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Greed and a Mistress (A Jackie Harlan Mystery)   

     by Marti Talbott
 “You may begin, Mr. Davis.”

“Thank you. Assistant District Attorney Braxton Davis representing the state, Your Honor. This is case number 6315487, the State of Oregon vs Mark Augustus Barrett. The charge is murder in the first degree and felony theft.” As soon as he was finished, the DA looked at his opponent and nodded.

“Stephen Livingston, for the Defense, Your Honor.”

“Thank you,” said the Judge. “Are there any pre-trial motions we need to get out of the way this morning?”

“Side bar, Your Honor?” Livingston asked. As soon as the judge nodded, both he and the DA approached the bench and began to speak in tones too soft for the spectators to hear.

As if it mattered, Michael whispered too. “Braxton Gunther Davis is the usual district attorney type. He hates letting criminals walk the streets of Portland and he is good at his job, or so the papers say. He is thirty-six, divorced, and has no children. You may have noticed that he has a slight limp. He broke a hip when a truck broadsided his car a few years ago.” Michael paused long enough to glance at the TV. The attorneys were still at the bench with their heads together. Michael motioned toward it and looked at Carl, but Carl couldn’t tell what they were talking about and only shrugged.

“Mark Barrett’s lawyer is Stephen Alex Livingston.” Michael continued. “If you have to have a public defender, Steve Livingston is the one to have. He was once a DA and switched sides about fifteen years ago.  Like all defense attorneys, he is required to take his share of pro bono cases. He is thirty-eight, has three ex-wives, and he has gone up against Davis in several trials. Watch for him to schmooze with the jury. Livingston is a quick learner and he’s sharp. I don’t know if you can see it, but Barrett and his attorney have the same shade of blond hair. From the back, it might be hard to tell which is which.”

“Three ex-wives?” Carl muttered. “I thought one was bad enough.”

Michael rolled his eyes. “Admit it; you still love your wife.”

“Love is overrated, Michael.”

Stephen Livingston did not look happy when he abruptly left the judge’s bench and walked to the lectern. He waited until the DA was seated, cleared his throat, and then began, “May it please the court. Your Honor, the defense requests the jury be sequestered. Considering the number of pretrial articles written about this case that are clearly prejudicial to my client, and considering the number that have been printed since the jury was sworn in on Friday, I believe it is not only necessary, but imperative. Several of the articles cite information, or I should say ‘supposed’ information, that you have ruled inadmissible. There is nothing we can do about the past, but we can prevent the jury from hearing any more of that nonsense.”

“Mr. Davis, do you have any objection?” Judge Blackwell asked.

“I do, Your Honor.” Davis looked in that direction, but it appeared Livingston was not about to give up his position behind the lectern, so Davis just stood at his table. “As you know, sequestering a jury is expensive. Furthermore, it removes people from their family and friends. Once you have instructed the jury, which you already have, not to read the papers, watch the news, stay off their computers, and refrain from talking to anyone else about the case, it doesn’t matter what is said on the outside. We are forced to trust the jury to do the right thing.”

“I tend to agree,” said the judge. “Sequestering a jury is expensive and the state would rather avoid that cost if possible. Motion denied. Anything else, gentlemen?”

Defeated, Livingston shook his head, gave up his positon at the lectern, and went to sit beside the defendant.

In no hurry, the DA took a turn at the lectern. “Your honor, for the record, and on behalf of the press, I once more petition the court to allow the trial to be televised.”

Looking fatigued by the subject, Judge Blackwell sighed. “Is this a new petition or the old one?”

“A new petition,” Davis answered.

The judge again sighed. “What is it this time?”

“It is on behalf of the public’s right to know, Your Honor.”

Already a little hot under the collar, Livingston quickly stood up.  “Your honor, the public’s right to know is already well served by the dozen or so reporters I see present in the courtroom.”

“Motion denied,” said the judge. “Is that all, Mr. Davis?”

The DA ignored the way the judge looked at him over the top of his glasses. “Your Honor, I…”

“Your new request, which was much like all the old ones is denied,” the judge interrupted, “and I hope for the last time. Anything else, gentlemen?”

It was the DA’s turn to sigh. “I have nothing.”

Michael said, “The DA just glanced at the front camera to see if the little light was red or green. It’s green. Very curious, since the judge denied his request to let the world see what’s going on.”

Livingston waited for the DA to sit down before he said, “The defense has nothing further at this time.”

“Very well, Gentlemen,” Judge Blackwell said. “Bailiff, you may seat the jury.”

Everyone watched in silence as the bailiff opened the side door, let the jury file in and take their seats. Some of the jurors looked surprised to see such a crowded room, while others lowered their heads as if they didn’t particularly want the attention, or to be there at all, for that matter.