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Following patrolman Rogers, the Evans put Detective MacArthur on the stand. The detective outlined the course of the entire investigation, including the discovery of Juliann's necklace, her term of service with Assemblyman Richards, and the mysterious paper that she had in his handwriting. Evans and MacArthur, playing off each other, seemed to build a chain of facts that pointed squarely at Donalds. On cross, Mitchell brought out the fact that the police did not have a murder weapon linking the Assemblyman to the victim. Despite this, Richards felt distinctly nervous. Following the cross examination of MacArthur, the judge called a lunch recess.
In a conference room deep within the courthouse, Mitchell and Richards sat on one side of a table, with Evans on the other side.
"Okay," began the prosecutor. "You called me here; let's talk."
"My client is willing to plead to man two," Mitchell said, referting to manslaughter in the second degree.
"You've got to be kidding!" replied Evans. "MacArthur was fabulous on the stand. I'm going to put up the coroner to describe what the cause of death, and how the strangulation was by a man of your client's height. The victim's mother will tell the jury what that corpse used to be like when she was alive, and also remind them that Juliann worked for your client. The argument that your client had with Juliann the day she was murdered will also play well with them when the man from the diner they were at relates it."
"All circumstantial" muttered Richards.
"Oh, really, Mr. Richards?" asked the prosecutor. "Then how do you explain the sand on your shoes and the traces of the victim's hair in your car?"
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"So they rode together and Assemblyman Richards likes to take walks in the desert. What's your point?"
"My point is, Mr. Evans, that your client is going to be found guilty of murder in the first degree. The evidence of illegal campaign contributions is just icing on the cake." Evans let that sink in. "However, my office is willing to accept a plea of guilty to murder in the first degree, in exchange for a sentencing recommendation - your client would do the minimum."
"That's 30 years! Forget it. The highest we'll go it man one."
Evans thought about it. Manslaughter in the first degree carried a sentence of anywhere from between 10 to 30 years. "We'll let the judge decide the sentence based on the facts - no recommendations."
Evans conferred with his client. It was a matter of who they wished to gamble with - the judge or the jury. Evans felt no guilt over pleading out the case - over 90% of all criminal cases are handled that way. Although the media would no doubt protest over manslaughter one, they would be appeased with a thirty year, no parole sentence if that's what the judge handed down. Evans just couldn't take the chance of having one lone juror with some imaginary doubt, or deeply disturbed over the lack of a murder weapon, causing an acquital. The murder weapon is usually an important link in such cases.
"Okay, we'll take it." replied Evans.
"So tell me," began Evans as Richards was led away by guard, "why'd you plead this one instead of holding out?"
"Simple," answered Mitchell, "our dear Assemblyman was running out of money. Since this whole trial started, let's just say certain corporate sponsorships have dried up. By the end of your next witness, he would've been on Legal Aid, and it scared the heck out of him. Just for me to take him this far he had to mortgage the house."
"You're a vulture." said Evans.
"No, I'm a lawyer." They laughed, but that Evans' cheerfulness was lessened by the fact that no amount of "justice" could bring back Juliann.
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Graphical bars used with permission and taken from the CD-ROM accompanying the Que Corporation book Using HTML by Tom Savola.
The music, as well as the pictures of the tombstones, is used with permission and taken from the Americana CD-ROM.