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Who Killed Jesus, and Why?

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Parsonage
A novel about life behind the scenes for an evangelical pastor's family: in the church, the parsonage, the community.

© 1996 G. Edwin Lint
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By the end of September, Patricia was convinced her baby would come into this world with an incarcerated felon for a father. She and Dave hadn't talked about the trial at all, and she hadn't had a chance to get Paul alone and ask him how he thought it was going. But closing arguments were scheduled to start next week, so that meant that everyone knew pretty much what each side had to say. With strong circumstantial evidence against Dave, and him with no alibi, it didn't take a crafty defense lawyer to tell her things didn't look good at all.

The last witness scheduled to be called by the defense was to be Pastor Jim. Patricia already knew what Jim would say, and that he would say it very well. She just hoped the jury would be as moved by the pastor's articulate eloquence as the bulk of the Wesley congregation was each Sunday.

"The Defense calls Rev. Hogan," drawled Paul from his seat at the defense table. Jim would be elaborating on what he said at the arraignment, but with the Assistant DA having the privilege of cross examination. As Jim was sworn, Patricia realized anew how much she couldn't stand the Assistant DA. Couldn't stand her voice, couldn't stand her clothes, couldn't stand her hair, couldn't stand her, period! Not a very Christian attitude. But after all, Ms Priscilla Lane was the embodiment of all that Patricia feared would happen to Dave at the end of this trial. Patricia surprised herself by mouthing the mother dog word.

An hour later, Patricia's fears were confirmed. Jim had been eloquent and fervent as he recounted the information about Dave's character presented at the arraignment. Certainly nothing wrong with anything Jim said. But I'm already convinced of Dave's innocence. Suppose I was a juror on the fence? Had Jim said anything which would move me one way or the another? Doubtful.

Then Patricia heard Paul turn his witness over to the People for cross. Again the mother dog word surfaced, unbidden.

Ms. Lane ignored Jim's recent testimony and took a different tack. "Rev. Hogan, I understand that you're something of an expert on demon possession. Is that true?"

"Objection," drawled Paul without rising from his seat. "Irrelevant and immaterial."

"Your Honor, the People plan to introduce evidence which speaks to Rev. Hogan's beliefs on demon possession as those beliefs relate to the charges against the defendant."

Now Paul was on his feet with his objection. "Objection, Your Honor. There's nothing in the People's depositions that says anything on beliefs about demon possession."

Judge Schwartz motioned the litigants to approach his bench. "Now, Ms. Lane, mind telling me what you're up to?"

"Your Honor," this week the People discovered some information relevant to Rev. Hogan's testimony. I just finished studying it last night."

Paul spoke softly but with strong emphasis. "Your Honor, I object to the introduction of evidence at this late date without the defense having a chance to review it. The People have already called all their announced witnesses."

"What sort of evidence is this, Ms. Lane," queried the judge.

"We have an audio tape of Rev. Hogan speaking on demon possession and his beliefs on the implications of witnesses testifying in a criminal case," answered Lane with a sly smile for Paul.

"How long are these tapes?" asked the judge.

"Total run time is less than an hour. I had a transcript made, also."

The judge nodded. "I'll see what this is all about during noon recess.
Judge Schwartz dismissed the litigants to their places.

"I'd like to instruct the jurors to disregard any reference to demon possession. We're in recess until one o'clock." Whack!

 

Around the lunch table at the Carlisle Tea Room, Paul turned to Jim with an unusual amount of irritation in his voice. "Y'all have any idea what this is all about? She says she has a tape and a transcript."

Jim had been wracking his brain since the question of demon possession came up in the morning session. "The only thing I can think of is a question I answered on the air a couple months ago. Something about 'what happens if a demon possessed person commits a crime?'"

"Yes, well?" prompted Paul.

"I'm trying to think of exactly what I said. This is a paraphrase, now, but I think I said that demons give a sex criminal the ability to lie to a judge and jury with a straight face, and to do it with such conviction that who would believe the word of a young child against a teacher."

"Man! Aside from my questions about the theology of this whole thing, if the jury hears your voice saying something like that in open court, sure ain't gonna help." Patricia's conviction that things were going bad for Dave were being confirmed.

Paul smacked his fist in his palm. "I'm gonna go over there and bust in on ole Amos in chambers. We gotta get a side-bar before he reconvenes. If he allows the jury to hear that tape, we're up the crick with a short paddle."

Before the tinkling bell had announced Paul's exit for the court house, Patricia was learning across the table and grasping Jim's and Debra's hands. "Jim, we really need to pray like we never prayed before. Remember at the arraignment, how Jessi talked to the judge about praying for the wisdom of Solomon? I believe we need to do that again, right here, right now."

Across the street, in the court house cafeteria, there was tension at the People's lunch table, also.

"You may know all about the law, Ms. Lane, but I know my Tessa," hissed Carla through clenched teeth. "We have to do anything we can to get that kink head behind bars!"

"I want him convicted, too," Mrs. Stetson. "But we have to be careful. Putting a child on the stand with the jury in the court room can be dangerous. You can never be sure of what kids will-- "

"I tell you, I know my Tessa! Maybe she hasn't said a word since she came home from the hospital. But every time I ask her if she wants to get the bad man that hurt her and lock him up in jail, she always nods here head!" Every time!"

The Assistant DA was torn between her knowledge of good courtroom practice, and her desire for the prestige of a conviction. "Maybe we could get Dr. Chambers to help us. She's already testified to Tessa's catatonia since the attack--"

"Get her," snapped Carla.

"Trouble is," I've already told the judge I've called my last witness. If I try to call Dr. Chambers back with Tessa, that hick from the sticks will throw a fit."

"Let him throw his fit, if he wants to. Aren't you smarter than he is?"

 

Another gavel whack started the wheels of justice turning again. Judge Schwartz addressed the jury. "I want to reemphasize my direction about disregarding the reference to demon possession. There will be nothing introduced as evidence on this topic."

The Assistant DA already knew she'd lost the tape battle. Something about the judge thinking the whole area of demon possession was too controversial. Now she was planning a new strategy. "Your Honor, the People would like to recall Dr. Chambers to the stand but I'll wait until tomorrow morning."

"For what purpose?" asked the Judge.

"Dr. Chambers will be assisting me in having Tessa Stetson testify for the People."

The entire court room was stunned by this announcement. Paul was about to drawl an objection, but he felt checked by the Holy Spirit to hold his peace. Judge Schwartz didn't hold his.

"Are you serious about this, Counselor? And do you want the jury in or out?"

"Definitely in." The primary purpose of this whole exercise was to get the sympathies of the jury on the side of the prosecution.

The judge just shook his head in a mute statement of I hope you know what you're doing. "We're in recess until nine o'clock tomorrow morning."

Whack!

That night, Dave and Patricia just held each other and alternately cried and prayed. Both would claim in the morning they hadn't slept a wink.

 

"The People call Dr. Olive Chambers and Mistress Tessa Stetson." The back doors of the court room opened and a well-dressed and stately black woman came slowly down the aisle, leading a two-year-old child by the hand.

Patricia hadn't seen Tessa since that rainy day months ago when the little girl and the rest of the day care kids had played horsey with Dave. If she hadn't known that this definitely was Tessa, she wasn't sure she would have recognized her. The strawberry hair was still in pigtails. There was still a light brush of freckles over a ski-jump nose. But the bright blue eyes no longer sparkled with either intellect or mischievousness. In fact, Tessa's eyes reminded Patricia of an Annie-style cartoon: just two empty circles. And her gait was stiff and stilted, in a way which seemed to go beyond the fact she was still recuperating from the physical assault and reconstructive surgery. This surely wasn't the same child who had stayed on a jumpy-horse for the full count.

As the little girl came abreast of her, Patricia tried to make eye contact. Nothing. Tessa looked neither right nor left; she just walked woodenly with a limp hand held by her guide.

When Dr. Chambers was seated on the stand with Tessa on her lap, the Assistant DA asked the older woman to review her professional qualifications. "I'm a pediatric psychiatrist, and I've been retained by the District Attorney's Office to serve as a consultant in cases involving young children."

"And do you have any experience with victims of sexual abuse or assault."

"Yes, in my private practice, I'm seeing several such children."

"Would you describe for this court your clinical impression of Tessa's current emotional state?"

"Tessa has the classic symptoms of a child suffering from post-traumatic stress with evidence of catatonia."

"And how would you describe this catatonia, and how long have these symptoms been evident?"

"The patient has been in a severe catatonic state since the night of her attack. Since that night, she hasn't spoken, and makes no response when spoken to."

Makes no response when spoken to, thought the lawyer, That Carla lied to me. This kid has been nodding her head when asked about finding the man who hurt her!

Ms. Lane moved forward and placed a hand lightly on Tessa's head; no response. "Does she hear?"

"There is no evidence of damage to the faculties of hearing. However, she still makes no response when spoken to."

If I had that lying Carla right now, I'd wring her neck!

Paul rose. "Your Honor, may we approach?"

Judge Schwartz motioned the lawyers forward, the court recorder trailing in their wake.

"Your Honor. This seems to be a cheap trick on the part of the People to get the sympathy of the jury. Defense stipulates that Tessa has been horribly injured, mentally as well as physically. But I can't figure how her mental wounds can add any information to this case. Especially, seeing as she can't speak. I object to continuing this testimony. And I waive any cross examination."

"Counselor," said Judge Schwartz sternly, looking at Ms. Lane. "You have exactly five minutes to provide this court with some competent, relevant, and material information, or Defense's objection will be sustained and your witnesses will be dismissed. Now get on with it."

The Assistant DA returned to her table with her tail down. Might as well get to the point and be done with it. She moved to the witness stand and smiled at her diminutive witness.

"Tessa, honey, I want you to look all around this room," said Ms. Lane with an exaggerated sweeping motion of an arm laden with costume-jewelry bracelets. "Look all around the room and tell me-- do you see the man who hurt you that night in your bedroom. That was the night the ambulance came and took you to the hospital. Look at each person real carefully, and tell me if you see the person who hurt you that night in your bedroom."

No response. The Assistant DA tried again. "Tessa, honey, please. We need you to help us find the bad man who hurt you that night."

Tessa continued to gaze blankly at a spot slightly to the left of the ticking clock. Her thumb was in her mouth and she was drooling slightly. Dr. Chambers gently wiped her chin with a tissue and signaled the lawyer with a glance that it was time to end it.

Ms. Lane nodded irritably and returned to her seat. Carla had moved up during Tessa's "testimony" and was now sitting at the People's table. "I told you this was a mistake," whispered the lawyer.

"Any further questions," asked Judge Schwartz from the bench.

"No more questions," said Ms. Lane glumly.

"All right," said the judge, "we'll take a fifteen minute recess. Be back at two-thirty.

Whack. "Mr. Donaldson, Ms. Lane, may I see you two in chambers?"

 

Judge Schwartz resumed deliberations by announcing that both lawyers in the case had agreed to make their preliminary closing statements in the better than two hours that remained in the court day. Full closing statements would be made when court resumed Monday morning at nine.

Priscilla Lane loved this! She would get to give the jurors an overview of the People's case against David Court while the victim, Tessa, was right in front of them. Then they could incubate the image of this poor, mentally-impaired little girl all weekend.

During the break, Patricia had changed her seat so she could have a better view of Tessa's face during the proceedings. Now as the Assistant DA's irritating voice droned on and on about all the horrible things her Dave had done to Tessa, Patricia kept her eyes fixed on the little girl's face.

By two-forty-five, there was a little more color coming into Tessa's cheeks.

By three, the child was starting to visually track the lawyer's movements as she paraded back and forth in front of the jury box.

By three-fifteen, Tessa was consistently turning her head and following every movement Ms. Lane was making.

By three-thirty, light was beginning to dawn in the girl's normally-bright blue eyes. Patricia had a strong sense that Tessa was not only hearing, she was fully comprehending every word that shrilling voice uttered.

"And now, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I remind you that it is your sworn duty to make sure that this man," and she stood right in front of Dave Court and pointed a crimson-tipped finger point-blank in his face, "that this man is locked up in jail so he can't hurt little girls like Tessa Stetson any more!"

The full light of comprehension broke across Tessa's face, and immediately there was a thunderstorm.

"No! No! No!" screamed Tessa with tears streaming down her face. She was standing on top of the People's table, fists balled in anger, punctuating each syllable with a stamp of a tiny Mary Jane. "Not Unca Dave! Not my Unca Dave. Unca Dave didn't do it! Not my Unca Dave!"

And then she took off running across the top of the People's table, straight toward her Unca Dave.

In high school, Dave had played third base on the base ball team. His specialty was snagging screaming line drives hit down the line with a diving stab of his glove. Now with the combined grace and skill of Gregg Nettles, Mike Schmidt, and Brooks Robinson, he made the play of a lifetime. From his seat at the defense table, he dove through the air and caught that precious little body just inches above the polished hardwood floor!

Dave landed flat on his brisket and had all the wind knocked out of him. But Tessa was none the worse for wear! In a split second she was on her feet and hopping up and down, beribboned pigtails flying.

"That was fun, Unca Dave! C'mon let's do it again! C'mon, Unca Dave Let's do it again! Let's do it again!" Gone was the post-traumatic stress! Gone was the catatonic stupor! Gone were the orphan-Annie eyes and drooling month!

Tessa was back!

 

The rest of the case took nine seconds, by the ticking school-house clock on the wall.

"Move for dismissal," bawled Paul from his seat, with a broad smile.

"Motion granted," agreed Judge Schwartz with a matching smile. Case dismissed."

Whack!

And it was over.

Parsonage Table of Contents
Links to Other Resources

Disclaimer
About the DiskBooks copyright
How to Download DiskBooks Files
Return to Parsonage Home Page
Return to DiskBooks Home Page
How to Order Disk Copies

Send E-Mail

 

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