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 23

Wednesday morning I called Lily and told her about Forrest Akers and Jackie Popparino and what Louis said about the bracelet.

I started late. We had gotten back from New York at nearly one a.m. and I needed to unwind after I got home. Unlike when I worked for the DA, there was no real schedule to follow on days I had no court appearances.

Bob joined me as I put the finishing touches on Prissy’s brief. He had nothing significant to add. I started it printing and got dressed in “grown-up work clothes,” as Jamie liked to call my efforts at sartorial adequacy.

I made a copy on a floppy in case Alfred Boxer’s colleagues discovered I was missing any of the secret language of appellate society. There were historical reasons for many of these things. They were attempts to close loopholes somebody found to gain an unfair advantage in the long-forgotten past.

So much of the process, not to mention the trial and the whole system in general, is an attempt to give the appearance of being fair. There is no need to do actual justice as long as we appear to be impartial while doing the wrong thing. It’s the law’s version of, “The operation was a success, but the patient died.”

How much would it damage my sense of justice when I successfully freed a Philistine who would continue to ply his trade? I saved my concern for another day. As Yogi Berra might say, or might even have said, “I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.”

I drove into town and took the elevator to Alfred Boxer’s floor. That’s when you know you have a heavyweight law firm: you don’t go to someone’s office, you go to his floor.

The lobby was opulent, but so obviously expensive it looked like they had squandered money just to prove they could. It was meant to prepare clients for the hourly fee. Perhaps it would have been appropriate at an interior design convention. I couldn’t even begin to describe it in detail; I lack the knowledge and the vocabulary.

Alfred was in. He didn’t often go to court. He sat behind a large, double-pedestal, dark mahogany, executive desk. It rested on a quality oriental rug that was approximately twenty-five feet by twenty-five feet. His executive chair was leather as were the client chairs.

Ergonomics was a foreign concept at this firm. The entire message of the office was: you will pay dearly for our valuable services.

“Alfred, here is the brief and a disk with the text in Microsoft Word.” I’m not a big fan of Word, but it is so ubiquitous you rarely go wrong trying to share something in that format.

“Good. I’ll give it to my Appellate Department right away.”

“My Appellate Department finished it this morning.” The irony was lost on him.

“Don’t worry. We'll dot the i’s and cross the t’s.”

“I’m afraid I said some unflattering things about you in there, Alfred.”

“Hopefully, that will prevent any of my friends from asking me to represent them in a criminal case in the future.”

He did have a sense of humor.

“If we win,” I said, “the bad news is: the court will say you did an unspeakably bad job. The good news is: it will be so unspeakable they won’t speak your name. The culprit will have been 'trial counsel.'“

“That’s what they call it?”

“Yes. And if I screw up, when they find me ineffective, I’ll be 'original appellate counsel.'“

“We'll get this out quickly.”

“Thanks. I appreciate all of this.”

“It’s the least I could do.”

He had already done the least he could do.

Martha was on the phone when I got to the office. She handed me a stack of phone messages. She also handed me a stack of letters, all of which seemed to be attached to resumes. If many of these phone messages represented new business, I might have to start hiring. I took the stack into my office.

I picked up the first letter and laughed. Near the top on the left margin it was addressed to “Johnathon Smith, Esquire.” My first rule of hiring is: spell my name right. This letter had two spelling mistakes in my first name. I tossed it in the trash can.

A case could be lost because you used “effect“ when you meant “affect.” I didn’t have actual proof that this particular misspelling had ever caused such a catastrophic effect, but there was always the potential to affect a case that way.

I started calling the names I did not recognize on the messages. Most of them were prospective clients. I set up three appointments for that afternoon and more for Thursday and Friday.

I took Martha’s order and went to Szechuan Express to pick up lunch. I stopped at RadioShack to get a tape recorder to help with my interviews.

In my experience, the more notes I write about a conversation the less I listen. It is difficult enough staying in a conversation without adding distractions.

Martha buzzed me at one thirty to tell me my appointment had arrived. I asked her to send him in.

Clarence Munro entered my office followed by a thin, older woman. She was difficult to see because he blocked out the sun. He was six foot nine, three hundred fifty pounds and somewhere in the vicinity of thirty years old.

She stood five foot six, medium build and looked like a miniature next to him. For that matter, I looked like a miniature next to him. I gestured for them to sit down. I was relieved when his chair held up under the weight.

The woman identified herself as his mother. She explained his predicament.

He had been stopped on I-95 near the airport by a highway patrolman. The officer told Clarence he had been speeding, asked to see his license and directed him to get out of car.

The officer searched him, cuffed him, put him in the patrol car, and then asked Clarence if he could search the trunk. Clarence refused. The officer then took the keys from the ignition, opened the trunk and found fifteen kilos of marijuana.

“They brought him into the station and tried to question him, but he asked for his lawyer,” said Mom. “He’s smart enough to know not to say anything.”

By “smart enough“ I understood her to mean he had been in trouble before. Clearly, I was dealing with an innocent man.

“They told him they could make it go away if he would tell them where he got the drugs, but he just asked for his lawyer.” She paused to collect her thoughts.

It wasn’t a pause. She had finished talking.

“Clarence, did you talk with a lawyer at that point?” I asked.

“Baby Huey. Usually they call me Huey for short.”

That was revealing. I didn’t think there had been any Baby Huey cartoons for quite some time. His associates were probably considerably older than he was.

I nodded.

“So I called Mr. Marks. And he came in and he talked to me. And we had this kind of trial thing. And they told me I had to put up bail. So Ma came in and she bailed me out. And Mr. Marks, he kept saying that they had me real serious and probably I should give them what they wanted. And, but I couldn’t, 'cause they'll kill me if I talk. So I heard about you and I figured maybe you could do somethin', you know.”

“Where are we in the process?”

“I have a trial in around two weeks.”

“Has Mr. Marks filed any motions?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

“What have you been convicted for?” I know, it’s like “How often do you beat your wife,” but it wasn’t a quantum leap.

“Drugs, stolen property and a couple of fights and a gun charge as a juvenile.” Mom was back on the job.

“Anything else?”

“Five, maybe six arrests for drugs and stolen property. They couldn’t prove nothing so he got off. It’s those boys he runs with. They’re a bad crowd.”

“Of course.” I had no fear either of them would suspect irony. “What do you do for a living, Huey?”

“I run errands and sell stuff for the guys and stuff.”

That would be the stolen property and the drugs.

It seemed odd, given his career choice, that he had no record of violence. Then again, perhaps not.

“Did you ever get arrested for fighting or anything like that?”

“No. Nobody ever wants to fight me.” He sounded hurt, like the kids didn’t want to play with him.

“I’m going to need three thousand dollars as a retainer, more if we go to trial.”

I hadn’t been doing this long and my retainer from Priscilla Caldwell was probably not a good basis for judging what I should be charging. This seemed like enough so if they paid it, they would be serious about paying what I needed to complete the case. If they gave me a hard time about the three thousand dollars, I would have trouble getting paid later, and Baby Huey didn’t seem like the optimal choice to start doing pro bono work.

“Okay,” said Mrs. Munro as she withdrew thirty hundred-dollar bills from a horse-choking stack in her purse.

I hadn’t charged enough.

“Isn’t it kind of dangerous to walk around with that much money?” I asked.

“Nobody bothers me when I’m with Clarence. But if he carries it, they could take it for drug money.”

That would be because it was drug money.

“I’m going to have to talk with Mr. Marks.”

“Here is his card.” That, too, was in her purse.

Oh shit! I had forgotten to order cards. “Martha,” I called out, “have my cards come in yet?” It is the appearance of competence rather than competence itself that inspires confidence.

“In your top right drawer,” she called back.

I was competent after all. I had hired Martha.

“Thank you.” I gave them each a card and asked them to fill out a client information sheet with Martha. I had forgotten those, too, but in the unlikely event that Martha had also, they could write on a legal pad.

When they left my office I called Mr. Marks and gave him the bad news. He didn’t seem that disappointed. He had no illusions that Huey would be throwing any corporate work his way.

He had filed a Discovery Motion, but nothing else. I would have to file a Motion to Suppress the next time I was in town. He offered copies of everything he had on Clarence’s previous cases if I would pay for the copying at forty-five cents a page. Marks had mastered the customer-service principles that would serve him well should he ever work in a large firm.

I went out to the reception area. They were gone. I thanked Martha for her efficiency. She showed me where the client contact forms were located along with the folders and phone pads and all the other things I hadn’t thought about.

I gave her a raise.

When I got home, I changed and went for a run. This time I took Marble. She was not guard-dog trained, but was thoroughly obedience-trained and I felt she would pose no danger to herself or anybody else off leash. She had a great time and I resolved to take her along more often.

At nine I rewarded myself for being a hard-working entrepreneur by watching West Wing while fantasizing that either of the two guys actually running was anywhere near as caring and competent as President Bartlett.

Before long I couldn’t help myself and was surfing for the latest advances in forensics on the web. But I did not put the ball game on in picture-in-picture; I was relaxing.

Apparently, holding my little news conference had succeeded in more than just helping my former boss, Doris Gold. It also communicated my availability to defend “innocent“ clients being oppressed by the system.

By the time I left for the weekend I had five more clients including a support case representing a cousin of Priscilla Caldwell. I also had a date for Priscilla’s Post-Conviction Motion a week from Monday thanks to an empty spot on Judge Minor’s calendar. That is faster than the speed of light for the legal system.

Why I made the first 23 chapters available

According to statistics collected and published by as reported by “Most readers do not get past page 18 in a book they have purchased.”

I thought providing 23 chapters, 111 pages, would make it easier to decide whether it was worth spending your hard-earned money on.

I hope it has encouraged you to treat yourself.


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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