Paul rose in unison with the rest of the room, but he didn’t hear anything else from the court clerk until he took his seat a second after everyone else had.
“You may be seated,” the judge announced as he took his seat. “It looks like the jury is accounted for. Have you reached a decision, Mr. Foreman?”
“We have your Honor.”
This time, it was Warron who was more intent on the outcome of the jury, mainly because of those white-collar laws. He was curious to know if the courts would implement them to their fullest in this case. As for Joonter, he figured life in prison was another form of death penalty. At his age, could he possibly live 20 or 30 years in prison and live to see parole?
The foreman stood and read the statement prepared by the jury. “In the case of Paol Joonter, your Honor, we recommend a penalty of life in prison for the murder of Rawson Becker with parole review in 20 years. Further, we recommend the death penalty for the murder of Shannyl Cox, as we consider her to have been an innocent bystander at the murder scene who was completely absolved from any responsibility in the business proceedings of Mr. Joonter and Mr. Becker.”
“I understand,” reiterated Etherton, “that you are recommending one life in prison sentence and one death penalty sentence. Is that correct?”
“Yes, your Honor.”
“Will council please approach the bench?”
Paol was now very intent as sweat began to bead up on his face. His wife, just behind him, was sobbing, but rubbed his back in an attempt to show her continued support of her husband.
“Your Honor,” Warron was quick to launch the first words in his sidebar with the judge. “This is simply unprecedented. Two different sentences for effectively the same crime?”
“You heard the jury’s argument. They could perhaps understand a crime of passion, since you’ve shown the unscrupulous manner in which Becker handled some of his business affairs. However, Ms. Cox was not involved in any decision that should’ve turned your client’s weapon against her. It was a cold-blooded deed your client dealt her.”
“My client will appeal, I assure you… he is innocent. However, this is his first offense. His record of ethical business dealings speaks for itself. He has contributed greatly to our society. And he could possibly do no harm when he is released from prison on parole. In other words, even if he had committed the crime, I believe that all recognize that he is not a violent criminal. Why will we throw the book at him?”
“Your Honor,” The district attorney stepped in. “This jury, which was selected by yourself, and both counsels, has seen all of the evidence, they have spent ample time deliberating. I believe they have made a conclusion consistent with the Congressional White-Collar Act of…”
“Henry,” interrupted Warron. “You know as well as I do that the White-Collar Act was intended against crimes of economic import. This case has nothing to do with that act, and yet, I’m afraid that the jury has been distracted by this law and has been confused on its interpretation.”
To this argument, the judge responded, “The act says nothing about the type of crime involved.”
“An oversight by Congress that simply needs to be resolved sooner than later as this case apparently dictates. Gentlemen, we all know why Congress was motivated to pass that law. We must be sensitive to their intent.”
“I interpret the law as I read it. The intent will have to be determined by a higher court of law than this one. In the meantime, I have to agree with the jury, and with the prosecutor. The request of the jury will stand. In the meantime, I suggest you begin the paperwork on the appeals of the United States v. Paol Joonter and on the Congressional White Collar Act.”
“May I ask, your Honor, what you will consider a reasonable bail for the appeal? The paperwork has already been submitted, and the appellate court has accepted it.”
“Bail?” asked the judge in surprise. “The Congressional White-Collar act states that any sentence handed down to an executive officer of a for-profit incorporated firm must stand as declared by the judge without possibility of bail. Part of the reason for the act is that constituents affected adversely economically by the actions of corporate officers are simply tired of seeing these men convicted and let free while the vast numbers of white-collar appeals sit on the benches of judges for years. Where is the justice of a wealthy criminal who is convicted of effectively robbing from his employees and investors and then is allowed to enjoy his wealth in the comforts of his own home for the rest of his life while appeal after appeal is filed on his behalf?”
“Your Honor, I must protest,” began Warron. “Murdering these two people did not make Mr. Joonter any richer. He will not be enjoying much of anything while an incorrect judgment has been passed on him.”
“As for the judgment, my court has done everything in its power to render a correct verdict. I trust that my juries have done everything in their power to make these decisions as just as possible. I would appreciate that you not suggest ineptness on the part of my court.”
“Your Honor, I mean no disrespect, but we all know that one juror had been corrupted.”
“And I handled that as judiciously as possible,” answered the judge, growing more irritated with the defense attorney with each attempt to persuade the court to change its mind. “Even you agreed to the handling of that juror yourself, did you not?”
“I did, your Honor.”
“Then, if you have no further arguments, may I proceed with this session?”
Enraged at this failure of the judicial system, Warron conceded defeat, “You may, your Honor.”
“Mr. Prosecutor, do you have anything further in this case?”
“No, your Honor.”
“Then, I believe we are done here.” The judge dismissed the attorneys with a severe look.
After the lawyers returned to their seats, Etherton addressed the suspect directly. “Mr. Joonter, after discussion with the defense and prosecution in this case, I have decided to accept the jury’s recommended sentences. You are to serve one life sentence which is superseded by the death penalty sentence. As I have explained to your council, I am disallowed, by law, to grant you the possibility of parole during appeal, but I will grant you one week before you are to report to the federal penitentiary to begin your sentence in order to allow you to put any remaining personal affairs in order. You will be under house arrest during that period of time, and will be accompanied by a federal agent at all hours of the day. Because your appeal has already been accepted, I would expect that the appellate court will initiate your case within three to six months. At that time, the appellate judge will determine whether there is ample evidence to grant you bail at that time, or whether you will continue to serve your sentence until the jury determines a new verdict and sentence. Do you understand these directions?”
Vacantly, Paol gazed into the eyes of the judge and affirmed. “Yes, your Honor.”