09 January 2015

Ambush in Bartlette: Chapter 36

Gil buried a smile as he watched the prosecutor arguing with the judge. Five minutes earlier, he started Monday morning by telling the judge that the defense was not going to present any evidence and that he was ready to begin closing arguments to the jury as to the appropriate sentence. Even if he wanted to, there was little evidence for Gil to present.  The man Gil was defending had lived a generic middle class, white, Protestant life. His parents had stayed married and provided a stable household. The man had a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement from some college in Tennessee and a masters from an online “university.”  He received an average number of commendations as a patrol deputy and after he was transferred into the Investigations Section he stayed there for years doing mediocre work until he eventually became the head of the section. Out of all that bland normality the only thing Gil’s psychiatrist had been able point to had been some minor conflicts with his mother and the possibility that the man was bottling up emotions while investigating violent crimes. It was weak and Gil knew it. Still, he had made do with less before - just not this time.

Not putting on any evidence was a gamble. If Gil was correct all the right thinking Christian jurors would came back with a sentence of life in prison so that their consciences would be clear on Christmas. Like most people in impoverished areas, these people took their religion seriously and you had to use any advantage the rubes gave you. If Gil was wrong and the jury returned a death sentence, he would face a habeas hearing in which another attorney would try to get the sentence thrown out by convincing a judge that Gil’s decision was a result of his incompetence as an attorney.  He would probably also face a bar complaint which could get his license to practice law suspended. All Gil had to do to avoid these threats was to put on a by-the-book, vanilla defense. He would lose, but it would protect his career.  But, that was not the way Gil was made.  You played to win or what was the point of the game? This was his best chance to fend off a death sentence and he was going for it.

Gil tuned back in as the judge agreed to put off closing arguments until ten thirty. As soon as the judge went back to his chambers, the prosecutor bolted for the exit to the courtroom. This time Gil let the smile show.


Brad was sitting at his desk scribbling a quick outline for a closing argument as his printer slowly chugged out the jury instructions he had written earlier, but not yet bothered to print out. After all, the defense should have been presenting evidence for at least a week. Who the hell doesn't present evidence when his client's life is on the line?

After Pinsky told the judge that the defense was presenting no evidence at all, Brad objected and argued to Judge Isom that it was an obvious ploy to throw the case on appeal.  If the defense attorney refused to present any evidence how could an appellate court not overturn the case? Every defendant - particularly in a death penalty case - is constitutionally entitled to effective representation from his attorney.  Judge Isom was surprisingly unconcerned by Pinsky's manipulation of the system. When Brad pushed the Judge had pointedly told Brad that neither the judge nor the prosecutor could dictate trial tactics to the defense and he was certain that his colleagues in the appellate courts would sort it all out.  In other words, sit down and shut up.

Then Brad tried to get the judge to delay closing arguments until Tuesday morning so that he could get jury instructions ready and prepare his closing arguments. He pointed out that he spent the weekend preparing to cross examine witnesses - not preparing for final arguments. The judge answered that the jury was already here and that he would not waste their time by sending them home. Then the judge gave Brad forty-five minutes to "go print out your jury instructions." At ten-thirty court was going to start and Brad would have to make his closing argument whether he was ready or not.


Jerome sat stunned. The defense attorney was refusing to defend Jeff Sanger's life and the judge was letting him. In a surreal twist, the only person who seemed to want the defense attorney to present the jury with evidence was the prosecutor and his argument to the judge lacked any moral concerns.  His only concern was that the case might be overturned on appeal.

Jerome knew that Pinsky prepared a defense. In fact, Jerome spent at least two hours talking with Pinsky's junior attorneys, Josh and Sal, about the contract the federal prosecutor signed and the Catholic Church's rejection of the death penalty.  In the course of that discussion they told him that they also had a psychiatrist who was going to testify about Sanger’s mental problems and that they had men from the Sheriff’s Department who were going to testify as to his mistreatment by superiors in the department. Maybe the jurors were bloodthirsty enough that presenting all of that would have made no difference, but Jerome had spent enough time in these mountains to know these were good people. Given a reason - given any reason - he was certain that they would not stain their souls by ordering a man to be killed.

Only, now they would have no reason.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I being a protestant a mitigating or aggravating factor?