Tag Archives: Criminal prosecution

Chocolate: A Comic Courtroom Play (Scene 2)

2015-08-21 Hyrum-02

Hyrum (13) and guide in the old Utah Supreme Court room in the state capitol building.

You remember, don’t you, that I as the prosecutor in real life bear no resemblance to Mr. Butcher, the prosecutor in the play.  Flapper, however closely resembles the actual zealous, toothless old bailiff.  And defense counsel Sullivan is mild compared to the real defense attorney, who sported faded denim bib overalls under his western tweed blazer, with bits of breakfast lodged in his bushy beard.  (They have both long since retired.)  I hope you enjoy Scene 2.

CHOCOLATE: A COMIC PLAY IN ONE ACT
by Roger Evans Baker

The Characters:
• The Honorable Marsha P. Stone, Judge of the 13th District Court
• Mr. John Butcher, Prosecuting Attorney
• Mr. Gil Sullivan, Defense Attorney
• Victor S. Bull, the Defendant
• Ashton “Flapper” Cuff, Court Bailiff
• Officer Harold Ketchum, Police Officer
• Vickie Hicks, Bull’s 17-year-old niece
• Judd “Snoops” Lawson, Bull’s duplex neighbor
• Ernest “Tubby” Brown, Bull’s drinking buddy
• Winowna Darling Bull, Bull’s 76-year-old mother

JUDGE STONE. (commanding, with apparent renewed interest) Call your first witness, Mr. Butcher.

MR. BUTCHER. (with high-pitched excitement mixed with anxiety) The State calls Vickie Hicks to the witness stand.

FLAPPER. (like a drill sergeant) Vickie Hicks! Come forward! Take your seat on the witness stand! Speak clearly into the microphone, please!

MR. BUTCHER. (affecting meekness) Your Honor, may I stand to the side so that this child isn’t required to look at the defendant during questioning?

JUDGE STONE. (sighing impatiently) Very well. You may proceed with direct examination.

MR. BUTCHER. (with deference) Thank you kindly, Judge. (Calmly and gently.) Now then, Vickie, sweetheart. Please tell us what happened on the night of July 7th.

VICKIE. (adopting her sweetest teenage voice) It’s just as you said, Mr. Butcher. Uncle Victor came home drunk, started arguing with Aunt Mary, took out a gun, and fired off a round right into the ceiling. Dust and plaster everywhere.

MR. BUTCHER. (with indignation) And is this the very gun he pointed at her in a threatening manner and fired?

VICKIE. (smug) It s-u-r-e is.

MR. SULLIVAN. (complaining) Your Honor, Mayam. I object to Butcher’s leading questions–he’s putting the answers right into her mouth. Why doesn’t he just take the witness stand and do the whole trial himself?

JUDGE STONE. It is a bit out of order, you know, Mr. Butcher. Please be more judicious. In any event, there’s no point in going back. Overruled. Proceed, Mr. Butcher.

MR. BUTCHER. (with clenched jaw and accusing tone) The defendant pointed this gun at your dear aunt and then shot, didn’t he?

VICKIE. Yes, sir, he pointed it right at her and shot. Only, he didn’t shoot at her but at the–

MR. BUTCHER. (triumphantly) Thank you very much, Miss Vickie. (As if there were nothing left to tell.) Well, there you have it. No further questions.

MR. SULLIVAN. (dripping deference) May I have the pleasure, Mayam, of cross-examining Mr. Butcher’s sweetheart, Vickie Hicks?

JUDGE STONE. (motherly) Of course, you may. It’s your client’s right, you know.

MR. SULLIVAN. (like a cat ready to pounce on its prey) Yes, I know. Well now, Vickie, darlin’. I’m a-goin’ to ask you a few questions. Okay?

VICKIE. Shoot.

MR. SULLIVAN. (sarcastically) I’d love to. (Accusing.) You’re a lying little stink, aren’t you?

MR. BUTCHER. (offended) I object, Your Honor! Impugning the character of a child witness! It’s not proper! It’s not ethical!

JUDGE STONE. Objection sustained. (chiding) Now, Mr. Sullivan, mind your manners. She is a child, and she has sworn to tell the truth, after all.

MR. SULLIVAN. I’m aware of that, Mayam. But I do not believe this child has told the truth, and I have the right to challenge her credibility.

JUDGE STONE. Well, proceed. But please be civil. This is a civil proceeding you know.

MR. SULLIVAN. (innocently) Of course, Mayam. Vickie, dear, you haven’t told the truth here today, have you?

VICKIE. (she is caught off guard, but recovers quickly) I most certainly have.

MR. SULLIVAN. (as if stating known facts) In fact, you’re used to lying, aren’t you?

VICKIE. (losing confidence) I most certainly am not.

MR. SULLIVAN. You mean to tell me you’ve never told a lie?

VICKIE. Well, not really. No big lies, anyway.

MR. SULLIVAN. (diminutive, as if speaking to a baby) Just little bitty ones?

VICKIE. I guess, yea.

MR. SULLIVAN. And what little bitty lies might they have been?

VICKIE. (not sure what she should say) Well, maybe, like, I told my mamma I was studying as Suzie’s when I was really listening to CDs at Buddy’s.

MR. SULLIVAN. (sweetly) I see. So if you are so willing to lie to your own mamma, it wouldn’t be a stretch to lie to the Judge, here, would it?

VICKIE. (confused) I wouldn’t lie to the Judge, just to my mamma.

MR. SULLIVAN. (roughly) That’s not what I asked you, is it, Miss Vickie Hicks? It wouldn’t be such a stretch, would it, Miss Vickie Hicks?

VICKIE. (spiraling into distress) Well. I don’t know. I guess–maybe not. I don’t know!

MR. SULLIVAN. (raising his voice) And it wouldn’t be a stretch to lie to the police, either, would it, Miss Vickie Hicks?

VICKIE. (through tears) I wouldn’t lie to the police.

MR. SULLIVAN. (roughly) Would it? You have lied to the police before, haven’t you? You broke your Uncle George’s windshield and blamed one of your wannabe gang high-school punk friends, didn’t you?

MR. BUTCHER. (squealing) I object! I don’t know anything about this!

JUDGE STONE. (gleefully) Overruled. You’re not supposed to know everything about the defendant’s case, Mr. Butcher. I suggest you do your homework better next time.

MR. SULLIVAN. (caustically) Answer my question, Vickie, dear. You lied to the police, didn’t you?

MR. BUTCHER. (crushed by the Judge’s remonstrance, but daring to object again) I object, Your Honor. Mr. Sullivan doesn’t care if Vickie is honest or not. He just wants to make her cry!

JUDGE STONE. (with some disappointment) Back off a little, Mr. Sullivan. (Gently.) Answer the question, dear.

VICKIE. (confounded and upset) I don’t know what he’s talking about.

MR. SULLIVAN. (sweet again) I see. Let me ask you another question. Have you ever been suspended from school?

MR. BUTCHER. (anxiously) Objection! What does high school suspension have to do with the defendant shooting a loaded gun? It’s irrelevant, I tell you!

MR. SULLIVAN. (firing back angrily) It’s relevant when you are suspended for cheating!

MR. BUTCHER. (in a panic) I object! I object!

JUDGE STONE. (wearily, at the same time Mr. Sullivan snaps at Mr. Butcher) Objection sustained.

MR. SULLIVAN. (annoyed, to Butcher, at the same time as the Judge’s ruling) Oh, shut up, will you!

JUDGE STONE. (red-faced, infuriated, after a flustered pause) How dare you tell this Court to shut up! I have given you a great deal of slack, Mr. Gil Sullivan, and I’m just about to tie you up with it and let you spend a night behind bars for contempt of this Court!

MR. SULLIVAN. (mortified) No, Your Honor, Mayam.

JUDGE STONE. Don’t you tell me no, young man! I was a Judge when you were still in diapers! I’ve never heard such rudeness from the bar! Flapper, are you prepared?

FLAPPER. (approaching Mr. Sullivan armed with handcuffs and a toothless grin) A pleasure, Your Honor.

MR. SULLIVAN. (frantic) Please, Your Honor Sir–Mayam–Judge. I was talkin’ to Butcher, here, not to you.

JUDGE STONE. (quickly deflating) Oh. Well. Yes. Well. It’s a good thing for you, Mr. Sullivan, that you were telling Mr. Butcher to shut up and not me. The nerve! Stand down, Flapper. (Bailiff Cuff returns to his seat with obvious disappointment.)

MR. BUTCHER (hurt) But Your Honor!

JUDGE STONE. (wanting to put the incident behind her) Oh shut up, will you! Sullivan, are you quite finished with your assault on this poor child?

MR. SULLIVAN. (hesitating) Well, no. I did have a few more pertinent questions–but, on second thought, maybe I am through with her.

JUDGE STONE. (with kindness) You may step down, sweetheart. (Impatiently) Next witness, Mr. Butcher.

MR. BUTCHER. State calls Mr. Judd Lawson. (pause while Mr. Lawson takes the witness stand) Mr. Lawson, are you next-door neighbors with the defendant and his wife?

[Come back tomorrow for Scene 3.]

Chocolate: A Comic Courtroom Play (Scene 1)

2015-08-21 Hyrum-05

Hyrum (13) sitting in the chair of a federal bankruptcy judge in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Nearly 20 years ago I prosecuted a man for pointing a gun at his wife during an argument.  My two oldest children, Brian (then 8) and Erin (then 6) sat in the first row on the edge of their seat, their eyes wide in anticipation of seeing their dad in action.  This play is based on the facts and characters of the actual trial (which I won).  Some of the characters very closely resemble real people.  Others are totally fictitious.  I, of course, do not resemble Mr. Butcher in the slightest.  I hope you enjoy this comic play in one act, posted scene by scene each day over the next week.

CHOCOLATE: A COMIC PLAY IN ONE ACT
by Roger Evans Baker

The Characters:
• The Honorable Marsha P. Stone, Judge of the 13th District Court
• Mr. John Butcher, Prosecuting Attorney
• Mr. Gil Sullivan, Defense Attorney
• Victor S. Bull, the Defendant
• Ashton “Flapper” Cuff, Court Bailiff
• Officer Harold Ketchum, Police Officer
• Vickie Hicks, Bull’s 17-year-old niece
• Judd “Snoops” Lawson, Bull’s duplex neighbor
• Ernest “Tubby” Brown, Bull’s drinking buddy
• Winowna Darling Bull, Bull’s 76-year-old mother

The Scene: From a raised judicial dais, an elegant leather judge’s chair stares out over the country courtroom. Beneath the bench stand two scratched and peeling wood-veneer tables. At one table sits the State, incarnate in the prosecutor, who nervously awaits announcement of the judge’s appearance. At the other sits the defendant, in new jeans and new t-shirt, who leans over repeatedly to whisper to his attorney, himself dressed in jeans, but with a shirt, tie, and leather- elbowed jacket. The bailiff, weathered and toothless, slouches in his chair waiting for the judge’s arrival. Behind the bar, rows of orange-cloth benches contain an assortment of characters in a variety of dress, from stained t-shirts and holey denims to suits and ties, one of the latter often sitting by one of the former. With a deep sense of her own importance, the judge enters the courtroom without warning, and the bailiff springs to his feet, hurrying to fulfill his function with all the dignity he can muster.

BAILIFF ASHTON “FLAPPER” CUFF. (loud and crisp, like a trumpet heralding the queen’s appearance) All arise! The 13th District Court is now in session with the Honorable Marsha P. Stone presiding! Please be silent and orderly throughout these judicial proceedings!

JUDGE STONE. (rolling her eyes and waiving a delicate hand at the wrist) Thank you, Flapper. That will do.

FLAPPER. (unabashed) You may now be seated!

JUDGE STONE. (cheerfully) Very well. Shall we begin? Let’s see. The first case on this morning’s busy, busy calendar is State v. Victor S. Bull, for threatening with a dangerous weapon. (With a dismayed shake of the head; to herself, but so that everyone can hear.) My, my, what is the world coming to? (Resuming her normal voice.) The State appears to be represented by Mr. Butcher, and the defendant, Mr. Bull, is obviously represented by Mr. Sullivan. (Audible aside to Mr. Sullivan.) Really, Gil, the least you could do is trade in your denims and tweed for a suit.

MR. SULLIVAN. (swaggering, with a country-western twang) You know me, Mayam. No frills. What you see is what you get.

JUDGE STONE. (disdainfully) Apparently. Well. Are we ready to proceed with the trial, Mr. Butcher.

MR. BUTCHER. (chipper and confident) Yes, Your Honor. Ready as always.

JUDGE STONE. That’s a good fellow. Are we ready, Mr. Sullivan?

MR. SULLIVAN. I reckon.

JUDGE STONE. (looking at her elegant watch with affected disinterest) Yes. Well. I suppose you have an opening statement, Mr. Butcher.

MR. BUTCHER. (hesitating at the Judge’s tone) Of course, Your Honor, but a brief one. You see, on the night of July 7th, this very man, sitting at this very table, came home drunk after hours at the Dead Donkey Saloon. (The prosecutor’s voice begins to rise, sounding accusing and contemptuous.) Then this man–no, hardly a man–this scoundrel had the audacity to accuse his wife, (who happens to be a bar maid at the Dead Donkey), of cheating on him. He got in her face, spewing fumey insults. She was understandably disturbed by this animal behavior, pushed him away, and called him a fitting expletive, something resembling an animal’s backside. In vicious response, this barbaric male, a disgrace to the sex–

MR. SULLIVAN. (indignantly) Now hold on there, pardner. Judge—Mayam—“hardly a man” is one thing; “scoundrel” is another thing; but “barbaric male” and “disgrace” are downright nasty. Hundreds of people in this town drink. They’re just havin’ a good time with their buddies. My client here is no barbarian, and I’ll ask the persecutor here to mind his manners.

JUDGE STONE. (patronizingly) You were getting a little out of hand, you know, Mr. Butcher. Continue with your brief opening statement, but please discipline yourself.

MR. BUTCHER. (humbly) Yes, Your Honor. I’m sorry, Your Honor. When I think about this, person, I just become excited, you know, heated, riled. (His voice rising.) My blood begins to boil.

JUDGE STONE. (in a warning tone) Mr. Butcher.

MR. BUTCHER. (sincerely humble) I do apologize, Your Honor; I’ll try really hard to be civil.

JUDGE STONE. You do that. Go on.

MR. BUTCHER. (making an obvious effort to remain calm, but quickly becoming animated) As I was saying, to his wife’s very normal reaction of calling her staggering, screaming husband a “horse’s ass,” he lurched for the closet, whence he withdrew a loaded gun, and waived it around, repeating, “So I’m a horse’s ass, am I?” Then he actually fired the gun. Blasted a hole through the ceiling, right into their bedroom and through their bed. Scared for her life, she grabbed her sweet niece, Vickie–who, thank God, is still with us today–and they ran, barefoot, to the gas station two blocks away to call the police. When the police arrived, was Victor Bull in the house? No. Is he anywhere to be found? No! (Triumphantly.) Ah, but the diligent Officer Ketchum did find him, hiding, pretending to be asleep–

JUDGE STONE. (with authority, to an agitated Mr. Bull) Mr. Bull! Please! You must control yourself. If you cannot sit still in your seat, I shall have the bailiff shackle your legs to it. And no more grunting or moaning noises. In due time you’ll have a chance to tell your side of the story. (To herself.) I’m sure there is one. (Resuming her normal voice.) Are you quite finished, Mr. Butcher?

MR. BUTCHER. Yes, Your Honor. Almost, Your Honor.

JUDGE STONE. (affecting weariness) Very well. Do continue.

MR. BUTCHER. (calmer, but still excited) As I was saying, Your Honor, Officer Ketchum found the defendant hiding, pretending to be asleep. (With absolute conviction.) This man is guilty, Your Honor. Oh is he guilty: guilty as a boot stuck in the cold March mud.

JUDGE STONE. (affecting disinterest) Yes. Well. I’m sure you have an opening statement of your own, Mr. Sullivan.

MR. SULLIVAN. (confidently) Darn right, Mayam. Short and sweet. Say it like it is. It’s all lies, and we’ll prove it to ya’ right shortly. Pretendin’ to be asleep–indeed. I suggest we get on with it.

JUDGE STONE. (sighing) Bailiff Cuff, please have the witnesses stand and be sworn all at once. Saves time, you know.

BAILIFF CUFF. Yes Sir—Ma’am—Your Honor, Sir. (Like a preacher in a tent revival.) All the witnesses arise and repeat after me! Do you most solemnly swear! Upon all that is sacred and holy! To tell the truth! The whole truth! Nothing but the truth! So help you God and his heavenly host?

WITNESSES. (intimidated, in concert) I do.

JUDGE STONE. (whispering as the witnesses answer) Flapper. There’s no host here—just God.

FLAPPER. (obsequious) Right. Sorry, Your Honor. (preaching again) So help you God?

WITNESSES. (hesitating, in staggered response) I do.

FLAPPER. (like a rifle shot) You may be seated!

JUDGE STONE. (commanding, with apparent renewed interest) Call your first witness, Mr. Butcher.

[Check back tomorrow for Scene 2!]

Chapter 28: Away with Murder

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–People who destroy are people who have not created.–

Rabbit Lane is a peaceful place.  The water trickling through Watercress in the deep ditch, the exotic purple and yellow blossoms of the Bitter Nightshade vines, the gently waving and rustling fields of ripe oats, the deep green of the ripe alfalfa.  The solitude.  After a few minutes on Rabbit Lane, all of this works together to settle my turbulent mind.  Usually.

On occasion, though, troubling memories from a piquant past press themselves upon the serenity of the present.  Images of a mother and her three children sometimes appear, without apparent cause, from many years earlier.  I have tried to forget these images, but cannot.  I also cannot forget how a guilty man got away with murder. Continue reading