A new academic year has started, but I am mostly unsure as to how this makes me feel. I’m excited for the return to normalcy and to see coworkers and students on a regular basis. However, I am sure I will miss lounging and will soon loathe the stress the school year inevitably brings. However, my friend is reading a book all about mind set, which emphasizes the axiom that life is 10% what happens to an individual, and 90% how the individual reacts to events and circumstances and whatnot. I’ve been a notoriously awful “over-reactor.” Perhaps a resolution for the academic year should be to stay positive and patient.
WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #18: “A lawyer discovers that his client is guilty of the horrible crime for which he was just found innocent.”
Eliot Edwards (there was always something inherently to be respected about a man with two first names) rose beside his client as the honorable judge had instructed, as both men prepared for the verdict. Eliot was cool, calm, and collected; his breath did not hitch as it entered and exited the two air sacks called lungs. His hands did not tremble as he loosely clasped them in front. He looked poised and professional, just as he always did. Remarkably, the same could be said of the man beside, the supposed delinquent known as Harvey Miller. For just about a month, Eliot and Harvey had been seated behind an elongated wooden table, listening to eyewitness testimony, and the coroner’s findings, and statements from detectives that seemed to prove that Harvey had brutally raped and then murdered four-year-old Lindsey Morris. The state would have a member of the jury believe that Harvey pulled alongside the little girl’s front yard in his work van, casually rolled down the window, and called out her. Merrily, happily, the beautiful, innocent girl skipped over and politely listened as Harvey explained that he was lost, and that his poor, poor puppy in the back was sick and needed a doctor and special medicine. In her opening statement, the prosecutor took care to meticulously describe the way the little girl’s face most likely trembled with concern for the puppy and was consumed with an overwhelming – and irresponsible – desire to help. Willingly, with minimal coercing because Lindsey came from a nice neighborhood with respectable, hard-working families living and loving in modest ranch-style homes, she would have climbed inside. Most likely, she jabbered somewhat incoherently to Harvey, asking about the puppy and what was wrong and where he was from and what kind of car she was in. As a result, Lindsey would have been woefully unprepared when she was led into the woods, holding onto a hand for comfort and reassurance and safety, knocked down, stripped and violated.
It was an unspeakable crime, and thinking over the lurid details often turned Eliot’s stomach. He would look at Harvey, try to bore into the other man’s soul, to evaluate whether or not he was truly guilty. Eliot didn’t think any human being could be capable of such apathy, of such inhumanity, but these things happened. Harvey wasn’t overly altruistic, but he wasn’t irrational or unkempt or anything like a madman. He seemed normal and even-keeled. Sure, he had some dark moments in his past – an aggressive and physical altercation with his high school principal, and questionable accusations from several ex-girlfriends – but nothing that would precede such monstrosity as the rape and murder of an innocent child. Eliot would not invite Harvey out for drinks or into his home, but a slightly uneasy feeling did not make someone guilty of murder.
As Harvey and Eliot stood, awaiting Harvey’s fate, Eliot felt fairly confident the jury would agree. Most of the evidence had been circumstantial and there was no DNA evidence to speak of. Granted Harvey had not been able to provide an airtight alibi for afternoon and evening in question, but the defense readily admitted Harvey was no saint and liked to tip the bottle back more of than not. As such, memory lapses were common. The jury foreman began reading the verdict sheet and Eliot knew his mind should be in the present, willing the juror to say “not guilty,” but he was troubled by a fact which had troubled just about everyone else involved in the case, cop and victim and lawyer alike. Despite a thorough canvas of the crime scene and sweep of Harvey’s van and essentially ransacking Lindsey’s home, no one had been able to find her beloved turtle pin. Lindsey had received the pin from her oldest brother, and he had bought it especially for Lindsey from the zoo during a class trip. Lindsey was never without the pin – even wore it to bed when her mother’s typically watchful eye missed it. Everyone believed whoever had the pin now must be the murderer, keeping it as a sick memento. The pin seemed to be the key to the case and –
“…find the defendant not guilty,” the foreman read. Eliot snapped to attention as Harvey clapped him heartily on the shoulder. Eliot smiled and turned to shake Harvey’s hand. Those behind them, and on the other side of the courtroom, dissolved into weeping and wailing. They were family members of Lindsey, devastated by the outcome because they had all been so sure of Harvey’s guilt. Eliot felt for them and his eyes ran over their downturned faces, their red-rimmed eyes, and their expressions of misery. Eliot’s smile diminished. He released Harvey’s hand so he could turn to hug his mother, the only supporter of Harvey’s, present for every single day of testimony. She threw her beefy arms around her boy and Harvey was nearly being pulled over the wooden, glossy barricade that separated the audience from the members of the judicial process. Harvey was pulled onto his tippy toes and with his body elongated, and bent at a rather awkward angle, the pocket of his button-down Oxford shirt hung low so that the tiny metallic object that had been residing within clamored to the tile floor.
Eliot saw it fall out of the corner of his eye. He did not know what it was, but bent to retrieve it. As he did so, he noticed it was a pin in the shape of the turtle.
All the wind seemed to be knocked from him. Eliot dropped to his knees, breathing deeply through his nose to keep from vomiting. He could feel eyes upon him, knew instinctively the eyes belonged to Harvey, and was suddenly terrified.
Eliot Edwards had sent a depraved lunatic free.