The Not Exactly Complete Works of Peter Schulman

Circumstantial Evidence

©2010 Peter Schulman


  Chapter 1  

  Chapter 2  

  Chapter 3  

  Chapter 4  

  Chapter 5  

  Chapter 6  

  Chapter 7  

  Chapter 8  

  Chapter 9  

  Chapter 10  

  Chapter 11  

  Chapter 12  

Chapter 16

The only physical evidence against Phillip Patrick was his hat and that didn’t tie him very tightly to the murder.

The eyewitness had seen Patrick in the vicinity of where he lived at around the time Janet Reedy had been killed. That gave the Commonwealth little to work with. It didn’t give me much to work with either.

I decided to hire an independent pathologist to see if he could find anything to help us before they disposed of her body which hadn’t been claimed yet.

I called Nathan Lee. He was very effective for the defense in some cases I had tried.

He asked me what I was looking for. I didn’t know.

I wanted anything that would give me a better idea of how it happened and who or what kind of person might have done it. How violent? How strong? Could the sex possibly have been consensual?”

I asked about the marks on Janet’s wrists indicating they had been held down with some force. How, then, could she scratch him?

If she did scratch him, was it through the hat? Did she have fibers from the hat under her fingernails? I hadn’t seen anything in the preliminary report, but the Medical Examiner might have checked later.

Did Patrick put his hat on afterward? Did she have any of his skin under her nails?

The report didn’t mention it. If there was nothing under her nails, the Commonwealth only had the hat and injuries or sores unrelated to the rape and murder.

Was there anything inside her that would identify the brand of condom? Maybe it was a stupid question but I’m not a pathologist.

Could we tell the size of the hands of the perpetrator from the marks on her wrists? Did he leave any of his skin from the violence of the restraint?

Dr. Lee didn’t say anything about how stupid my questions were, so either he was being polite to a new client or they were not stupid.

He couldn’t see me raise my eyebrows through the phone when told me his fee. Still, I thought it reasonable for Prissy to pay. He said he would make arrangements to examine the body and get back to me with his findings.

Something else occurred to me and I thought it would better be explored with a live person participating in the analysis. I called Jamie.

“Jamie Roarke.” Good. She hadn’t left.

“How would you like to help me explore the nature of the universe?”

“I’m not that kind of girl.”

“That’s not what I read on the third floor bathroom wall.”

“Well, if your source is that reliable, it must be true. What’s up?”

“Do you ever think about our preconceptions when we look at evidence; not the way we present it at trial, that’s our job, but the way we think about what it means?”

“Not really,” she said. Her voice told me she had no idea what I was talking about.

“When I was assigned the Reedy case, even though I didn’t believe Patrick did it, I saw a nude female who seemed to have participated in vigorous sexual intercourse. She had restraint marks on her wrists. Her head had been smashed on a rock.

“That meant involuntary participation, a violent rape and murder. No other possibility entered my mind - it was a rape. I’m not saying I concluded it was a rape; I’m saying I didn’t think of anything else.

“Now I’m a defense attorney. I see vigorous sex, but some people like that. I see restraint, but some people like that. When he removed his hands from her wrists, why didn’t she scratch and tear at him? At least I haven’t seen evidence that she did. Could the sex have been consensual and the fatal blow accidental?

“I’m the same person I was when I initially looked at the evidence. I can hardly believe it’s only two weeks since I went to the crime scene. Is the way I look at everything so completely colored by whom I represent?

“It’s the same thing with Priscilla. There must have been other people who had a reason to want Prentice dead, maybe even people he thought he was friendly with, people he would let into the house. Did someone get help from the housekeeper in getting in and getting around? I dismissed those possibilities when I prosecuted her. Now they don’t seem so improbable.”

She was silent for awhile. That was one of the things I appreciated about Jamie. She wouldn’t talk just to fill the silence or tell you what you wanted to hear. If you asked for her opinion, you would get candor.

“I never thought about it,” she said. “I’m not sure I can think about it very effectively now. You've been on both sides. I’m on the same side I've always been on. When I hear your Reedy description, I hear rape. I don’t hear any other reasonable possibility.

“You obviously know more about Caldwell than I do. You convinced me she was guilty when you convicted her. You convinced a jury. That proves it’s the most reasonable way to look at the evidence.”

“You can’t even see the other side?” I asked.

“I can see that there is another side. It just doesn’t have any traction for me.”

“Okay. Maybe it’s just hard to see a situation from a perspective that isn’t your own. I don’t know. Maybe that'll help me understand my own case and the other guy’s case better in the future. Maybe there is no right way to look at it.”

“So you've decided to become a plumber?” Jamie asked.

“I was thinking surfer, but plumber works for me.”

“So what’s next, plumber boy?”

“You have your tawdry way with me.”

“I don’t do plumbers.”


“Guilty as charged. Perhaps I can see the other side.” She laughed. It was her best laugh. It included a giggle and encompassed both joy and enthusiasm. It energized me. It made me want to hold her. It made me want to find ways to make it happen again and again.

“Thanks. I think that helped me get some perspective. I've got to review the transcript to find all the reversible errors in Caldwell.”

“That’s going to be a short session. From what you told me you didn’t even ask for any questionable rulings, let alone get them.”

Jamie was right.

I sat down at the computer in my second floor office to work on the brief.

Outside, it was still brutally hot for the middle of September. The humidity was so high that every time I went out it felt like I needed a shower before I even reached my car.

A thunderstorm approached. Maybe it would ease the humidity and the heat. We had been having them regularly at night for the last week. They offered some relief in the early morning, but by noon we were back in a sauna.

Bob jumped onto my lap to help me. That was his story. I happen to know he is deathly afraid of thunderstorms. He shook in my lap.

I worked until around ten thirty.

Bob was nonplussed when I got up to go to bed, but not so much that he didn’t jump into bed with me, burrow under the covers, and curl up behind the crook of my knee where he hoped he was safe from the thunder.


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  Chapter 13  

  Chapter 14  

  Chapter 15  

  Chapter 16  

  Chapter 17  

  Chapter 18  

  Chapter 19  

  Chapter 20  

  Chapter 21  

  Chapter 22  

  Chapter 23