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   Greed and a Mistress (A Jackie Harlan Mystery)   

     by Marti Talbott
     
“According to the newspaper, it took four weeks to seat a jury that has not formed an opinion,” said Michael. “They are not supposed to know any of the people involved, including the attorneys, the defendant, or any of the witnesses. However, the victim was well known and many had at least an acquaintance with her. In the end, they seated twelve jurors and two alternates. They are an interesting mixture of race, sex, and age with nearly half over fifty. The moral is, if you don’t want to be on a jury, don’t live past fifty.”

Jackie wasn’t paying attention to Michael. She was thinking about the subject of their search – the one she hoped to reunite with a family that had never stopped searching, even after more than thirty years. The really awful thing about missing children, if they managed to stay alive, was the likelihood of abuse at the hands of their abductors. Learning those kinds of details was something Jackie avoided at all costs. Once reunited, she was quick to remove herself from the solved case before abuse could be discussed. Avoiding the subject meant survival…her survival. Still, she always wondered if an unthinkable childhood was written on a person’s face somehow.  She looked from face to face in the elevated jury box, until her attention was drawn to juror number eleven. He looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties, and wasn’t making eye contact with any of the spectators. Was that a sign of abuse? He wore thick glasses, had no apparent scars, was well dressed, and he looked ready to pay attention to the proceedings. Perhaps it was not a sign. Perhaps he was just shy and uncomfortable with so many strangers watching him.

On the other hand, the woman in her forties seated next to him, had an ugly two inch scar on her cheek, which she tried unsuccessfully to hide with makeup. Plastic surgery would do wonders for her, but that was too expensive for a lot of people. The woman wore off-the-rack clothing, and no doubt did her own hair. Yet, she did not appear at all shy or uncomfortable – most likely because she was used to people staring at her scar.

Her attention was drawn back to the proceedings when the Bailiff walked to the center of the room. He waited, and as soon as the judge nodded, the Bailiff turned to face the people. “Hear Ye, Hear Ye! Court is now in session. The State of Oregon vs. Mr. Mark Augustus Barrett shall now commence.” The bailiff quickly went back to his seat and sat down.

“The Clerk may read the charges,” said the judge.

The older woman wearing a business pantsuit, scooted her chair back, picked up a piece of paper, stood up and cleared her throat a little. “Mr. Mark Augustus Barrett is charged with aggravated murder and theft in the first degree as described in ORS 163.118 and 163.125, criminal homicide.”

Judge Blackwell waited until she was seated and then turned to the jury. “Ladies and Gentlemen, in this trial, jurors shall not be allowed to take notes. Some people are good at taking notes and others are not, which can lead to needless arguments during deliberations. You are here to decide Mr. Barrett’s guilt or innocence according to the facts of this case. For the duration of the trial and up to the time you are asked to render a verdict, you are not to speak to anyone about what you hear and see in this courtroom – not your friends, families, or other members of the jury. Is that understood?” the judge watched until he was certain all of them either said yes or nodded. “Very well, you may begin, Mr. Davis.”

“Jackie,” said Michael, “the defendant smirked when the clerk read the charges and the jury noticed. I didn’t think anyone was that stupid. He’s guilty, no doubt about it. By the way, the four people sitting on the far end of the first pew behind the DA are Mrs. Lockhart’s children. There are two men and two women. I recognize them from the newspaper pictures.  The brothers are Slone and Atticus Lockhart, and the sisters are Kaydence Lockhart Wilkinson, and Melissa Lockhart Dunlap. The court reporter,” Michael continued as Jackie leaned out a little to look at the woman seated at a computer below the Judge’s bench. “Now there’s an interesting looking woman. I’m thinking of asking her out.” Just as he expected, Jackie looked at the front camera and frowned. “Okay, so I’ll wait until after the trial to ask her out. Next up, opening statements. This is where a trial starts to get interesting.”

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