No Way Out. Chapter 4.

No Way Out – Chapter 4.

Peter arrived at the Court House early and sat in the park opposite feeding the pigeons with some chips he bought from a near by take away. As he sat there a familiar voice said, “good morning Peter, it’s a small world,” it was Sandra.

“I not sure we should be seen together, I think the Prosecuting Barrister, the Defence Barrister, the Judge, the Police, just about everyone would  be in fits if they saw us talking,” said Peter.

“Let them, a good fit might do them the world of good,” replied Sandra.

They walked towards the Court House together and through the front door. Once inside it was not admedianly apparent were there should go but after reading a notice board they worked it out.

“I’ve got to go this way,” Peter pointed down the corridor, “and I think you’re that way,” he pointed in the opposite direction, “so I guess its goodbye again.” said Peter.

“See you in court,” replied Sandra.

They went there separate ways, Peter to the Sheriffs office and Sandra to the public waiting area.

Peter found where he was suppose to be and walked up to the counter.

“Hi my name is Peter Law and I’m here to appear in court in the matter of ‘the state verses Law,’ now that is going to sound funny when they read it out in court.” said Peter.

The Sheriff didn’t smile at all he just looked through a book till he found Peter’s name and said, “is that Peter Law.”

“Yes,” replied Peter.

“Sign here,” said the Sheriff to Peter, he then turned to another Sheriff and said, “can you take this man to room four.”

It was all starting to get very real for Peter, this was it, his day in court. As he walked down the corridor the Sheriff had hold of his arm and Peter  realised that this could or would be his future. The way the Sheriffs interacted with him, like he was a thing not a person, and the intrusion into his personal space, like holding his arm, these would be things Peter would have to get use to.

Once in the interview room, Peter was told to, “wait here for your Solicitor and Barrister.” Like all the other interview rooms he had been in over the last four or so months this room was much the same, painted in gloomy grey with a table and four chairs and nothing else. It seemed like a long time before the door opened and Reg came in.

Peter smiled and said, “Hi Reg.”

Reg looked stressed and unhappy but tried to smile and said, “good morning Peter.”      

“It can’t be that bad, can it?” asked Peter before continuing, “you look like you have the wait of the world on your shoulders.”

“Sorry mate, the Barrister is running late and if he doesn’t get here on time I will have to do this by myself and I have no idea,” said Reg.

“Don’t worry Reg, it’s a dead duck already, you can’t kill it twice, just do your best,” replied Peter.

Peter started looking through his brief case which was full of papers.

“Hey Reg, do you remember that time, it was your twenty first birthday and we went out to that club, remember ‘that’ club and you got talking to that stunning blond and you and her,” but before Peter could continue Reg interrupted.

“That stunning blond that is now my wife,” replied Reg.

“That’s the one,” said Peter.

“What about her?” replied Reg.

“Nothing, I was just distracting you,” said Peter.

Reg smiled and stoped looking through his brief case.

“You know, I can’t believe this is happening to you, it’s not right,” said Reg.

The door opened and Steven Goodall the Barrister was standing in the door way.

“No time, come on Reg we’re due in court,” said Steven.

Peter was not to keen on this Barrister but he didn’t know weather it was his distrust of professionals or just this particular professional.

Reg gathered his papers and brief case before hurrying away with Steven. Peter sat at the table and tried to think about something else but without any success. But it was not very long before a Sheriff came in and took him to the court room and placed him in the dock.

Peter stud in the dock and looked around the court room, it was much the same as the magistrates court just bigger and more grandiose. The dock was at the rear of the room and slightly elevated, directly in front of the dock were two tables and chairs at one of them sat Reg and Steven and at the other, were the prosecution Barrister and his team. In front of them sat the clerk of the court and behind him in an elevated position was where the Judge would be sitting. To the left of the Judge but elevated was the witness box. To Peter’s right was an area for the jury to sit and on the other side of the court room was the public gallery.

Much to Peter’s surprise the public gallery was just on full, why so many people would be interested in this case was a bit of a puzzle. Some of them would be journalists but who and why the others were there is anyone guess. May be people come to court cases for free entertainment, it’s probably better than day time TV and after all it is very theatrical. A real show, fancy dress, wigs, drama, lies, betrayal, sex, drugs and rock and roll all for free, theatres version of reality TV.

The Judge walked in and everyone stud up, so Peter did as well, the Judge sat down and then everyone else did. The Judge looked at the two Barristers  and asked, “are you ready to proceed?”

They both said, “yes your honour.”

“Lets get the Jury organized,” said the Judge.

A Sheriff led twelve people into the court room and directed them to their seats. The two Barristers then went through the Jury selection process which involved each Juror standing up and then both Barristers would indicate weather they approved or disapproved. If approved the juror would just sit back down but if disapproved they would leave and be replaced by another. This process took some time as the Barristers seemed to be playing some sort of ‘one upmanship’ game with each other. But eventually twelve Jurors were decided on and sworn in, but who won the one upmanship game was anyone’s guess.

The Judge then gave the Jury a bit of a lector about there responsibilities and even talked about how they had a social obligation to be Jurors and act in a responsible manner. 

After that and with everything ready to go the Judge indicated to the clerk of the court to read the charges which he did.

The Judge asked Peter, “how do you plea?”

Peter replied, “not guilty you honour.”

The Judge told the prosecution to start proceedings.

The prosecution Barrister stud up and said, “I am Barry Harris and I’m prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government and my learned friend Steven Goodall is acting on behalf of the accused Mr Peter Law. During these proceedings you will hear evidence to prove beyond resumable doubt that the accused is guilty of the grimes he is charged with. You will hear from expert witnesses as well as other witnesses for both prosecution and defence. I call our first witness, Detective Sergent Joe Brown.”

Detective Sergent Joe Brown walked into the court room in a very relaxed manner, like it was something he had done many times. He stud in the witness box and took the oath before sitting down.

The prosecution Barrister asked him his name and Police rank and then asked him to talk about the day in question, he also asked about the interviews he conducted with Peter. The Detective Sergent outlined the circumstances that lead to him arresting Peter. The evidence he gave was very compelling and left little doubt about Peter guilt.

The defence Barrister then cross examined the Detective Sergent but other then revealing that Peter do not remember anything of the crime he failed to discredit any of the Detective Sergeants evidence.

The next witness was Detective constable Jan Fraser and like her Sergent she was very convincing in the way she answered the questions put to her. The evidence she gave married up with the evidence from her Sergent and when asked, “do you think he done it?” she said, “yes no doubt.” And even though the defence Barrister objected and the Judge told the Jury that, “the opinion of this officer is not evidence and that they should disregard it,” the damage was done.

The transcripts of Peter’s interviews were entered into evidence and then more Police officers were called to give evidence about the events of that day. The defence Barrister made next to no impression on discrediting any of this evidence so by the end of the day Peter was convinced of his own guilt and no doubt the Jury were thinking the same.

Peter was loosing any faith he might have had in this Barrister, he started to think he would have been better of with Reg. Reg might not know much about criminal law but at least he was paying attention.

Peter was taken to the remand wing of Long Bay Jail and placed in a sell for the night. Even though he had been resigned to going to jail for months, now that he was in one, he didn’t like the idea of spending years in one. He had a restless night where he did not sleep very well so he looked a bit rough the next morning as he got ready for another day in the dock.

After a half hour bus ride back to the court house with a number of other prisoners Peter again found himself sitting in the dock waiting for day two to start. The same theatreatricals to get the day started before more witnesses. Witness after witness talking about blood, DND, finger prints and Sandra’s injuries, all saying much the same thing, ‘Peter did it.’ The defence Barrister tried to discredit the evidence but with no success if fact he seemed to make it worse. It was a slow day listening to boring science which really took its toll on Peter, it was all a bit overwhelming. On the positive side though, the Jurors seemed to be struggling to stay awake during some of the evidence, so may be some of then might have missed some of it.

Another night in remand and then back to the court house for day three. The dock was becoming a formilar place, if it could talk what a tail it could tell, so many accused both guilty and innocent. Some had scratched things into the woodwork, some lacked imagination like, ‘Fred was here’ but others showed a bit more style like, ‘such is life’ which I think was Ned Kelly’s last words. Peter thought to himself, ‘I should ask Sandra that, she would know.’  

More of the same theatatricals got the day started before the first witness was called.

“I call our last witness, Sandra Burgess,” said the prosecution Barrister.

Peter stud up, he was not expecting her to be called, may be she had remembered something. No that can’t be it, he thought to himself, she promised him she would tell him.

Sandra walked into the court room and was shown to the witness box, where she took the oat, she saw Peter in the dock and gave a little wave.

The prosecution Barrister saw this and the look on his face told a story, he suddenly released that he might have made a mistake but there was nothing he could do about it now.

“Please tell the court your name and occupation,” asked the prosecution Barrister Barry Harris.

“Sandra Burgess, accountant,” replied Sandra.

“How did you meet the accused?” asked the prosecution Barrister Barry Harris.

“We met in the park opposite where I work,” replied Sandra.

“What do you remember of the night in question?” asked the prosecution Barrister Barry Harris.

“It was a good night, we had a meal and then went to the movies but I don’t remember anything after getting home,” replied Sandra.

For the first time since Peter met Sandra she didn’t seem ‘in control,’ she seemed a bit emotional, it was like she was being overwhelmed by the court. Peter was finding it had to watch her in distress.

“Can you look at the folder in front of you, page thirty six and can you tell the court about these photos?” asked the prosecution Barrister Barry Harris.

It was as plain as day what the prosecution Barrister was trying to do, he wanted to upset Sandra so the Jury would feel sorry for her but he didn’t need to as the evidence so far was enough to get a conviction.

“Their pictures of my injuries from the attack on me during the night in question,” replied Sandra, struggling to reply as her emotions started to overtake her.

“Your witness,” said the prosecution Barrister Barry Harris.

The defence Barrister stud up and asked, “you were.” but before he could say anything more Peter interrupted and called out, “my instructions to you were not to ask any questions of this witness, sit down.”

The Judge banged his gable and called for silence and instructed Peter to be quite and sit down or he would have him removed.

Peter again call out, “I need to give instruction to my council.”

A sheriff came into the dock and manhandled Peter, forcing him to sit down. The Judge looked at the clock and said, “I think this would be a good time for lunch, shell we say one o’clock,” said the Judge.

Peter was taken to a cell and given something that might have been food but he did not eat it, he just sat in the cell brooding.

After about half an hour he was taken to an interview room where Reg was waiting.

“What is going on Reg doesn’t that Donkey pay attention,” said Peter.

“He’s not happy with you I can tell you,” replied Reg.

“Well I’ll tell you what Reg, lets sack the bugger and we will finish it off ourself,” said Peter.

 “I can’t do it,” replied Reg.

“No worries, I’ll do it, you can just advice me” said Peter.

“They don’t like people defending themselves,” replied Reg.

“Don’t worry about what they like or don’t like, OK you go and sack that Donkey and then when the court comes back you can tell them that I will be representing myself,” said Peter.

“I think the Donkey will have to tell the court, I think that is like a convention,” replied Reg.

“OK if that is the way it has to be done, let’s do it,” said Peter.

After lunch when the court came back the Judge asked the Barrister for the Defence Simon Goodall, “are you ready to continue.”

“No your honour, I will not be continuing as defence Barrister, Mr Law will be defending himself,” said Simon Goodall as he pick up his brief case and walked out of the court.

“Mr Law, you are aware that anyone who defends themselves has a fool for a client,” said the Judge.

“An oldie but a goody your honour but this is all over bar the shouting so I don’t think it will matter much, plus I just saved myself a tidy some of money,” replied Peter, he then added, “can I come down there and sit with my instructing solicitor?”

“Yes,” said the Judge, then to the clerk of the court, “please have the witness brought back.”

Sandra was escorted to the witness box and the Judge said, “you are still under oath.”

Peter stud up and asked Sandra, “are you OK?”

“Yes thank you,” replied Sandra

“I apologise on behalf of my learned friend here for upsetting you earlier.” said Peter.

The prosecution Barrister interrupted with, “is there a question there somewhere?”

“Mr Law please ask question and reframe from making statements,” said the Judge.

“I’m obliged your honour,” replied Peter before continuing, “I have no questions for this witness.”

Peter sat down and Sandra was escorted out of the court room. Then the prosecuting Barrister stud up and said, “the prosecution rests your honour.”

“Thank you Mr Harris,” said the Judge, he then continued, “are ready Mr Law?”

“The defence rests your honour,” said Peter.

The Judge looked at Peter, paused for a moment before saying, “do you want to change you plea?”

“No your honour,” replied Peter.

“Mr Harris would you like to sum up,” said the Judge.

The prosecution Barrister stud up and said, “thank you your honour,” he then pick up a piece of paper and continued, “this case is open and shut, we heard the evidence from the Doctor about the injuries to the victim, as well as the evidence from the Police pathologist who told us that the defendants DNA was under the victims finger nails. We also heard about the large amount blood from the victim that was found on the accused shirt, a shirt he was still wearing when arrested by the Police. We heard that the victim had been drugged which resulted in her not remembering anything about the attack, which is perhaps a blessing for her, as the attack was particularly violent. Now the accused in his statement to the Police tells us he can’t remember anything from that night, I’ll let you make up your own minds on weather to believe that. I don’t think there is much doubt, the accused is guilty and you should find him so, thank you.”

The prosecution Barrister sat down with a smug look on his face, seemingly satisfied with his performance.

The Judge looked at Peter and said, “do you have anything to say Mr Law?”

“Just a bit your honour,” replied Peter before standing up and saying, “the evidence in this case is compelling, if I was sitting were you are members of the jury I would be in no doubt of my guilt. Like the prosecuting Barrister said, ‘it’s open and shut’ and you must do your duty and find me guilty, because that is what the evidence tells us beyond resemble doubt. I will not blame you or hold any malice towards you when you find me guilty.”

Peter paused and looked around the room just trying to add some drama, but then he saw Sandra sitting in the public gallery which unsettled him for a moment. He smiled at her and she gave him a little wave.

He then looked back towards the jury and continued, “But there is a problem, I can’t remember anything from that night, nether can Sandra. You may wonder why, given the evidence, I did not plead guilty which may have gotten me a shorter sentence. Well quite simply, there is no way I can plead guilt to something that I don’t know if I did it or not, so I had to let this play out. There is so much about this case that does not make sense. I don’t drink and I mean, I don’t drink, I have never as much as had a sip of alcohol so how did I end up with so much alcohol in my system. I can’t imagine hurting Sandra or event wanting to hurt Sandra or anyone for that matter but the evidence tell use that I did. I would not wish what has happened to me on anyone, if I did it, it would be alright but not knowing is very difficult. I would like to thank my old friend Reg for his support as well as most of the Police, Sheriffs and the Judge. But Detective constable Jan Fraser needs to do a better job she was not very professional and just a bit biases, and my learned friend here really needs to pull his socks up as does my own Barrister, very unprofessional. Well that’s it for me, thank you.”

As Peter sat down he looked across to the public gallery, Sandra just looked back at him, she gave a half hearted smile before getting up and walking out.

“Thank you Mr Law,” said the Judge and then to the jury, “it is now a matter of you all deliberating and deciding on the guilt or innocence of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. We will reconvene in say half an hour.”

The Jury were escorted out of the court room by a Sheriff and the Judge also left the room. A Sheriff escorted Peter from the dock to a cell where he waited for the inevitable decision from the Jury.

Reg tried to stay in the court room but a Sheriff chased him out so he got a cup of coffee and sat on a bench outside the court house.

Sandra was over it all so decided to go home to try and forget about it for a while.

The half hour pasted quickly for Peter and before long he was back in the court room.

“Has the jury come to a decision that you all agree on?” asked the Judge of the jury foreman.

“Yes,” her replied

“How to do find the accused, guilty or not guilty?” asked the Judge.

 The foreman said, “Guilty as charged.”

“Thank you members of the jury,” said the Judge and then went on, “I will now hear arguments for sentencing, Mr Harris do you have anything to add.”

The prosecution Barrister stud up and said, “Yes your honour, it is the opinion of the prosecution that the maximum penalty should apply in this case. It was a very violent attack and there is a danger that he will re-afend when released so he should be kept out of society for as long as the law allows. Violence against women should be punished to the full extent of the law and I don’t think this case is any different.” He then sat back down looking happy with his days work.

“Would you like to add anything Mr Law?” asked the Judge.

Peter got to his feet and looked straight at the Judge and said, “Yes your honour,” Peter then paused for a moment and then adding, “my learned friend is correct, violence against women, well violent crime full stop should be punished to the full extent of the law. If I new that I had done this, I would of pleaded guilty and argued for the maximum sentence but like I keep saying, ‘I can’t remember’ so I couldn’t do that. But I will point out that I have not received as much as a speeding fine let alone any other charges and I have been employed with the same employer for over twelve years in a very responsible job.”

The Barrister for the prosecution interrupted with, “You’re just a loan officer.”

Peter continued, “My learned friend is wrong in his assertion, now that I have been convicted I think it is alright for me to tell the true re my job. I was a fraud, embezzlement hunter, my cover was a loan officer. But this is not relevant to my sentencing, it’s your decision your honour.”

Peter sat down and looked over towards the public gallery but there was no sight of Sandra.

“I will reserve my decision till tomorrow, say ten o’clock,” said the Judge before standing up and leaving the room.

“You don’t need to be here tomorrow if you have other things to do,” said Peter to Reg.

“I’ll be here,” replied Reg.

Peter handed Reg an envelope and said, “just a few things that will need taking care of, if you would.”

“No problem,” replied Reg.

A Sheriff came over to take Peter away. As he walked away Peter turned and said to Reg, “one more night in Hotel remand.”

The next day Peter found himself standing in the dock again waiting on his fate. The court room seemed empty just a couple of journalists in the public gallery, Reg, the prosecution Barrister, the clerk of the court and the Judge. Not much of an audience for my last performance Peter thought to himself. He kept looking at the public gallery to see it Sandra would show up but she wasn’t there.

Once the theatrics were over the Judge looked directly at Peter and said, “you have committed a crime that can not be tolerated by our society and you have treated these proceedings with contempt both in the way you have conducted yourself plus you have wasted days of court time so I’m was incline to take the advice of the prosecution and give you the maximum sentence of ten years but due to you having no criminal record and up until now having been a responsible member of society I have decided to sentence you to seven year in prison. This court is agernd.”

Peter was then taken away to serve seven years and due to the nature of the crime he would be serving his time in a maximum security prison. Life was about to get very interesting for Peter, he would need to ‘have his wits about him’ over the coming days, weeks. As he sat in the bus taking him to his fate he thought to himself, ‘how did this happen?’ but he could not answer himself.

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