TYLER AT TRIAL
Ben quickly forgave Dylan over the beauty contest episode, as they had more important things to think about. Tyler’s murder trial started on 1st May, less than a month after the Tang Clan trial finished. As Richard Yap was now available, Ben persuaded Tyler that he was the man for the job. He may not be a criminal specialist, Ben told Tyler, but he was a brilliant lawyer who did know his way around the criminal courts. Criminal law was not exactly rocket science, after all. He also had the firm’s interests very much at heart.
Ben and Dylan came clean with Richard after the Tang Clan trial had finished concerning their involvement in Tyler’s case. They told him everything, including the plan to “make friends” with Judge Chang by virtually any means possible. It was a stupid thing to do, Richard scolded. Ben and Dylan admitted that readily, but the damage was done. The question was, what should they do? They were both prepared to give evidence, should Richard think it a good idea. Indeed, they were both prepared to give a statement to the prosecution, if Richard thought this would do any good. Richard pondered upon this, and finally decided that it would do more damage to the prosecution case if the evidence came during trial from the defence. That way it would be a complete surprise to the prosecution. Giving them statements in advance could only be an advantage to them.
Serious preparation for trial began. Ben himself drew up Tyler’s statement for Richard’s use, making sure he was as thorough as possible. Tyler himself made the first draft, and Ben suggested a few amendments, as did Dylan. Ben and Dylan even took turns cross-examining Tyler in the conference rooms at Lai Chi Kok, as though they were the prosecutor. Ben did not want to leave anything to chance.
Stan Baxter had been following up the breakthrough he had made with the neighbour in the judge’s building, but most frustratingly, no-one else had been found who had heard the argument in the judge’s flat at around 4.00am, long after Tyler had left the premises. The woman however agreed to give evidence. Ben hoped that her evidence would tip the balance.
The trial would be heard before Judge Brian Yeung, an experienced criminal judge. Richard had been before him many times, in criminal and civil cases, and pronounced him to be a fair, if not altogether bright, judge. Peachey had agreed to be his junior, on Ben’s request. He needed people he could trust.
As usual, Ben had little sleep on the night before the trial. He and Dylan were waiting outside the holding cells of the High Court before 9.00am. They had a good chat with Tyler, calming him down, telling him that he was in good hands. Richard estimated that the trial would last about five days. It would be a high profile trial, Richard had warned that the press would be there in droves. Tyler had to be ready for that, and act with dignity.
There were of course no eye-witnesses to the murder. The prosecution were relying upon forensic evidence, and the eye- witness account of a man who saw Tyler running away from the flats at about 3.30am. They also had witnesses who attended the cocktail party and saw Tyler and the judge together. If the prosecution evidence was believed, however, it would be enough to convict. The forensic evidence was especially damning.
The legal department had instructed private Senior Counsel, Albert Joo, to prosecute the case for them. Richard knew him well, and reported he was a fair man. More good news, thought Ben, they needed all they could get. The press seats were all taken as Ben and Dylan looked into court, as was the public gallery. As Ben and Dylan were defence witnesses in the case, they were not allowed to be in court during the giving of prosecution and defence evidence and before they gave their evidence. It was frustrating, but there was nothing they could do about it. Luigi therefore sat behind Counsel on the firm’s behalf.
The swearing in of the jury took the morning. They ended up with a five man, five woman jury, all middle-class Chinese professionals. Richard believed the more intelligent they were, the more chance his client had. The jury sat there expectantly, waiting for fireworks. It was, after all, Hong Kong’s trial of the year, and they felt privileged to be there.
Joo opened for the prosecution. Their case was straightforward. Judge Chang had been at a cocktail party in the late and early hours of 20th and 21st November. There he had met the defendant. The defendant left the party with the judge at about 12.00pm. A man saw Tyler running away from the flats at about 3.30am. The police received an anonymous phone call at about 4.00am from a man, who had never been found or identified, stating that he had heard screams emanating from the judge’s flat. The police investigated, and found the judge’s dead body, his throat having been cut. They subsequently searched the area for the murder weapon, and found the kitchen knife in a dustbin, about eight blocks away. Forensic evidence proved that Tyler had been inside the flat - in the bedroom, the murder location, to be more precise - and a fingerprint, only one, belonging to him, was found on the murder weapon. Put like that, the case seemed pretty convincing, Richard had to admit. He cast a glance at the jury, who seemed spellbound.
The first prosecution witness was Toby Smith, who had been host of the cocktail party. He confirmed the judge had been at the party, arriving about 9.00pm. He had quite a few drinks, and was fairly drunk. He seemed to be talking to a young man that Toby had not seen before. He asked the judge to introduce him, the young man said his name was Tyler. The witness identified Tyler in court as that person he had met at the party. They seemed to get on very well together, said Toby, and he noted that they left together at midnight. He remembers the time well as he had made a joke about the witching hour.
Toby confirmed that most of the party had consisted of gay men, with a few gay women and straights. He held parties often, and the judge was a regular attendee. Yes, he confirmed, the judge was gay. But he had an eye for the ladies too when he got bored. That brought a laugh from the court. Toby had no idea whether Tyler was gay, but guessed he was, or he would not have left with the old judge.
In cross-examination, Richard asked whether he saw Tyler at any time engage in what could be called risque behaviour with anyone at the party, especially the judge. Toby could not say he did, but then again there were so many people there that night, he didn’t see much of them.
The next prosecution witness was a Mr. Archibald Fung, an architect, who resided in the same block of flats as the judge, but on the second floor. He said that he happened to be gazing out of his bedroom window at about 3.30am and saw a foreigner running away from the apartments, dressed in only underpants. He thought this very strange, but thought no more of it until the next day, when he heard there had been a murder, and thus gave a statement to the police. Later that day, he picked out the defendant from a police identity parade at Wanchai police station. Mr. Fung picked Tyler out again in court. He said that he had difficulty sleeping that morning, as always, and had been watching TV. He said that he could not be sure of the precise time when he saw the man, but it was definitely between 3.15am and 3.30am.
Richard had no cross-examination for this man. His evidence fitted in with their story.
Next up was the policeman, PC Yap, who had broken down the door of the flat with the help of a colleague, and found the dead body in the bedroom. This was at 4.10am. They searched the flat, and found a wallet under the bedclothes. It was Tyler’s wallet. They discovered the address from his wallet, and upon instructions from his superior, proceeded to the address in Wanchai to arrest the defendant. A few hours later, he took a statement from a Mr. Archibald Fung, a resident on the 2nd floor of the building, who later that day identified the defendant from a police identity parade as the man fleeing the apartment block in the early hours of the morning. At 6.00pm that day, a police officer found the murder weapon in a dustbin about eight blocks from the judge’s apartments, on the road leading in the direction of Wanchai. That officer was not to be called, the defence having stipulated to that piece of evidence.
Richard did not cross-examine on forensic issues. The prosecution were to call the forensic scientist next, and he would reserve his questions for him. He did however get the officer to admit that there was no direct evidence whatsoever in the judge’s flat that tied Tyler to the murder. It was accepted that Tyler was in the apartment, the jury would hear evidence of that from Tyler himself in due course. The officer would not admit that they had been in a hurry to arrest Tyler, despite there being at the time of the arrest nothing to tie him directly to the murder. He reminded Richard of the wallet found in the bedclothes, and the fact that the judge had been naked when he was found. It was in any event not his decision to arrest the defendant, it had been that of his superior officer. That decision had been vindicated by the subsequent witness statement of Mr. Fung and the forensic evidence.
Richard saw no point in cross-examining further, he had made his point about the lack of direct evidence before the arrest.
Last up for the prosecution was the forensic scientist, Bruno Cheng. Richard knew that this was the killer evidence. Either the guy was wrong and he’d made a mistake, or someone had planted that fingerprint. The other alternative was that Tyler was guilty, something which Richard banished from his mind. He wished the jury could too.
The fingerprint had puzzled the defence throughout. It was inconceivable that Tyler had knowingly touched the murder weapon. Of course, Tyler had passed out in the judge’s flat, who knows what had happened when he was asleep. But what motive did the judge have to put Tyler’s fingerprint on the knife that was to kill him later that morning? Did the real killer do it? Had he been hiding in the judge’s flat? It made no sense, but they had to come up with a theory. Their favourite was, in the absence of mistake, that Tyler had been framed. Why, or how, they did not know.
Cheng gave evidence that the judge’s bedroom had been swept for fingerprints and the only clear ones found were those of the judge and Tyler. Most of Tyler’s were found in the bedroom, although they found a couple in the kitchen and a few in the living room. The bedroom was awash with them. This was not a problem for the defence of course, as Tyler admitted being in the flat.
What was a problem was the evidence of the fingerprint on the knife. Cheng’s evidence was that the fingerprint on the shaft of the knife undoubtedly belonged to the defendant. No blood other than that of the judge was found on the knife. Thank heaven for small mercies, thought Richard. He had to shake him on cross - examination.
“Mr. Cheng”, started Richard. “I accept of course that it is the defendant’s fingerprint on the knife. Did you find any other fingerprints on the knife?”
“No”, replied Cheng. “
Did you not consider that unusual, Mr. Cheng?”
“I don’t know what you mean”, he replied.
“Well, as it was the judge’s own kitchen knife, one would have expected the knife to have at least the judge’s fingerprints on it, would you agree?”
“I would not have been surprised to find them”, said Cheng.
“Indeed so, indeed so”, said Richard. “More likely than not you would have expected to find at least one of the judge’s prints.”
“Yes”, said Cheng slowly, “but the fact that there was only one print suggests that the knife had been wiped clean after use, but one fingerprint was missed. Wiping clean would have removed the fingerprints of other people, including the judge.”
“That is one possibility, Mr. Cheng. It is however the defendant’s case that he did not recall touching that knife. That being the case, can you speculate how the print was found on the knife?”
“Well, Mr. Yap, I am sure the jury does not wish to listen to my speculation.” He smiled at the jury. “All I can say for certain is that the print belongs to the defendant.”
“Exactly, Mr. Cheng, and your evidence in fact takes us no further forward, because the defence stipulates to the fact that the print belongs to the defendant. I want to put to you two scenarios, Mr. Cheng, you tell me, as the Government forensic expert, whether they are possible. One, the defendant passes out through drink or something else in the judge’s flat. The knife could have been put in his hand whilst unconscious, accounting for the print. Two, that fingerprint was taken off some other object and transferred to the knife by some other person. In such scenarios, Mr. Cheng, that would account for the fingerprint on the knife, yes?”
“Well, yes, but there is no evidence at all that was how it actually happened”, replied Cheng.
”Indeed, Mr. Cheng. There is also however no direct evidence to demonstrate that the defendant consciously handled that knife, let alone use it to murder the judge. Is there?”
“No”, conceded Cheng, “but all other evidence...” Richard stopped him.
“Mr. Cheng, as you correctly said a few moments ago, the jury is not here to listen to your speculation. Thank you, My Lord, no further questions.” Bit of damage done there, thought Richard. He sat down. Joo asked a few perfunctory questions in re-examination and closed the prosecution case. The court adjourned for mid- morning break, Ben and Dylan accosted Richard outside the court.
“Richard”, asked Dylan, “how’s it going?”
“They’ve just their case, now it’s our turn. Ben, you’re first up.” Ben nodded. He had been expecting to be called, but not so early in the day. He suddenly had a queasy stomach. Richard went down for coffee with Dylan and Luigi, but Ben refused, preferring to sit outside court to compose himself. Fifteen minutes later, he was sitting in the witness box, facing Richard Yap. Here we go, he thought.
“You are Benjamin McCann, a solicitor, of the Hong Kong solicitors’ firm Roberts McCann?” asked Richard.
“Yes, I am”, replied Ben.
“And as one of the two partners in the firm, you are the employer of the defendant?”
“That is correct.”
“Mr. McCann, I want you to cast your mind back to November last year, when you had a conversation with the defendant in your office about a party Judge Chang was to attend. Can you recall that day?”
“Having gone through my diary previously, yes, I can recall that precise day”, said Ben. “It was on 19th November. I was in my office which I share jointly with my partner Dylan Roberts, who was also present during the conversation with the defendant.”
“What was the gist of your conversation with the defendant?” Ben turned red, this was the part he was dreading, but he had no choice. He knew he may face a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice, but he had to tell the truth.
“My partner and I felt that Judge Chang was likely to be very pro- Government at the trial of the Tang Clan case, which was a civil action by our clients, the Clan, against the Government, in respect of title to a temple in Fanling.” The judge interrupted.
“I am aware of the case, Mr. McCann.”
“Yes, thank you, My Lord. Our proposal to Tyler started as a joke. Either Dylan or I – I forget which – suggested to him that he should attend a party the following night where Judge Chang was due to attend in an effort to persuade the judge informally of the merits of our clients’ case. We laughed a lot and said we would pay Tyler one million dollars if he slept with the judge.”
There was a collective gasp from the public gallery. The prosecution team also looked on aghast, this was news to them.
“Was this offer made in jest, Mr. McCann?” said Richard.
“Yes, of course. The more we joked about it, however, the more it got out of hand. Finally, Tyler agreed to attend the party just to get friendly with the judge. There was never any intent to bribe or blackmail Judge Chang, but we thought there was no harm in one of us becoming friendly with him, it couldn’t harm our case, and we hoped it may soften the judge’s attitude against our firm. We likened it to talking to judges at Masonic meetings, where the judiciary often become pally with solicitors and Counsel. We thought there was no harm in it. Tyler therefore agreed to go to the party at our request.”
“You were aware that Judge Chang was a homosexual, as were most of the people invited to the party?” asked Richard.
“Yes, that’s why we laughed so much that afternoon. It was initially suggested as a joke on Tyler, but things snowballed.”
“And so the defendant attended the party the following evening?”
“Yes, he did. We met him in Joe Bananas pub before he and our friend Sebastian set off, and again we laughed at him. Tyler did not want to go at all by that stage, but Sebastian virtually dragged him out of the bar. That was the last we saw of him until the following day in the cells, after he had been arrested.”
“So the defendant did not go to the party with the express intent of having sex with the judge?”
“Good God, no. Tyler is not gay, at all. If anything, he is very homophobic, that’s what made it all the more funny for us. He told us that he would talk to the judge, try to be friendly, but that’s where he would draw the line.”
“Did you instruct him to go to the judge’s apartment?”
“No. Of course, we joked about him having sex with the judge, but that’s all it was, a joke.” Judge Yeung looked distastefully at Ben. The jurors however looked mightily amused, they were now enjoying themselves.
Ben then told of his relationship with Tyler from college days, how Tyler had been best man at his wedding, and how he offered Tyler a job in Hong Kong.
“Why did you offer him a job, Mr. McCann?”
“Because we needed a lawyer, and Tyler was available. I also knew that I could trust him 100%, I had known him for twenty years, and knew him to be honest, hardworking, and a good lawyer. I would trust him with my life, My Lord”, said Ben, looking at the judge, “and still would.” Richard nodded.
“And finally, Mr. McCann, did something happen to your law partner Dylan Roberts late last year?”
“Yes”, answered Ben, “he was kidnapped.”
“We don’t know”.
“Can you describe what happened, Mr. McCann?”
Ben went on to explain the kidnapping, the ransom note, Dylan’s incarceration and eventual release.
“Do you have any idea why this happened, Mr. McCann?”
“Well, it’s obvious from the tone of the ransom note and what was said to Dylan that the kidnappers wanted my firm out of the Tang Clan case.”
“And did you withdraw from that case, Mr. McCann?”
“No, we did not.”
“Thank you, Mr. McCann, no more questions , My Lord.”
“Yes”, said the judge. “Cross-examination, Mr. Joo?”
“Yes My Lord”, said Joo. He stood up to his impressive full height and stared Ben in the eyes.
“Mr. McCann”, said Joo, “this case involving the temple, it was important to your firm?”
“Yes it was”, admitted Ben. “And of course to clients.”
“It is fair to say it was the biggest case your firm had ever handled?”
“Yes”, said Ben.
“You would receive a large cash windfall so far as your costs were concerned if you won the case?”
“We certainly hoped so, Mr. Joo.”
“And so you were desperate to win?”
“We wanted to win very much, I wouldn’t say we were desperate.”
“Really?” said Joo. “Mr. McCann, I produce to you copies of Roberts McCann’s bank statements for the past five years.” They were handed up to Ben. “They do not make impressive reading, would you agree?”
“I do not have to read these bank statements to know that my firm has been living on overdraft and loan facilities for the past three years, Mr. Joo.”
“That is right, Mr. McCann”, said Joo. “For the record, please tell the Court of your exact indebtedness to the Bank of East Asia.” Ben looked at the statements.
“At present, My Lord, we have about HK$2 million outstanding on our personal loan, and our office account is about HK$3 million overdrawn. We have an overdraft facility of HK$5 million.”
“So you are around HK$5 million in debt in total?” “Yes.”
“You were hoping that costs to be received from the temple case would pay that off?”
“And if the case was lost, Mr. McCann?”
“We would pay off the loan as we had been doing, by instalments.”
“Mr. McCann, looking at the statements for the past year, you appear to have missed two instalments.”
“Yes, we were having cash flow problems at that stage.”
“And is it fair to say you still have cash flow problems?”
“From time to time, Mr. Joo, like a lot of firms in Hong Kong.”
“Yes, Mr. McCann. I thank you for your honesty. No more questions, My Lord.” Richard had no further questions either, so Ben was allowed to leave the box. It was the end of the Court day, and the trial was thus adjourned at 4.25pm. Ben, sweating profusely, left the court and met an anxiously waiting Dylan.
“What happened?” he asked Ben.
“Not here”, said Ben. “I’m not sure if I’m even supposed to tell you. Let’s go back to the office.” It was raining heavily, but eventually they caught a taxi outside the High Court building back to the office. Ben described his ordeal in detail. It was to be Dylan’s turn the next day.
“Remember”, said Ben, “your evidence has to be similar to mine.”
“It will be, it’s the truth anyway, I have nothing to hide. Fancy a massage?” Ben looked at him disbelievingly, and shook his head.
“Come on, no point in being miserable, a tug on your old todger would do you the world of good.” Ben found himself considering the prospect.
“I don’t want a dirty massage. I do have a stiff back, though”, he admitted.
“There you are then!” said Dylan triumphantly. “Let’s go to North Point!”
Dylan had frequented most of the dodgy massage parlours in North Point, a heavily populated area to the east of Hong Kong island with a remarkable number of such establishments, but hastened to reassure Ben that the one he was taking him to was reputable. Ben doubted that as soon as he stepped through the door. He did have a wonderful whirlpool bath however that improved his spirits, and the sauna helped even more. He felt quite serene as he sipped his orange juice in the lounge with Dylan before their massage girl was called.
“What are we going to do if we win the Tang Clan case?” asked Dylan, dragging on a Benson and Hedges whilst admiring the waitresses.
“I don’t know”, said Ben. He hesitated. “One option is to return to England and try and patch things up with Debbie.” Dylan looked at him, appalled.
“Are you mad?” he exclaimed. “She left you, Ben, don’t go pandering to her. You’ve got no kids, you don’t have to go back. Aren’t the many attractions in Asia enough for you?”
“Asia has it’s benefits, I’ll give you that, but perhaps I’ve been here too long.”
“Bollocks”, said Dylan. “You’d pine away if you left. What about Mandy? Or Peachey? Or the rest of them?”
“Yes”, sighed Ben, “it would be difficult to leave. We’ll see.” Dylan snorted as they were both called for their massage. Ben was soon half asleep as his girl expertly took the aches from his back. Her hand suddenly went where it shouldn’t, giving Ben that familiar sensation. He was just about to object, when he thought, sod it, what’s the point. This was Hong Kong after all...