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 17

Pokey and I did another five miles Friday morning.

When I run to first base, I want to get there before the ball. I go all out to accomplish that. In the outfield, I want to get to the ball before it hits the ground or, failing that, to get it back to the infield before the runners can move up any extra bases.

When I run five miles, I start, I run, I run some more, and eventually I’m done and I take a shower. That doesn’t generate the excitement of stealing a base or chasing down a fly ball. It doesn’t provide the endorphins I hear everybody talk about.

That’s why I take Pokey along. She provides some of the missing juice.

She genuinely enjoys running and suspiciously eyeing everyone we come in contact with. She runs with her head held up proudly when passing other people as if to say, “Yeah, I could take him.”

She never complains. She doesn’t have to stop to rest or to take a stone out of her shoe. The rain doesn’t bother her. She just shakes it off on me when we get inside.

Now and then I see her head start to follow a squirrel or a bird. But they are just objects of passing interest. She sticks with her job - making sure I can run without interdiction.

She asks nothing in return. She appreciates having her head or ears rubbed when we’re done, but it’s not a quid pro quo.

Prissy’s sentencing was scheduled for eleven. It would be uneventful.

In Pennsylvania there are only two sentencing options for first degree murder: execution and life in prison. The death penalty requires at least one aggravating circumstance, something like murder for profit, a history of violent crimes, a previous homicide, or other serious situations.

The Commonwealth must inform the defense ahead of time what aggravating circumstances they are going to use. They had not. I hadn’t found anything to use when I prosecuted. The sentence would be life in prison. Prissy knew that when she was convicted.

If I could show that Prissy had saved the life of the President and kept the world safe for democracy, the sentence would be life in prison.

If I presented testimony that she and her husband screwed their brains out recreationally with the social aristocracy and beat their servants, the sentence would be life in prison.

I didn’t over prepare.

We assembled at eleven.

Priscilla looked great. She had on a blue dress that ended around six inches above the knee, which made it impossible not to notice her legs. She wore a dazzling string of pearls. She would stand out in a room full of people notwithstanding her age.

Judge Julius Minor sentenced her, unsurprisingly, to life in prison. We were done at eleven-oh-three. I requested some time to talk with her before she was returned to prison.

Priscilla was cuffed and taken to the conference room just shy of the hall. It was a small, sparse room with two chairs, a table and a phone. It looked so cheap I was almost surprised it had walls.

She asked, “How is the appeal going?”

“I’ll be filing next week. I’ll also be filing a motion with Judge Minor to throw out the verdict and hold a new trial because of ineffective assistance by Mr. Boxer.”

“How long will that take, the motion?”

“It shouldn’t take long for him to review and collect testimony if he thinks it’s appropriate. But I’m not hopeful he'll do anything. No Pennsylvania trial judge has ever tossed a conviction for ineffective assistance.”

“Then why bother?” she asked.

“When some judge finally does throw out a conviction for ineffective assistance, the defendant’s appeals lawyer will have told his client that no Pennsylvania trial judge has ever done that. Everybody told Roger Bannister nobody had ever run a four-minute mile.”

“I see.”

“I need to know more about your recreational activities.”

“I play bridge with friends on Tuesdays.”

“I am talking about your sexual recreation.”

“I thought you’d never ask,” she said with a smile and a toss of her hair.

“I want to know everyone who participated. I want to know the places you met, the frequency, the activities. I want to know something about the people who participated. I want to know about their relationships. I want to get an idea of what it was like.”

“Why don’t I just bring you to a party?” she asked.

“You’re in jail. I assume you can’t arrange one in there. Besides, I just want to understand what it was like. I don’t want to join the lifestyle.”

“I’m confident I can get you to change your mind,” she said. Her body language and demeanor told me she believed it.

“It would be unethical to do that with a client and certainly inappropriate.”

“I notice you didn’t say you wouldn’t.”

“It would be unethical to do that with a client and certainly inappropriate.”

“After I’m acquitted then,” she said. “Why do you need all this?”

“If we get a new trial I’m going to have to file a notice of our alibi defense. For that matter, I’m going to have to detail it in the process that gets us a new trial.

“The police will start asking questions to try to break your alibi. I need to know what they might find. Even if the alibi is true, which I assume it is, they will try to cast doubt any way they can.”

“These people will not be very happy talking with you about that,” Priscilla said.

“The detectives will want to talk with them too. I don’t plan to violate their privacy. I just want to know what they'll say to the police. Surprise is our mortal enemy.”

She elected to list the people first. “Well, of course there are Melanie and Jackson Chambers, Erskine and Patricia Patterson.”

“Try to say that without spitting,” I joked.

“Oh, no. Patty doesn’t spit. She swallows.” Prissy loved to shock.

“Does your mother know you talk like this?”

Priscilla paused and started to laugh. It was small at first but built like a huge wave into a guffaw and then a belly laugh and subsided as it crashed on the shore.

She named four couples and two singles.

“That’s the main group,” she said. “Others join or participate in smaller groups occasionally. Do you want to know about the judges?”

“No. I don’t think anybody will be calling them in to testify. Do you have these people in an address book so I don’t have to go hunting for them?” They wouldn’t be hard to find, but there might be additional useful names in the book.

“I actually have it with me in case I need to call someone from prison.”

“To organize a party?”

“Don’t be so impatient,” she said. “You'll get your chance.”

“I guess you better tell me what went on.”

“I take it you don’t want the thrust by thrust details.”

“No, I don’t,” I said.

“Every month or two we have a party. Whoever is available comes. We kind of rotate houses. Sometimes, in between, we get together in twos, threes, or fours.”

“A foursome like you did with Melanie and Jackson.”

“Yes. And sometimes Melanie would come over just to do Prentice, or me, or both, or one of the other women, or one of the men for a twosome or threesome.”

“You've intimated that some of the women were bi. What about the men?” I asked.

“Most of the women, though I’m not sure you’d say we were bi per se. You do know that we women, in general, can do this a lot longer than you men? Doing each other is more fun than playing cards while waiting for the men to recover, especially if there are more women than men. Not many of the men go both ways.”



“So you would sometimes hold a party at your house?”


“What did you do about the alarm system?”

“Turn it back on after everybody arrived or off for a latecomer and then back on.”

“How did your guests avoid setting off alarms within the house? Did you all,” I searched for a way to phrase it with a modicum of subtlety, “participate in the same room?”

“No. We spread out all over the house.” Her pun was intentional.

“What did you do about the internal alarms?”

“Actually, sometimes it was very funny. Somebody would accidentally set one off. Then Prentice or I would have to stop in mid-whatever and race to disarm it and then rush to the phone so we could give the safe code to the alarm company. You had to see these naked bodies with organs flopping around, running over other bodies, trying to get to a phone. It was very amusing.”

“Sounds like a Kodak moment,” I said. “Did everyone in your group learn to avoid setting off the alarms?”

“Yes. But sometimes they would set them off on purpose just to see someone run to answer the phone.”

“If everything is so open, why did you use a hotel that night?”

“Not just that night. You have to understand, this is just a small part of our social circle. I can’t have a charity ball committee over while Prentice has Melanie screaming upstairs or vice versa. Sometimes one of us would just want a little quiet, or want to avoid the household staff. We didn’t want them selling this to the National Enquirer. If you check our credit card statements, you'll find many visits to local hotels.”

“Did anybody fall in love or out of love as a result of this?” I asked. That could provide alternative suspects.

“I don’t think so. You do develop preferences. Some guys are rough, some are gentle, some do it slow, some fast. Some are more creative than others. Some people you just like better. It might depend on what you’re in the mood for. Other things being equal, I preferred Erskine. Melanie was drawn to Prentice, but she didn’t love him.”

“What about the extra women? Do you know who they were?”

“Sometimes I would catch a first name. You don’t have to present the family tree to join in an orgy. I’m sure Fletcher Underwood could tell you who they were, though he usually came alone.”

“I think that’s enough for now. I’ll give some thought to what the prosecution is likely to find out and how they might use it. I’ll come see you again if I have more questions.”

“I can still get you an invitation. Prentice and I can’t be there, but I’m sure they would love to have you join them. It would be a perfectly natural milieu in which to ask your questions.”

“I generally find interviews go better with my pants on.”

She laughed.

“I appreciate and even admire your black humor under the circumstances, Prissy. A jury may not.”

I headed over to Jenkins Law Library. I would have to remember to ask Martha to get me a subscription to Lexis.


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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