Despina In Court
A military escort stops Despina before she enters the courtroom. "Despina Mackenzie, Counselor Corrado Tommaso Fontana. He is replacing your court-appointed public defender."
Despina shakes his outstretched hand. "How do you do?"
Meeting the eyes of the sergeant, he asks, "May I have a continuance to get acquainted with my client?" assuming his routine request will be agreeable to everyone involved.
Corrado’s eyes widen as the soldier solemnly intones, "That will not be possible at this time."
The sergeant ushers them both into the packed courtroom, watches as her lawyer holds her chair for her, then stands at ease behind her.
Whispering, she asks, "Am I under arrest?"
Blushing, Corrado whispers back, "I have no idea."
The judge enters. "You may all rise."
The judge glances at his watch, then nods to the prosecutor. "Are you prepared, counselor?"
"Yes, sir, your honor."
"You may proceed, then."
"I call Despina Mackenzie to the stand."
Shakily, Despina stands. The soldier escorts her to the witness stand, and after she is sworn in, seats her, then stands behind her, again at ease.
"What's your name?"
"Despina Elise Mackenzie Quantico Ericcsen."
Glancing at the sheet in his hand, the prosecution asks in surprise, "That's what is on your passport?"
"My passport? What passport?"
"The one you applied for and used to leave the United States of America."
"I was not consulted before removal from the US."
Rolling his eyes, he continues, "Is that the name on your driver's license?"
"Of course not. I don't have a valid recent US driver's license. I have not been living in the US."
"Is that the name on your permanent US identity card?"
"Do I have one of those? Is that the same as a social security card?"
"That will do."
"No? You are using an assumed name?"
"No. I mean, yes. I assumed that Americans still added their husband's names to theirs when they married."
"So, why do you treat me as if it were criminal for me to do so?"
"You have valid marriage certificates for these alleged marriages?"
"According to US law? No. But then, neither one took place in the US. Is it high treason or criminal to have no valid US marriage certificates for marriages that did not take place in the US, especially if one is not currently living there and was not at the time of the marriages?"
Luchino's twin brother sits at the defense table, listening in wonder to Despina's testimony. He is taking furious notes.
Tired of Despina's long-winded answers that do NOT allow for her or Luchino to be charged with murder 1, the prosecution's lawyer sputters, "You don't get to talk. This isn't story hour. This court is not interested in your attempts at creative writing. It deals in cold, hard facts. I'll ask the questions; you'll answer yes or no. Do you understand?"
"Are you required to offer yes/no questions that actually have truthful, yes/no answers, or are you free to use innuendo and hearsay, half-truths, misquotes and a misleading tone of voice that twists what I say to establish the desired version of the truth?"
Titters emerge from the packed courtroom. Luchino's brother tries unsuccessfully to catch her eye.
"Yes or no?"
Despina is silent. She squarely meets his eye, but her face is totally blank. The silence becomes accusing.
"So am I."
"A yes/no question with a true answer. I already explained the mechanics of what was at work here. Would you like me to repeat, refine, or re-define it, or do you understand how this has to work?"
A guffaw comes from the courtroom.
"Your answer," he re-states firmly.
"I'm under oath. You are not."
More people laugh.
The judge leans forward. "You may answer."
"I will. Every time I can. Can he demand that I tell a lie under oath?"
"No. Of course not."
"Then please instruct him to do his job."
"Counselor Fontana, how did you instruct this witness?"
Popping out of his chair to stand at nearly military attention, he faces the judge. His voice is rich and warm as he explains, "I was engaged for this case at 8 AM this morning. This is my first chance to see her, your honor. That's why I applied for an extension."
"Which national security demands cause to be denied. This case may not be put off."
With a curt nod of acceptance, Luchino's brother seats himself.
He's what I get on my side? He hardly seems very effective. I wonder if there's a legal 'lawyer in need of assistance' law for him to invoke?
"Do you know the man being represented here? Officer Daniele Luchino Fontana?"
"Know? How tho..."
"N-O, you don't know him? I find that hard to believe."
"What does that make you? A skeptic who can't spell, but are granted the right to go on a power trip?"
"Stop! Okay, you spell."
"That was a yes/no question. Which is it?"
Exasperated, Despina slaps her hand down on the banister. "With NO yes/no, true, say-able-under-oath answer!"
"Oh, come on now! You went home with him! You spent every day, every night for what, two-three weeks, all night, all day constantly with him, but yet you don't k-n-o-w if you k-n-o-w him, or not?"
"Yes!" Despina's wide grin and glowing eyes signal her relief at finally being able to answer a question honestly.
"Oh, so NOW you'll answer!" he says with exasperation.
"Good. While we're in answering mood, let's go for broke. Do you K-N-O-W Officer Daniele Luchino Fontana?"
"N-O, I have never been formally introduced to anyone by that name."
"Were you ever informally introduced?"
"By what name?"
"By any name."
"Well, I taught someone named Lucho once. Could that be a nickname for Luchino?"
"He might be called Luchino or Lucho, yes."
"Would he be using an assumed last name?"
"N-O. Take a look at the counsel for the defense sitting there." He points for her benefit. "This is the identical twin brother of the man we are trying to discuss."
"Well, he does look Italian, which my student with the wrong last name also did, but he was a mixture of some Spanish blood on his mother's side, I believe."
"This man with the wrong last name?"
"I don't think we need to discuss him any further."
"Do you know Officer Daniele Luchino Fontana?"
A frown of concentration mars Despina's forehead. "I don't know from the way you worded the question."
"What's wrong with the way I worded the question?"
"'Do you know him' is vague and open to misinterpretation."
"Oh, come on now! 'Do you know him' is a perfectly understandable question."
"I need to hear the legal definitions of some terms before I know if I do, or not."
Mr. Fontana's eyes got absolutely huge as he regarded this woman his brother wanted him to defend.
"Well, that seems reasonable. What term?"
"K-N-O-W, for starters."
"That seems to be a very straightforward word. Do you recognize someone by face or name or reputation."
"Then why did you imply that I had sex with him?"
"I've never heard of K-N-O-W meaning having sex."
"Well, maybe you are unfamiliar with the Bible. Carnal knowledge is known as K-N-O-W-I-N-G someone, as in 'Mary did not KNOW Joseph' before Jesus was born, which was why she is considered to have had an 'immaculate conception'."
Leaning back in his chair, Corrado nearly whistled in appreciation of that line of reasoning. Quoting the Bible in her defense was brilliant.
"When someone calls him Luchino or Lucho, do you recognize who is being referred to?"
"Okay, so now you know him."
"When did I know him? How did I know him? Which definition of k-n-o-w?"
"Did you know him before he asked you to go home with him to meet his mother?"
A collective whoosh of delight rolls through the audience.
"You went home with a man you didn't know?"
"You allowed a total stranger to take you home to meet his mother?"
"You kissed him in the subway without even knowing him?"
"I am prepared to produce witnesses who saw you kissing him in the subway."
"You weren't seen kissing him passionately on the street?"
"Well, then, how do you explain it?"
"They just think that's what they saw. That was what they were supposed to see."
"Why on earth?"
"Is that a yes/no question?"
He throws his hands theatrically up in the air. "Okay, I give up. Spin your fairy tale."
"He pretended to kiss me when some gang members who would recognize him ran into the subway car where I was seated, so they would not get a good look at his face. It startled me, so I held still. When they were gone, he told me why he'd done it and apologized."
"But on the street, the testimony I've received has you definitely being the aggressor."
"Yes. He'd pointed out the car of a drug lord earlier, and when it came back around the block, going suspiciously slowly, I leaped up and pushed him against the wall, let my hair down so it hid our heads, and pretended to kiss him."
"Sounds like every man's sexual fantasy being lived out, to me."
"Okay. Now, let me get this straight. You placed your body in such a fashion as to lead onlookers to believe you were kissing him?"
Smiling triumphantly, Despina says, "Yes!"
Luchino's brother puts his head down on the table.
"And then you committed your first murder."
Despina half stands up, eyes wide. "What? NO!"
"We're never going to get anywhere this way..."
"That wasn't a question."
"You're so imprecise, I wasn't sure. Why can't I talk?"
"The government is afraid you'll reveal..."
"Oh, National Security again. You're nowhere near that!"
"As far as you know."
"Yes. I don't know any secrets."
"Maybe that's what they're afraid of! Let's take a different tack for a moment, if we may."
"You have a friend that went to New York with you who reported that you were kidnapped by a police officer."
"I don't k-n-o-w. I went to New York with a friend, yes. I went out the door ahead of her, took my purse back inside to her, went back outside, and never saw her again."
"A kidnapper allowed you to give your purse to your friend?"
"We're getting nowhere fast. Were you kidnapped?"
"Probably yes, but..."
"You don't K-N-O-W if you were kidnapped, or not?"
"It may be impolitic of me to point out..." starts the military man.
"Is 'impolitic' a word?"
"If this were a game of Scrabble played with highly abridged dictionaries, I wouldn't gamble on it," quips Despina.
The onlookers again interrupt the proceedings with their laughter.
"Continue," intones the judge, nodding to the serviceman.
"May I point out that by saying that at this point, you implicate 'people' or don't implicate 'people' not known to be involved in government secrets, you sort of defeat the purpose, don't you?"
Luchino's brother stands up.
"Sit down, sir, please."
The judge interrupts, "This is highly irregular."
"Highly. May I make a motion for dismissal?"
"Upon what grounds?"
"I fail to see the connection."
"Good. But if this is allowed to continue, not only will you, the lawyers, the jurors, and the gallery, but also anyone they talk to or anyone who reads what they print will understand everything thoroughly."
"I'll take it under advisement. In view of her elusive history..."
"I have NOT been elusive. I..."
The military man puts one hand over her mouth. "Your honor, you are now THERE. Top secret security clearances for everyone, jurors, court reporters, spectators, lawyers, everyone, yourself included, from here on."
"Well, under the circumstances, Counselor Fontana, you may approach the bench."
When he is out of hearing for anyone but Despina, the military man, and her lawyer, the judge continues. "She is remanded into your custody on the condition that you present her here once proper security clearances have been obtained."
"What am I supposed to do with her?"
"May I suggest, keep her safe? We still have a murder to solve. Or, better yet, trade her in on your brother, who MIGHT be able to give useful testimony to this court."
"He said she was in on all of it, even more-so than he, as he got hurt early on."
"This court is adjourned." The gavel bangs authoritatively.
Despina stands up a bit uncertainly.
"Come with me, please," Corrado says, taking her arm politely in a gesture she's grown familiar with from Luchino.
"That depends on where you try to get me to go."
"Well, I guess we could ask the court to let the military have custody of you..."
Despina eyes him stubbornly. "I've already had quite enough of their hospitality. No thanks!"
Last updated 12/18/2014 Changed you're to you'll; 12/3/2014 Added to main plot line; changed you are to one is; are in Despina's address to the court; 11/24/14 Added subway, clarified a few places, generally with punctuation; 5/28/06 (added paragraph "What?" standing to stand). 11/21/04.
Word Count: 2209
Reading Level: 4.2