As Jennifer was making her way out of the Criminal Courts Building on her way to lunch, she passed the open door of a deserted courtroom. She could not resist stepping inside the room for a moment.
There were fifteen rows of spectators' benches on each side of the rear area. Facing the judge's bench were two long tables, the one on the left marked Plaintiff and the one on the right marked Defendant.
The jury box contained two rows of eight chairs each. It's an ordinary courtroom, Jennifer thought, plain - even ugly - but it's the heart of freedom.
This room and all the courtrooms like it represented the difference between civilization and savagery. The right to a trial by a jury of one's peers was what lay at the heart of every free nation.
Jennifer thought of all the countries in the world that did not have this little room, countries where citizens were taken from their beds in the middle of the night and tortured and murdered by anonymous enemies for undisclosed reasons: Iran, Uganda, Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Romania, Russia, Czechoslovakia .. the list was depressingly long.
If the American courts were ever stripped of their power, Jennifer thought, if ciitzens were ever denied the right to a trial by jury, then America would cease to exist as a free nation. She was a part of the system now and , standing there, Jennifer was filled with an overwhelming feeling of pride.
She would do everything she could to honor it, to help preserve it. She stood there for a long moment, then turned to leave.
From the far end of the hall there was a distant hum that got louder and louder, and became pandemonium.
Alarm bells began to ring. Jennifer heard the sound of running feet in the corridor and saw policemen with drawn guns racing toward the entrance of the courhouse. Jennifer's instant thought was that Michael Moretti had escaped, had somehow gotten past the barrier of guards.
She hurried out into the corridor. It was bedlam. People were racing around frantically, shouting orders over the din of the clanging bells. Guards armed with riot guns had taken up positions at the exit doors.
Reporters who had been telephoning in their stories were hurrying into the corridor to find out what was happening. Far down the hall, Jennifer saw District Attorney Robert Di Silva wildly issuing instructions to half a dozen policemen, his face drained of color.
My God! He's going to have a heart attack, Jennifer thought.
She pushed her way through the crowd and moved toward him, thinking that perhaps she could be of some use. As she approached, one of the deputies who had been guarding Camillo Stla looked up and saw Jennifer. He raised an arm and pointed to her, and five seconds later Jennifer Parker found herself being grabbed, handcuffed and placed under arrest.
There were four people in Judge Lawrence Waldman's chambers: Judge Waldman, District attorney Robert Di Silva, Thomas Colfax, and Jennifer.
'You have the right to have an attorney present before you make any statement,' Judge Waldman informed Jennifer, ' and you have the right to remain silent. If you -'
'I don't need an attorney, Your Honor! I can explain what happened.'
Robert Di Silva was leaning so close to her that Jennifer could see the throbbing of a vein in his temple. 'Who paid you to give that package to Camillo Stela?'
'Paid me?Nobody paid me!' Jennifer's voice was quavering with indignation.
Di Silva picked up a familiar looking manila envelope from Judge Waldman's desk.'No one paid you? You just walked up to my witness and delivered this?' He shook the envelope and the body of a yellow canary fluttered to the desk. Its neck had been broken.
Jennifer stared at it, horrified. 'I - one of your men - gvae me -'
'Whick one of my men?'
'I - I don't know.'
'But you know he was one of my men.' His voice rang with disbelief.
'Yes. I saw him talking to you and then he walked over to me and handed me the envelope and said you wanted me to give it to Mr Stela. He - he even knew my name.'
'I'll bet he did. How much did they pay you?'
It's all a nightmare, Jennifer thought. I'm going to wake up any minute and it's going to be six o'clock in the morning, and I'm going to get dressed and go to be sworn in on the District Attorney's staff.
'How much?' The anger in him was so violent that it forced Jennifer to her feet.
'Are you accusing me of -?'
'Accusing you!' Robert Di Silva clenched his fists. ' Lady, I haven't even started on you. By the time you get out of prison you'll be too old to spend that money.'
'There is no money.' Jennifer stared at him defiantly.
Thomas Colfax had been sitting back, quietly listening to the conversation.
He interrupted now to say, ' Excuse me, Your Honor, but I'm afraid this isn't getting us anywhere.'
'I agree,' Judge Waldman replied. He turned to the District Attorney. ' Where do you stand, Bobby? Is Stela still willing to be cross-examined?'
'Cross-examined? He's a basket case! Scared out of his wits. He won't take the stand again.'
Thomas Colfax said smoothly, ' If I can't cross-examine the prosecution's chief witness, Your Honor, I'm going to have to move for a mistrial.'
Everyone in the room knew what that would mean: Michael Moretti would walk out of the courtroom a free man.
Judge Waldman looked over at the District Attorney. ' Did you tell your witness he can be held in contempt?'
'Yes. Stela's more scared of them than he is of us.' He turned to direct a venomous look at Jennifer. ' He doesn't think we can protect him anyymore.'
Judge Waldman said slowly, ' Then I'm afraid this court has no alternative but to grant the defense's request and declare a mistrial.'
Robert Di Silva stood there, listening to his case being wiped out. Without Stela, he had no case. Michael Moretti was beyod his reach now, but Jennifer Parker was not. He was going to make her pay for what she had done to him.
Judge Waldman was saying, ' I'll give instructions for the defendant to be freed and the jury dismissed.'
Thomas Colfax said, ' Thank you , Your Honor.' There was no sign of triumph in his face.
'If there's nothing else...' Judge Waldman began.
'There is something else!' Robert Di Silva turned to Jennifer Parker. ' I want her held for obstructing justice, for tempering with a witness in a capital case, for conspiracy, for ...' He was incoherent with rage.
In her anger, Jennifer found her voice. ' You can't prove a signle one of those charges because they're not true. I - I may be guilty of being stupid, but that's all I'm guilty of. No one bribed me to do anything. I thought I was delivering a package for you.'
Judge Waldman looked at Jennifer and said, ' Whatever the motivation, the consequences have been exetremely unfortunate. I am going to request that the Appellate Division undertake an investigation and , if it feels the circumstances warrant it, to begin disbarment proceedings against you.'
Jennifer felt suddenly faint. ' Your Honor, I -'
'That is all for now, Miss Parker.'
Jennifer stood there a moment, staring at their hostile faces. There was nothing more she could say.
The yellow canary on the desk had said it all.
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