True Deception, Chapter 4

“There she is!” a reporter announced when she spotted our arrival. Her colleagues as well as a flurry of livid protestors swarmed down the courthouse steps to speak with us, and I was glad I had the foresight to deploy several police officers to guard us at this moment! I covered Violet’s head with a jacket, and as we made our way to the entrance, all of the journalists gathered there attempted to grill us with hard-hitting questions about the case, and even if I wanted to cooperate with their requests, I couldn’t have because we got drowned in the sea of noise coming from the demonstrators! I was able to ignore most of them, but then, all of a sudden, I found a camera in my face! The same news lady who espied us originally now accosted me, “Mister Devante, word on the street is that your client’s hostile behavior prompted almost every lawyer in the state to decline to represent her, so she had to settle for a public defender. Can you confirm this?”

            “My client and I have no comment.” I pushed the camera out of the way as I resumed escorting Violet into the building.

            “Really?” The camera and the reporter’s voice continued to float by us as we walked down the narrow aisle available to us. “After all of the horrible things your client did, you have nothing to say to the public?”

            The crowd roared in vehement agreement of the sentiments behind her inquiry, but I remained silent since we had reached the doors. Being inside muffled all of the thundering commotion, but we could definitely still hear them out there! I encouragingly addressed Violet, “Don’t listen to them! They don’t know the real story!” Violet sniffed in disagreement, threw down the jacket, and marched into the courtroom ahead of me. I sighed; we were off to a rough start, but I refused to let that deter me! I felt lucky enough to have earned enough of Violet’s trust to have her agree to hire me for her representation, so I yearned to show her that she made the right decision by gaining her the freedom she deserved! As I entered the forum, I could detect angry whispers and hisses from people eyeballing me as I made my way to the defense’s bench, and it irked me that a belligerent group was allowed to sit in the audience! Violet had a deep scowl as she stared out into the distance, and while most people probably interpreted that as an act of snootiness, I knew she actually harbored a vast fear of what was to come! I really ached with sympathy for her for having to endure this harrowing ordeal, and that added fuel to my fire to make her not regret her choice to trust me.

            Once the chamber had thoroughly filled up with all of the trial participants, the bailiff called out, “All rise!” Everyone grew obediently silent at his behest, and my heart began to pound wildly! I rarely got nervous at these events, but this one was different! Our side would be infinitely more difficult to prove, but something more important than a legal victory was at stake! If we lost, then the entire planet would lose the key to saving itself! Nobody else knew this except for Violet and me, so if we did manage to pull off a miracle and get a win that day, I knew we would have to deal with the rancor of those who felt jilted from the results that did not curry favor with their expectations, but I didn’t care- the truly challenging phase of my plan would get set in motion after the not-guilty verdict! Facing the Fallen grew more real in this instance, which was an incredibly daunting undertaking that would make anyone feel scared, but I tried not to dwell on that eventuality as the bailiff proclaimed, “The Honorable Michael Ronnell is now presiding!”           

            A bit of relief flooded my body as the gray-haired judge took his seat! No magistrate in our society could ever actually be fair due to the corrupt laws that they had to work off of, but out of everyone I dealt with in court, he was probably the most principled. He told everyone, “You may be seated,” and as we did so, I allowed myself to gather a faint hope for a reasonable ruling! “We’re here today for the case of The State of Massachusetts versus Violet Harlow, who is being charged with second degree murder. Is the accused present?”

            “Yes, your Honor,” I stood up and responded to him.

            “How does your client plead?” he asked me.

            I firmly answered, “Your honor, my client pleads not guilty!”

            The spectators had an audible reaction of disbelief after my statement, so Judge Ronnell banged his gavel and commanded, “Order, please! Order!” When the masses grew quiet, he directed, “The prosecution may now begin their opening statement.”

            One of the attorneys on the other side stood up cockily and adjusted his tie with a smarmy smile, and it enraged me to watch his arrogant confidence on a triumphant outcome in this matter! Yes, prosecutors typically won their cases in this era, but he seemed especially sure in regard to this one! I decided not to let his inflated ego get to me, reminding myself that the higher he let his pride climb, the longer his fall would be when we toppled his best strategies!

He stood up before Judge Ronnell and pompously orated, “Your Honor, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, today, we are bakers, and we will be serving vanity a slice of humble pie! What happens when a person becomes overly consumed by a bloated sense of self-importance? One day, reality strikes them, and they realize that they’re not the most important person in the universe! While some may learn a valuable lesson after facing these circumstances, others cannot handle the truth! Some may even act out as Violet Harlow did that fateful day. A faithful servant had enough of her mistreatment and dared to say no to a humiliating order, and instead of taking his defiance in stride, she took her fury at the world out on that poor man! An innocent life got lost all for the sake of her hubris! As you listen to the witnesses testify about the horrible details of that day, ask yourselves this: Who deserves justice more- a meek peasant or pretentious billionaire?”

He took a seat with a huge display of swagger, and I had to force myself not to roll my eyes at the irony of this braggart faulting Violet for her supposed conceit. Judge Ronnell turned to me and instructed, “The defense may go ahead with their opening statement.”

I could perceive the audience’s readiness to share their outrage again, but they could see Judge Ronnell’s stern gaze in their direction and stayed mute. I hadn’t had any cameras in my proceedings prior to this occasion, and I could practically feel the vitriol from the viewers outside of the courtroom, but I shook that off! The world needed to hear the truth, but a part of me worried about succumbing to my nerves! It was a lot of pressure, but before I could attempt to buckle, I caught a glimpse of Violet’s angelic face, and that was all I needed to harness the fortitude I needed to face this adversity and prevail!

With resolute conviction in my voice, I spoke out, “Your Honor, all of our distinguished members of the jury, even our guests of the courtroom, let me ask you this- why is the Statue of Justice blindfolded? Did the artist intend to convey the notion that the wool could get pulled over her eyes? Of course not! So, why is the blindfold there? I’ll tell you… It’s meant to show that justice is blind! Bringing justice to a case does not mean picking who you like better, it means choosing what’s right! It forces you to do the right thing, and doing the right thing sucks sometimes, but we don’t act with integrity for our own personal benefit! If we make an exception for one individual we favor, less favorable characters will expect the same! We must adhere to the rules to keep the system intact! Now, the prosecution has urged you to listen to the witnesses as they testify and pay attention to the details of the trial, and I whole-heartedly agree! It’s literally your job to do just that!” The lead prosecutor glared at me for poking holes in his statement, but I disregarded that and went on, “However, as you absorb the information given to you, remember that your purpose is to find the facts wherever they may lead! The truth may not be what you want to hear, but to act upon anything else would be a miscarriage of justice and set up an ugly precedent for cases in the future! You may not enjoy the idea of Violet Harlow’s innocence, but as the truth of the matter is presented to you, you must act in accordance with the blind justice you pledged to uphold!”

With the completely floored expressions on the jury’s faces, I expected a stunned silence to follow my speech. Instead, a furious outcry sounded in the forum at my suggestion of Violet being innocent! Judge Ronnell had to use his gavel again, and he demanded, “Order, Order!” When the room finally hushed, he warned the attendees, “If you keep interrupting this session, I’ll find you in contempt of the court and have you removed! Is that clear?” The audience obviously understood his directive, but they eyed him maliciously as if his instance of decorum signified that he had allied himself with the enemy! I still saw signs of mutiny, but Judge Ronnell appeared satisfied with their degree of compliance since he turned his attention away from them and asserted to me, “I assume that your client wants to utilize her fifth amendment rights.”

“Actually, my client is willing to testify on her own behalf,” I corrected him, which sent a ripple of astonishment throughout the space.

“Really? Are you sure you wanna do that?” the lead prosecutor incredulously inquired.

            I simply replied, “My client understands her fifth amendment rights, but she doesn’t have to worry about self-incrimination- she did nothing wrong!”

            My certainty behind that claim flabbergasted everyone except for Violet, who didn’t make eye contact with me but did emanate her displeasure for my decision. I knew she wouldn’t relish taking the stand in fear that she may expose the existence of the Fallen, but I felt that she could omit the parts where magic got involved and still preserve her honesty. I could have chosen to highlight any mistruths that the witnesses spouted out and continually remind the court that the circumstantial evidence presented didn’t prove that Violet killed anyone, but I couldn’t resist putting up a subject who sincerely had aversion to lying! The lead prosecutor stood up and entreated Judge Ronnell, “Your Honor, in light of this revelation, I would like to call the defendant to the stand ahead of my scheduled witnesses.”

            Judge Ronnell obliged, “I’ll allow it. Miss Harlow, will you please approach the witness’ stand?” Violet showcased a bundle of anxiety over this endeavor, but no one else caught on since she sported a pronounced frown. She may have dreaded this occurrence, but I didn’t! My instincts assured me that this would change everything for the better! The bailiff held a religious text up to her, and she put her hand up as Judge Ronnell queried, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

            “I do!” Violet affirmed, which prompted a series of doubtful asides from the people watching the trial. She maintained a poker face, but I know their behavior bothered her, but it didn’t phase me! I knew we would only benefit from this proceeding!

            That sleezy prosecutor opened up his questioning with, “Alright, Miss Harlow, can you tell us what happened?”

            “Sure- what happened!” she cheekily responded.

            “My apologies for the ambiguity. Please tell the court what happened on the day that Mister Cassiel died,” the prosecutor mandated.

            Violet huffed, “Fine! One minute, he was alive, and the next minute, he was killed.”

            I couldn’t blame Violet for her irritation from doing something that she didn’t want to do and having to deal with that narcissist’s callous orientation, but I had anticipated that her virtuous nature would compel her to be more forthcoming at a juncture as critical as this! It did sort of amuse me to watch that elitist toad twitch in annoyance, but I inwardly prayed that it wouldn’t take too long for the real story to get out there! He implored her, “Who killed him?”

            “Not me,” Violet articulated.

            “Who did?” the prosecutor probed. The crowd grew restless again, and Violet watched them apprehensively, so that prosecutor barked, “Don’t worry about them! Just answer my question!”

            Violet folded her arms defiantly. “Isn’t that what investigators are for? Someone broke in and murdered him, isn’t that enough?”

            The spectators became more incensed, but the prosecutor carried on with his interrogation, “Why would someone want to kill him?”

            “They didn’t want to,” Violet disclosed as the attendees were deaf to the judge’s gavel and increased their animated behavior.

            “Then why did they do it?” he pressed her. “Was it an accident?”

            Violet’s frightened eyes flickered between the chorus of people who balked at her suggestion of her own veracity and the lead prosecutor’s mounting exasperation, and she unwillingly reported, “They weren’t after him! He died trying to save me from them!”

            The prosecutor howled, “Who?”

            Unable to take the pressure from both that prosecutor and the raving assembly, Violet couldn’t help but shout out, “Nancy Nox!”

            A collective gasp echoed throughout the room from the audacity of that allegation, and that prosecutor lost his cool. He grabbed her by her shirt and hollered, “If you’re not gonna take this seriously, you-!”

            “Your Honor,” I interrupted him. “I move for a mistrial on the grounds of my client’s mistreatment by the prosecution.”

            “Well, councilor,” Judge Ronnell sermonized to that prosecutor, “It seems as though you should eat that humble pie you baked for the defendant! Mistrial granted! New trial will commence in-.”

            The crowd became beside themselves and jumped out of their seats! The police present in the courtroom attempted to gain control of who they could reach, but they had to call for backup at how much they were outnumbered in this situation! They made their way to our site, so Violet and I needed to get out of there quickly! Violet seemed too astonished to move, so I grabbed her wrist and led her out of the forum. I found an open arbitration chamber and dragged her into it. Once I secured us inside, she began pacing and ringing her hands. “Nancy Nox?” I petitioned her. She was muttering the word no under her breath, but it wasn’t in regard to what I just said. I realized that I may have come across as not trusting her, so I attempted to convey my confidence her by reasoning, “Look, I don’t care how beloved of a celebrity she is, I would still make sure she pays for her crimes! Why didn’t you tell me this sooner?” She grew more frantic, so I reassured her, “It’s okay! We still have some time before your next trial, so I’ll speak to her attorneys, and we’ll-.”

            She looked at me sharply as if she had just recognized that I was in her vicinity, and with more trepidation than I could have imagined she would have built up from the scenario at hand, she urgently relayed to me, “We have to get out of here! We’re in real danger!”