The Niteo Chronicles: Lies Undone

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Chapter 19

Chapter Nineteen

Past

“’Who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast mercy. Who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.’”

“Wait, what did that say? How did she know?” I asked in amazement.

“What do you mean?”

“How did she know that this would speak to me so much? ‘Redeems your life from the pit.’ ‘So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.’ How could she have possibly known that those are the missing pieces of my life?”

“I don’t follow. What are you talking about?” Luke asked with confusion.

I let out a deep breath. “My life has been nothing short of complicated. I think you of all people understand that. There’s been so much confusion and deception, and condemnation. I’ve felt like I-I was cursed or something. Like there was just this dark cloud stealing from me, pushing me down. My entire childhood was stained by Jim and what he did to me.”

“Okay, so…” Luke asked still trying to pick up what I was saying.

“So? Don’t you see what these verses are saying?”

“I think I’m starting to. But I want to hear you say it yourself,” Luke answered with hope.

I re-read the Psalm, specifically those verses. Everything felt like it was in slow motion. Every verse I read was screaming out to me. I felt God pulling at my heart, but something in me still wanted to fight it. I had resisted my faith for so long that I didn’t think I could ever embrace it again. Tears were pressing against the corners of both my eyes. The power of the words I was reading was overwhelming.

I needed to blurt out what was in my mind but just as I went to speak, Luke’s phone rang.

“It’s my father. I have to take this. I’ll be right back.”

He jumped from the bed and let himself out of my bedroom, not quite closing the door behind him.

I barely noticed Luke’s absence. I was too overtaken by the words on the page in front of me and the voice that started to fill my head.

I started speaking my mind out loud. It had been many years since I believed in anything outside of the evil that had consumed my life through Jim. Hope—faith had no place in my life. I’d always been made to believe that I was too far gone to be redeemed. But in that moment, I felt free enough to let my guard down. I started to wonder if there was something out there that was even stronger than the curse that had been placed over my life.

“I don’t know how my mom knew to lead me to that Psalm. But I do know that you’re trying to get my attention, and God, you’ve got it.” I began sobbing as I spoke.

“I’m ready. I want to believe again. I want to know this more than anything else in my life. I want to feel your love in my life again. I want to believe that you are stronger than Jim. That his evil can be overcome by something greater. Something good. I want to believe in love and hope and faith. I have been so selfish and cold toward you. I’ve wrongfully blamed you for my circumstances when you had nothing to do with them. I know you’ve been watching me all these years just waiting for me to be ready. God, I finally am. I’m ready for you.

“Please forgive me. Thank you for sending your only son to die on the cross in my place. To conquer the evil in this world. Thank you for rescuing me from my pit of abuse. Please restore my youth as you as you have promised. My heart is no longer covered in ice—it’s ready for the warmth only your love can bring.

“I surrender everything. Take my fears, my failures, my worries, my burdens – take them all. I cannot carry them any longer. Lord, please, work with me and help me, because I can’t do this alone anymore.”

I wanted to continue speaking, but my sobs turned into full-blown tears.

As I sat crying and silently praying, I heard a voice in my head that was stronger than anything I had ever heard before. I was still alone. It couldn’t be anyone else. I knew it was God, and I knew that my faith was restored to something it had never been even when I still had my innocence.

“Welcome back, my child. I’ve been waiting for you.”

Two simple phrases followed by a sensation of two huge arms wrapping around me. I had no response except to sit still. The air felt different in my bedroom. I felt warmer and more secure than I ever had before. I could have sworn the lights in my room were brighter. Everything felt more open. Such a huge weight was finally gone. Evil had been so heavy on my shoulders for so long. I sat upright and embraced the lightness of having hope back in my life.

I continued crying and basking in the stronghold of my returning faith until Luke returned. He peeked his head in the door and immediately rushed in when he saw the tears streaming down my cheeks.

“Cassie! Are you okay?”

I wiped the tears from my face when I looked up. Luke was already kneeling before my bed by the time I managed to find my words.

“I’m more than okay. He’s here, Luke. It’s back.”

“What do you mean, Cassie?”

“My faith, it’s back. I’m starting to believe again.” I stopped to wipe my tears away again. “I started thinking and praying when you left. Luke, all I’ve ever wanted in the midst of everything I’ve endured was a chance. And now, I have it. And it feels so good.” I started sobbing again before I could speak anymore.

“What do you mean by a chance?”

“A chance to redeem myself for what happened to me. I wanted to believe that my lost years could be restored, and I didn’t have to linger in that darkness forever. But the longer it persisted, the more the flame of my hope fell away from existence.

“But now I’m seeing clearly for the first time. The only thing standing in the way of claiming that redemption for my lost time, was me. God is going to restore my time. I don’t know how yet but he’s going to. I believe he will. I believe in him.”

Luke bowed his head and locked his hands together.

“Thank you,” he whispered through his own sobs.

He looked up at me and brushed his thumb across my cheek.

“I am so happy for you and proud of you. You are stronger than your past. You will defeat this.” Luke sat beside me and threw his arms around me. “I love you so much, Cassie.”

“I love you too, Luke,” I said still trying to control my tears.

Luke and I stayed up for hours reading. I felt as though I couldn’t get enough; I was happier now than I had been in many years. For the first time in so long, I dreamt of joy and a future. It was like my blinders had been removed. I could see the brightness the world could offer and I never wanted to hinder that sight again.

The next morning as Luke and I made our way back to Court B and took our seats beside Hannah, I watched and waited for my mother to enter. I could have mauled her with my excitement over what had happened the night before. I didn’t want to say too much in public because I wanted to celebrate with her privately, but it was hard to contain myself.

“Can you come over again soon? Like, tonight maybe? I have so much to tell you,” I asked her eagerly as she took off her coat.

“Um, yeah. Yes, I can. What is this about?” she asked as she looked at Luke with concern.

“I promise you, it’s a good thing,” I beamed.

Luke nodded in agreement.

“Okay, I guess I’ll see you tonight then,” my mother said with approval.

Judge Breelan entered and opened our fifth day of court.

“At this time, the state may proceed with its next witness.”

For the next hour, Hannah brought up several witnesses to question about specific parts of the case. I watched as she brought up the police officer who had taken my statement on May 17, the social worker I had spoken to the week after the court proceedings were started, the officers who had come to the house with me when I moved my belongings out and moved into the Stevens house. She interviewed several people that I had even forgotten were involved in the case because it had been so long since everything began.

“No further questions,” Hannah said as she ended the latest interview with a detective.

“Thank you, Ms. Jones, and thank you, Detective Barnslow, you may return to your seat. Does the state have any other witnesses?”

“No, your honor. The prosecution rests its case.”

“At this time, Mr. Smith you may begin with your opening statements.”

I had forgotten that Mr. Smith decided to wait until now to present his opening statement. Part of me was anxious to hear what kind of pathetic story he could create to defend my former stepfather. I wanted to view him differently now that I knew my life hadn’t been completely lost to him—but even hope and faith had their earthly limits.

He walked out to the center of the courtroom, cupped his hands together and opened his case.

“I want everyone to create a mental picture. Imagine if you will a typical middle-aged man. He holds a steady job, which he shows up to faithfully; in fact, he has not missed a day of work in over twenty years. This man holds strong moral values and feels strongly that it is important to provide for his family. The man I am describing is my client, James Whitlin. He is your typical family man with strong character. In the presentation of my case, I will prove to everyone here that my client did not commit the crimes he is being charged with. James Whitlin is indeed an innocent man.”

Mr. Smith sauntered back over to his place beside my former stepfather.

“Thank you, Mr. Smith, you may proceed with your first witness at this time,” Judge Breelan responded.

“The star witness for the defense is the defendant himself. I call James Whitlin to the stand.”

Jim stood up and as he walked toward the witness stand, he looked around the room. I wasn’t sure what or who he was looking for but at one point his eyes fixed on me. He gave me one of the most sinister looks I had ever received. It sent chills down my spine. Luke wrapped his arm around me, not caring that we were in court, needing to maintain our professional appearance. I closed my eyes and asked the Lord for the strength to get through the rest of the day. Jim broke his stare as he was sworn in, but he picked it back up as soon as he took his seat. It was then that I realized he was planning to stare me down the entire time he was on the stand. I did not know if I could take that.

“Luke, do you see what he’s doing?” I whispered as quietly as I could manage.

“Yes, don’t worry. He is not going to be able to do anything. He can stare all he wants, he’ll be in jail soon enough,” Luke whispered back.

That thought made me happy on the inside. I suddenly felt the same kind of supernatural peace I’d felt at one point during my testimony. From that point, his stare had no control over me.

“Please state your full name for the record,” Mr. Smith began the standard questioning for his client.

“James Dorsey Whitlin.”

“Mr. Whitlin, how were you related to the plaintiff?”

“I was her stepfather for nine years.”

“Did you have a good relationship with your stepdaughter?”

“Yes, I would say so.”

“What caused the divorce between you and the plaintiff’s mother?”

“Well, we hit some rough times and in the end, it just turned out that things didn’t work between us. We had been trying to ignore some differences for nearly a decade and eventually those differences came between us.”

“What kind of differences?”

“Differences in personality, age, thoughts about raising children, managing money, those sorts of things.”

“Do you and Ms. Flynn have any children together?”

“No.”

I grimaced at the mere thought of my mother procreating with that vile man.

“How would you describe your relationship with the plaintiff throughout your marriage to her mother?”

“I would say that at first, we got along well. She and I shared a lot of fun times together; we would spend a lot of time together when she came home from school when I was home from work. Cassie was happy to have me around, at first.”

“When you say at first, how long do you mean?”

“For just the first few months of my marriage. After that Cassie changed a lot, things between us got worse from then on.”

“How did Cassie change?”

“She took on this sort of attitude about everything. She seemed to think she was better than everyone around her; it was as if she thought she was in a higher class than me and everyone she talked to. It was like she walked around with her nose in the air, looking down on everyone. I just figured it had something to do with her becoming a teenage girl.”

Jim’s testimony was making me so angry. I clenched my fists below the table. I wanted to just stand up and scream at him. I could only hope that everyone in the jury was able to see through his web of lies.

“Did you and Cassie ever fight?”

“We had times that we didn’t agree on things, we had our arguments, but never anything that was out of control.”

“What kinds of things did the two of you argue about?”

“Just the usual things, if either of us had a bad day we would get into an argument or if we just didn’t agree on something an argument would start.”

Mr. Smith paused before changing the direction of his questioning.

“When you first married the plaintiff’s mother, where were you working, Mr. Whitlin?”

“In a factory that made musical instruments; I worked as a spinner making the bells for French horns”

“Did you show up on time for your shifts?”

“Yes, every day.”

“How long did you hold that job?”

“I started it in 1981, and I didn’t leave that factory until 2000.”

“What caused you to leave the factory after nearly twenty years of loyal service?”

“At that time, the company was on strike and my pay had been cut quite a bit. I needed to find something that could provide better for my family.”

“Do you feel that providing for your family is important?”

“Oh, yes, very important. I was the head of the household. I felt as though I had an obligation to take care of my family, which included providing financially for them.”

“After leaving the factory, how long were you out of work?”

“I was never actually out of work. I left the factory in 2000, however, I was still receiving unemployment payments until I started my new job. I made certain that I always had some form of income flowing into our household.”

“What was the next job you held, Mr. Whitlin?”

“The job I am currently at, with the city.”

“What exactly does this job entail?”

“I am an assistant to the city councilman. I work in an office downtown where I work on his campaign, getting his name out there, that sort of thing. It’s kind of like I am the one who speaks for the councilman while he is busy in meetings and other sorts of things.”

Jim’s description of his job seemed vague as if he was hiding something about what he did, or he didn’t even understand the job himself. Either way, I felt it made him sound less credible.

“Would you say this job requires a lot of responsibility on your part?”

“Well, I have a good ten or so people who work under me, take job assignments from me, so yes, I would say I am required to be fairly responsible in order to maintain this job.”

“When did you officially begin this job?”

“In May of 2002.”

“And you are currently in this position, correct?”

“Yes.”

He said that as if he thought this trial was going to turn out in his favor. I hoped he was wrong.

“Now, concerning the charges that have been brought up against you, Mr. Whitlin, what are your thoughts? These are some serious charges.”

“I understand that these are some serious charges, and to be honest I am a little surprised that I am being brought up on them. I have never brought any kind of harm to Cassie, and I can’t imagine why she would think that I did and charge me like this.”

I was getting fed up with his stupid little innocent puppy dog act. I think that by now everyone in the courtroom was, if not already, close to being convinced that he was guilty. I kept thinking to myself, ‘vengeance is mine, declares the Lord’ – one of the verses Luke and I went over the night before. I wondered if he was ever going to give up on playing dumb and just confess. That would at least be likely to get him a lighter sentence.

“Taking into account the first six charges, Mr. Whitlin, did you ever rape the plaintiff?”

“No.”

“Were there ever any circumstances that occurred between the two of your which might have been construed as rape in the plaintiff’s eyes?”

“None that come to mind for me.”

“Alright, Mr. Whitlin, you are also facing six charges each on the counts of gross sexual imposition and sexual misconduct with a minor. Once again, I will ask you, did you ever molest the plaintiff?”

“No.”

“Did you ever expose yourself to her in an indecent manner?”

“No.”

“Among the charges being brought up against you, there are also six charges of kidnapping the plaintiff. Mr. Whitlin, did you ever use any type of force on the plaintiff, whether to get her to engage in sexual relations with you or for any other purposes?”

“No.”

“Mr. Whitlin, you are also facing a single charge of intimidation of a crime victim or witness. In the plaintiff’s testimony, there were several times in which she brought up that you threatened her or made her feel uncomfortable when she was in your presence. Did you ever threaten the plaintiff, Mr. Whitlin?”

“No.”

“Did you ever cause her to feel any kind of discomfort or lack of safety while in your presence or under your care during the time you were married to her mother?”

“No.”

“Mr. Whitlin, are you fully aware that you are under oath as we speak?”

“Yes.” Jim finally seemed to show a slight sign of nerves as he answered Mr. Smith’s last question.

“Are you aware that this is an oath to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you, God?”

“Yes.” His voice was even shakier now.

“Then do you solemnly swear that you have answered these questions in that manner?”

Jim hesitated. “Yes.”

“And you solemnly swear that you are completely innocent in this case?”

Another hesitation. “Yes.”

How could he? I was so angry when I heard him answer that question. My fists below the table clenched even tighter. Luke noticed my anger and grabbed my hands before I lost complete control and did run to the front of the courtroom and attack Jim the way I wanted to. My only hope now was that the jury would see that he was lying through his teeth, that they would see his true character. He was willing to tell such bold-faced lies sitting on the witness stand; I still could not believe it.

Mr. Smith returned to his place behind the defendant’s table.

“No further questions, your honor.”

“Thank you, Mr. Smith. Ms. Jones, you may proceed with your cross exam of this witness at this time.”

“Thank you, your honor,” Hannah said as she walked out into the center of the courtroom to begin her attack on Jim.

“Mr. Whitlin, you were Cassie’s stepfather for nine years, correct?”

“Yes.”

“And you said that you believe the two of you had a good relationship?”

“Yes.”

“Could you define what you mean by ‘good’?”

“Well, we generally got along with each other and didn’t have that many problems.”

“If you didn’t have many problems, why is it that you ended up being removed from your house last year?”

“Well, we didn’t have any problems at first, but like I said earlier, after a while, Cassie developed this attitude toward everyone, and eventually it got to the point that she convinced her mom to turn against me.”

“Did Cassie develop an attitude against everyone or just you, Mr. Whitlin?”

Jim sat in the stand frozen. He needed a second to figure out how to lie his way out of this question.

“I never saw her get an attitude with her mom, but I know she changed a few months into my marriage.”

“Could you describe this change a little better?”

Jim paused again. I could tell it was getting hard for him to come up with his false stories. He knew it was not me that changed – it was him.

“Well, when Natalie and I got back from our honeymoon everything was fine. The four of us seemed as though we were becoming a nice blended family. Then, a few months later, Cassie changed that. At first, she would just avoid me as much as she could, as if she suddenly decided she didn’t like me anymore. Later she seemed like she was angry all the time, walking around with this attitude. She started getting mouthy with me. Whenever I told her to do something, she would talk back and refuse and then just walk out of the room as if I hadn’t even spoken to her.”

“Mr. Whitlin, you were married on April 14, 2001, correct?”

“Yes.”

“And your honeymoon followed soon after?”

“Yes.”

“When did you return from your honeymoon?”

“The last week of April, we left a few days after the wedding. We cruised around the Bahamas for a week.”

“How long was it after you returned from your honeymoon before you noticed this change in Cassie?”

“I’d say about four months or so.”

“So, you noticed this change at the same time that you started abusing her?”

“Objection! Your honor, the question presumes facts not in evidence.”

“Objection sustained. The jury is commanded to disregard the state’s previous question.”

Hannah paused before resuming her questioning.

“Mr. Whitlin, do you believe that Cassie is an honest girl?”

“When she was younger, yes. But after she changed, absolutely not.”

“Why do you say that, Mr. Whitlin?”

“I say that because, by the time I left, Cassie had her mother turned against me. I know Nat and I know that she wouldn’t have believed any of this if Cassie hadn’t lied about everything.” I cringed as Jim spoke about knowing my mother. That idea was too terrible to accept.

“What does ‘everything’ entail Mr. Whitlin?”

“Objection! Your honor, the question calls for a narrative response.”

“Objection overruled. The answer is relevant to the case. Answer the question Mr. Whitlin.”

“Everything means every charge that I am facing today.” Jim was forceful in his last response.

“Are you aware that prior to trial there were certain pieces of evidence submitted to support Cassie’s case?”

“Yes.”

“Are you aware that one of piece of evidence was her journal which she wrote in nearly every day from the time she was eleven years old until you were removed from the house?”

“Yes.” Jim finally started to see where Hannah was taking all of this.

“Mr. Whitlin, are you also aware that contained in that journal are vivid descriptions of incidents from her childhood?”

“No, I was not aware of what was in her journal; I always saw her scribbling her little stories in that thing. I do not think anything about it can be trusted.”

“Why do you say that this journal is so untrustworthy?”

“That journal is full of made up stories.” Jim seemed as though he was getting frustrated with Hannah. I knew that if he had not been on the stand, he would have been screaming at her by now, but instead, he had to restrain himself and stay as calm as possible. After all, losing your cool on the stand was one surefire sign of guilt, according to Hannah.

“Mr. Whitlin, have you ever read any of the entries from Cassie’s journal?”

“No, I have not.”

“Mr. Whitlin, the entries in this journal go into specific detail of the incidents that occurred between you and Cassie, she leaves practically nothing out and they are all dated.”

“She probably just went back and dated them later to make her story fit together.”

“Mr. Whitlin, are you aware that we had a forensic handwriting analysis performed on these entries that showed these entries to be authentic? They were all written around the time they are dated, not any later.” Hannah said with an edge in her voice showing that she knew she was making her point to Jim.

“I still say she just has a vivid imagination,” Jim said with a smug tone in his voice. That smug tone was what made me so angry with him.

“Mr. Whitlin, do you believe it would be possible for a child as young as Cassie was at the time these entries were made, to create such detailed stories in her mind and write them down in a journal for so many days for such a long period of time?”

Jim clearly knew that Hannah had a point, but he was still choosing to be stubborn and hold to his position.

“I don’t suppose it is likely, but it must be possible because the only things in Cassie’s journal are made up stories. I never did any of the things she is claiming.”

“Mr. Whitlin, didn’t you testify that you and Cassie had a good relationship prior to this supposed change you noticed in her?”

“Yes, I did.”

“If that is the case, why would she write these things about someone she got along with? Someone who wasn’t bothering her in any way?”

Once again, Jim paused trying to come up with a response to the lie Hannah had caught him in. Watching Hannah’s cross exam of Jim was proving to be entertaining.

“I told you that she changed after a few months, she wasn’t writing those stories until after her attitude changed.”

“And why do you think her attitude changed, Mr. Whitlin?”

“I have already said that I don’t know why her attitude changed, it seemed sudden. One day she was happy and the next day she started acting differently and after that first day she never went back to her old way, she only got worse.”

“Remind me, Mr. Whitlin, when did you say Cassie’s attitude changed?”

“Around mid-August of the first year of my marriage.”

“So, that would be around the same time that Cassie made both made her first entry concerning an incident with you and the first incident she described on the stand a few days ago. Mr. Whitlin, do you see the coincidences here?”

“Yes, but they don’t mean anything except that Cassie knows how to plan her lies well. Don’t you think that if everything she has been saying were true that I would have been caught by now? Or that she would have told her mother? Eight years is a long time to hide such a big secret.”

“Mr. Whitlin, Cassie’s journal was collected for evidence when the proceedings for this trial were first started, roughly one year ago. That means that she has not seen those entries in that entire time. Do you realize that every single one of the stories she told on the stand was included in that journal, almost word for word?”

“Yes, but that just means that she has a good memory and is a clever liar. I don’t think that a teenage girl is weaker than a fifty-four-year-old man.” Jim sounded hesitant again.

“Mr. Whitlin, are you suggesting that Cassie memorized all of those stories despite not having seen them in almost a year?”

“I see no other explanation because I am not guilty. Her story doesn’t even make sense. She said that I was doing things to her in the middle of the night. How would she remember that if it were true?”

“Mr. Whitlin, my client answered that question during her testimony and in her journals. Now, what you are suggesting sounds as though it would be a lot of work for one person to go through, and a lot of mental stress to put on oneself just to make someone else look bad. Do you honestly believe that Cassie would put that kind of time into something she was making up?”

“If it was for the purpose of making me look bad and getting me out of her life, yes. Cassie has not liked me since she changed, and I believe she would do anything to get rid of me.”

“Mr. Whitlin, let’s be honest, you are after all under oath here, did you ever rape the plaintiff, Cassie Flynn?”

“Objection! Your honor, the question is leading,” Mr. Smith blurted.

“Objection sustained. Ms. Jones ask a different question.”

“Mr. Whitlin, are you guilty of any of the twenty-five charges you are facing today?”

Jim paused for a minute. It was getting harder for him to lie. “No ma’am I am not. I am an innocent man.”

Hannah was clearly frustrated by Jim’s refusal to admit anything. She paced back over to the plaintiff table.

“No further questions, your honor.”

“Thank you, Ms. Jones, and thank you, Mr. Whitlin, for your testimony. Mr. Smith, the floor is yours for redirect at this time.”

“The defense has chosen to waive this right in this trial.” Mr. Smith sounded defeated as he spoke. It was clear that decision was not easily made.

“Okay, then at this time we will proceed with the defense’s case. Does the defense have any other witnesses?”

“No, your honor. The defense rests.”

“In that case, the prosecution has rested its case, and the defense has rested its case. All evidence was submitted prior to the beginning of testimony. At this time, we will proceed to closing arguments on both sides. Ms. Jones, you may proceed at this time.”

“Thank you, your honor.” Hannah made her way out to the center of the courtroom.

“Ladies and gentlemen, at the beginning of this case, I described for you a picture of a young and innocent girl who had the entire world before her. She was carefree until she had her freedom ripped out from under her. Now, she lives in constant fear because of her past, the innocent life she once had, will never be the same. The defendant stands before you charged with twenty-five total counts are horrific crimes which demand a serious punishment. When we finish arguing this case, it will be turned over to you for the final decision.

“For the past five days, you have all come in and sat through the grueling testimony of not only the victim herself, but also her mother and boyfriend, several police officers, detectives, and social workers who have all spoken to the victim and full heartedly believe her case. You have also seen journals, which the victim herself wrote during the years in which she was abused. The state’s position from the beginning has been that the defendant is guilty of all twenty-five counts that he is being charged with, and I respectfully request that you return from deliberations with a guilty verdict on all twenty-five charges.” Hannah’s words were intense, spoken with great power. The courtroom took on an air of silence as she walked back over to the plaintiff table. There was such a stillness in the air as Judge Breelan picked up the hearing again.

“Thank you, Ms. Jones. Mr. Smith, you may proceed with your closing argument at this time.”

“Thank you, your honor.” Mr. Smith rose from his seat clearly trying to imitate the power that Hannah carried with her, but failing miserably. After the effect Hannah’s closing argument had on the courtroom, Mr. Smith had big shoes to fill.

“Ladies and gentlemen, when I opened my case for you, I painted a picture for you of a hard-working man. A man who faithfully goes to his job earns money for his family, takes pride in being a family man. My client is wrongfully being charged with these crimes. The prosecution has failed to prove to you that Mr. Whitlin ever harmed the plaintiff in any way in the years he lived with her. Cassie testified about things she claims happened to her in the middle of the night when she was only nine years old, these are claims that cannot be trusted and should not be used to find my client guilty. In this country, my client has the right of being innocent until proven guilty and in this case, he has not been proven guilty. I am respectfully asking that you find him not guilty on all charges in this case.” Mr. Smith returned to the defendant table.

“Thank you, Mr. Smith. Ms. Jones do you have a rebuttal to this case?”

“Yes, your honor.”

“You may proceed at this time.”

“Thank you, your honor,” Hannah said as she rose. “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Smith claims that my client, Cassie Flynn, testified about things that occurred at night and when she was too young to remember. Let me remind everyone that the incidents Cassie testified about were all recorded in her journal, which was examined by a forensic handwriting expert and determined to have been written at the time it is dated. Cassie’s testimony can certainly be trusted. I respectfully request that you find her former stepfather guilty on all charges.”

I had never heard such power come from anyone before. Hannah was passionate about her work, but as she finished her rebuttal, I noticed one small tear that streamed from her eye. I knew that she was as desperate as I was to see this case end in a guilty verdict.

“Thank you, Ms. Jones. At this time, both the prosecution and defense have rested their cases. We have heard closing arguments from both sides and a rebuttal from the prosecution. I now turn to you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Your instructions in determining the verdict of this case as were decided amongst the prosecution and defense are as follows: you are to decide which side’s testimony to believe and which to discard. You are to realize that there is no burden on the defendant to prove his innocence – this cannot be a part of your decision. You are to look at each charge individually and decide on guilt or innocence. Your vote must be unanimous. You are not to talk to anyone outside of the jury or make contact with any outside sources until your verdict is made. No one is to venture outside of the deliberation chambers until the verdict is decided. You may proceed to the jury chambers at this time.”

Once Judge Breelan finished speaking, the twelve nicely dressed members of the jury rose from their seats and proceeded out of the courtroom. Instant relief filled my entire being as I watched the last member walk out. The only thing left to do now was pray for God’s hand over the outcome of this grueling trial.

“At this time, this trial will go into recess while the jury deliberates. We will reconvene once a verdict has been reached. Court is dismissed.”

Judge Breelan banged his gavel and just as fast, my fate was in the hands of twelve ordinary people. If ever there was a time to trust God, it was now.

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