Several weeks later…
Orville sat in a booth at “Get Grounded”, a local coffee café, at the far end of Laconia with Kathryn and Alberto Winter. The day was bright and sunny, but Orville could not say the same for how they all felt as they sat and discussed Sarah’s plight. Winter had indeed gotten her out on her own recognizance as he had promised, but the case itself, though he still had high hopes was not looking as strong as he had once envisioned. Arnold Redding, the DA for Fayette County had not even blinked when Alberto had gone to him for a dismissal based on lack of hard evidence other than mere circumstances. Redding told Winter that they had the murder weapon and the obvious evidence of opportunity against Sarah. The lack of motive had been Winter’s ace-in-the-hole based on Sarah’s stellar reputation and character. But Redding had simply offered that ingratiating grin of his when he handed over his witness list and told Alberto that he had multiple witnesses willing to testify to Sarah’s motive.
It had caught Alberto off-guard—a rare occurrence in his career—and he just took the document from Redding and scanned the list. He knew all the various characters included until he got to the bottom and saw two names he was unfamiliar with.
“Richard Finley and Thomas Robertson?” Winter asked as he looked up.
“Yep,” Redding replied with an almost tinge of glee in his tone. “Both can attest as to Sarah Holding’s well-hidden, but underlying rage at Mr. Garrity for his wandering eye.”
“You saying he was stepping out on her?”
“I’ll save that for the trial, counselor. Unless of course you want to consider a plea to save her from the death penalty.”
“Are you serious?”
“Do I look like I am kidding? And when have you ever known me to joke about something like this, Alberto?”
“Your offer is life with parole in how long?”
“Parole? Hardly…this was a calculated and vicious attack on a man from jealousy your client could not control. No, Alberto…with my witnesses and the hard evidence parole is off the table.”
Winter felt his heart sink. He knew all about Redding’s political aspirations and how aggressive and ruthless he had been since getting the DA post. His best guess was that Redding was planning on using the conviction of Sarah Holding as a springboard for his run at either the mayor’s office or maybe even higher. He knew in his heart, as had Orville, that Sarah Holding was hardly capable of this atrocity. But with this new information he also knew how easily a jury might be swayed if Redding could get them to believe a story about a jealous and angry lover scorned.
“I’ll take the offer to my client, Arnold, as is required, but I cannot imagine she will accede to accepting it. I would highly advise her against it.”
“You thinking you can beat hard evidence as well as witnesses giving her a strong motive?”
Winter did not reply but just slipped the new witness list into his briefcase and stood.
“Guess we will see, Arnold. See you in court.”
“Think it over carefully, Alberto. Offer is good for 24 hours.”
Winter just ignored him and his smug grin and left the municipal building hoping he would not be sending Sarah Holding into a hell like none she had ever seen before.
“Witnesses that say Sarah was driven to murder because Joe was cheating on her?” Orville asked incredulously as they sat in the afternoon sun and talked.
“That seems to be the strategy to top off the possession of the murder weapon in her place as well as her having free access to Joe’s apartment,” Winter replied dejectedly.
“You look into this Richard Finley and Thomas Robertson thing yet?” Kathryn asked as she leaned forward trying to keep her voice low to avoid eavesdroppers.
“I have. Harry Doyle, my investigator. Best there is around these parts.”
“And?” Orville prodded.
“They are apparently associated with James Holding somehow, but that link is unknown. At least that is how it appears at the moment. They are providing him an alibi as well as testifying in depositions about the underlying discord that existed between Sarah and Joe.”
“Related to James Holding by any chance?” Orville asked.
“Not that we can tell so far. Not directly anyway. For now they seem to just be two guys he knows from somewhere in the past and has a personal relationship with now as well.”
“This is complete bullshit, Albert!” Kathryn exclaimed which drew more than a few quick stares from other customers in the café.
She sat back realizing her voice had gotten loud and was filled with anger and waited until there was no more attention on them once again.
“Sorry, Albert…but anyone who knows Sarah and what she and Joe were to each other would not buy this for a minute.”
“Could be, Kathryn,” he replied, “but all Redding has to do is plant the seed. With all the other evidence they have, I could see twelve people being swayed pretty easily. One of those things where the jurors might hear this theory and just figure anyone is capable of such an act if pushed over the line. Unfortunately, in society these days this is becoming a more and more common event.”
“Leaving you what as a defense,” Orville interjected, “trying to combat that accusation with character witnesses and such?”
“Pretty much. Also, I can imagine with the prevailing climate of religious fervor in Fayette County that more than maybe a couple jurors might be more inclined to buy this seeing as how Sarah and Joe were seeing each other while she was still married.”
“Even with James Holding’s rap sheet?”
“If Redding plays his cards just right…and I have gone up against him before, so I have no doubt he can…yeah, I can see him having a jury buy into his version. Arnold Redding is an overly ambitious, slimy little weasel, but one thing he is not is stupid. From my seat right now this looks bad for her.”
Orville and Kathryn both slumped in their seats trying to wonder how this could actually be happening.
“Any chance of discrediting these witnesses?” Kathryn finally asked after a few moments of silence.
“I’ve got Harry on it now. Unless he comes with something good…well…it’s going to be a 50/50 toss up at best, in my opinion.”
“All twelve have to agree, right, Albert?” Orville asked.
“Yes, but with all the hard evidence here I could see a group coalescing easily.”
“Your opinion or experience?” Kathryn added.
“Little of both, I guess. Though in instances like this before I have been surprised. That is the thing with a jury. You just never know. Thus, the jury selection process here is critical.”
“Would Redding consider something less than first degree murder?” Orville asked.
“You thinking like ‘crime of passion’ defense or something like that?”
“I guess. All I know of the legal system I am afraid is from TV.”
“Yeah…these legal TV shows now take a lot of liberties, Orville,” he replied. “That kind of thing is out there, that’s true, but it’s the longest of long shots in my opinion. Even more so than the insanity defense. The crime of passion strategy is a possibility but when I brought up that option it was a dead end.”
“And Redding. She is adamantly opposed to admitting to something she did not do, whether from passion or temporary insanity. And Redding…well…now that he has these witnesses, he has convinced himself he has a slam dunk.”
“So that’s it, then?” Kathryn asked, her voice beginning to crack from the strain and worry.
“We have about five weeks for trial prep,” Winter said. “I will keep pecking away at all of this and Harry Doyle will keep poking around and seeing what he can ferret out on these witnesses that have suddenly materialized. And before you say anything, I know it still feels like a set up. I agree emotionally. But from a lawyer’s viewpoint, unless we can prove otherwise and they are nor found to be committing perjury, it is likely their testimony will decide this thing.”
“Thanks, Albert,” Orville said as Winter stood to leave. “I know you will do your best.”
He sat with Kathryn after Winter had left and they just sat and stared blankly out the window as late afternoon storm clouds began to drift in and blot out the once delightful sunny skies.
“She could really lose this, huh?” Kathryn finally said.
“It does not look so promising at the moment,” Orville replied. “But Janice says Alberto is the best. Whether he can keep a jury from buying the DA’s case is going to be a challenge for sure.”
“What do we do now?”
“Since when are you a praying man?”
“Since I just found out our friend Sarah might be convicted of a crime she had nothing to do with, I guess…”