see over it," Herton answered lowly.
"How distinctive was this car?"
"It wasn't distinctive in any way. It was just a 1964 Ford Falcon."
"Why are you so certain that the car was a 1964 Ford Falcon?"
"I am a retired car salesman. I sold Fords. The 1964 Falcon is different from the earlier and later Falcons. In my opinion, it was one of the most economical and reliable cars, Ford ever made. I've owned a '62 Falcon myself. There is no car quite like a '64 Falcon."
"I have no further questions," Lynn stated and returned to her seat.
"Do you have anything further, Ms. Hancock?"
"Yes, Your Honor." Carrying a file up to Mr. Herton, she opened it and continued, "I wish to show the witness several pictures taken of cars and I wish to see if she can identify the car seen as the defendant's."
"Objection, this is highly prejudicial. The witness has testified that the car was not distinctive. Therefore all yellow Falcons will look the same."
"Your Honor," the prosecutor parried with a wicked grin, "the witness testified that a Falcon was distinctive. We are entitled to verify that statement.
"Objection overruled, Miss Driskell, counsel is testing recollection and perception."
Striding forward, the prosecutor handed Mr. Herton six photographs. "These pictures were taken from your bedroom window at seven p.m. Can you identify the vehicles in the pictures?"
"Yes," Going through the pictures, he pointed to individual cars. "This is a Honda, about '78. This is a Toyota about '79'80, this is a '74 Falcon, this is a '73 Falcon. This is a '76 Falcon. This is a '75 Torino."
"Please give them to the clerk." Looking up at the Judge, she said, "Your Honor, I want these pictures marked Prosecution Exhibits A through F. I also want the court to note that the car mentioned in Exhibit C is the defendant's car."
"Your Honor, I object to the innuendo that the Falcon identified was the car that Mr. Herton originally saw."
"Do you have a specific objection, Ms. Driskell."
"No, but I would like to ask Mr. Herton the following question," turning to him she continued, "Call you state that the can that you identified was the one and same car you saw on July 7?
"Objection, asked and answered," Hancock retorted.
"Overruled, answer the question, Mr. Herton," Judge Kline quickly ordered.
"No, I can't identify this particular vehicle as the one I saw on July 7."
"No further questions," Lynn defiantly announced.
"Any redirect Ms. Hancock?"
"No, Your Honor."
"You're excused Mr. Herton. Please step down." Judge Kline stated and motioned to the witness with his hand.
For my next witness, "I call Officer William Ricter."
As the officer was being sworn in, Lynn whispered to June, "Now it's going to get rough. So far, they have nothing on you. Sit up straight and smile, it's your best defense."
Moving towards Officer Ricter, Margaret Hancock slowly intoned, "Would you, Officer Ricter, tell the court of the events regarding your investigation on July 7 in regard of the murder of Cathy Lambert?"
Carefully, Officer Ricter responded by stating that he and his partner, Officer Carson, had been directed by the police dispatcher to 619 Low Gap Road after there had been a 911 emergency number reporting the murder. They were met at the door by a woman, who identified herself as Margo Ferliff.
"What happened next?"
The officer continued, "Mrs. Ferliff led us into the house, where we found the victim lying on the floor of the living room.
"What did you do next, Officer Ricter?"
"I waited with Mrs. Ferliff, while my partner called the station and reported the findings. Then we all waited for the homicide squad to come and take over."
Hancock brought a file to the stand and opened it. "Officer Ricter, I am showing you a series of photographs of the Lambert living room. Have you examined these before?"
"Yes, I have."
"Are the pictures a true reflection of the murder scene as you originally saw it?"
"Yes, the pictures show the scene as we found it."
"Your Honor, these photos have previously been provided to the defense and we request that they now be introduced into evidence as Exhibits H through K."
Judge Kline asked, "Any objection from the defense to the introduction of these pictures?"
"No, Your Honor, we are satisfied that they reflect the crime scene," Lynn replied quickly while going through her copies of the pictures.
The prosecutor with a smile pronounced, "No further questions from this witness."
While seated and appearing preoccupied, Lynn asked, "Did you see any signs of a struggle when you were at the murder scene?"
"No, I did not."
"You did not see the traditional overturned chair, broken lamp or anything awry?"
"No, I apartment was clean, neat and tidy. I noticed a tea pot and one cup of tea, at least I assumed it to be tea, on the dining room table as shown on the photos. That is the only thing I would say was out of place. However, I did not search the house that was done by the Sheriff and Mr. Lincoln."
"Officer Ferliff, you state that you did nothing while waiting for the homicide squad is that correct?"
"Yes, it is."
"Didn't you interview, Mrs. Ferliff?"
"No, after seeing the dead body, our procedure is to secure the scene and leave it to the trained homicide squad to take over."
"Officer Ricter, I find it incredulous that you did not ask Mrs. Ferliff questions that could relate to an early discovery of the killer's identity during the crucial minutes of your arrival."
Shifting in his seat, the officer stuttered, "Well, she gave the gist of her statement over the phone. We knew she didn't do it and the murderer was gone so all we could was wait for homicide. It arrived in just a couple of minutes."
Lynn appeared to spring from the chair, "Please explain how you knew all of that before you even arrived on the scene."
"Well that is what I was told by the station."
"Who told the station?"
"Mrs. Ferliff, I guess," Ricter said with a wave of his hand.
"Objection," Hancock thundered, "Speculation isn't evidence."
"Objection sustained," Judge Kline somewhat annoyed said, "I will disregard Officer Ricter's opinions as to what Mrs. Ferliff may or may not have told the police station."
"Officer Ricter, did you search Mrs. Ferliff?"
"No, I did not."
"Did anyone that you know search Mrs. Ferliff?"
"Your Honor, this is ridiculous. Mrs. Ferliff is not on trial," Hancock shouted.
"No, Your Honor, but the police investigatory tactics are on trial as is my client. We have a murder and the first person who called it in is not searched. I would like to know the reason."
"Objection overruled, answer the question, Officer," Kline wearily motioned with hand.
"I don't think anyone searched her and I don't know why anyone would."
"Officer Ricter, is it possible that Mrs. Ferliff or someone prior to her could have entered the home and removed articles such as a knife or towel?"
"Objection, this calls for a conclusion of the witness and exceeds the scope of direct," wailed the prosecutor.
"No, Your Honor. The prosecution opened the door by introducing evidence that Officer Ricter secured the premises upon arrival. By implication, the premises were unsecured until then. I am merely asking him, as a trained professional could articles have been taken by Mrs. Ferliff, who was not searched, and others who may have been at the scene prior to Officer Ricter."
Dubiously, the Judge ruled, "Objection overruled. Answer the question, if you can."
Embarrassed, Ricter said, "Any number of people could have taken stuff before I arrived."
"And Mrs. Ferliff?"
"Well, she might have, but I doubt it. I kept a good eye on her and she didn't act suspicious."
"No further questions," Lynn declared.
Officer Ricter quickly got off the stand as though it was wired with electricity and left the courtroom without looking back.
Margaret Hancock walked to the center of the courtroom for theatrical effect and announced in a loud slow voice, "The People now call as its next witness, Dr. Denis Buker."
Through the doors came, Dr. Buker and passing the defense table, he momentarily stopped and gave Lynn a smile of malicious
glee. Obviously, the doctor was going to enjoy ripping her case to threads, no doubt, in response to the last trial where she totally emasculated his professionalism. As Dr. Buker was being sworn, Lynn took the initiative, "Your Honor, the defense will stipulate to Dr. Buker's qualifications subject to the right of cross-examination."
Dr. Buker appeared crestfallen because he hoped to impress the crowd with his professional standing. The prosecutor only cared to impress the judge and stated, "Your Honor, I think the People would like to have Dr. Buker's credentials placed on the record."
"There's no reason for that," the Judge stated. Then turning to face the doctor, he continued, "Dr. Buker is the medical examiner for the county. He has testified as an expert for the County many times. As shown by the defense stipulation, he is to be regarded as a competent expert in his field." Then turning to the prosecutor, "Continue, Ms. Hancock."
Margaret Hancock moved to the side to give the press an unobstructed view of Dr. Buker as he testified.
Judge Kline, looking down from the bench, keenly noticed a thin, balding man in a checked sports coat and tie. His stark white skin gave the initial impression of an accountant or other office clerk shut up all day long in a windowless office.
"Dr. Buker, did you perform an autopsy on the deceased, Cathy Lambert?"
"Yes, I did the autopsy myself."
"Please tell the Court, the findings and conclusions of your autopsy on Ms. Lambert." The prosecutor turned to the Judge as if subconsciously directing him to pay even closer attention.
Basking in his aura of self-importance, Dr. Buker began a well-rehearsed spiel in short, precise sentences using a neutral, almost artificial tone. As Lynn listened to the doctor, she knew and hoped that the Judge realized that he was reciting a carefully prepared and memorized script for their benefit. However, she smiled to himself and thought, "The problem with an actor who knows his lines is that when thrown a curve most can't improvise and I'm a pretty good pitcher."
"How was the victim killed, Dr. Buker?"
"My autopsy revealed, Ms. Hancock, that the deceased Cathy Lambert met her death as a result of a single stab wound. An extremely sharp instrument, with a very long and flat blade had penetrated the victim's heart through its left ventricle or chamber as its sometimes called."
"What was the weapon which inflicted the wound?"
"A knife that I was later shown and tested produced the same unique wound pattern."
"Is this the knife you tested?" Hancock gave Buker a knife.
"Yes, it is."
"I move that this knife be admitted into evidence as People's Exhibit N."
"No objection," quickly uttered with a wave of her hand.
After giving the knife back to the clerk, Hancock turned to Buker, "How long did Ms. Lambert survive the stabbing?"
"With such a wound, death would have been almost instantaneous. There would not have been any appreciable or significant time between the stabbing and death."
"Can you place the time of death?"
"Yes, given the fact that the body showed no other external or internal injuries and using the body temperature, I estimate that the death occurred between six p.m. and eight p.m. of July 7 of this year."
"Thank you, Dr. Buker. I have not further questions. The People thank you for your professionalism in this matter." With a slight nod to the Judge to signify her satisfaction with the testimony, she returned to her table.
Lynn slowly arose from her table and appeared uncertain as to what question to ask. While tapping her hands together and looking back and forth between the Judge and Dr. Buker, she asked lowly, "How exactly were the blows delivered?"
"The victim had the left ventricle of her heart pierced by a long thin blade as I testified before."
"Would it have been possible for the wound to have been inflicted by someone standing in front of the decedent?"
"Given the fact that the wound was in the back, I would have to say no."
"Is there anything else that you used, doctor, to fix the time of death?"
"I also considered the final meal of the decedent. I found roasted chicken, corn and peas. I fix the death at occurring no more than twenty minutes of the ingestion of the meal. I don't know when the meal was eaten but death occurred shortly thereafter."
"Were there any dishes around indicating that a meal had been recently eaten?"
"No, not that I recall."
"Was there anything unique in the stab wound?"
"If you mean if was key-holed shape, definitely not," he sneered. Hancock smiled at this snide reference to his testimony in the previous case in which Lynn cross-examined Buker. The remark appeared to please Dr. Buker and give him confidence.
Tersely, Lynn asked, "In what direction was the deceased stabbed, the Court might find that unique wouldn't you say?"
"Objection, the defense is arguing with the witness," Hancock interjected.
"Objection overruled," the judge stated and then continued. "However, I admonish both witness and counsel to confine all questions and responses within proper legal bounds. Answer the question, Dr. Buker."
"Yes, Your Honor," Buker curtly started, "The victim had been stabbed from behind. Analysis of the wound shows that the blade entered the back between fourth and fifth ribs and proceeded onward to penetrate the victim's heart."
"Did you testify that only one blow was struck?"
"Yes," he testily replied, "only one blow."
"Could you tell, from your autopsy, what hand the assailant used to stab the deceased?"
Dr. Buker replied, "It could have been either hand." The doctor watched Lynn return to her table and pick up what appeared to be a report. Quickly, he reconsidered his answer and then continued, "Most likely it was the left hand however."
Looking up with a faint smile, Lynn asked, "Why do you say the left hand?"
The doctor's professional demeanor returned and with his earlier impersonal tone, he answered, "The victim received the fatal blow on the left side of her back. Given the direction, angle and location of the wound, it is my opinion that it was most likely delivered with the left hand."
"Are you aware that the defendant is right handed?"
"Yes," he replied in bad temper, "but I said the wound could be delivered by either hand only that it is more likely that it came from the left hand."
"Please clarify the difference between a wound delivered between a right hand and left handed person. I would like you to demonstrate how the person was stabbed?"
"Your Honor," Hancock bellowed, "it doesn't matter which hand the defendant used. The testimony is that either hand could have delivered the wound."
Judge Kline considered for a moment, "I don't know the probative effect of the evidence and for that reason I will allow the demonstration. If it can help the Court to understand the case, it should be admitted. Therefore proceed."
Lynn walked over to the gallery and motioned Susan to come forward. Together, they walked to the middle of the courtroom. "Dr. Buker, this young woman is approximately the size and build of the deceased, isn't she."
Buker leaned forward in his seat and appraised Susan, "Yes, I think she is."
"Good, doctor. I want you to demonstrate using," Lynn paused then walked over to the Clerk's table and retrieved a letter opener and held it up, "this, how you belief the murder would was inflicted."
Doctor Buker stormed from the stand grabbed the letter opener from Lynn and quickly simulated the attack.
"Please do it slower for the Court to take it all in, Dr. Buker," Judge Kline asked.
With everyone leaning forward to get a good view, the attack was repeated.
"Now Doctor will you repeat the attack using the right hand?"
Switching the blade to his right hand, the doctor twisted his right hand in a bizarre angle to touch the same spot."
"Why is you hand so oddly positioned, doctor?"
"The angle of the wound is so sharp in the body, that the only way that it could reasonably be delivered by the right hand is this position."
"Thank you, that is all."
The prosecutor bounded from her chair, "Dr. Buker aren't you assuming that the victim was stabbed standing up."
"Yes, it seems the most probable position."
"For the sake of argument, let's say the victim was sitting at the time of the attack." Pulling a chair forward into the middle of the courtroom, she asked, "Would the same young lady come back and still here please."
Susan came back and reluctantly sat down.
"Now doctor, repeat the attack using the right hand."
Stabbing downward with this his right hand, his hand traveled in a smooth clean motion.
"So, if the victim was sitting when killed, a right handed person could clearly have done it, couldn't she?"
"Yes," the doctor smiled.
"No further questions," Hancock asserted.
As Dr. Buker started to leave the stand, Lynn quickly called to him, "Wait, Dr. Buker, I have further questions." The look of relief immediately left his face.
"Was the deceased murdered while sitting?"
"I don't know."
"Is there any evidence that you have seen or come across that leads you to believe that the murder occurred while she was sitting?"
"I am aware of none," he said dejectedly.
"Was the body found in a chair?"
"No, it was found on the floor."
"Were any blood stains found on the furniture?"
"I don't know but I doubt it."
"So given all of the information that you have considered and are aware, what is your opinion as to the hand used to strike the fatal wound?"
Taking a deep breath, "I still believe it is more likely that the wound was delivered by a person using the left hand."
"Dr. Buker did not the autopsy also include a blood test?"
"Yes, it did."
"What was revealed?"
"I found that the victim had ingested Valium, a sedative shortly before the murder," Buker replied absently.
"How soon before the murder would you say the valium was taken, doctor?"
Shifting nervously in his chair, "I would say between one to three hours of the murder."
"How much valium was in her system at the time of her death?"
"At the time of her death, she made a moderately large amount, she would have been conscious but placid even lethargic."
"Doctor, if the amount was moderately large after being in her system up to four hours, then the original dosage had to be much larger, correct."
"Yes, that is correct?"
"What would have been the effect of such a large dosage?"
"Probably, she was asleep for a time."
"Was the dosage of valium fatal?"
"No, not in the least. A deep sleep perhaps but fatality, no it was not a fatal dosage."
"What was your observation of the victim's apartment?"
"I did not search it, however," Buker continue looking up at the ceiling, "I tend to remember a very neat, tidy apartment."
"Thank you. No further questions."
The prosecutor arose and also said in poor grace, "No further questions."
Judge Kline stamped his gavel, "We are adjourned for lunch until 1:30."
Susan and Mrs. Lampel came up to Lynn and June. They left the courtroom in small phalanx with June in the middle. In the hall, they were surrounded by reporters but June was maintaining her spirits until she saw the approach of Reverend Karlin. Then turning abruptly, she bolted into the ladies room. Lynn went after her while Susan barred the door.
"What's the problem?" Lynn asked. "Things were going so well. You've got to put on a strong show."
"I don't want him around me," June said after taking a deep breath.
Suspiciously, Lynn asked, "Are you afraid of him? I can go to the police if he's harassing you."
With a look of shock, "I not afraid of him but for him. His career with the church is his life. It will be ruined if he's connected with someone ... like me," she started to weep.
"I don't understand," Lynn muttered.
"I made a mistake. Leave it at that. I don't want to see him until after this is over. That's final." June brushed her hair with her fingers and setting her jaw said firmly, "Please tell him not to see me until this is over."
Lynn left the rest room and walked past Susan who was still at the door. Reverend Karlin came up to her, "Miss Driskell, how is June? I would like to see her."
"Reverend Karlin," Lynn said lowly, "June is fighting for her life. It is not a good time for her to be distracted. She does not want to see you until this case is over."
"I want to help her in anyway that I can. I am sorry for the testimony I gave. The questions were so mean spirited. I don't want to hurt June at all," there was a quiet sincerity in his voice. "I would like to ask her to forgive me."
"She has, I'm sure. Now we must go. Please honor June's request and not see her until this is over." Without a word, Reverend Karlin turned and left.
Lynn went back to get June, "He's gone. Now, we can go to lunch now. Can you face the reporters?"
With a determination that surprised Lynn, June retorted, "I can face anything now."
The afternoon session of the preliminary hearing began with Margaret Hancock striding into the middle of the courtroom, the well as it is called, in legal slang, and stating, "Your Honor, I call as my next witness, Sheriff Jason Crier."
From the gallery stood up a tall, extremely overweight man in his late fifties. Carrying a wide-brimmed hat with a badge on it, he lumbered forward. Like the parting of the Red Sea, a wide aisle opened up through the crowd waiting to be seated. With wide almost theatrical motions, he swept toward the stand. Stopping before the clerk, he was sworn and then assumed the stand as though it was a throne.
"Are you the Sheriff of this county?"
"Yes, I am," he said proudly.
"Can you tell me what happened on July 8 of this year at 6:00 p.m.?"
"Yes, at about 6:00 p.m. I received a call at home. The caller was anonymous but said that he saw a yellow Falcon license number N46789 on Low Gap Road at the seven p.m. the previous night."
"What did you do?"
"I asked the person to identify himself."
"Did he do so?"
"No, he said that was all he knew and that he did not want to get involve."
"Did you ask him why he called you instead of the station?"
"He said that he did not want to be taped and figured I wouldn't do it and he was right."
"What did you do next, Sheriff Crier?"
"I called the station and had a license check for N46789 run."
"What did you discover?" Turning to the Judge, Hancock gave
an almost imperceptible nod.
Sheriff Crier took out a small notebook and read, "At 6:17 p.m., I was informed that the license plate N46789 was registered to a June Maxwell. It belonged to a 1964 Ford Falcon. The address of the registration was 1135 South Dora, Ukiah, California."
"What happened next, Sheriff?"
With a loud booming voice, he declared, I summoned the crime lab, took several deputies and went to 1135 South Dora to see Miss Maxwell."
"What did you find at the South Dora address?"
"In the driveway, we saw a 1964 Ford Falcon, yellow. Its right head light was broken. I knocked on the door but got no answer. I then returned to the car and searched it." Pausing, he then resumed slowly and with effect, "In the car, we found a knife wrapped in a towel with blood stains."
Margaret Hancock brought from her table a small box. Opening it, she retrieved a long thin knife and presented it to the Sheriff. "Do you recognize this item marked People's Exhibit N?"
"Indeed, I do. It has my mark here on the base," he held the knife high for the Judge to see.
"When did you first see this knife?"
"I first saw this knife when I found it under the seat in the defendant's car wrapped in a towel containing blood stains."
Returning to her table, Hancock pulled out a plastic bag which she opened and waved in the air. "Is this the towel you found?"
"Yes, it is. Here are the blood stains that I said I found." The Sheriff stood up and held the towel so the Judge could see it. It was a short white towel with several thin brown streaks in it.
"Your Honor, I move that the towel be admitted into evidence as the next People's exhibit."
Waving her hand slightly, Lynn stated without getting up, "No objection, Your Honor."
"After you found these items, what did you do next Sheriff?"
"Finding these items gave me probable cause to believe that the suspect, June Maxwell, might have been at the scene shortly before or when the crime was perpetuated. I ordered that she be stopped for routine questioning."
"How was that done?"
"We searched her home while the crime lab examined the knife and towel. We traced the defendant to a day care center run by her church and picked her up. By the time we had her in custody, the tests showed that the blood on the knife and towel belonged to the deceased and the only fingerprints on it were those of the defendant. We booked her for murder."
The district attorney then said evenly, "I have no further questions, Thank you, Sheriff Crier." With a large smile and courteous nod, the Sheriff then shifted his attention to Lynn.
"Who searched the house, Sheriff?"
"I did along with Vincent Lincoln of the crime lab."
"What did you find?"
Taking a small notebook from his breast pocket, he opened it and recited, "Crime scene extremely neat and clean. Teapot, one cup on dining room table. Sink empty, dish strainer one cup. Laundry empty. bed made. Medicine cabinet normal with no illegal drugs. Mail unopened on kitchen table, newspaper open and placed neatly in recycling box. Refrigerator reasonably stocked." Closing the book, he looked up.
"Was her purse present?"
Opening the notebook, "I don't recall."
"Your Honor," the D.A. interrupted, "the victim's purse was taken into possession of the crime lab. Mr. Lincoln had it."
"Thank you, Ms. Hancock."
"Let me get this straight, Sheriff, you received an anonymous call telling you that it was the defendant's car seen on the deceased street."
"Yes," he acknowledged while nodding his head.
"Had anyone connected that car to decease?"
"What do you mean?" Crier asked.
"Did anyone testify that they saw it in the victim's driveway?"
"No, but Mr. Herton saw it knock over his trash can."
"Couldn't a car driving down the street knock over the trash can without being involved in this murder?"
"Objection, this calls for a conclusion of the witness and is irrelevant. I further object, Your Honor, because this is a fishing expedition," the prosecutor said while waving her arm emphatically.
"Your Honor, as I understand the testimony of Sheriff Crier, he searched my client's car because an anonymous tip placed it on the same street at the time of the murder. I want clarification of that point."
"Objection sustained," the Judge ruled, "the question is improper as framed."
"Sheriff Crier did you search every car that was on Low Gap Road, to you knowledge at seven p.m. on the night of the murder?"
"No, of course not," he sneered.
"Because, this was the only one that crashed into trash cans while getting away," he bellowed.
"Now Sheriff Crier, did you have a search warrant for the vehicle?"
"Well no," he hesitated then continued, "but I didn't need one my search was reasonable."
"What's reasonable about searching a car when the owner isn't present, without a warrant, on an anonymous tip that the car was one of many on a street when a crime was committed?"
"Objection," Hancock screamed with her face so contorted that the veins in her neck showed, "this is not a suppression hearing. The evidence is as admitted."
"Objection sustained, Ms. Driskell," Judge Kline stated, "you may, if you feel it warranted, make a motion for suppression but you may not do it now in the middle of a preliminary hearing. There will be no further questions regarding a search warrant until the matter has been addressed in proper form and with proper briefs."
"Yes, Your Honor. I have just a few more questions. Sheriff Crier was the car locked at the time of your search.
"Yes it was."
"How long did it take you enter it?"
"About a minute, we have a special tool for opening car locks."
"I have no further questions,"
"Neither do I," Hancock joined.
"Very well, you are dismissed Sheriff Crier," Judge Kline then stated, "Call the next prosecution witness.
In the grandiose swept of her hand, the prosecutor turned and asked, "Vincent Lincoln, will you please take the stand?"
From the gallery, directly behind the prosecution's table arose, a heavy set, rather chunky individual who quickly stood and strode forward. In his late thirties, he had dark hair which had receded well back from his temples, bushy black eyebrows, keen gray eyes and chrome plated, wire-rimmed glasses. His face showed grim determination with his mouth a mere slither. Taking the stand he slowly qualified himself in detail as a criminologist. In considerable detail, he described his background and exuded pleasure at the opportunity being afforded to discuss himself.
After the long boring recitation of Mr. Lincoln's qualifications, the prosecutor smiled and prepared to get down to the facts of the case. Walking to her table, she picked up a small box and brought to the witness.
"I hand you a knife and ask if you have ever seen it before?"
Taking the knife and rotating it in his hand, "Yes, I have."
"What were the circumstances that you saw it?"
"I was given it by Sheriff Crier after he found it in the defendant's car."
"How soon after it was found were you given it?"
"I was given it immediately after they were removed from the car and marked by the Sheriff."
"What can you tell about this knife, Mr. Lincoln?"
"This is a common knife with few discernible features. It appears relatively new or has been kept in new condition. It has a very thin, serrated blade that would be extremely useful in letter opening. It's probably too long for normal table use."
"Did you run any tests on the blade, Mr. Lincoln?"
"Yes, we ran some tests on the knife?"
While looking at the Judge, Margaret Hancock asked Mr. Lincoln, "What were the tests?"
"We examined the knife for fingerprints and any evidence that it was the murder weapon?"
"What did you find?"
"We found a few minute dots of a red substance on the blade."
"What did you do, Mr. Lincoln with the red dots?"
"I performed a chemical test to ascertain the presence of blood even though the amount of blood isn't sufficient to be classified."
"How was the test performed?"
"I used the benzidine test. There are several other sensitive tests but this was the one that I used."
"What was the result of the test?"
Lincoln continued, "When tested, the dots gave a positive result for the blood test."
"I see," the prosecutor said loudly. "Could you tell is the blood was human or animal?"
"No, I could not. There was not enough blood to be so analyzed."
Walking to the well, Hancock turned and quietly, "So to be fair, except for the fact that knife that was found in the defendant's car, there's nothing connecting it with her."
"Absolutely not!" Lincoln bellowed.
All attention was focused on Lincoln, when Hancock asked, "What do you mean?"
"We found the defendant's fingerprints on the knife."
"Her fingerprints? Are you sure?" the prosecutor asked.
With a short laugh, the witness reached into his inside suit jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope. With a flair, he waved it. "These are the pictures of the fingerprints that we took off knife," he laid four pictures in a pile. Then taking out another batch of pictures, he said, "These are four fingerprints from the defendant. they are identical."
Looking at the pictures, Hancock asked innocently, "Don't all people have similar lines and squabbles on their fingers?"
"Yes," Lincoln replied with satisfaction. "That is why we look for similarities. Everyone will usually have four to six similarities but over that number the fingerprints begin to narrow. At twelve points of similarity, we have an exact match to only one individual."
"How many similarities did you find, Mr. Lincoln?"
With pride, Lincoln responded while picking up the photos of the prints, "On the thumb and little finger, we found fourteen similarities."
"Fourteen," Hancock ejaculated, "but you said you only needed twelve to make an expert match?"
"Yes," Lincoln smiled, "those were definitely the defendant's fingerprints."
"And the others?"
"The remaining fingerprints were partial prints. That means they were either incomplete or smudged. In the partials, we found nine similarities on the index finger and eight on the forefinger."
"What is you expert opinion on the fingerprints, Mr. Lincoln?"
"It is my opinion that the two partial prints that we found belong to the defendant and that the two complete prints definitely and irrefutably belong to her."
Slowly, the prosecutor walked forward from the well and reached into the box before the witness. Retrieving a shard of glass, she handed it to Lincoln. "Do you recognize this?"
Lincoln, smiled and held it up for the judge to see, "Yes, this is a piece of glass that was found across the street from the victim's home, the site of the crime."
"What was the circumstance of the find?"
"While I was with the Sheriff at the search of the victim's home, an officer brought the neighbor, Mr. Herton, over. Mr. Herton stated that he saw a 1964 yellow Falcon hit his garbage cans around 7:00 p.m. the previous night."
"What did you do next?"
"I went to where the trash cans had been standing to see if I could find tire tracks or paint scrapings on the cans?"
"Did you find any?"
"No, but I found this glass shard along with smaller pieces?"
"What did you do next?"
"I asked Mr. Herton if he knew where the pieces of glass came from. He said that he did not know so I marked the biggest piece with tape. Here it is," Lincoln pointed to a small adhesive tag that had his initial.
"Did this glass assume any importance in your subsequent investigation of the case?"
"Yes, when I was called to the defendant's residence by the Sheriff, I immediately noticed her car a yellow 1964 Falcon. Walking to the front, I saw that the right headlight was broken."
"What did you do next, Mr. Lincoln?"
"I took out my screwdriver, removed the headlight and took it to my lab."
"What did you then do?"
"I compared the glass shard I found with the glass of the lamp?"
"What did you conclude?"
"I concluded that the glass shard came from that lamp."
Reaching into the box, the prosecutor removed a broken car headlight bulb. "Is this the bulb that you removed from the defendant's car?"
"Yes, it is." Taking the bulb, he pointed to a little tag on the back, "See here's my mark."
"Are you sure your piece of glass came from that bulb?"
"Absolutely." Lincoln stood up, turned and placed the bulb in front of the judge. Then taking the piece of glass, he inserted it, like a piece in a jig saw puzzle, against a jagged piece of the bulb. "It's a perfect fit."
"Your Honor, I move that the knife, the glass bulb and the shard of glass be admitted into evidence as the People's next exhibit."
"No objection," Lynn stated."
"Let then be received into evidence," Judge Line continued, "Proceed, Ms. Hancock."
"No, further questions, Your Honor," Hancock said mildly as she gently sat down with a smug smile directed at the defense.
Lynn then came forward into the well. "Mr. Lincoln, I read the report that you submitted on the fingerprints. Didn't you state that the defendant's fingerprints were obvious on the knife because they were stamped in ink?"
"That is correct, in fact, I have been careful to disturb as little as possible the fingerprints on the knife." Holding the knife up, he showed where the fingerprints were found.
Taking the knife, gingerly, Lynn asked, "Did you find any fingerprints below in the two to three inches below the fingerprints?"
"There were fingerprints there but they were so smudged as to be useless."
"Now, Mr. Lincoln, is it possible that a person could take this knife and holding at the bottom inflict the fatal wound on the victim?"
"Objection," Hancock bellowed, "this calls for a conclusion of the witness on an area that he is not qualified. Whether a person could inflict such a fatal wound while handling such a small piece calls for expert testimony."
Turning to the Judge, Lynn asked, "if the court will indulge me, I feel that I can answer the prosecution's objection by a demonstration."
"Proceed," Ms. Driskell," the judge ordered.
Lynn went to her table and picked up a large oversized professional file case. Opening it, she took out a package wrapped in butcher paper.
Turning carried it to the stand. As the prosecutor leapt up, "Your Honor, this is a theatrical farce."
"Objection sustained," Judge Kline smiled, "I think this will be informative."
Lynn opened the package to reveal a large roast. "Your Honor, this is a beef roast. It is more solid and difficult to penetrate with a knife that a blade in the back which must pass through a lung with is only filled with air. I also chose a roast because, I intended to have it for dinner tonight unless you want it marked for evidence."
A light laughter filled arose form the gallery and the Judge chuckled a little before composing himself, "Please proceed Ms. Driskell."
"Your Honor, I am about Ms. Maxwell's size. Therefore, if I can penetrate this roast with the murder weapon while holding it only at the end of the handle then so could someone else."
"Proceed, Ms. Driskell."
Lynn grabbed the end of the knife placed the point against the skin and pushed down. The knife wobbled a little then sank through the knife.
The prosecutor rose and in a self-satisfied glib tone stated, "Your Honor, that is not how the murder occurred. Ms. Driskell is using her right hand and the roast is not standing nor would the deceased have been standing when the defendant put a knife against her skin and slowly pushed it in."
"It appears the prosecution is correct," Judge Kline declared.
"No, Your Honor," this demonstration is totally consistent with the prosecution's evidence so far."
"What!" shouted Hancock.
With a puzzled look distorting his face, the Judge asked, "Please explain, Ms. Driskell."
Lynn said slowly, "Your Honor, after I introduced evidence that the murderer was left-handed the prosecution countered with," pausing she turned to Hancock with a grin, "evidence showing how the murder could have been committed by a right handed person."
"What about your pushing the knife in?" Hancock snapped without standing up. "No one would calmly stand and wait for a person to push a knife in their body?"
"Stand no, but sit yes. Remember," Lynn pointed to Hancock, "your demonstration called for the person to sitting when stabbed. Also don't forget, the victim was heavily sedated. Although not unconscious, she would not have been totally aware of her surroundings. Finally, there is no reason to assume that a woman or man much stronger than I did not do it. In such an event, the killing thrust would be much swifter and cleaner."
"These are all points well presented, Ms. Driskell," Judge Kline agreed with a slight nod, "and do indeed show that knife could have been wielded by other persons. Now proceed."
"Mr. Lincoln, there is testimony that the knife which you identified had been found in a bloody towel. Could that not have been the source of the blood on the knife?"
"Objection," this calls for speculation of the part of the witness," Hancock hoarsely growled.
"Your Honor, we have not heard any direct testimony that this
knife was the murder weapon. It is possible that another similar knife was the murder weapon and that this one was placed in the defendant's car to cast suspicion on her. Blood on the knife from the towel would, under those circumstances, not be unexpected."
"Objection overruled," the Judge ruled in a dubious tone.
Lincoln then stammered, "It's reaching but yes it's possible that some blood on the towel could have got on the knife."
"Now, as to the glass shard," reaching forward she grabbed it and held it up, "did you run any spectrum analysis on the glass."
"No, we did not. It would be useless all bulbs made at the same time would have the same analysis anyway."
"Can you tell by looking at this light when it was broken?"
"No, I can't but Mr. Herton testified..."
Interrupting, the witness, "Correct me, Mr. Lincoln but Mr. Herton did not testify that he saw the car that hit his cans break its headlight. Isn't that just your assumption?"
"Yes, but its reasonable."
"Isn't is possible for a headlight to break other than by hitting Mr. Herton's trash cans?"
"Objection, argumentative," Hancock sneered.
"Objection overruled," the Judge ruled before Lynn could respond.
"It's possible but the coincidence..."
"Coincidence does happen," Lynn interjected again while walking to her table, "No further questions."
"Did you also search the victim's home?" Hancock snapped.
"Yes, I did alone with Sheriff Crier."
"What were your observations?"
Lincoln reached into his inside suit pocket and retrieved a
small notebook. Opening it, he thumbed through several pages then read, "Crime scene, a single bedroom apartment with separate bedroom and bathroom, dining room and kitchen combination. Extremely, neat and clean apartment. Nothing apparently mislaid except teapot and single cup in the dining room. Dishes done in kitchen only single cup in strainer. Small amount of paper garbage under the sink mostly food wrappers from microwave food. No illegal drugs in medicine cabinet. No liquor. Clothes laundered and pressed in closet. Purse on chair at kitchen table which I took possession. Wallet contained a driver's license expiring in two months. Cash, twenty seven dollars and fifty six cents. Credit cards, Discover, Visa and.."
"That's sufficient. Did you find any valium in the apartment?"
"No, I did not."
"Did you find ascertain whether the victim had a prescription for valium?"
"No," Lincoln shook his head. "I checked with her doctor and he stated that he never prescribed valium for her. He further stated that, at her last physical, she was not using any drugs. Furthermore, she never submitted any medical claims to her insurance carriers for valium."
"Did you find any empty pill containers which could have been used for valium?"
"No, I did not find anything of that type."
"Was the bed made?"
"Yes, it had not been slept in as I recall."
"No further questions, either Your Honor," Hancock impatiently joined. Anxious to continue, with a malicious grin to Lynn, she said, "The People call Dr. Richard Brand."
Behind prosecution table stood up a stocky man in his late thirties with a thick crop of brown hair and a bushy mustache or darker color. Lynn leaned over to June and whispered, "He's going to testify about the blood on the towel."
"What is your name and occupation?"
"My name is Richard Carl Brand. I have a Ph.D. in biology and am employed by the state's criminal forensic laboratory. My specialty is in blood typing and DNA analysis."
"How long have you done this job, Dr. Brand?" Hancock asked.
"I've been doing this work for three years."
Turning to Judge Kline, the prosecutor said, "Your Honor, I move that Dr. Brand be treated as an expert."
"No objection," Lynn added.
"So ruled," the Judge nodded.
Turning back to the witness, Hancock asked, "Would you, Dr. Brand, explain DNA profiling?"
With a nod, the doctor leaned back in the chair and explained, "In the early '80's, a procedure was developed in Europe for identifying the person from whom a human cell was taken. The process is called DNA profiling because it is based upon deoxyribose nucleic acid, DNA for short, that is the building block of life. In the 1950's DNA was discovered and won the Nobel prize for doctors Watson and Crick. DNA is double helix strand, much like a twisted ladder, that forms the genes and chromosomes of each individual. Every person, except for identical twins, have a DNA pattern that is unique to that person alone. It is this very difference in the DNA structure of individuals that permits DNA typing. Is there any questions so far?"
Judge Kline shook his head, "Please proceed Doctor."
A sample of a person's DNA can be extracted from any body cell such as from hair, skin samples, body fluids or even, as in this case, bloodstains. The DNA strand is then broken down into smaller pieces. To the broken pieces of DNA is added specific radioactive markers which combine with the DNA building blocks called nucleotide. Film is then exposed to the mixture. The radioactive markers records a pattern on the film similar to the bar codes used on the grocery stores. The unknown pattern is then compared to the DNA profile of a particular person. Since no two people have the exact same genetic pattern, when there is an exact match we have identified the provider of the unknown sample. There really is not much difference conceptually between fingerprints and DNA typing. In fact, DNA typing is becoming even more commonplace because criminals are more apt to leave hair, skin or bodily fluids behind more often than usable fingerprints."
"Thank you, Dr. Brand," the prosecutor then continued, "Did you analyze the blood on the towel identified as People's Exhibit," looking at the tag, "P here?"
"Yes, I did."
"What did you do?"
Taking the towel in his hands, Dr. Brand replied, "Before I could run the test, I had to rehydrolize the blood, that is get in it liquid form and then perform the test as outlined before."
"Did you have an trouble or difficulty in conducting the test, Doctor?"
"What did you find?"
"A comparison of the DNA from the blood on the towel with the DNA of the blood obtained from the victim's body yielded an exact match."
"Was there any doubt or difference?"
"No, it was an exact match period," he retorted testily.
The prosecutor returned to desk and picked up a chart that was laying face down on her table. Turning, she showed it to the witness, "Can you identify this chart, doctor?"
"Certainly, it is the DNA comparison profile that I prepared for the victim. You can see the various bar strips on the chart."
Returning to her table, the prosecutor picked up another chart, "Do you recognize this chart?"
"Yes, it is the DNA profile I made for the blood on the towel here."
"Is it a match?" Hancock asked.
"It is a perfect match."
The prosecutor announced, "I would like these charts admitted into evidence."
Lynn had no objection, so Judge Kline stamped his gavel, "So ordered."
"I have no further questions," Hancock pronounced while sitting down.
"I have only a few questions, Dr. Brand," Lynn said while slowly arising. "Can you tell through DNA analysis as when the blood was placed on the towel?"
"No, I can not."
"Therefore this blood could have been on the towels, days, weeks or months earlier. Is that your testimony?"
"Objection, the question has been answered," Hancock stated.
"Objection, overruled," the judge wearily ruled.
In poor form, Dr. Brand stated, "DNA profiling will not give the time the blood was placed on the towel. As such, the blood could have been placed there at any time."
"No further questions," Lynn uttered with her back to the witness.
"The People have no further questions," Hancock affirmed.
"You are excused, Dr. Brand and you, Ms. Hancock, may call your next witness."
Turning to face the gallery, the prosecutor announced, "I call Megan Callon."
Lynn leaned over to whisper to June, "Who's she?"
"My boss, but I don't know what she can say," June shrugged her shoulders.
Into the courtroom cam a short plump, late middle-aged woman with a wide smile, frosted white hair and a cheery disposition. As she passed Lynn, she turned and gave a wide motherly smile to June and then proceeded to be sworn.
"Please state your name and occupation."
"I am Megan Agnes Callon. My husband and I own Callon Printing at 263 State Street, Ukiah."
"Do you know the defendant, June Maxwell?"
"Absolutely, I know her. She's the nicest person.."
"Please Mrs. Callon only answer the question asked."
"I'm sorry. it's just that she's such a dear child."
"How do you know her?"
"Why she has worked for me as a part-time receptionist for two years while going to college for her teaching degree." Turning to the Judge, she continued, "She's specializing in special education to help poor children with learning problems. They have a few of those at her church where..."
"Your Honor," Hancock turned to the Judge, "I believe the witness is hostile and I would like to ask leading questions."
"Denied, I detect no hostility on the part of Mrs. Callon." Turning to the witness, "Mrs. Callon, please don't volunteer information. Let the attorneys get the information in the order that they are seeking it."
"Yes, sir," Mrs. Callon answered with lowered eyes.
The prosecutor then came forward, "Mrs. Callon, have you ever seen this before?" holding up the knife.
"Yes, I think I've seen it before."
"Whose is it?"
"It's mine, I think," Mrs. Callon answered defiantly.
Getting angry, Hancock asked, "Did you give it to the defendant, June Maxwell?"
Calmly, the witness answered, "No."
The prosecutor screamed, "You did not give this knife to her? pointing to the defendant.
"Of course not."
"Well, please tell the court, that is if you know, how your knife got in the defendant's car."
"I have no idea," Mrs. Callon shook her head. "It's a mystery to me."
"Have you any idea how her fingerprints got on it?"
"I don't see what's so strange about that. After all, it came from her desk, didn't it?"
"Please explain," Hancock said while trying to maintain her calm disposition.
"I bought six of these at Payless Drugs. They had a tray of these letter openers. Each desk in the office has one. I didn't give it to June, it simply stays at the desk for use there."
"Very well," Hancock exhaled while taking a long shallow breath. "When was the last time you recall seeing this knife?"
"I simply don't recall. With so many identical letter openers floating around it is impossible to keep track. Besides, why would I? It only cost forty nine cents."
"But you are nonetheless able to identify it as the one from the defendant's desk? How is that?"
"That's part simple," Mrs. Callon leaned forward, "In order to keep track of whose desk it came from, I scratched a line for each desk on the handle. Taking the knife, she pointed to a small notch, this is the knife from the second desk, not June's."
"How do you explain this difference?"
With a shrug, Mrs. Callon replied, "Another good idea that didn't work in practice. It turned out that when we needed a letter opener whichever one was closest was the one used. So I gave up trying to keep track."
"But you nevertheless recognize this as a letter opener that you purchased?" Hancock waved the knife in the air.
"Yes, I do."
"Did the defendant have access to it?"
"Yes, she did."
"Would it have been easy for her to take it home?"
"Yes," she replied slowly, "it is possible."
"Did the defendant ever mention a certain Dean Hunter?"
"Yes, he did."
At the mention of Hunter's name, June tensed up and began to blush.
"What did she say about Hunter?"
"Objection, hearsay," Lynn interjected.
"Your Honor," this is a statement from the defendant. It also goes to state of mind and motive. As such, it is part of the res gestae of the crime."
"Objection overruled. Please answer Mrs. Callon."
"I don't like to gossip," she said primly. "However, I could see that he was no good for her. But she was blind."
"What do you mean blind?"
"I mean that she was in love. She was walking on clouds waiting to hear from him and dropping everything when the phone rang in case it was from him."
"Would you say she was infatuated with him?"
"Oh, yes she would have done anything for him." After she said that, she caught herself, "but I don't mean that she would..."
"That's alright, Mrs. Callon. We all know what was meant when you said that she would do anything for him." Turning to the Judge, Hancock stated, "Your Honor, I have no further questions of this witness."
Lynn came forward and asked, "Mrs. Callon, you state that the knife, or letter opener was kept on the desks, is that correct?"
"Yes, it is."
"How easy would it be to steal?"
"The letter opener? I suppose anyone could take it. It only cost forty nine cents. It's not like we stand guard over it."
"Is the front office always staffed?"
"No, when business is slow, we send the receptionist home and handle it ourselves. When someone comes, there is a bell at the receptionist desk, for them to ring for service, if the receptionist is out."
"In short, a person could come in when the desk is unmanned, take the knife and leave without being seen?"
"It might happen but I don't know why they would steal a long thin letter opener that is only worth forty nine cents. We have other more valuable equipment."
"Perhaps, they wanted a weapon to kill a person that already had fingerprints on it," Lynn added.
"Objection," Hancock said wearily, "that is not a question but is a statement. There is no evidence that the knife was stolen by anyone other the defendant."
Judge Kline stamped his gavel, "Objection sustained. Ms. Driskell confine your questioning to the facts of this case and do not make needless extraneous statements."
"Yes, Your Honor." Lynn acknowledged and then asked Mrs. Callon, "How well do you know June Maxwell?"
"I've known her and her family for years."
"Is the defendant a flighty, person?"
"Indeed not. She is a sweet young lady who got mixed up with the wrong company. She manages the choir at the church and does oodles of charity work. She is cheerful and a joy to be around."
"Would you say that she is capable of killing someone with a knife?"
"No, that's impossible." Shaking her head furiously, she continued with an expansive wave of her arm, "All this is ridiculous. June wouldn't hurt a fly."
"Your Honor," the prosecutor stood up, "this is improper character opinion that exceeds the scope of direct and if that is not enough it is expert opinion without a foundation being laid."
"Mrs. Callon," Lynn asked, "What were June's duties?"
"She was initially a receptionist but helped out doing anything that we needed. She never complained when called upon to work late or on weekends."
"Was she trust worthy?"
"Absolutely, when I broke my hip and my husband was in New York looking after his mother, she ran the business, made the bank deposits and came over and kept house for me."
"Have you ever been afraid of the June?"
"Of little June?" she asked in disbelief. "Absolutely not. Why sometimes it was like pulling teeth to get her to admit that she wanted something," Mrs. Callon waved her fingers in the air.
"Are you fond of June?"
"If my son wasn't already married with two children, I would fix June up him."
"What was your impression of Dean Hunter?"
"He struck me as sharpie. All smiles, teeth and hair. I disliked him from the start."
"Did you mention your feeling to June?"
"I tried. Since her mother is dead, I feel rather like her mother. I tried to warn her."
"Was she angry at your interference?"
"Angry, June? No. She was a little hurt, I could see because I didn't approve. So I backed off and waited to be there when he dumped her. Instead," she waved her hand, "this all happened."
"Your Honor, I feel that we have done the defendant's exemplary character to death. It is axiomatic that nice girls commit crimes with people later saying it was all unexpected and bizarre."
"I agree," Judge Kline ruled, "We have covered this area to death. Do you have any further questions not relating to the defendant's good character, Ms. Driskell?"
"I have no further questions, Your Honor."
The Judge looked over and said, "You may go Mrs. Callon and thank you for your testimony."
Mrs. Callon slowly got up, walked from the stand and then stopped at the defense table. Reaching over to touch June's hands, she assured, "I believe you. God will see you through this." The bailiff came over and silently guided Mrs. Callon out of the courtroom.
Margaret Hancock stated, after the commotion of Mrs. Callon's departure subsided, "I wish to call as my last witness, Dean Hunter."
June let out a deep sigh and flushed as a tall, thin man of about twenty five with wavy, brown hair and gray eyes came into the courtroom. Without looking to either side, he strode forward totally erect and with lithe grace. Stopping before the clerk, he was sworn in and took the stand.
The prosecutor glided forward, "Please state your name and address?"
"Dean Harris Hunter. I live at 617 Superba, Ukiah."
"Are you acquainted with the defendant, June Maxwell?"
"I am," he muttered lowly.
"What is the extent of that relationship?"
"We were friends."
"What was the extent of that friendship?"
"Objection, relevancy. It is totally immaterial to this case what the relationship was between the defendant and the witness," Lynn argued, all the while knowing it was futile.
"Your Honor, the examination goes to motive particularly jealously. In addition it goes to the bias of the witness. The People are well within their rights to ask for such information."
"Objection overruled, answer the question Mr. Hunter," Judge Kline ruled reluctantly.
"We were on intimate terms," Hunter responded slowly.
"How long were both of you lovers?"
"For about six months. Till," he waved his hands, "all this happened to Cathy Lambert."
"Were you in love with the defendant?"
"No, it was a mutual affair for companionship."
"Was the defendant in love with you?"
"No, I don't see why she would be. I never told her that I was in love with her."
"How often did you make love with the defendant?"
"Your Honor, please. The relationship has been established. It serves no purpose to go deeper," Lynn protested.
"Your Honor, frequency may give a much deeper insight into the defendant's feelings that mere words. Occasional sex is a sign of a loose relationship more often shows a deeper commitment."
"Answer the question, Mr. Hunter?"
"Well, towards the end we were making love two to four times a week."
"Aren't you boasting somewhat."
"No," he smiled, "We would go out usually to the Jeffie's or a Chinese place and then swing over to my apartment. I would have her safe at home by eleven."
"Would you describe the defendant as passionate?"
"Not initially but, in the end, yes."
"What do you mean by that?"
"By the way she made love."
"How do you mean?"
"She insisted on the dominant position and stayed there till she was done."
June gasped lowly and appeared to shrink into her chair.
"Did you know the deceased Cathy Lambert?"
"Were you intimate with her as well?"
"How long did this relationship last?"
"For about three months."
"When did your relationship end with Ms. Lambert?"
"When she was killed."
Are you saying that you were having an affair with Ms. Lambert and the defendant at the same time?" the prosecutor asked loudly.
"Yes," he said lowly.
"Please repeat that answer Mr. Hunter."
"I said yes,"
"Did you ever tell the defendant of this affair?"
"Where did you take Ms. Lambert?"
"We went to some of the same places as I took June."
"Did you ever see the defendant angry?"
"Once, at a party an old girl friend made a pass at me and June flared up and called her a tramp."
"Was there violence?"
"No, I stopped it before it got that far."
"Does that mean that you thought it would get that far?"
"I don't know. I just...well I didn't want any trouble."
Turning to the Judge, she asked, "Mr. Hunter, you have described a woman who is deeply passionate, sexually dominant and jealous. Is that your personal appraisal of the defendant, based upon your intimate relationship?"
"Yes, it is."
Hancock said, "I have no further questions."
Lynn came forward, "Mr. Hunter, did you ever tell Ms. Maxwell of your relationship with Cathy Lambert?"
"No, I did not?"
"I didn't feel it appropriate," he said lowly.
"Appropriate to whom, a woman who cared for you enough to break her faith in her church, and engage in a fight for you?"
As Hunter shrank back in the seat, Hancock objected, "Your Honor, the witness is being badgered."
"I withdraw the question," Lynn countered. "Now. you stated that the defendant liked the dominant position, is that correct?"
"Yes, that's true," he replied evenly.
"Is it your feeling that every woman who likes the dominant position is a murderess?"
"No, but.." a titter of laughter filled the courtroom.
The Judge stamped the gavel but said nothing as the room quieted again.
"Where did you pick the defendant up for your trysts?"
"Either at work or at church."
"What did the defendant do at church?"
"She was a student assistant teacher for handicapped children."
"How was she with children?"
Hancock stood up, "Objection, this is irrelevant hearsay. It
exceeds the scope of direct."
"Your Honor, the prosecution opened this line of questioning by introducing the relationship with the defendant. I am now entitled to follow that line to determine the depth of that relationship and the facts which formed the perception of the witness's opinion of the defendant."
"Objection overruled, answer," the Judge ruled shortly.
"She was wonderful with children. She would spend hours just sitting there playing games with them and repeating the same stories and letters over and over again."
"Did she ever lose patience with the children?"
"She sometimes was run ragged by the kids but I never saw her lose her temper."
"Did she ever complain about the children?"
"No, she loved the brats," he said tersely.
"What about you? Did you loved the brats?"
"No, I don't think its a good career move for a teacher to waste time with children that can't learn."
"How do you feel about children in general?"
"They're okay. I hope to have one or two some day."
"How many do you think the defendant wants?"
"Half a dozen at least. Her husband will have to work his ass off to support them all."
"Who was the dominant person in this relationship?"
"What do you mean?"
"Who made the initial contact?"
"Who usually made all of the decisions about where to go and what to see?"
"I did," Hunter said firmly.
"So, would you say you were in charge?"
"Yes, I guess so."
"So let me get this straight, you pursued the defendant, never told her that you did not love her, never told her about your relationship with Cathy Lambert, and were willing to let her fight for you without telling her any of this. Is that correct?"
Weakly, he said, "Yes."
"Now, where were you on the night of July 7?"
"I was home."
"How often did you pick June Maxwell up at work?"
"A couple times each week."
"So, you were familiar with the office?"
"Yes, I knew my way around."
"Were you familiar with the June's car?"
"Her Falcon? Yeah, it's a pile of junk. It needs a new exhaust system and smokes like a furnace."
"Does she lock it?"
"Usually not. The car's not worth stealing. In fact, usually she has trouble starting it."
"When was the last time that you visited Callon Publishing?"
"Early July, I do not remember the date."
"What do you remember of that visit?"
"Not much, June went in the back and I waited out front for her as usual?"
"While there, could you have taken something like a letter opener?"
Indignant, he leapt forward, "Of course not!! Why would I steal a letter opener?"
"To remove a problem perhaps."
Hancock jumped out of her seat and ran to the bench bellowing, "Objection, this is a blatant fishing expedition that has no place in a preliminary hearing. We are only concerned if the evidence produced is sufficient to tie the defendant with crime so as to justify binding her over. The fact that other people may conceivably, if the moon is in the seventh heavens or Jupiter aligns with Mars, may have weak motives or opportunities is irrelevant."
Lynn rebutted Hancock by stating in an even firm tone, "Your Honor, we are permitted to present evidence that another person may have committed the killing. If in fact, that evidence is more convincing than the prosecution's case, the court should refuse to bind the defendant over on these charges."
"Ms. Driskell, that is not the correct statement of the law. However, I see your point and I tend to agree. I see no point in wasting time and effort trying a weak case when the strongest evidence points elsewhere. I will withhold my ruling until I am satisfied as to the direction that it is taking." Turning to the witness, he said, "Mr. Hunter, you may answer but before you do so bear in mind that you have a constitutionally guaranteed right against incrimination. You do not have to state anything that may incriminate you in a crime."
"I have nothing to hide."
"Find, Mr. Hunter. Now, when was the last time, the defendant stayed with you?"
"I'm not sure sometimes around early July?"
"Have you ever driven the defendant's car?"
"A few times, I moved it for her. But I own my own a BMW. SO I don't have to borrow her car."
"How did you meet Cathy Lambert?"
"We met at a country dinner sponsored by her parents."
"Are her parents wealthy?"
"I believe that they are very well-off. Her father owns Lambert construction."
"What did Cathy Lambert do?"
"Nothing that I knew of. She was always studying to be some type of artist but wasn't able to support herself."
"She lived off her parents?"
"Yes, she did."
"Did you meet her parents?"
"Yes, I did."
"Did they like you?"
"Yes, I was offered a job as a supervisor by her father."
"When was this?"
"Sometime in May."
"Are you currently dating someone at this time?"
"Yes," he said angrily.
"Who is it?"
"I object, relevance Your Honor," Hancock threw up her hands in an off-hand manner.
"Ms. Driskell?" the Judge asked.
"Bias, motive, Your Honor," Lynn replied.
"Overruled," the Judge stated.
"Who is the woman, Mr. Hunter?"
"I won't say. I will not embarrass her."
"Mr. Hunter, you have testified that you carried on a torrid love affair with two women without telling either of them of your true feelings. Are we to believe that now, you have developed a conscience? Now, I ask you who is the woman?"
Lynn looked to the Judge, "Your Honor?"
Bending forward to get a good look at the witness, "Mr. Hunter, I have ordered you to answer. This is a capital case. If you don't answer, I will find you in contempt of court and sentence you to six months in jail. Do you understand?"
"Yes, I understand, Your Honor," he scowled.
"Will you answer the question, or do I send you to jail?"
"I will answer Judge."
Lynn asked, "Who is the woman?"
"Alice Kramer," Hunter replied testily.
"What does Ms. Kramer do for a living?"
"She is a vice president of Kramer winery."
"How long have you known her?"
Calculating the months, "So you knew her before the murder?"
"Yes, I guess so."
"What are your feelings about Miss Kramer?"
"We are engaged."
"When was the engagement announced, Mr. Hunter?"
"Less than two weeks after the murder," Lynn stated rather than asked. "Does Miss Kramer know of your affairs with Miss Lambert and Miss Maxwell while romancing her?"
"No, she does not," he said shortly.
"Is Miss Kramer wealthy?"
"I have no idea."
"But Miss Kramer is, to your knowledge, related to the Kramer wine family is she not?"
"I believe that she is."
"What arrangements have you made after your marriage?"
"I don't know what you mean?"
"Will you, Mr. Hunter, keep your job or join your wife's company?"
"I've been offered a position as the advertising manager for the winery."
"How much would you earn?"
"We haven't discussed salary but I assume around $100,000 per year. There would be substantial responsibility involved."
"When did you last see Cathy Lambert alive?"
"I think," he paused, "I last saw her sometime around the fifth of July."
"Did you ever intend to tell her about your engagement?"
"Yes, but she was killed before I could."
"When did you decide to ask Miss Kramer to marry you?"
"I'm not sure sometime in July."
"So, in July you were juggling three women at the same time isn't that correct?"
"Yes," Hunter replied slowly while avoiding eye contact.
"Now, if Miss Kramer found out about Miss Lambert or Miss Maxwell, is she the type to understand and forgive a case of raging hormones?"
"She's a very understanding and loving woman."
"She's also very rich, isn't she?"
"So what? It has nothing to do with this case," he shouted.
"It may have a great deal to do with the case. If she found out about the other women, no marriage, no job, no $100,000 per year. No fine house. Isn't that correct?"
"No, it's not like that," he stood, "I love her."
The bailiff came over and the Judge stated, "Mr. Hunter, you will keep you seat."
Hunter nodded his consent.
"Now, I ask you, Mr. Hunter, you did have a key to Cathy Lambert's apartment didn't you?"
"No, I did not."
"You didn't? Are you sure that you didn't exchange keys to each other's home?"
"Well, I did have a key to her apartment but I gave it back."
"Why did you return it?"
"As our relationship ended, it no longer felt right having a key to her apartment."
"But you didn't tell her of the other women even though you knew the relationship was ending?"
"Yes, that's true," shaking his head. "I didn't handle it properly," he sounded apologetic.
"Were you hedging your bets?"
"What do you mean?"
"It appears to me that you did not intend to dump Miss Lambert until you assured yourself of a better meal ticket," Lynn snapped harshly.
"That's a disgusting thing to say," he screamed.
"You're right." Walking up to Hunter she looked him straight in the eyes, "Did you kill Cathy Lambert to keep her from telling Miss Kramer of your affair?"
Hunter jumped up and slapped Lynn across the face. The force of the blow knocked her back and onto the floor. Immediately, Hunter was grabbed and wrested from the courtroom by bailiffs as the clerk ran from behind her desk to help Lynn up.
Judge Kline stamped the gavel while shouting over the bedlam, "Court recessed." Coming from behind the bench, he asked, "How are you? Do you want the matter continued to tomorrow?"
Lynn looked up and said, "No, let's finish this. I don't have many more questions."
"Ok." Judge Kline walked over to his bailiff and said something and then took the bench. Stamping the gavel, "Order in the court, we will complete this preliminary hearing. Everyone take your seat."
After everyone was seated, Hunter was led into court and was brought before the judge.
"Mr. Hunter, you will be charged with battery and contempt of court. Before that though, you will complete the testimony before this court. As previously advised, you have the right to refuse to testify if the answer may tend to incriminate you. Now, take the stand."
Standing up at her table, her cheek had a red welt from where she was slapped. "Did you kill Cathy Lambert?"
Hunter yelled, "I want an attorney. I am not answering any more questions."
Lynn looked up at the Judge, "Given the witness's invocation of his right against self-incrimination, I have no further questions."
Hancock, while seated, agreed, "I have no further questions either."
"Very well, Bailiff," Judge Kline stated while pointing with
his gavel, "take Mr. Hunter into custody."
Silently, Hunter arose from the stand and angrily marched from the courtroom surrounded by guards.
As the door closed behind Hunter, the prosecutor walked into the well and stated, "Your Honor, we have all witnessed a very emotional scene but let's not have our reason swept aside or suspended because of it. Mr. Hunter's outburst was not a confession of guilt to the murder of Cathy Lambert but rather an irrational response to a highly suggestive and insulting insinuation." Pointing to the defendant, she continued loudly, "Fanciful theories notwithstanding, the People have presented a tight concise case against the defendant. The murder weapon had her fingerprints on it. In fact, the murder weapon was wrapped in a towel in the defendant's locked car. Finally, the defendant's car was seen across the street from the victim's home at time of the murder. The driver had panicked and ran into Mr. Herton's trash cans." Taking a deep breath, she continued, "We have produced overwhelming evidence tying the defendant to the murder. A preliminary hearing is not a trial but is only a hearing to determine if any reasonable evidence exists to tie the defendant to the crime. We have shown that there is such evidence. For that reason, we ask that the defendants be bound over for trial on the charge of murder as set forth in the complaint."
"Ms. Driskell, your response," the Judge asked curtly.
"Your Honor," Lynn said with a polite bow to the prosecution. "We have effectively created plausible explanations for every piece of evidence against the defendant. In fact, the prime suspect and person benefitting the most from the killing is Mr. Hunter. Here's a violent man, which the court is now aware, who stood to greatly benefit if a marriage to Miss Kramer took place. The problem is that he had to assure that the women with whom he had been having affairs would not expose him. By killing Miss Lambert and framing the defendant, he effectively wipes out the problem. Everything used against the defendant applies with more force against Mr. Hunter." Taking a deep breath, she continued, "For the reasons stated, I move that the defendant be released and the charges against her dropped."
Judge Kline, leaned forward and slowly rendered his decision, "A preliminary hearing exists only to determine if there is any evidence connecting a defendant to a crime. The standard is much less that is required for a criminal conviction. While evidence may be construed in many ways, in a preliminary hearing, it must be construed, where reasonable, against the defendant. In this case, the murder weapon, with the defendant's fingerprints, was found in her car. In addition, the fact that the defendant's car was present at the time of the murder is certainly enough evidence to create a belief that the defendant may have been involved in the murder. I have not forgotten Mr. Hunter's behavior but that behavior fell short of a confession. When I consider all of the evidence in a cold dispassionate manner, I find that the prosecution has met its burden of proof and that the defendant therefore is ordered to be bound over for trial in the Superior Court for the charges raised in the complaint." Stamping his gavel, he pronounced, "Court is dismissed."
The prosecutor turned and, in triumph, left the courtroom. In the hall, she was surrounded by the media. Between posing seriously for camera, she fielded questions from the reporters.
"Miss Hancock, do you think the attack by Mr. Hunter on Miss Driskell will damage to your case?" the Tribune's Bert Hopkins asked while being jostled aside.
"Mr. Hunter's outburst was unfortunate. It was not a confession of guilt. He was virtually accused of committing a murder for which, if convicted, he could face the death sentence. Mr. Hunter overacted but that is not a confession. In fact, quite the opposite. It has been my experience that criminals do not become angry when confronted with the discovery of their crimes. In such an instance, the criminal may fight to escape but is not angry at the discovery. In this case, the mere accusation caused Mr. Hunter to fly into a rage. As strange as it seems, that spontaneous violence works to his benefit." An aide, from the D.A.'s office bent over and whispered in her ear. "In fact, a review of the police file in this case, still leads us to believe that the one, only and best suspect in the case is, has been and still remains, the defendant, June Maxwell."
"Miss Hancock," Annette Frome asked, "are you unhappy with the fact that the Sheriff did not have a search warrant before searching the defendant's car?"
"No, not really," she replied without meeting a beat. "The United States Supreme Court has recognized several exceptions to the necessity of requiring a search warrant. The key is whether, under the circumstances of the case, the search was reasonable."
"And you contend the search was reasonable?" Hopkins yelled from the back of the crowd.
"Of course, I do. Look at the facts. A murder was committed. The murderer's car was identified. The car was located. The defendant, the owner of the car was missing. The Sheriff had no way of knowing if the defendant was a homicidal maniac. Time was of the essence. It could have taken hours to get the warrant. During that time, evidence that might stop the murderer from committing more murders might be in the car. In such a circumstance, it is reasonable that the Sheriff search the car to attempt to discover additional evidence that may help apprehend the murderer before more innocent victims were killed."
"But," Frome stated, "no such evidence was found. Waiting for a search warrant would not have endangered anyone."
"We," Hancock retorted snidely, "do not have your insight. We are imperfect beings. If we knew everything, there would be no crime because we would be Gods. But we're not, you can't look in hindsight and make decisions. You must look at the facts as they appeared at the time. In that event, the search of the car was entirely proper."
"Are you going to offer a plea bargain?" Hopkins asked.
"If the defense is interested in exploring a plea bargain, then Ms. Driskell knows my number. But, I can tell you this, I will not be the one asking for it. We have the defendant dead to rights and I intend to put her behind bars for a very long time."
Strolling to the elevator, she pushed a button and as it opened, entered, turned around and waved goodbye.
While the prosecutor was in the hall speaking with the media, Lynn was packing her briefcase surrounded by her client, Mrs. Lampel and Susan Maxwell. As she closed the case, Judge Kline stuck his head in the courtroom, "Ms. Driskell, if you wish you can exit through my chambers."
"Thank you, Your Honor," grabbing her case, she headed through the door behind the bench followed by the other women. The door opened onto a long corridor flanked with more rooms. Tentatively walking down the hall, they glanced into various offices, a library, a conference room, and a jury room until finally coming to a sign marked exit. Without a word, Lynn pushed the door open and entered the stairwell followed closely by the others. When they heard the door slam and lock behind them, Lynn quipped, I hope the bottom door is open or else we're trapped." The bottom door was unlocked and opened to face the parking lot in the rear of the courthouse.
Mrs. Lampel came over to Lynn, "Dear, do you want to come over for a light lunch?"
"Yes," with a nod, she appeared to be searching for something. "We have to discuss this case. There's a phone over there," she pointed to a stand. "I have to make a call. I'll meet you at your place," and headed to the phone while the other women walked to their car.
Dropping twenty cents into the phone, she pushed the buttons, "Jeffie's, Bobbi speaking."
"Bobbi, this is Lynn. Is Luke there?"
"Yes, hold on," Lynn could hear the phone being laid on the table.
A slight rustle came on the line then Luke's voice rang, "Hi, dear, want some lunch?"
"Can't honey. I'm busy and will be working late tonight to."
"When will I see you Lynn?" Luke's voice sounded dead.
"Soon honey. This case won't last forever. I'll call you when I can. I'm sorry but I have to go."
"Sure, see you."
Lynn drove to the Lampel home. This was the first time that she had been there. It was a cute small cottage on a small manicured lot. The lawn was awash in color with a variety of well-groomed flowers. Parking on the street, she strolled up an unique walk of redwood slabs of a tree trunk. Knocking on the door, she was met by Susan wearing an apron, "Well," she tittered, "I see you made it. Come in. I'm doing KP."
The living room was a typical model of forty years ago. Small, it was furnished with a large overstuffed couch flanked with matching overstuffed chairs all of which were upholstered in maroon colored velvet. The arms of the couch and chairs were covered with lace doilies. In the middle of the room was an antique television with a large round picture tube. In front of the couch was a long, low coffee table with a glass top. Framed pictures of relatives from previous generations and of various sizes and shapes hung with no apparent pattern. Taking a seat on the couch, Lynn opened her briefcase and took out the file.
"How's it going?" Susan asked while laying a plate of salad on the table. Not waiting for an answer, "I'll get you a coke."
Mrs. Lampel poked her head around the corner of the kitchen, "If you want to freshen up, use Susie's bathroom. It's the second door, over there," she pointed down the narrow hall.
Lynn rose tentatively and headed down the hall. Susie's room was a cluttered mess and offended Lynn's sense of aesthetics. Pushing the door of the bathroom, she found its motion impeded by a pile of clothes and towels behind it. Moving the pile aside, she shut the door and proceeded to use the toilet. While on the toilet, she glanced down and noticed a small strip of paper. Picking it up, she saw that it had a red dot. On the strip was printed Maken Pregnancy Strip.
When Lynn returned to the living room, June came in and sat quietly in the chair across from her.
"Have you thought of anything today, June?"
"Lynn, I never recognized that man. He wasn't the man I knew. He struck you. I never saw that side of him. Do you think, he killed her?"
"I don't think so. It was good theater though. I hoped for a response when I baited him but I didn't count on that."
"You baited him?" Susan asked while bringing in a plate of sandwiches.
"Yes, when Don Juan admitted to all his trysts, I figured to blow a little smoke. I knew if I pushed just right something would happen. So I pushed."
"Well, he punched back," Susan laughed. "I bet that Miss Kramer is not going to have anything to do with him now."
"I think," Lynn laughed, "that's a safe assumption. Unless she wants to wait six months for the honeymoon."
"Do you think he did it?" Mrs. Lampel asked while laying some napkin down.
"No, I don't. Killing Cathy Lambert does remove the problem but framing June would only guarantee the story of his affairs getting out which would be what he killed to avoid. No," she said resignedly, "I afraid, Mr. Hunter is a rogue, a cad, a bounder, a rake and an all around heel but he isn't the murderer."
"Well, let's turn on the television. It's time for the 1:00 news," Susan flicked the TV on with her foot.
On the screen appeared Mandy Gorlan, the KMLG anchor who was in mid-sentence, "and the defense attorney, Lynn Driskell was attacked by the witness Dean Hunter when questioned about the affairs that he had with the defendant, the murdered woman and his current fiancee, Alice Kramer."
The tape of the court scene appeared on the screen. Lynn was given the unique opportunity of viewing her attack as a spectator. From the various camera angels, it was clear that the tape would be highly edited.
"Hey, that's me!," Susan laughed while nudging June. "I'm a star! Want my autograph?"
"Quiet, girls!" Mrs. Lampel snapped, "I can't hear."
All eyes turned to the screen and they saw, Lynn in the middle of the courtroom asking Hunter, "How did you meet Cathy Lambert?"
Hunter's discomfort at answering was evident as he replied, "We met at a country dinner sponsored by her parents."
When Lynn asked, "Are her parents wealthy?" Susan chimed in, "That will expose him as a fortune hunter."
Hunter's answer taken out of order, "Yes, I was offered a job as a supervisor my her father."
"I bet he wishes that he took it now," Susan said slowly."
The camera pulled back to frame Lynn asking Hunter, "Are you currently dating someone at this time?"
Panning in for a close up, the veins in Hunter's temple were visible when he sneered, "Yes."
While the scene was still focused on Hunter, Lynn's voice asked, "Who is it?"
A pained and shock look washed over Hunter's face and he stammered, "I won't say. I will not embarrass her."
The camera then focused a close up on Lynn who in a loud firm stern voice stated, "Mr. Hunter, you have testified that you carried on a torrid love affair with two women without telling either of them of your true feelings. Are we to believe that now, you have developed a conscience? Now, I ask you who is the woman?"
"Hooray," Susan shouted, "That's telling the heel."
The camera swept back to catch Hunter's belligerent reply, "I refuse."
The scene focused on the Judge bending over to look at Hunter and each of his words were, in clear pronouncement, heard, "Mr. Hunter, I have ordered you to answer. This is a capital case. If you don't answer, I will find you in contempt of court and sentence you to six months in jail. Do you understand?"
Hunter's ill-humored and edited reply was highlighted, "Alice Kramer. We are engaged."
With the camera was framing Hunter, Lynn's voice asked, "Will you, Mr. Hunter, keep your job or join your fiancee's company?"
Hunter face showed a building strain as he stated, "I've been offered a position as the advertising manager for the winery." Edited onto the answer was his statement, "We haven't discussed salary but I assume around $100,000 per year. There would be substantial responsibility involved."
The camera pulled back to show Lynn as she asked, "Now, if Miss Kramer were to learn about Miss Lambert or Miss Maxwell, is she the type to understand and forgive a case of raging hormones?" To her question was added another question, "It may have a great deal to do with the case. If she found out about the other women, no marriage, no job, no $100,000 per year, no fine house. Isn't that correct?"
"Not bloody likely, I would say," laughed Susan. "Good shot, Lynn that serves him right."
"Shh," Mrs. Lampel said while leaning closer to the set. "We're getting to the good part."
A very tight close-up on Lynn highlighted a sneer on her face as she stated, "It appears to me that you did not intend to dump Miss Lambert until you assured yourself of a better meal ticket."
Hunter's contorted face was caught on the screen as he screamed, "That's a disgusting thing to say."
"Here it comes," Susan giggled, "This is better than the soap operas."
The tape framed Lynn walking forward and saying in a clipped tone, "You're right. Did you kill Cathy Lambert to keep her from telling Miss Kramer of your affair?"
In slow motion, the tape was played showing Hunter rising from the stand, pulling back his arm and slapping Lynn across the face. Slowly, Lynn fell, like a leaf, backward to the floor. Bailiffs, moving as though in mud, came forward and pulled Hunter from the stand.
The scene then sped forward to when everyone was seated. Hunter was being led into court, in handcuffs, and brought before the judge who chastised, "Mr. Hunter, you will be charged with battery and contempt of court. Before that though, you will complete the testimony before this court. As previously advised, you have the right to refuse to testify if the answer may tend to incriminate you. Now, take the stand."
Then as Lynn stood up, the camera focused on her and clearly showed a growing red welt on her face as she asked, "Did you kill Cathy Lambert?"
The tape ended with Hunter yelling, "I want an attorney. I am not answering any more questions."
Gorlan appeared on the screen, "Despite the attack on the defense attorney, Lynn Driskell, Judge Kline still ordered the defendant bound over for trial on the murder of Cathy Lambert." The screen then switched to Annette Frome who was holding a earplug in her right ear. "Annette, can you tell us anything as to why the Judge bound the defendant over given what we have seen?"
"Yes, Megan. A preliminary hearing is not a trial. It is held just to see if there is any evidence to believe that the defendant might, and I stress might, have committed the crime. In this case there is a great deal of evidence that connects the defendant to the crime. As for Mr. Hunter's attack on Ms. Driskell, the D.A., Margaret Hancock, is quick to point out that it was not a confession but rather a emotional response to an insulting accusation."
"What happens next, Annette?"
"Megan, our legal advisors predict that the defense will be making a motion to suppress the evidence found in the defendant's car, particularly the knife and bloody towel. If so, the prosecution's case would be crippled but not killed." Shaking her head, "After all, they would still have the neighbor, Sam Herton's testimony and the glass shard which would place the defendant's car at the murder scene."
"Thank you, Annette." Megan turned to face the camera and said, "More on this story as it develops."
Mrs. Lampel switched the TV off, "This was quite a day."
Taking a seat on the couch next to Lynn, she picked up the photos on the table. "What are these?"
Between bites of a ham and cheese sandwich, Lynn answered, "They are pictures of the crime scene."
"Oh," Mrs. Lampel squealed as she saw the one with the body.
Grabbing some of the pictures, Susan mused, "Granny, you would have liked her. She certainly was a neatness freak."
With a sniff, Mrs. Lampel, countered, "Well, you could stand a little tidiness yourself. Your room is a mess. Still she wasn't that neat. She left her coasters out."
"What do you mean?" June asked.
"Here," Mrs. Lampel pointed to the coffee table. "On the left corner is a second coaster for her tea."
"Big deal, so she left a coaster," Susan pretended amazement. "She wasn't the perfect housekeeper. I also notice that she left a cup in the strainer after washing it, definitely a slob and a drug addict."
"Well," Mrs. Lampel responded, "when you're alone you're either neat or sloppy. She did keep everything else neat except putting away the washed cup or the coaster, just like John."
"Who?" asked Lynn.
"My husband, John," Mrs. Lampel chatted merrily. "He would wash the dishes and never put them away or pick up the coasters. He always said we would just get them out again." With a wry smile, she added, "You know how men are."
For a moment, Lynn, Susan and June looked at each other. Then suddenly, then dove for the photos.
"There's the cup," Susan shouted.
"There's the coaster," June added.
"What does that mean?" Mrs. Lampel asked.
Susan answered, "Granny, it means that a man was present when she died. He drugged her tea and killed her. Then, he washed her cup and placed it in the strainer. However, like a man he forgot to remove the coaster or to put the cup away."
"That means Hunter did it," Mrs. Lampel declared.
"Not necessarily. This is hardly conclusive proof. Also we may be wrong on motive. What if someone else wanted to kill her for another unrelated reason? I think that we have to look more deeply into her background."
Walking over to the phone, Lynn took out a pocket address book from her purse. Punching the buttons while holding the book in one hand, she squeezed the receiver between her shoulder and neck. As she put down the book and took the receiver in her hand, she said, "Ed, this is Lynn Driskell."
"Hi, Lynn what's up?"
"I need a good investigator right now."
"What's the case?"
"How strong is the case?"
"What do you want me to do?"
"Find the murderer," she quipped, "or at least a good facsimile."
"Any possibilities, Lynn?"
"Actually, we have a dandy but I just don't think he did it. Although, I can make a good argument that he did."
"What do they have against your client?"
"Oh, you know the usual," Lynn said offhandedly, " The murder weapon with her fingerprints on it wrapped in a towel with the victim's blood and found in my client's car."
"You're right," the deep voice laughed, "it's business as usual with you that the murder weapon is found in your client's car just like Mattox. Still, I don't see what I can do for you."
"Maybe nothing but I have to have someone on my side to offset Crier and Hancock."
"How is my old friend Crier?"
"The same lovable person as ever. I'm sure," Lynn replied sarcastically, "he'd just love to see you again."
"You know, Lynn," he added pensively. "I don't know if I can help you but I'll do anything to give you an even playing field. I wouldn't trust Crier any farther than I could throw his pot-bellied carcass. When do you want me there?"
"Next Wednesday, is fine. I'm going to file a motion to suppress with an order shortening time to be heard then. Hopefully, by then I will have been able to uncover enough leads for you to flesh out."
"Yes, this case is going to get interesting."
"I don't want to sound crass," Ed asserted, "but who pays for my services?"
"This is a court appointed case so the county will pay, Ed."
"Great," he snorted, "it took four months to get paid last time I did a court appointed case for you. Lynn, why don't you take big cases? If you move to Sacramento or Frisco, I can get you some real criminal clients."
"Thanks, Ed," she said with a nod, "but first things first. I'll see you Wednesday."
"Right, Lynn, bye," Ed hung up and Lynn turned to the women present with a thumbs up.
"We're on the way now. If there's anyone to find, Ed will find it. Now, I'm hungry. Where's that pie I saw you squirreling away."
The local section of the Sunday's newspaper was devoted, in large part to the Maxwell case. In the best tradition of yellow journalism, the newspaper was strewn with gory pictures of the crime scene. In addition to the photo of the defendant, photos of the attorneys and the victim were circled around the picture of Dean Hunter who had a question mark over it.
The article written by Bert Hopkin's read:
"The death of Cathy Lambert has become the talk of the town. The defendant, charged with the crime, June Maxwell, had been a rival of the deceased for the affections of Dean Hunter.
However, it turned out under cross examination by the defense attorney, Lynn Driskell, that Mr. Hunter had not really been interested in either woman. Instead Mr. Hunter became engaged shortly after the murder with Karen Kramer, vice president of Kramer Winery, an international leader in the wine industry.
A search was made of the defendant's car, which was spotted at the scene of the crime. The search uncovered the murder weapon, a knife, which was wrapped in a towel drenched in the victim's blood. The car was located as a result of an anonymous tip to Sheriff Crier. Upon receipt of the tip, Sheriff Crier tracked the car down using its license plate number and then searched it.
Before searching the car, Sheriff Crier did not obtain a search warrant. Sheriff Crier testified that the search was reasonable, under the circumstances, and that a warrant was not needed or required. Driskell, however, feels quite differently and has filed a motion to suppress the use of the evidence at trial. The motion will be heard on Wednesday before Judge Kline. If the motion is granted, the prosecution's case is will be seriously damaged. However, the case could still go forward because there would still be unsuppressed evidence that the defendant's car was at the scene at the time of the murder. Although, without the murder weapon or towel found in the car, it would be unlikely that the defendant would be found guilty.
Driskell pointed out, in the preliminary hearing, that all of the evidence against the defendant could also, with some basic assumptions, be applied almost equally to Dean Hunter. Under cross-examination, Driskell asked Hunter if he did not, in fact, murder Lambert whereupon he arose from the stand and attacked her in open court.
The District Attorney, Margaret Hancock, stated in court "Mr. Hunter's outburst was not a confession of guilt to the murder of Cathy Lambert but rather an irrational response to a highly suggestive and insulting insinuation. Fanciful theories notwithstanding, the People have presented a tight concise case against the defendant. The murder weapon had her fingerprints on it. In fact, the murder weapon was wrapped in a towel in the defendant's car was locked. The defendant's car was seen across the street from the victim's home around the time of the murder. The driver had panicked and ran into Mr. Herton's (the victim's neighbor) trash cans. We have produced overwhelming evidence tying the defendant to the murder."
In an interview, Hancock clarified her position on Hunter's attack on Driskell. "Mr. Hunter's outburst was unfortunate. However, it was not a confession of guilt. He was virtually accused of committing a murder for which, if convicted, he could face the death sentence. Mr. Hunter overreacted but that is not a confession. In fact, quite the opposite. It has been my experience that criminals do not become angry when confronted with the discovery of their crimes. In such an instance, the criminal may fight to escape but is not angry at the discovery. In this case, the mere accusation caused Mr. Hunter to fly into a rage. As strange as it seems, that spontaneous violence works to his benefit. In fact, a review of the police file in this case, still leads us to believe that the one, only and best suspect in the case is, has been and still remains, the defendant, June Maxwell."
In response to questioning regarding the effect of Sheriff Crier's warrantless search of the defendant's car, Hancock appeared unconcerned and stated, "The United States Supreme Court has recognized several exceptions to the necessity of requiring a search warrant. The key is whether, under the circumstances of the case, the search was reasonable."
In this case, Hancock asserts that a warrantless search was proper given the facts that a murder had been committed, the murderer's car had been identified, the car had been located and the owner of the car was missing. According to Hancock, Sheriff Crier had no way of knowing if the defendant was a homicidal maniac and time was of the essence. A search warrant could have taken hours to get and during that time, evidence that might stop the murderer from committing more murders, might be undiscovered in the car. The District attorney insists that under such circumstances, it was reasonable that the Sheriff search the car.
Adam Symthe, the President of the Mendocino Bar Association and a retired Superior Court from Los Angeles, was interviewed for his opinion on the warrantless searches by police.
The article was split by a picture of Adam Symthe in his library. Standing behind a conference table and in front a large book case containing legal books, was a tall, robust man with gray hair which still retained a tinge of yellow. Nattily dressed in a three piece brown pin-striped suit, with a yellow handkerchief and gold pocket watch and chain. Symthe's smile was warm with even white teeth.
"When asked about the warrantless search, Symthe stated that the Supreme Court has lessened the requirements for a search warrant over the years. Now, an exception is being carved on when the search reasonable under the circumstances of the case. The purpose of the expansion of exceptions to search warrants to "reasonable searches" is to permit otherwise relevant evidence to be used in court and to obtain more convictions."
"Symthe opposes the trend to permit reasonable searches without a warrant. The article went on to quote Sythme;
'The purpose of requiring a search warrant is to assure that all citizens are safe from governmental tyranny. We can not have the government knocking down doors on h hunches alone. We can get one hundred percent convictions if we suspend human rights and go back to using the third degree and the torture chamber. The only protection that we have from governmental abuse is the constitution. When the government crosses the line nothing ever happens to the individual government agent. Therefore, there is little to deter the government from abusing individual rights. In the case Imbler vs.Pachtman a district attorney used perjured testimony to obtain a murder conviction against an innocent man and then fought to keep him on death row. This appears to me to be attempted murder. The prosecutor deliberately sought seek to have an innocent man electrocuted for a crime that he did not commit. After the federal court released the man he sued the D.A. for violating his civil rights, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the suit holding that a D.A. has complete immunity for what he does in court even in case of deliberate false prosecution.
In Blevins vs. Ford, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth
Circuit, which covers us here in California, granted full immunity to a
District Attorney for falsification of evidence and subborning perjury.
Justifying the reduction of constitutional rights in order to increase
criminal convictions is misleading. As it is now, nearly ninety percent
of all criminal cases result in convictions either at trial or in plea
bargains. Most of those that get off are indeed innocent. We can rig the
courts so that everyone charged will be found guilty. We can have one hundred
percent convictions another name for which is FASCISM."
Lynn stopped her car in front of the brick facade, three storied building along State Street. While in the car, she leaned over in the seat and scanned the area. A large parking lot, framed by a brick wall was in the rear and she saw chiseled in the cement lintel, LAMBERT BUILDING. Sliding to the passenger side, she got out and walked up two ceramic tiled steps to double stained glass funeral doors. Opening the right door, she found herself in a large reception room with highly polished oak floors.
Walking forward, Lynn was met by a small young woman who poked her head out from around a wall behind a large ornate oak desk. "Can I help you?" Wearing a light blue shift, her brown shoulder length hair was light and bouncy and as she flipped her head, her hair fanned the air.
Lynn said, "Yes, I would like to speak with someone regarding Cathy Lambert. I'm Lynn Driskell, an attorney."
"Oh," the smile of the thin face faded, "I'll get Mrs. Allen." The woman disappeared behind the corner.
After a few minutes, the young woman returned followed by another. The other woman was red-haired, with pale blue eyes, about forty with a mouth which, despite lipstick, remained a small, thin line. "What can I do for you, I'm Jane Lambert Allen." The other woman quietly faded out of the room leaving Lynn alone to face Jane Allen's glowering stare.
"I'm.." Lynn started while unsure as to how to continue.
"I know who you are. You're representing my sister's killer just like you represented that monster, Mattox. What do you want?"
"I am sorry to intrude into your grief but.."
"Please get on with it," the woman stated impatiently while tapping her foot.
"I would like to get some information about your sister's background and her relationship with Dean Hunter."
"What?" Lynn asked amazed at the curtness of the woman.
"You heard me." raising her hand, Allen pointed to the door with an arm shaking in anger. "I never want to see you here again," she screeched.
Lynn started for the door and stopped to turn, "I'm sorry for you grief but I must make sure that an innocent person isn't convicted for a crime she didn't do."
As Lynn started for the door again, Allen screamed with a tear filled voice, "She killed my sister and I hope she rots in hell. Tell her that. I pray she gets the death sentence," she sobbed as the door closed behind Lynn.
Walking to her car, Lynn saw the woman, who had originally met her, loading some materials into the mini-van. After looking back to be sure Mrs. Allen wasn't watching, Lynn went over to the woman. "Need some help?" Lynn grabbed a box and handed it to her.
The woman's eyes widened and she blurted, "I don't want to
speak with you. Mrs. Allen will fire me."
"It's important that we speak. If not here then later."
Looking over her shoulder, the woman whispered, "Ok, get in the van. I have to deliver this load to the printers. We can talk on the way."
As they got in the car, Lynn asked, "Who are you?"
"I'm Carol Sock. I was a friend of Cathy." Shaking her head, "I never trusted Hunter and, after seeing what he did in court, I now think he could have killed her. That's why," she said through clenched teeth, "I'm talking with you. If I knew for certain that Maxwell killed her, I wouldn't talk to you until hell froze over." Sock was squeezing the steering wheel so tight, her knuckles turned white.
"What do you know of Hunter and Carol?"
"Cathy really was in love with him. She kept telling me that she expected him to ask her to marry him. She even planned to pop the question, if he wouldn't. That is why I think he might have done it. If he intended to marry that Kramer woman he couldn't afford to have Cathy lousing it up."
"It's a possibility that I haven't overlooked. What did Cathy do? What was her job?"
"Actually, not much. Her sister, Jane, runs the office. Her father runs the company from San Francisco."
"Is it a successful company?"
"Yes, we have about a hundred employees. They're always building somewhere. We are just the local office here. We're here only because the company started here and the Lamberts live here. Most of their work really is in the Bay area.
"What did Cathy Lambert do?"
"Really, not much. She was Lambert's youngest child. There was almost twenty years difference between her and Jane. There is even more between her and her brothers who work in the San Francisco office. Her parents always babied her. She wanted to be an artist and they let her take classes. She was going to New York to study next year."
"Even if she married?"
"Sure, she didn't see any problem with her parents footing the bill. Actually, I think they liked Hunter and thought he would be a good influence on her, Ha!" she smacked the steering wheel.
"So, Cathy just sponged off her folks."
"No, I don't mean that. It's just that she did not want to spend the rest of her life in construction. She helped out readily enough whenever someone needed assistance. She was also the notary for the office. Boy, her death caused a hassle there," Sock nodded her head.
"What do you mean by that?"
"Well, apparently when a notary dies the notary book must be delivered to the County Clerk."
"So?" puzzled Lynn.
"Shortly after her death, a man came over and asked if he could look at her notary book and I couldn't find it. He was quite anxious and became very upset when he couldn't see the book. Then he complained to the clerk's office and they sent a deputy over to search the office just to get the book."
"Finally, we found it in a file cabinet that I didn't think Cathy ever used. She had reorganized shortly before her death."
"So that was that?" Lynn asked.
"Yes, I gave it to them and they took it and left."
"What did Cathy Lambert notarize?"
"Usually, just our business documents. She was not listed in the phone book as a notary but she did have a small notary sign in the window. Occasionally, she had someone walk in, from the street, with something to notarize."
"You did not recognize this man?"
"No, I never saw him before."
"Yet, he was so angry when you couldn't find the book that he went to the police?"
"No, the clerk but otherwise that's right."
Lynn thought for a minute, then asked, "Was Cathy a neat person?"
Sock laughed weakly, "She almost had a phobia about it. She was a female, Felix Unger. Everything had to be washed and put away immediately after use. When I visited her, she would vacuum a clean rug while we spoke."
"Did she use coasters?"
"Coasters, placemats, napkins everything and, as soon as a person was done, they were immediately taken washed and put away."
As they drove past the courthouse, Lynn asked, "Will you stop here? I want to see the court clerk."
"How will you get back?" Sock pulled the car to the curb across from the County Annex building.
"I can call for a ride, thanks for the information. You have been helpful. If you remember anything that could be of help to me please call me." Reaching into her inside suit pocket, she took out a brass card case with her name engraved on it. Taking out a card, she handed it to Sock, "I really mean it, please call if you think of something a woman's life may depend on most innocuous information."
Putting the card in the side pocket of her shift, Sock nodded, "Ok, I hope you nail him." Then placing the car in gear, she pulled way from the car and continued north out of sight.
Lynn walked south to the courthouse, a block away. It was bright sunny day and the wind was lightly breezing through her hair. The conversation with Sock had served to substantiate her character appraisal of Cathy Lambert. Now, more than ever, she felt that someone had tea with Cathy Lambert before her murder. That person had to have been sufficiently known to Lambert as to be left alone long enough to be able to drug her tea. The clincher was Lambert's obsessive nature. While she might have taken and washed the cup when the guest was finished, she would not have forgotten the coaster and would have put both away. The fact that they were not put away was evidence to Lynn in huge letters of gold that someone else, probably a man, killed her.
The courthouse was a rather strange hybrid animal. The original building was built on School Street in 1930 out of gorgeous granite blocks. In 1968, an incompatible addition, of glass and steel, was built which extended the courthouse the width of the block to State Street. The School Street entrance was street level but the entrance on State Street was on the second floor so large wide steps covering half the width of the building were installed.
Lynn walked around the courthouse to the School Street entrance. The doorway was framed in marble with large glass doors encased in tarnished bronze. Swinging the huge doors open, Lynn entered a dark corridor. On her right, were double half-glass doors. On the yellow frosted glass was stenciled, COUNTY CLERK and ELECTIONS. Turning the wide, narrow iron door knob, Lynn entered.
The counter facing Lynn extended the length of the room. To the counter top had recently been added a high partition with narrow holes through which to see the clerks. When Lynn reached the counter, she saw an short, thin wizen old woman who, with a tired turn of her head, also saw Lynn. Pushing aside the pile of paper before her, the old woman propelled herself out of the solid wood chair and shuffled over to the counter, "Yes, can I help you?" she said in a tired, uninterested voice.
"Yes, I would like to see the notary book of Cathy Lambert. She recently died and the book was delivered to the clerk's office."
Disgustedly, the woman snorted and shook her head, "What's with that book? You're the fourth person who asked to see that book? You'd think it contained a map to a lost gold mine."
"That's news to me," Lynn asked. "Who were they?"
"I don't know who the first person was. He just came in and asked to see the book. When I told him that I didn't know anything about it, he asked to see the Court Clerk and complained that the book had not been turned in as required by law."
"What happened next?" Lynn asked as the woman turned, walked to the far wall and opened a large locked file cabinet.
The clerk pulled out the middle drawer and reached into it with a gnarled hand. After withdrawing several books which she each looked over, Lynn selected one and carried it over to the counter.
Last week, Thursday, I think, a middle-aged came in to see this book. I had just received it from the Sheriff's Office so I couldn't let her see it until it was microfilmed. He came back Friday. But before he saw it, Gladys Comp, an attorney, came in and asked to see it."
"Wow, that is something. I wonder what she wanted?" Lynn mused.
"That I do happen to know," the clerk stood on her tiptoes, leaned forward and whispered, "Comp, said it was for a probate she's handling, one that she just filed."
"Thanks that helps," Opening the book, Lynn went through the entries and did not find anything that appeared suspicious.
The clerk asked, "Have you found what you're looking for?"
With a shake of her head, "Actually, I don't know what I'm looking for but I'm betting it's here." Handing the book back to the clerk, Lynn said, "I'm going upstairs to Court Clerk's office to look at the probate files. If I find something, I'll be right back. Would you hold the book, please?"
"No, problem. With all the traffic this book is getting. I should rent it out. It would be a best seller," she laughed as Lynn left the room.
The Court Clerk's office was on the third floor. It was lighter and slightly more open that the County Clerk's Office mainly because the added partition to the counter top only went up to six feet rather than seven feet in the County Clerk's Office. In the corner of the office was a small table with a microfiche machine, two small boxes, each about six inches by three inches by three inches, and several bound books of computer paper. Walking over to the table, Lynn picked the boxes and examined them. The boxes contained sheets of microfiche which were both numbered and alphabetized. One box was labeled "Civil Index" and the other box was labeled "Criminal Index". The books were labeled current civil and criminal indexes respectfully. Opening the civil index book, she saw it was divided into family law, civil and probate filings. Turning to the probate index, she saw that each new case filing, from the beginning of the year, was cross-referenced by the name of the case, its case number and the attorney for the estate.
It took nearly twenty minutes to find the probate being handled by Gladys Comp, In re Lester Parker case number P 32098. Closing the book, she went to the counter.
A young, Oriental woman came over to her and asked softly, "May I help you?"
"Yes, I would like to see case P32098." The woman wrote the case number down and walked to a book case filled with case files. Running her fingers deftly through the files, she pulled one out and brought it to the counter.
"Thank you," Lynn said while taking the file to the table. Sitting down, she scanned through it. There was nothing in the file except that the decedent died on June 11 of that year. The Petition for Probate had been filed along with an inventory but nothing appeared extraordinary.
Lynn wrote down the address and phone number of Gladys Comp and returned it to the counter. The clerk saw her drop the file off and nodded to Lynn who returned the nod and left.
Peering through the hole in the County Clerk's partition, Lynn asserted, "I'm back."
"No kidding," the old clerk. Pointing with a gnarled hand, "The book is to your left."
Turning her head, Lynn saw it and, reaching through the hole, retrieved it, "Thanks."
Swiftly, Luke looked through the book disregarding all entries before the date of Parker's death. The entry of May 13, read that at 2:19 p.m., Cathy Lambert notarized a deed of sale to one Montel Development from Lester Parker. At 2:21, Cathy Lambert then notarized a subscribing witness statement of Nora Tripp at 1647 Basket, Willits, California.
Closing the book, Lynn peeked into the hole of the counter top, "I've found what I needed. Keep this book safe. It's going to be very important evidence in a couple cases."
"I'll handle it as though my life depends on it," the clerk laughed.
"Not yours, but maybe someone else's," Lynn countered as she left with the clerk's mystified stare following her.
Entering her office, Lynn threw her briefcase into the first of the two client chairs across from her desk. Reaching over the desk, she pulled the phone towards her while taking a piece of paper from her pocket. Scanning the paper, she quickly tapped the buttons on the phone. As the phone rang, she laid the paper on the desk and turned to face the wall covered with her diplomas and law license. "Law Office."
"Good morning, is Ms. Comp is please."
"I'll check," a light but impersonal female voice replied, "Who may I say is calling and what case is it?"
"My name is "Lynn Driskell. I am an attorney in Ukiah. I'm calling about her Parker probate."
"Hold on, I'll see if she's available." The phone went dead as her line was placed on hold.
A click on the line presaged, "Hello, this is Gladys Comp. May I help you?" The voice was light, but firm.
"Ms. Comp, I have a strange question to answer you regarding the Parker estate."
"What is it?"
"Is there anything in real property sale that would serve as the basis of murder?"
There was a long pause on the line and Lynn asked, "Is anyone there?"
"Yes, I'm still here. I think this is a matter that we should discuss in person. I would like to know your interest in the case. When would you like to meet?"
"How about this afternoon, Ms. Comp?"
"It's fine with me. You're coming from Ukiah so that means it will take at least an hour to get here. Therefore, if it's convenient let's say, three o'clock?'
"That's fine with me. She you then, Ms. Comp."
The drive to Santa Rosa is a straight shot on Highway 101. There is always a slight bottleneck in Cloverdale but except for that the drive is easy and fast. After little more than an hour, Lynn was pulling off the Third Street exit of Santa Rosa. Comp's address placed her in a tall, high-rise office building across the street from a public parking deck. After driving around the block twice, she could not find a parking space on the street. Reluctantly, she pulled into the parking deck and was handed a ticket from the attendant. The minimum parking charge was six dollars with one dollar per hour. As Lynn parked the car, she groused, "Not all crooks wear masks."
Grabbing her briefcase, she started to jay walk across the street when a car slammed its brakes and blew its horn, " A young man in a tee shirt leaned out of the car and yelled, "What are you stupid?" Watch where you go." Lynn rushed across the street and entered the building without looking back.
The elevator opened on in the middle of a reception room on the fifth floor. Against the far wall was a fire door and a wide formica desk behind which was a receptionist frantically attempting to keep pace with the calls. Looking up at Lynn, the woman smiled, took off a headset and asked, "What can I do for you?"
"I have a three o'clock appointment with Ms. Comp."
The receptionist flipped a switch on the intercom and announced, "Your three o'clock is here."
"Fine," came the familiar disembodied voice that Lynn had heard earlier. "Send her to my office. I'll be there shortly."
Looking up, the woman directed with her hand. "Go through this door to the end of the hall, turn left and walk to the second door to your left. That's her office."
Threading her way down a bland corridor that was covered in a coarse, beige wallpaper, Lynn stopped before an open office. The office was empty, in the sense no one was in it, but otherwise it was hardly empty. Every available spot seemed to have paper on it. Books were piled against the wall, one upon the other. The chairs before the desk were covered with piles of straggling paper and the desk had several paper trays filled to the brim with odd paper, files, assorted pens, paper clips and notebooks. Lynn immediately thought that she was in the wrong office and started back to the reception area when she ran into a young woman carrying a file. Stopping the woman, Lynn asked, "Could you tell me where is Ms. Comp's office?'
"Right there," she pointed to the office Lynn had just come out while continuing down the hall.
"I've seen messy offices but this is ridiculous," Lynn thought with derision. "How can she possibly find anything?" Deftly, Lynn edged into the office while trying to carefully avoid the assorted pieces of paper on the floor.
From behind her, a voice said, "Charge on in."
Turning, Lynn saw a woman about forty five years of age, short, plump and with a cheery, round face.
Pushing past Lynn, she picked up the lump of papers from a chair and turning in a circle, finally placed it on box in the corner. "Now, have a seat and tell me what interests you in the Parker estate."
Walking around the desk, Comp edged her way between two boxes on the floor and pulled her chair out. On it were several notes marked important which she glanced at before throwing into the waste bin. "I know that this seems terribly disorganized and it is to anyone but me. This is my security blanket," she laughed while sweeping the room with her arms. "I have everything at my fingertips. I know where every piece of paper is at." Nodding her head, "I know you don't believe that, but," she smiled, "it is true. I can find anything here," she swept the room with her hand.
"Why not just use file cabinets?" Lynn asked which dubiously scanning the disarray. "Then you would never lose anything."
Comp suppressed a chuckle, "Dear, I've tried file cabinets. They don't work for me. In probate work, we have so much paper work, exhibits, inventories. It just is not feasible to use cabinets. See that group of boxes in the corner," pointing with a ruler, "that's all one probate. With product like that a file cabinet would soon be filled. No one touches this office. It's all my domain. The prissy corporate attorneys on this floor and the divorce attorneys are able to have nice antiseptic offices because they don't have the paper work I do."
Sensing she may have touched a sore spot, Lynn said sweetly, "I know what you mean. My home is a mess but I can find anything but if someone moves one stocking, then I'm totally lost and bewildered."
"Ah, a kindred spirit. Now what can this sister of the robe do for you?"
"I represent June Maxwell who has been accused of killing Cathy Lambert."
A slight frown appeared on Comp's cherub face. "The Maxwell name means anything to me. How does she apply to the Parker estate? You mentioned something about murder."
"Cathy Lambert was the notary for the Parker sale."
"Yes, I know. I checked her notary book to verify that she did indeed notarize the sale of Lester Parker to Montel Development, a Nevada Corporation."
"Why did you check the notary book?"
"Normally," she paused for a shrug, "I would not but the sale was such a surprise to the family."
"Surprise? How do you mean?"
"Well, I did the estate plan for Mr. Parker last year. He knew that he was dying of cancer and wanted to settle everything for his family. He is survived by a son and daughter."
"What did the trust call for?"
"Nothing special, upon death the trust was to terminate and the assets be divided between the children."
"So what about the sale?"
"The property consists mainly of five hundred acres immediately to the east of Willits. It is the flattest chunk of real property in the area. It is a farm with excellent water and could be divided for residential development. An appraisal made last year, before Lester was diagnosed with terminal cancer, valued it at $700.000.00. The original purchase price was $30,000 forty three years ago. In a sale there would be nearly $150,000 in capital gain taxes due on the sale even with the over 55 tax credit. When Lester realized that most of the property could be passed tax free to his children and that they could sell it tax free on his death, he chose not to sell and rejected all offers."
"So what happened and why are you in a probate if the property was in a trust?"
"For some reason," Comp shrugged her shoulder, " Lester apparently changed his main and executed a contract to sell the property to Montel Development. The contract was signed by Lester as trustee but the payments was to be to made to Lester individually. I'm sure it was just a drafting mistake but it can't be corrected now that he is dead. So if the sale goes through, because the non-trust estate is over $60,000 it must be probated."
"That doesn't seem like the best estate planning."
"No, Ms. Driskell, it does not. In fact, my first inclination was to attempt to set aside the contract for lack of legal capacity to form the requisite intent to execute a contract."
"Call, me Lynn, I agree. Mr. Parker's actions certainly give rise to an inference of mental incompetence."
"You might think so but his doctor said he had a minor remission of the cancer and was totally alert and competent except when they were doing chemotherapy. He was one of the few people in the state who were receiving marijuana to combat the nausea of chemotherapy and it was working."
"So out of the blue, he signs a contract for the sale of the property and which will cost his family one hundred and fifty thousand dollars in taxes and then dies?"
"Gladys, how did Parker die?"
"In his sleep."
"What did the autopsy say?"
"No autopsy was done. He was a terminal cancer patient, died in a hospital and had a treating physician. There was no need. Do you have something?"
"Just what we have been discussing."
"Could I see the contract in question?"
"Certainly," Comp arose from her seat walked around the desk to a pile of boxes. Moving the boxes carefully, she grabbed a slender file between the boxes. Laying the file against a box, she opened it to reveal a manila envelope stapled to the inside cover. Reaching into the envelope, she pulled out a document and handed it backward to Lynn while restacking the boxes.
Quickly scanning the document, Lynn looked up with a puzzled look. "Why are there two acknowledgments? It appears that Parker acknowledged it and so did a woman, Nora Tripp."
"Nora Tripp is, or was, Parker's nurse. The buyer just felt that an additional witness wouldn't hurt. Given that both the nurse's and doctor's statement stated that Lester was alert and not susceptible to overreaching it did not seem likely to prevail on a complaint to set the sale aside. Now..." Comp stood silently considering something to herself.
"Is there anything else?" Lynn asked while eyeing Comp suspiciously.
Picking up the folder and taking a letter out of it, Comp winked while handing it to Lynn, "You asked about a motive as to why someone would kill for the property. This might be it."
Lynn scanned the letter and whistled slowly. "Not bad!" "You can say that again. What I don't know is how they knew."
"This could answer some questions," Lynn agreed.
"It really is something. Here Montel Development enters a contract to buy the property for $700,000 and within sixty days enters into a contract with Torco Land to sell it for seven million dollars. The whole deal is in escrow until the estate clears probate. If the contract had called for payment to the trust, then there would not be a probate and the son, Albert, would simply sign a deed and receive a check."
"What do you know of Torco Land?"
"I don't move in their circles but as the attorney for the estate, I was able to glean, Lynn, that they intend to construct some major industrial complex possibly some new Silicon Valley and this property is part of it."
"Now that is interesting. Was there anything else odd that you now about?"
"There's only one thing but I don't think it applies. A couple of months before he died Lester received notification from the DMV that someone had sought his driving record because of an alleged accident. The driving record, but not his address, was released. It turned out that we couldn't track down the person making the request.
"Sound odd but it probably was a mistake where they confused Parker with someone else. After all it is a common name."
"You're probably right, that's how I figured it, Lynn."
"Well," Lynn said taking a deep breath, "this sounds like it's getting big."
"Yes, it does. Tell me, Lynn, would you be willing to take this case. I'm sure the family will agree to retain you to set aside the contract."
"I have a client right now. I don't know if I could handle such a case like this right now."
Well, Lynn I'm not a trial attorney and you are. You are also as familiar with it as I am. Finally, think of the advantages of taking this case."
"What do you mean by advantages?" Lynn asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Well as the attorney or the estate, you can ask questions and take depositions that you can't do in the criminal case as Montel Development is a Nevada Corporation and Torco Land is a Delaware Corporation. However, they must come into a California court if they wish to enforce the contract for sale. That would give you the opportunity to depose and examine them.
"Gladys, that is an interesting thought." Looking down at the letter, Lynn shook her head, "The timing isn't any good. My trial will be held in about sixty days and the probate would drag out past then."
"Not really, as that letter says, Torco Land and Montel Development, intend to immediately file a complaint to confirm the sale next week. Time is of the essence, so they will be more than willing to agree to immediate discovery."
Lynn leaned against the desk and her back brushed against the stack of paper tray knocking them. Embarrassed, she turned around and started to pick the mess up.
"No, don't other, I'll do it. That way I'll know what's in tray." Walking around the desk and leaning against a pile of boxes, Comp continued, "Are you interested in taking the case?'
For a moment, Lynn hesitated then waved the letter in her hand, "Most assuredly, can I have a copy of this letter?"
"Sure, Lynn." Pushing a button on her phone, "I'll have a copy made for you." Flipping the switch, she stood up and stretched her hands behind her back, "I'll notify our clients that you taking the trial. They'll out of state and will leave everything to us."
The young woman, who had pointed the office to Lynn, tapped at the door.
"Come in Sandi. I want you copy this letter, now, and then come back to copy this file whenever you can."
"You want the letter right now?"
Comp nodded and without another word Sandi disappeared with the file and the letter. In a matter of minutes, she returned with the letter and the copy.
"Thanks, Sandi," Comp stated while handing the copy to Lynn and giving the original back to Sandi. "Please put this in the file you are to copy." With a nod, Sandi turned and left.
"Well," Lynn abruptly wheezed, "I'll be seeing you and I'll be waiting for the file." With a backhand wave, she stepped over two boxes on her way out.
Lynn stood in the hallway on the third floor of the Mendocino Convalescent Hospital surveying the office before her. Double plate-glass doors opened into a rather shallow room before a long, waist high counter running the width of the room. On the right wall was a huge bulletin board, made of cork. Carefully ordered job openings, with large colored pins, were spread over the board. On the opposite wall was a display of glass shelves containing small figurines of the human body in various poses. The pebbled glass doors contained the legend Personnel Office.
Slowly and evenly, Lynn pushed open both of the doors and entered the office. A young woman seated before a computer terminal smiled mechanically. "May I help you?" she asked without getting up.
Lynn replied with an equally indifferent smile, "I would like to see the Personnel Director."
"Is there something that I could help you with? All of our job vacancies are on the board behind you."
"No thanks, I haven't come about a job."
"Could you tell me what this concerns?" For the first time the woman's face betrayed a flicker of interest in Lynn.
"No," Lynn said mildly, "I think I should speak with the appropriate supervisor."
"Wait, here, please," the woman turned quickly and walked around a tall partition. Lynn heard her pick up a phone and say, "There's a woman who insist on speaking with the director." Quietly, replacing the phone, she returned to Lynn. "I've called my supervisor, Harold Cart, who will be done to see you."
"Is he the Personnel Director?"
"No, he's the assistant director. The director is out of town on a business trip."
"Then I'll see Mr. Cart."
"May I have your name, please?"
"It's Lynn Driskell."
"May I ask what firm you represent?"
"I don't represent a firm. I'm an attorney and I happen to be here to discuss an employee by the name of Nora Tripp."
At the mention of the name Nora Tripp, the woman raised her eyes, "Oh, Oh! I see. Please excuse me." Quickly darting around the partition, she snatched the phone and punched the buttons. Lynn heard a hurried whisper but could not understand what was said.
While facing forward, a noise came from behind Lynn. While turning, she saw the right door swing forward. A heavyset, chunky individual strode into the room. Lynn stared at a man, in his late thirties, with dark brown hair receding into a horse shoe pattern, bushy eyebrows that appeared to run together, keen brown eyes, and gold wire-rimmed glasses.
"Yes, are you Mr. Cart?"
"Yes, I am."
"What is it that you wish to see us about?"
"Nora Tripp, I believe you know her, a nurse."
"I know of her," Cart corrected warily while moving to the side. Lynn was being appraised by Cart as a fighter is sized up by an opponent entering a ring.
"Well, I wish to speak about her employment."
"This is hardly the time or the place to discuss a sensitive matter of this type."
"What's wrong with the time and place?" Lynn parried.
"Well, you didn't give us any warning. We're not prepared," Cart stammered.
"I didn't think that you needed a warning that I wanted to speak to you about Nora Tripp."
"A poor choice of words but still this isn't quite the place to conduct such a confidential meeting."
"It's the only place that I know to meet."
"Would you hold please?" Turning to the woman behind the counter, "Mavis, call John and have him meet us in the conference room and have him bring the Tripp file." Wheeling on his heels, he walked to the door and held it open for Lynn, "Our conference room is down the hall. It's more convenient that talking here."
Together, they walked down the bland, undecorated, yellow hall on an industrial grade green carpet, past several young men, who stopped their work to gawk at Lynn as she passed.
Cart opened the door to the conference room and after Lynn entered said, "This is a more private area for such a confidential discussion. I'm sure you would agree."
The room was empty except for a long walnut conference table surrounded by nondescript chairs. Placing her briefcase at the head of the table, Lynn sat down while Cart remained standing.
Cart appeared nervous and would glance at Lynn and then down the hall. After a few minutes of silent tension, Cart stared down the hall and visibly relaxed as a tall, slim man entered into the room. In his early thirties, with wavy blond hair, a broad mustache, blue eyes and a full mouth, upon seeing Lynn he broke into a broad warm smile, "I'm Jonathan Cribber, the hospital's attorney. I understand that you have some questions about the Nora Tripp?"
"Yes, I have some questions about her employment."
Cart interjected, "Really, Miss Driskell, there really isn't anything more to say. We terminated her for cause. As for her threatened suit for wrongful termination, we are prepared to fight it all the way. Isn't that true, John?"
Opening his file, Cribber scanned it and then looked up, "I know your client states that she was wrongly terminated but the evidence is quite overwhelming that she was stealing medication and short cutting medication intended for patients.
"How did you reach such a damaging and horrendous conclusion?" Lynn asked with interest.
"I assure you," Cart said firmly, "We did not handle this matter cavalierly. We made a detailed audit of our supplies, cross-checked it with the written prescriptions, those having access to the prescriptions and finally we took random samples of the medication to be given the patients."
"And you assumed that all of that pointed to the Ms. Tripp as a thief?"
"Yes," Cart nodded his head curtly.
"It sound to me as though any number of people could have done it. Including the doctors, pharmacists, other nurses, and even the packagers of the pills themselves."
"Well, there is more," Cribber said with a sly grin. "She did fail the drug test. That of course is grounds for dismissal from the job."
"Actually," Lynn said, "I'm not sure it is. After all, that depends on the drug found and, for that matter, when it was taken and if it impairs the job performance."
"Well, we can't have nurses with drug problems tending patients," Cart retorted.
"Perhaps, but it is my understanding that drug use among nurses is fairly common as a result of job stress. In fact most hospitals have programs to help nurses beat their addiction, don't they? With the shortage of nurses most hospitals can't afford to lose a trained nurse, if she can be rehabilitated."
Cribber leaned back and said sternly, "All that may be true but it doesn't justify a nurse breaking into a patient's files to falsify medical records."
"That is a rather strong charge that would have to be substantiated with overwhelming evidence," Lynn declared evenly.
Cribber took out of his file a piece of paper and handed it to Lynn. "This is a statement of the floor nurse who found her in the file room which she had no business being and reading a former patient's file."
"So, what's wrong with that?"
Lynn scanned the letter and said, "This doesn't prove anything. All it states is that she was found reading a former patient's file. Big deal."
"Only doctors and other permitted people are allowed to read patient's file. She had no reason or justification for breaking into the records room," Cart stated firmly.
"The file was that of her former patient wasn't it? So she was verifying that malpractice had not taken place and was being covered up. That certainly would give justification to searching the files wouldn't it?"
Cart's eyes widened and his face flustered, "That's a lie, Parker died of natural causes because of cancer."
"If there was no reason to assume malpractice, then why fire Miss Tripp just because she looked at the file?"
"There's more to it that," Cribber said, "there is still the missing drugs."
"That's what you're going to have a hard time proving," Lynn returned.
"Actually, it's not going to be that difficult. When we started to focus on Miss Tripp because of her erratic behavior we took blood tests of the patients, with their consent, and checked for the prescriptions shortly after the medication was to have been given. We found a consistent pattern of certain medication either not being given or not being given in the correct dosage."
"And what was the medication in question?" Lynn asked.
"Valium," Cart echoed.
"I see, VALIUM. But isn't VALIUM an anti-depressant or tranquilizer? Not giving it does not pose a danger to life, does it?" Lynn asked while leaning forward to scan Cribber's file which was upside down.
"I'm not a doctor," Cribber said, "but I know that nurses aren't supposed to shortcut pain medication and underdose patients in pain."
"I don't doubt that in the least," Lynn agreed.
Cribber stated, "When we fired Ms. Tripp, it was agreed that in place of her seeking unemployment insurance that we would not disclose the reasons for her termination to anyone."
"That seems a reasonable agreement."
"We thought so," Cart agreed.
With a slight frown, Lynn asked, "I'm puzzled though that the hospital would make such an offer."
Cribber answered, "The hospital did not want the bad publicity. The pilfering of medication would undermine the hospital's reputation in the community and profitable patients would go to Santa Rosa rather than stay here for fear that their medication would be taken. It was a matter of economics."
Cart then interjected, "In addition, Medicare has been known to reduce payments using some arbitrary figure to reflect pilfered medication for which they would not pay. All in all, it was reasonable to just quietly terminate her. We thought she agreed with the wisdom in that."
Cribber added, "In fact, as I recall she didn't seen all that concerned. She said something to the effect that she expected to soon be able to give up nursing altogether anyway."
"What did you think she meant by that?" Lynn asked
"I didn't think much of it. I suppose she meant to get married unless," Cribber smiled, "she expected to hit the lottery."
"Now apparently," Cart sneered, "she has retained you to file a wrongful termination suit against the hospital. To head that off is the reason that I have shown you what we have. We can't have nurses altering files."
"Tell me," Lynn asked, "Why did you say that Miss Tripp was altering the records of Mr. Parker?"
Cart hesitated and Cribber interjected, "All we know is that was going through in the file after it was closed. That is violation of hospital policy. Such unauthorized access to the file could render it inaccurate."
"Or," Lynn said "it could make the file accurate."
"What does that mean?" Cart snapped with eyebrows arched.
"I'm not quite sure yet," Lynn mused, "but it opens some intriguing possibilities,"
"Well enough of this," Cart jumped up. "If your client wishes to sue, then so be it. We'll see that her license is lost."
Lynn bent over and reached for the file in front on Cribber, "May I see the Parker file?"
Snatching back the file, Cribber said, "I'm sorry this is a confidential file."
Opening her case, Lynn brought out a piece of paper which she handed to Cribber. "This is a medical release signed by Gladys Comp the attorney for the estate of Lester Parker."
"What's going on?" Cart snapped, "Are you also representing the Parker estate along with Nora Tripp?"
"I never said that I was representing Nora Tripp. That was an unwarranted assumption on your part."
"You could have told us," Cart whined.
"Why should I have to tell you that? I merely listened to what you told me. I never said anything that misled you in any way shape or form."
"But by you silence, you got improper information from us." Cribber stated.
"As the representative for the Parker estate, I was totally within my rights and that of my client to ask questions regarding the nurse, Nora Tripp, who attended the deceased Lester Parker. I don't know if you would have told me of Ms. Tripp's drug problem had I been given the opportunity to explain myself first but I would have been entitled to that information regardless."
"Well I don't like your actions and I don't intend to cooperate anymore," Cart shouted.
"That's up to you. I will simply subpoena the Parker file and
take your deposition, Mr. Cart. It really is just that simple."
Cribber asked, "Why do you want to see the file?"
"There's no secret in that Mr. Cribber. The estate is suing to set aside a contract for sale of some real property that Mr. Lester signed shortly before his death. To set it aside, we must show some type of mental incompetence, temporary or permanent, at the time the contract was signed."
"What does Nora Tripp have to do with that?" Cart retorted.
"She was a subscribing witness to the contract and as Parker's nurse, she will be called to testify as to his mental state at that time."
"Why did you come to me?" Cart asked.
"I wanted to get your opinion of her before she was contacted. I admit that I never expected what you told me. I thought that I would get the ordinary, 'She's the salt of the Earth.' You know the spiel, 'We can't do without her.'"
Cribber slid the Parker file over the Lynn with his fingertips. For several seconds, she flipped through the pages and then asked, "Why wasn't a autopsy done?"
"It wasn't required when he died under a doctor's care. Is there some reason that we should have done so?" Cribber asked.
"At that time, probably not," Lynn muttered.
"But now, you think there is reason to do so, you mean," Cribber continued the thought.
Cart got up and asked, "What could an autopsy possibly show? The man died of cancer, period."
"Maybe, but I am going to ask for an autopsy."
"I can't think of what an autopsy could find to help your client," Cribber stated. "He did not suffer from senile dementia or any other mental disease which could be verified by an autopsy."
"That might be but what you have told me gives me an uneasy feeling."
"What are you talking about?" Cart asked. "What could we have said that justifies an autopsy?"
"You said that Nora Tripp was caught going through the Parker file after he died," Lynn's repartee was sharp.
A shocked look swept Cart's face, "So you think she covered up malpractice. You said as much."
Lynn got up and walked to the door, "or something else."
"Such as?" Cribber asked dubiously.