March 25th, 10:00 AM
Courtroom No. 4
The atmosphere was alive with mumbling banter and cross conversation. Standing across from me was the prosecutor, an elderly gentleman wearing opaque glasses and a grey suit. Was it just me, or did he look kinda smug? Before I could explore further, the Judge banged his gavel, demanding our attention.
"Court is now in session for the trial of Ms. Sherry Blossom." said he. "Are both sides ready?"
"The prosecution is ready, Your Honor." said the prosecutor in a screechy voice. I tried to show my readiness, but the words were stuck in my throat.
"Ms. Brisby, is the defense ready?" the Judge asked sternly.
"Eep! Uh, yessir, Your Honor." I said practically in one breath.
The prosecutor snickered. "It certainly doesn't sound like it to me. Your Honor, I wish to ascertain the defense's readiness."
Kristoph sighed. "If you're trying to intimidate us, it won't work, Mr. Payne."Sure as hell worked on me.
I thought to myself, almost shrinking behind the banister.
"Stand firm, Brisby." said Kristoph. "This is a common tactic that Winston Payne likes to pull on greenhorn defense attorneys. You can't let him get away with it."Easier said than done.
I thought. Nevertheless, I straightened myself up and fixed my draping black ponytail. "I am indeed ready, Your Honor."
The Judge raised a skeptical eyebrow. "If this is so, then permit me to ask you a few questions about the case, Ms. Brisby."
"First of all, what is the name of the victim?"
"This should be an easy one." said Kristoph. "It says so right..."
"In the Court Record, right?" I said, finishing Kristoph's thought.
"Good girl." said Kristoph with a nod.
Right away, I checked the record. There it was, in black and white.
"Dr. Daniel Ryan, Your Honor." I said. "He was a forensic detective, specializing in chemical analysis and poisons."
"Very good." said the Judge with a nod. "Now, what was the cause of death?"
Cause of death, cause of death... Ah-ha! Right in the autopsy report.
"He was stabbed in the back some time between 4:30 and 5:00 PM." I said.
"Indeed." said Payne, sounding rather smug. "And the murder weapon was this pocketknife, found on the defendant's person and caked with the victim's blood."
"The court accepts the murder weapon into evidence." said the Judge. This sounded wrong note to me.
"Mr. Payne, why would my client have this? I'm pretty sure flower girls don't usually carry knives."
Payne scoffed. "You obviously haven't grown up here in LA, Ms. Brisby. The streets are dangerous, especially at night."
Okay, he kinda got me there. "E-even so, that's stretching it a little. There's no motive."
"Well, we'll just have to find out, won't we?" said Payne.
I had to smile at that. "That sounds like an admission that you don't know what her motive was."
Th-that doesn't matter." insisted Payne. "There's more evidence pointing to Ms. Blossom being the killer."
He then presented two photos. One was of the crime scene, with a bloody wound in Dr. Ryan's upper back. The other appeared to be an overturned flower basket, and the flowers had blood splatter on them.
"I wish to draw the court's attention to this here." said Payne, pointing to what looked like a trail of footprints in the first photo. "These are Ms. Blossom's footprints. We followed them further along down the bank, where Ms. Blossom was on the ground with her basket overturned, as shown in the second photo. A DNA analysis shows that the blood in the second photo matches that of the victim. Your Honor, the conclusion is clear. Ms. Blossom was the murderer, and she was trying to flee the scene!"
I recoiled and shrank behind the banister again. Even without a motive, this evidence was pretty damning.
"The court accepts both photos into evidence." said the Judge. "Mr. Payne, you may call your first witness."
"The prosecution wishes to call the defendant, Ms. Blossom, to the stand." said Payne. "She has some explaining to do."
"Very well." said the Judge with a bang of his gavel. "Ms. Blossom, please take the stand."
"Brisby, get up. This is no time to panic." said Kristoph. "The trial has only begun."
Only begun? There was going to be more of this? I felt sick to my stomach. And seeing a timid young girl take the stand didn't help.
"Witness, please state your name and occupation." said the Judge.
The girl whispered something inaudible.
"Um, witness, please speak up." said the Judge.
The girl's mumbling became slightly clearer, emphasis on slightly. Payne seemed pleased with himself.
"Witness, if you don't speak up, I'll have to treat you as a difficult witness." the Judge said, losing his patience.
"Sh-sherry Blossom. I sell flowers." said Blossom.
"Ms. Blossom, were you or were you not in People Park between the hours of 4 and 5:00 PM on March 23rd?" asked Payne.
"I-I was." said Blossom meekly. "I always am."
"Then, give us a testimony about what happened during that time." said Payne.
"Wh-what is there to tell?" asked Blossom, sounding more confused than defiant.
Payne snickered. "Don't play innocent, Ms. Blossom. We all know that..."
You're leading the witness." said Kristoph. "Honestly, I thought even you would be above that."
"Er, very well." said Payne, clearing his throat. "Just give us your testimony, Ms. Blossom."
"O-okay." said Blossom.
"Brisby, pay close attention." said Kristoph. "Your time to shine is about to arrive."
Sherry Blossom's Day
"At 4:00, I was selling flowers along the riverbank." said Blossom. "At five, I stared walking home. Suddenly, someone started chasing me. Before I could get away, they tackled me to the ground. The next thing I knew, I was under arrest."
The Judge closed his eyes in deep thought. "Mr. Payne, there's nothing in this testimony about the murder."
"Well of course. Do you expect the poor thing to incriminate herself?" said Payne.
"Hmm, you have a point." said the Judge.
Honestly, I wanted to scream. If Payne had a point with that circular logic, I was the Queen of Spain. My rage was interrupted by a chilling statement.
"Ms. Brisby, please begin your cross-examination."
I'm not gonna lie, that caught me off-guard.
"Y-your Honor, there must be some mistake." I said. "The burden of proof is on the prosecution, not me."
"Right now, your client is the prosecution's witness." said the Judge, shaking his head and giving me a stern look. "Meaning you must conduct the cross-examination."
I turned to Kristoph for help, but he just shrugged.
"This is how it works, Brisby." said Kristoph. "Don't fret. You may be able to turn this to your advantage."
I didn't see how, but I knew there was no use fighting it. I took a deep breath before proceeding.
Sherry Blossom's Day
"At 4:00, I was selling flowers along the riverbank."
Did you manage to sell any?" I asked.
"A few here and there." said Blossom.
"I-I don't know. Should I?"
That was a good question. If Payne was correct (not to say I agreed with him at all), she should know the identity of at least one of the people who bought flowers from her.
"Ms. Blossom, do you remember this man?" I asked, showing a picture of Dr. Ryan.
"Oh, yes. He's a regular customer."
That's exactly what I needed. "Your Honor, I highly doubt that this girl would murder someone who regularly does..."
" Payne interrupted with a squawk. "You're too quick to jump to conclusions, Ms. Brisby. Let the witness speak for herself."
"Objection sustained." said the Judge. "Witness?"
"Well, I don't know him personally. He just bought flowers from me." said Blossom.
I growled. I thought I had something there. Now I was back to square one.
"Witness, add this to your testimony." said the Judge.
"O-okay." said Blossom.
"That man only buys flowers from me. I don't know him personally."
Did you meet him again the day of the murder?" I inquired.
"No, I didn't." said Blossom. "I didn't expect him, either. It wasn't a day he usually showed up."
"Careful, Brisby." Kristoph warned. "There's a contradiction there."
He was right. I knew he was right. But if I called her out on it, what did that mean for my case?
"It's important that these things are cleared up, Brisby." said Kristoph. "Don't worry."Easy for you to say.
I thought. "Your Honor, I request that this statement be added to the testimony."
"Indeed." said the Judge with a bang of his gavel. "Witness?"
"O-okay." said Blossom.
"That man wasn't there today. I wasn't expecting him, either."
" I exclaimed, slamming my hand on the banister. "Ms. Blossom, I'm afraid no one in the court believes that."
"Huh?" asked Blossom, genuinely confused.
I presented the photo of the crime scene. "We all know that Dr. Ryan was in People Park on the day of the murder. If the murder did take place on the riverbank, where you work, you must've noticed something."
"B-but I didn't. I never said I did." said Blossom.
I sighed and shook my head. "Ms. Blossom, I want to believe you. But as you said, your shift didn't end until five. How could you have missed this?"
"P-please stop." Blossom whimpered.
"Why, because you're afraid I'll catch you lying to me?"
Blossom squeaked in terror, and pink petals seemed to fly out of her clothes. The audience sounded confused. Payne looked smug.
"Order! Order in the court!" bellowed the Judge, banging his gavel. "Ms. Brisby, you say that your client is lying?"
Crap. This was just what Payne wanted. I shrank behind the banister again.
"W-well, not lying per se." I said. "M-merely that we might be missing something."
"Brisby, you said lying." said Kristoph sternly. "You can't easily take that back."
Great. Now my coach was against me. This was not a good sign.
"Ms. Blossom, do you have a response to this?" asked the Judge.
"I-I'm not lying." whispered Blossom. "I didn't see that man in People Park. Honest."
Wait a tick. In People Park? No wonder I thought she was lying.
"It appears this isn't so much a lie as it is unintentionally misleading." I said. "Tell me, Ms. Blossom. Did you see Dr. Ryan at all on March 23rd?"
"Well, yes. I saw him on my way to work that morning. I see him most mornings. Why?"
"Because I think you're confused." I said.
"I'm afraid I don't follow, Ms. Brisby." said the Judge.
"Don't you see, Your Honor? She's saying what we want to hear." I said.
"I couldn't agree more." said Payne with a sneer.
"I'm not finished." I said. "She thinks that if she admits that she saw Dr. Ryan that day, it'll incriminate her. But as it so happens, she saw him in the morning, outside of People Park. That fact is far from incriminating!"
"There's still a problem? Right you are, Mr. Payne." I said, feeling some momentum building. "Because there's still no explanation for this."
I presented the autopsy report.
The report clearly states that Dr. Ryan was killed some time between 4:30 and 5:00. If Ms. Blossom was on the riverbank that entire time, how could she have missed it? The answer is simple."
"It is?" asked the Judge.
"Well, sure." I said. "The answer is that she moved along the bank."
"Wh-what do you mean?" asked Payne.
"Well, I'm no flower saleswoman, so I can't say how it works exactly." I said. "But perhaps there are certain parts of the bank she's on at certain times of the day, in order to get more customers. Or perhaps she wanders up and down the bank. In both scenarios, it's entirely possible that she and Dr. Ryan missed each other entirely!"
Payne recoiled from my logic. Blossom seemed to look quite relieved.
"Good show, Brisby." said Kristoph. "That ought to get the Judge thinking twice."
"It's not over yet." I said. "There's still something I need to ask, Ms. Blossom."
"You were attacked before you were arrested, correct?"
"Are you willing to testify about it?"
What does that have to do with anything?!" protested Payne.
"More than you know, obviously." I said. "Ms. Blossom?"
Blossom seemed to shudder. I don't blame her, but at the same time, I needed that information to build my case.
"Ms. Blossom, it's okay." I said soothingly. "I'm here to help."
"I was, so scared." said Blossom in a soft whisper.
"I know." I said. "But I need to know what happened."
Blossom shook her head. "I can't. I'm sorry."
I sighed. This wasn't going to get anywhere. "Very well, you don't have to."
Kristoph raised an eyebrow. "Brisby, what are you doing?"
"She's suffering enough." I said. "I don't want to push her."
"Sometimes you have to, Brisby." said Kristoph.
"I'll find another way." I insisted. "It's not like I'm dropping the subject."
Unless you get her to testify, then you are."
I looked my boss straight in the eye. "I am not about to traumatize a little girl to save her, and that's final."
Kristoph shrugged. "Very well then."
"If we're done with this, I'd like to move on." said Payne. "The police have found an eyewitness who claims to have seen the deed, and was the person who called the police. Without further ado, the prosecution would like to call Ms. Daisy Cutter to the stand."
"Very well." said the Judge with a bang of his gavel. "Ms. Cutter, please take the stand."
I briefly wondered if I was wrong not to push my client. Maybe I was. But at least I'd have the strength of my convictions to admit that if I lost. But if I had anything to say about it, that was going to be a big if. 'Cause I might've been nervous before, but I sure as hell wasn't going down without a fight.