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 9

Despite having been on the government side of the criminal justice system my entire career, I am a Bill Of Rights kind of guy.

The worst kind of injustice is convicting an innocent person. The easier it becomes to do that, the closer we get to tyranny.

That’s why I felt so strongly about Phillip Patrick. We should have been bending over backwards to avoid making a mistake instead of bending him over.

Why the hell hadn’t Alfred Boxer told us about Priscilla’s alibi? We could have confirmed it and started looking for the real killer.

Now I would have to do it the hard way - on appeal, or by using the Post Conviction Relief Act. I couldn’t imagine what she would tell me had prompted Alfred Boxer to refuse to present a witness who would place her somewhere else at the time of the murder. I was loath to ask him how he could have been such an idiot, and then ask him to help prove he had been.

My summer Sundays invariably involve baseball. We played every Sunday except Mother’s Day and key holidays. We might even play over the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends if enough of the wives allowed it.

The fastball was a little beyond the center of the plate. I estimated it to be just over seventy miles per hour. I waited as long as I could to see if the ball was going to break before I uncoiled, driving off my back leg, pulling my arms and wrists through and focusing on a point just in front of the plate. The result was a line drive that surprised the third baseman with the suddenness with which it reached him. He put up his glove in an instinctive reaction. The ball hit the web and stayed there. Eleven more batters and I would get another chance. Everybody bats on my team.

I walked over to the bleachers. They would seat maybe thirty-five people if everyone squeezed in. There was one fan.

“You busy these days?” I asked.

“I've got some things.”

“I may need some help.”

“Lucky for you, that’s my line of work.”

Lily Beauchamps didn’t need that much work. She had put in twenty-five years on the job and had her pension as a base. She could choose what cases she worked and whom she worked with. Fortunately, she liked me.

Lily left after only twenty-five years because she did not suffer fools gladly. She had been hindered by that in her journey up the ranks, having had ample opportunity to suffer fools, and up never became high enough to suit her.

Her parents had no way of knowing how incongruous her name would turn out to be. She was forty-eight, six foot one, with dark brown hair and a fabulous figure.

She was still very attractive which had not helped her ascend the ranks. We don’t take good-looking women any more seriously than we are absolutely forced to.

Had she dyed her hair blonde, you could have mistaken her for Brigitte Neilson. The one thing that might have given it away was her musculature. Even with her hands in her lap you could see the solid, well-defined biceps. She took her weight training as seriously as I did mine.

Lily wasn’t here just to watch the big, strong men play. She came every game to rub in the fact that we wouldn’t let her on the team. She would have helped us, she was an exceptional athlete. But we didn’t even petition the league because, “You can’t have a woman on a men’s team.”

Hopefully, my legal team would fare better than my baseball team. The opposing shortstop also favored me with a display of his quick reflexes. I added a walk and a triple thanks to what passes for blinding speed in a forty-and-over league.

We managed only three runs in nine innings. They managed four.

We usually played double headers, but another team had the field at two o'clock. It had become increasingly difficult to obtain permits for fields. Men’s baseball has grown explosively in popularity and on every summer weekend, and many summer nights, you can find us acting like boys in an activity where acting like boys is perfectly acceptable.

Lily came over to speak to me after the game.

“I guess it’s true,” she said.

“What’s true?”

“An old street cop who worked with you told me you were the fastest he’d ever seen. He told me you ran down a dealer trying to escape from a bust. He said the dealer had been a high-school track star, a sprinter. The guy said you ran him down like he was standing still.”

“You know how those stories grow into legends. In ten years he'll tell you I could have won a gold medal at the Olympics. Another ten years he'll tell you I outran a racehorse.”

“Jon, I thought your triple was a single you might stretch into a double. Thing is, every time I hear a story about you that sounds like a legend, later I find out it was true. Oh, look at you, you’re blushing.”

I just shook my head. I had no idea what to say.

“When I asked my former partner about you, he said you had a lifetime achievement award for pissing off the brass. I thought he was exaggerating, but when we became partners, I realized he understated it. You have a natural gift for alienating people in authority.”

“It’s not a gift,” I said, “I have to work constantly to maintain my skills.”

She laughed. “Let me know when you know what you need from me. I’ll see you at the next game.”

Some of my skills had rubbed off on her.

I went home and caught the end of the Phillies game on TV. When it ended I channel surfed. The Braves hadn’t finished their game so I watched.

There was also a night game on ESPN. I decided, instead, to start making lists of whom and what I would need to establish a law practice based on one paying case.

It turned out I wouldn’t need to worry about having only one case. Criminals read the papers too. Rather than seeking revenge for my redoubtable efforts against them, they sought me out to help them continue to ply their trade.

Just as it is inescapable when you are a prosecutor that not all the people you pursue are guilty, as a defense attorney not all the people you represent are innocent.

Currently I had the good fortune to choose the cases I would work on, but if I hoped to stay in business it was inevitable that I could not limit my practice to the innocent.

The most important thing I would need was a good legal secretary.

The title is deceptive. A legal secretary doesn’t just answer phones and greet clients with a polite, “Please have a seat. Mr. Smith will see you when you’re so frustrated you'll agree to anything.”

She, although there is no reason it could not be he, is a logistics officer, keeping track of deadlines and papers that have to be filed and responded to, which was especially important to me since those are the kinds of things I’m likely to put off if they don’t slip my mind entirely.

Depending on the areas of law practiced by her office, she may deal with title insurance companies, order laboratory reports, obtain information from insurance companies, answer interrogatories, and countless other things that keep the legal machinery running smoothly.

How much they are paid would shock most secretaries, though I’m sure many secretaries are just as indispensable to the operation of their offices.

I knew a very good one who had recently retired. I hoped she would be interested in a part-time challenge.

It turned out Martha Washington was interested.

I knew Martha pretty well. She was a member of the church where my daughter’s voice teacher took her students for their recitals.

Martha sat with me and told me, “What a lovely voice that little girl has.” She was sincere, although she would have found something nice to say even if Casey’s only skill had been managing to button her blouse correctly.

She introduced us around afterward and it struck me at the time that being in an environment like this was probably part of the reason Martha always seemed so serene.

I had been involved with other churches in the black community and never failed to be impressed by the warmth and sincerity I found there. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the warmth and sincerity at a church which was lacking in court.

Martha agreed to find me an office, order phones and handle all the other little details to get me started.

 

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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