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Episode Seven: "A Courtroom of Surprises"
The courtroom seemed frightening to me. I wasn’t used to courtrooms. Everyone seemed to have already made up their minds. They looked as if they wanted to make it quick and go home. The case started.
The bailiff announced, “Here ye hear ye the criminal court of Austin, Texas, the honorable Judge Matthew Corbin will be presiding.”
The judge said, “You may be seated. The case in point with the State of Texas accuses Mr. Harry Cooper of second degree murder. Prosecutor, call your first witness please.”
The prosecutor seemed to be a fair man but where he found his witnesses I’ll never know. He called on Mr. White first.
The prosecutor asked, “Mr. White, were you they’re on the night in question and did you see Mr. Cooper in a car that night near that liquor store?”
Mr. White answered, “Well I saw a car with the motor running about three car lengths away from the store but I couldn’t make out the drivers’ face.”
Before Mr. White testified of this, the prosecutor’s opening statements were, “We intend to prove that Mr. Cooper was there and that he was actually an accomplice to this crime.”
Those words kept ringing away in my ears. Maybe he was right. He proceeded to question Mr. White.
The prosecutor questioned, “Mr. White have you ever seen the defendant Mr. Cooper before?”
White answered, “Why no, not really.”
The prosecutor said, “No more questions for this witness your honor.”
The judge said, “Counselor your witness.”
My so-called lawyer Fred Hamlee seemed to be shaking in his boots because of his first time cross-examination. He seemed to be unprepared about everything including this witness.
Fred Hamlee answered the judge, “No your honor I have no questions for this witness at this time, but I reserve the right to call on him later.”
Fred sat down beside me and I was starting to wonder if my own lawyer was going to help at all.
The judge asked prosecutor Johnson, “Mr. Johnson, do you have another witness to call?”
He answered, “Your honor if it pleases the court, I’d like to call on Mrs. Edna Davis please.”
The bailiff swore her in, “Do you solemnly swear to tell the whole truth so help you God?”
Mrs. Davis answered, “I do.”
Johnson began questioning, “Mrs. Davis, do you know the defendant Harry Cooper?”
Edna answered, “Why yes, I do. I was his high school art teacher.”
Johnson asked, “What kind of a student was he?”
Edna answered, “He was a good student even though he was rather different than the rest of the boys.
Johnson asked, “What do you mean different Mrs. Davis?”
Edna said, “Well he would always kind of do things in his own way rather than to follow instructions like the rest of the class. Sometimes he’d look out the window and seemed to be daydreaming most of the time.”
Johnson asked, “Mrs. Davis, did he seem to act disturbed or distressed at any time?”
Edna, answered, “Why not that I could perceive. But I do remember his mother having some kind of emotional problems at times. It was a tightly knit neighborhood and I didn’t live to far from the family so everybody knew just about anything about anybody there and she was a love.”
Johnson said, “Thank you Mrs. Davis. Your witness counselor.”
Hamlee asked, “What kind of emotional problems were they Mrs. Davis?”
Edna answered, “Well Mrs. Cooper seemed to be suffering from some kind of memory loss at times, but when I asked her husband if it was a sign of Alzheimer’s, he said the test had come out negative. He also mentioned that it was a type of epilepsy. However when Mrs. Cooper was admitted into a state mental institution she seemed to have gotten worse as time went on. She finally passed away in the hospital. Mr. Cooper didn’t last much longer, either. Everybody said it was the exhaustion from being so grief stricken and just worn out from trying to take care of her all those years. He kind of just gave up after she passed on.”
Johnson interrupted, “Objection your honor, as sad and interesting as these testimonies are, they are not relevant to this case. It is this client and not his parents that are on trial here.”
Hamlee replied, “Your honor we intend to show and prove that the defendants’ actions were brought on by an inherited mental illness. We need to know all the facts.”
The judge said, “Objection sustained, I’ll allow it, proceed.”
Hamlee began again, “Thank you your honor. Now Mrs. Edna, would you tell us a little more about Mrs. Cooper’s illness?”
Edna answered, “She passed on and afterwards Mr. Cooper only lasted three years. It was a terrible thing.”
Hamlee asked, “Edna did you happen to see any strange behavior on Harry’s part in the Cooper house while he lived there alone?”
Edna answered, “ Why no, it took awhile for Harry to adjust living by himself but after about a year and a half, Harry would commence to dating again and of course parties would go on sometimes till the wee small hours of the morning. Sometimes folks would complain but Harry conducted himself well most of the times.”
Hamlee asked, “What do you mean by most of the time?”
Edna said, “Well, he carried on as normal as anyone does at that age. He was a good boy most of the time.”
Hamlee said, “That will be all Edna, thank you. Your witness.”
Johnson questioned, “Mrs. Davis, did you have a love affair with Mr. Cooper before he was married? Is that the reason you moved closer to his family?”
Edna answered, “Yes but there were other reasons and I don’t wish to disclose them at this time.”
Johnson said, “Mrs. Davis, you’re under oath and you need to answer these questions truthfully.”
Hamlee interrupted, “I object your honor. He is badgering the witness.”
The judge said, “Are these questions relevant Johnson?”
Johnson answered, “Yes your honor, most definitely. We intend to show the bias of this witness towards the defendant. We also want to show that if there might be an inherited mental illness, it is false.”
The judge said, “You may proceed.”
Johnson began questioning, “Mrs. Davis, is it true that you had a love affair with the elderly Mr. Cooper before he was married? And isn’t it true that you gave birth to a child from this love affair?”
Edna answered, “Yes”
Johnson proceeded, “And was not this child adopted by Mr. Cooper and raised by his family? Is the child Harry Cooper the defendant?”
Edna answered, “Yes.”
Everyone in the courtroom besides Johnson were utterly stunned. My heart seemingly stopped beating as she continued.
I’m sorry Harry. We were young and in love and we didn’t know what else to do. We didn’t want anyone else to have you. I regret leaving you that day but I knew it was for your best. Yes Mr. Johnson, we went our separate ways and the baby stayed with his father’s family until Mr. Cooper married. We both married. We had good marriages but my husband and I never could conceive children. Harry is my only son and I’ve loved him all these years. I’m sorry he had to find out this way. I hope that there is forgiveness in God’s heart for me. I never regretted the blessing that he gave to me. I’ve never stopped loving you son. Forgive me.”
Johnson said, “Your honor, this proves that Harry Cooper could not have inherited anything from his stepmother except her love. Your witness counselor.”
Hamlee answered, “No more questions for this witness your honor.”
The judge said, “You may step down Mrs. Davis.”
Johnson asked, “Your honor may we have a recess?”
The judge answered, “Yes I believe all of us need one, thank you. Court will recess and commence tomorrow at 10 a.m.”
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