Marie flipped through the papers in her lap, an anxious ball of energy rolling around in her stomach. She ignored the movement taking place around her in the courthouse and glanced at her watch.
“Fifteen minutes,” she mumbled to herself and began looking through the papers again.
After a few more minutes, she sighed and stood to her feet before walking down the hallway to the restroom. The quick refresh was enough to distract her mind from the task at hand, but her slight reprieve wouldn’t last long.
When she stepped outside, she rushed into the path of an attorney from across the aisle that caused her to groan.
“You nervous, Marie?” he asked.
She continued her path back toward her courtroom and refused to address him until she was back in front of the doors. After sitting back down on the bench just beside the door, she flipped open her folder and glared up at him.
“Why would I be nervous, Palmer?”
“Considering this is your first solo case, I would say being nervous would be natural.”
“Well, I’m not,” she said and turned her attention back to her case file.
“Good.” He smirked at her. “Because I would hate for you to go in there and blow your case.”
“Palmer,” she said. “If you are trying to get inside my head, it will not work. I know this case. My arguments are sound. Now, go away.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Palmer grinned.
Marie glared at him as he walked away but turned her attention back to the file in her hand. Before she had time to peer over the documents further, a bailiff motioned her inside the courtroom. Marie took a deep breath and headed inside.
After she and the prosecution sat behind their corresponding tables, the bailiff led Marie’s client into the courtroom. Marie cringed when she saw his hands linked at the wrist with handcuffs and frowned at the orange jumpsuit he wore.
“They wouldn’t let me put on my suit,” he whispered to her. His eyes and voice didn’t hide any of the exasperation Marie was certain he was feeling.
Marie put her hand on his arm and said, “Relax. We have a strong case.”
Her client shook his head and looked down at the table in front of him. Marie silently prayed that she hadn’t just lied to him as the judge walked inside and everyone in the courtroom rose to their feet.
The trial quickly got underway and Marie did her best to listen to the prosecution as they went through their opening arguments. When it was her turn to speak, she gave her client a quick but reassuring look and stood to her feet.
“Thank you, Your Honor,” she said to the Judge as he instructed her to begin. Marie laid her notes down on the podium and turned to address the jury. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. I am here today to address the charges against my client, Mr. Charles Gabriel. Like many of you, Mr. Gabriel is a family man and works hard to provide for his family. On the morning of May 9th, Mr. Gabriel had stopped for gas at the station about a mile from his home, something he had done every week for a year.”
Marie glanced down at her notes and made eye contact with a few of the members of the jury before continuing.
“This outing, however, would be different,” she said. “During this visit, Mr. Gabriel became witness to a heinous crime. Sadly, when he attempted to assist the victim, officers accused him of completing the actual crime he was trying to prevent. During these proceedings, we will prove that Mr. Gabriel is not only being unjustly held but scapegoated by the true perpetrators of the crime.”
After concluding her opening statement, Marie sat back down by her client and waited for the judge to continue to the witness phase of the trial. When it was her turn to address the first witness, the cashier of the gas station on duty during the robbery, Marie felt the nervous pit in her stomach grow.
Pushing her negative feelings aside, she rose, put a confident look on her face, and approached the witness stand.
“Mr. Webb,” she said, noting how nervous the young man appeared as he peered back at her when she said his name. “You were on duty the day of the robbery, correct?”
“In fact, you had worked several mornings when Mr. Gabriel had stopped for gas, correct?”
“Did you notice Mr. Gabriel when he pulled into the station that morning?”
“It was rather busy that morning, so I didn’t pay attention to him, in particular.”
“I see,” Marie continued. “Had Mr. Gabriel been consistent in the timing of his trips to your gas station?”
“I don’t recall.”
“But, you can confidently say you had seen him visit your station in the past?”
“Yes, I’ve seen him get gas before.”
“Your Honor,” Marie said, turning her attention to the judge. “May I direct the court’s attention to the security footage on the monitor at this point?”
The judge nodded and several members of the jury leaned forward in their chairs to get a better look at the monitor in front of them. Marie allowed the footage to play for a few moments before turning her attention back to her witness.
“Can you tell me what we are seeing in this video, Mr. Webb?”
“It looks like me behind the counter at the gas station.”
“Can you read the timestamp of the video for us, please?”
“Six-thirty AM,” he said after squinting at the image.
“So about fifteen minutes before the robbery occurred, correct?”
“From the look of things, it doesn’t appear that your store is that busy, Mr. Webb,” Marie said. “And you seem to be continually looking out the window in the gas pumps’ directions. Can you tell me what you were looking for?”
“I was just watching the pumps and making sure no one ran off without paying.”
“It wouldn’t have been because you were purposely watching for Mr. Gabriel to arrive, would it?”
“Objection,” the prosecution shouted at her question. “Counsel is speculating.”
“Withdrawn,” Marie smiled.
Marie could tell the witness was becoming increasingly agitated. Changing gears, she returned her attention back to the monitor.
“Can you tell me who this is?” Marie pointed at a man’s image inside the store.
“I don’t know,” the witness said.
“You’ve never noticed him around the store before?”
“Can you explain why security cameras showed you talking to a man that fits his description earlier that morning in the parking lot? The man in question is also wearing the same clothing as the man in the video.”
Marie paused long enough to pull some photos out of a file on the table and present them to the court. Mr. Webb fidgeted in his chair while she waited for him to continue.
“Mr. Webb?” she asked when he didn’t answer her question.
“I, um,” he said. “He probably was asking for directions or something. I don’t remember.”
“But you still say you aren’t familiar with the man?”
“I don’t know him.”
“If that’s the case, Mr. Webb,” Marie said and advanced the security footage forward to the end of the robbery. She paused it on a particular image and pointed to the screen.
“Can you explain why you handed the man a bag just moments after Mr. Gabriel came to your aid during the robbery?”
All eyes in the courtroom rested on Mr. Webb and his feeble attempts to keep himself from wiggling in his chair. Marie raised her eyebrows expectantly when he didn’t answer her.
“As Mr. Gabriel was being tackled by police, the man slipped out the door,” she continued before asking. “What was in the bag, Mr. Webb?”
“I, uh…” he replied, his eyes shifting around the courtroom. “I plead the fifth.”
The courtroom erupted into a loud circus and the judge banged his gavel to get things back under his control. Marie smiled to herself, knowing she’d just entered enough doubt into the proceedings to free her client.
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