Chapter 34: The Decision
On April 25, Officer Nathan visited Cindy and Ian’s band class. It was fifth period and as Cindy concentrated on playing the G major scale perfectly for her upcoming test, she saw the officer walk in.
“May I take Cindy and Ian?” the police officer asked politely.
“Sure,” replied their band teacher, Mr. Albertson, though he looked very curious as to why a police officer had just entered his classroom.
“Hope you didn’t do drugs,” snickered Sheen as Cindy and Ian walked past him.
When Cindy and Ian arrived inside the courtroom, they took their seats in the middle row. They could see that Bradley’s parents were sitting a few rows ahead of them and Mike’s mother was sitting in the second row on the other side of the aisle. Mike was seated beside his lawyer Stephanie White and was staring at the desk. Stephanie had gone over the proceedings of proper court etiquette and told him not to speak out of term when the judge addressed any of the witnesses. Mike wasn’t planning on speaking out; he had never been a boy with a violent temper. But even with his lawyer defending him, he wasn’t sure if she really believed his case either.
The Crown Attorney, Hubert Jackson, had chosen two key witnesses and Roberta Flemming, a next-door neighbour of Cindy’s, was the first to the stand. Cindy had no idea that Hubert had been in contact with her.
Roberta was already at the stand and Judge Frederick Matthews was seated in his chair like a dark billowing cloud floating over the courtroom. When Cindy and Ian sat down, the witness was already speaking. Officer Nathan had told them that when they entered they had to be really quiet as not to disrupt the preliminary hearing. It had been explained to them that this wasn’t a trial. The judge was gathering all the information on the case in order to decide if it was necessary to proceed with a trial.
“So you saw what happened?” Hubert asked Roberta.
“Yes. I went outside to dump out the garbage when I heard someone squirming in the street. I walked over to the sidewalk and saw a boy standing there. In front of him was a stronger looking boy holding my neighbour’s daughter, Cindy. She was squirming quite violently as the muscular boy, named Bradley, held her. The boy, who I now know was Michael, was watching her and just stood there. I wanted to help them but then I saw Michael pick up that gun.”
“And what did Michael Roberts do?”
“Well, he fired a bullet into Bradley’s back.”
“Do you believe it was the right thing to do, shoot Bradley Brock?”
“Well it was all shocking really. I wouldn’t really know what to do in that situation.”
Hubert frowned at his witness; she wasn’t really making his case sound convincing. Cindy crossed her fingers, hoping that the judge finally understood why Mike was innocent.
“But do you believe that shooting someone would be reasonable?”
“Well, no, if I were him —”
“Objection!” cried Stephanie standing up before the court. “Ms.. Flemming is speculating as what she would have done if she were in my client’s shoes. She is not my client and therefore has no idea as to what the circuMs..tances pertained.”
“Sustained,” said Judge Matthews as Stephanie sat back down. She frowned at Hubert. “Mister Jackson, please tell your witness not to speculate.”
“But Michael should have called out to him; asking what Bradley was doing and why he wanted to hurt that poor girl. I would at least coax him into reasoning with me to let her go,” Roberta put in quickly, angry that she had been cut off.
“Objection!” cried Stephanie again. “Your Honour —”
“Yes,” agreed the judge. “Ms.. Flemming, this is your final warning.”
Mike tried not to smile as he looked down at the desk. Clearly Roberta had no idea what it’d been like stuck in that situation. He knew that if he’d called out to Bradley, the bully’s hand could have slipped and sliced Cindy’s throat. But then he remembered that Bradley was drunk that night and could hardly harm her. The judge, he knew, knew this.
“What did Michael Roberts do after he shot Bradley Brock?” asked Hubert.
“Well, the boy just ran away.”
“And why would he run away?”
“I guess he was scared, but it’s terrible to flee a scene. I mean, Bradley was drunk, he couldn’t have harmed —”
“Objection!” cried Stephanie. Her face was beating red and she looked furious.
“No more questions, Your Honour,” said Hubert quickly as he sat down.
Judge Matthews nodded towards the defence and said,
“Ms.. White, your witness.”
Stephanie stood up to address the witness.
“Ms.. Flemming, do you know my client personally?”
“So then I wouldn’t believe you would know about my client’s past history with Bradley Brock?”
Mike knew where this was leading but he was hoping that Roberta would follow along rather than just giving simple one-worded answers.
“Did you know that Bradley bullied my client all the way up to Grade Eight?”
“Objection, Your Honour!” cried Hubert. “Where is all this leading?”
“Your Honour, I’m trying to explain the circuMs..tances as to which would have provoked my client.”
“That is acceptable. But please, Ms.. White, get to the point.”
“Of course, Your Honour,” said Stephanie. “Ms.. Flemming, with this information now given to you, do you have reason to believe that this bullying would explain the motivation that would have caused my client to act irrationally?”
Mike glared at his lawyer. He didn’t like to be told that his acts had been “irrational”. But he then remembered that when Stephanie went over the disclosure materials and discussed all the evidence that the police had obtained from his case, she told him that in order to convince the judge, she might have to put Mike “in a bad light” in order to explain why he was innocent.
“Well…” started Roberta. “I’ve learned that bullied victiMs.. suffer terribly and that it can lead them to do terrible things.”
“Objection!” cried Hubert. “There is nothing wrong with Michael Roberts’s health.”
“Your Honour, may I please address the Crown?”
“You may,” agreed Judge Matthews. “Objection overruled.”
“Mister Jackson, my client has indeed suffered tremendously. He has been brutally beaten by Bradley Brock on one account; he has also been accustomed to dealing with drugs and almost committed suicide on one occasion.”
“Objection! Your Honour, those acts have no relation to this case.”
“Yes, Ms.. White, you may,” agreed the judge; curious as to where this was going.
“They in fact do relate to the case, Mister Jackson. If my client had never been traumatized by Bradley Brock, he wouldn’t have proceeded towards these acts for comfort.”
“Objection!” cried Hubert again. Mike had a feeling it had become his favourite word. “These statements are more accusations addressed to me and my profession than questions towards my witness.”
“Sustained. Ms.. White, Mr. Jackson is right.”
“No further questions, Your Honour.”
Mike could see that the judge looked impressed with his lawyer’s arguments. He wondered if it would be enough to settle the case, but then he remembered there was another witness. Roberta stepped down from the stand and proceeded to sit at the back of the courtroom, hoping to not be noticed.
“Mister Jackson, call up your next witness.”
“Your Honour, I would like to bring up Gerald Smitherson, the manager of Gold Cheetah that Michael Roberts robbed a few weeks ago.”
A man dressed in a well-tailored black suit stood up in front of Ian and Cindy and headed towards the stand; his well polished shoes clicking across the floor as he went. When he sat down, the two teenagers noticed Smitherson had long gelled back black hair and what completed his outlook was the small moustache on his upper lip that looked as if it had been glued on. “Mister Smitherson,” said Hubert addressing his new witness. “Do you know much about the arrest of the accused?”
“I know that he robbed my store, yes.” He had a deep voice that echoed off the courtroom walls.
“From what you have heard today, what is your impression of the accused?”
“He seeMs.. to be a troubled youth and seeMs.. to need help,” he stated. He said every word with as much gusto as the last, making every word heard clearly as it resonated off the walls.
“Now tell me Mister Smitherson, would you be able to recognize the boy if you saw him again?”
“Isn’t he sitting right in front of me?”
There was a lot of murmuring in the courtroom.
“Silence in my courtroom!” cried the judge as he slammed his gavel down upon the strike plate.
“What I mean, Mister Smitherson, is would you please tell me if you recognize Michael Roberts in this following video footage of your store.”
Hubert turned on the power of a black television screen that was sitting on a television stand. He positioned it towards the witness stand and slid the D.V.D. into the D.V.D. player underneath the television. He picked up the remote and fast-forwarded the playback until it was at 12:30 A.M. on the time stamp. A black and white image of the interior of the store appeared on the screen. Hubert pressed PLAY and Mike watched as shards of glass hit the floor and a boy with curly brown hair climbed into the store. Shit! he thought. He had completely forgotten to wear the hood over his head. Maybe it was because he had been too preoccupied with arguing with the robber or maybe he hadn’t even felt the hood slip off when he entered the store. Whatever the reason was, it didn’t matter. All that mattered now was, if it wasn’t clear when the police caught him it was clear now, that Mike could easily be detected in that footage. Hubert soon froze the playback where a clear side view profile of Mike was visible.
“Does this boy look like the one sitting before you?”
Everyone in the courtroom, including the judge, could clearly see that the profile matched Michael Roberts.
Hubert then played the rest of the video and Mike was horror-struck as he watched hiMs..elf rob the clothes from Gold Cheetah. Hubert stopped the D.V.D. once Mike had left the store.
“The police caught up to the accused in about five minutes after the robbery. Mister Smitherson, now that you have seen this footage, have you changed your opinion on the accused?”
“I have,” agreed Gerald. “I admit I had never really watched the video closely myself, but now that I have, it is clearly obvious to me that Michael Roberts knew exactly what he was doing and without hesitation.”
“No further questions, Your Honour.”
Cindy bit her tongue in worry and Ian didn’t look relieved at seeing the footage either. We should have known this would happen, he thought. He couldn’t think there was any way out of the judge sentencing Mike. Maybe he’ll get a lenient sentence, he hoped.
“Your witness, Ms.. White,” addressed Judge Matthews.
Stephanie proceeded to the stand.
“Mister Smitherson, do you believe my client to be an active perpetrator?”
“Excuse me?” asked Gerald.
“What I mean, Mister Smitherson, to put it more in plain terMs.., is do you believe my client to be a ‘criminal’?”
“Isn’t that obvious?” said Mister Smitherson.
The courtroom burst into laughter.
“Silence in my courtroom!” cried Judge Matthews slamming the gavel again.
“Mister Smitherson, I believe you’re still not understanding me,” said Stephanie sounding annoyed. “What I mean is, do you believe my client to be a badly-behaved child, someone who has no respect for the law?”
Mike gritted his teeth. First “irrational” and now “child”. How many more times would Stephanie insult him?
“Like I said before, it’s obvious.”
“What is obvious, Mister Smitherson?”
“I’m pretty sure you know full well what is.”
“Mister Smitherson, I’ll have you know that this is no way to address me. You will answer my questions truthfully and honestly, and not leave out blanks. I will ask you the question again, what is obvious?”
Gerald looked appalled to be spoken this way and Mike could see that his lawyer was forcefully drilling answers out of him; answers that he was sure could prove his innocence. She also looked very disgusted with the well-groomed man in front of her as he was acting as if he was conducting the questions, not her.
“What’s obvious,” said Gerald, putting a lot of emphasis on the word, “is the fact that Michael Roberts should be institutionalized for his crimes. He is a violent young offender.”
Cindy was shaking with rage. She had the sudden urge to slap Mister Smitherson in the face and shave off his stupid moustache. Stephanie, however, remained calm and Mike dreaded when she said the words, “No further questions, Your Honour.”