“As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, he is trash.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mocking Bird
He had been sipping a cup of tea and chatting with his mother over the phone when the police officer pounded on the door. “The rapping of that fist is enough to wake the dead” He had told his mother. He ambled over to the door and was greeted by a warrant being shoved in his face.
“I’m here to search the premises for any items that could have served as the murder weapon in the murder of Janson James.”
His face had stilled at this. Janson James, politician extraordinaire, had been acquitted on all counts of the rape of Stephan Hardy’s mother. Stephan had wanted to kill him for a long time.
The bloodstained shirt had been placed in the dumpster outside his house and the knife had been washed and hidden among the other mundane kitchen knives. It had been the perfectly laid trap. Stephan Hardy had no chance.
“Please rise for his honour, Judge Ethan Barrows.” The bailiff announced as the corpulent, mustachioed man, swathed in the black garments of his office, entered the courtroom. As he did so, the entire courtroom, from the defendant to the prosecutor to the jury to the audience, stood. Barrows nodded to the bailiff before taking his seat. The gentlemen of the jury shifted uncomfortably in their seats, extremely aware of the high profile nature of the case.
The trial progressed as all trials do. A number of witnesses, expert or otherwise, were called to the stand by both the defense and the prosecution. First up was the doctor who had pronounced the victim dead.
“In your opinion, did it appear that the victim had defended himself?” The prosecutor inquired.
“Yes. He had a series of bruises along the side of his arms consistent with the repercussions of shielding one’s face from an onslaught of blows.”
“What was the cause of death?”
“Multiple stabs to the abdominal area, including seven to the heart.”
“And how many would you say that there were in total?”
“At least eighteen.”
“So,” The prosecutor began, turning to face the jury, “would you say that our killer had a grudge?”
“Objection!” The attorney for the defense rose from his seat. “Leading the witness.”
“Sustained.” Judge Barrows’ sonorous voice echoed through the silent and enraptured courtroom.
“Very well. He’s all your’s.” The prosecutor sat down and the other lawyer approached the doctor.
“Thank you. Now, Dr. Hamden, in your professional opinion, what position was the victim in when he was defending himself?”
“He was on his knees with his hands over him.”
“How much taller do you think the assailant must have been in order inflict this much damage on the victim?”
The doctor’s eyes flickered towards the prosecutor and then over to where the defendant sat. His mother sat behind him, her hands fiddling with a silver cross necklace that was in stark contrast to the darker hue of her skin. He took a deep breath and then exhaled.
“Dr. Hamden?” The defense attorney approached the witness’ stand. “Are you okay? Do you need to tell us something?” His calming tones betrayed nothing of his intense excitement. This could be it. If the doctor told the truth, Stephan Hardy would be allowed to go home a free man.
“I… I… The victim was approximately 5 foot 9 inches. The assailant would have to have been at least…” The doctor took another breath, still not clear on his allegiance. “He must have been at least six inches taller.”
The lawyer let out a quick sigh of relief. “Since Mr. Hardy is only three inches taller, is it conceivable that he is the murderer?”
“Objection!” The prosecutor stood suddenly, fearful that his case was about to slip through his fingers. “We have no way of knowing the height of Mr. Hardy.”
“On the contrary.” The defense rebutted. “We have the images from when Mr. Hardy was arrested and they read that he is exactly six feet tall.”
The judged gestured and a copy of the images was presented to him. Seeing that the images did in fact render Stephan Hardy innocent, he turned to the court secretary. She paused the clickity-clack of her fingers for a moment to catch his eye. He shot a glance towards the prosecutor and gave a slight incline of his head. The secretary did one of her own as well and paused for a moment to use some corrector fluid on her transcripts before continuing on.
“I think that your point has been made, Councilor. If you have finished questioning the witness then we can move on.” The judge interrupted the anticipatory breath that the lawyer was taking. Barrows surveyed the courtroom. His eyes danced over the prosecutor’s over eager smile and balding head and focused instead on the necklace that was still shimmering between the fingers of Ms. Hardy. Noticing the Judge’s cold eyes, she dropped the cross and he followed its descent between her breasts.
Tearing his eyes away, Barrows forced his focus back towards the case and its likely outcome. Even having a human moment with the defendant’s mother did not change the predetermined verdict. Everyone in the room knew that the trial was merely a formality. Stephan Hardy was going to jail regardless of whether or not he had done the crime. In this courtroom, it was guilty until proven innocent by the shade of your skin. If the judge were to be perfectly honest with himself, the setup had no need to be so elaborate. The kitchen knife was a nice touch, but the bloodstained shirt was all that was needed for a conviction. That and a questionable eyewitness.
Growing tired of the proceedings, Judge Barrows called a halt to them and sent the jury off to do their ceremonial duty. Merely a half hour later they returned and handed down the expected verdict.
Stephan Hardy’s face fell and his mother reached forward to grasp her son’s shoulder. It struck Barrows with a chilling pleasure to see the naiveté that had convinced the defendant that he would be found not guilty simply because he did not commit the crime.
In Ethan Barrows mind there was never any doubt. Whether or not Hardy had done the crime, he was still guilty by virtue of the colour of his skin and he was going to pay.
And so the trial ended. The judge was found the next day in Ms. Hardy’s bed with a bullet through his heart and her screaming rape. Dr. Hamden discovered medical textbooks make excellent weights when drowning oneself. And Stephen Hardy? He threw himself in front of a prison transport bus and is in the hospital recovering now. How much longer he’ll allow himself to last is unknown.