“I started calling it Deja-poo—the precise moment when I realize I’ve been eye-ball deep in this exact same pile of crap before. The names and nuances vary just enough to make you believe it will be different this time, but it always hits harder than you remember—like a biker-boot to the mouth. In some indiscriminant moment he cuts out the bottom of your heart and tosses you to the curb like yesterday’s trash. You realize he’s not walking; he’s running out of your life. For months your friends tried to tell you things you didn’t want to believe, but you cut ties with them because they’re jealous—that’s what you tell yourself. You tell yourself lots of things, but then you reach a point where you no longer believe the lies you’re feeding yourself. Finally you sit back, take a hard look in the rear-view mirror, and decide there’s nothing left to do but sink both hands deep into the pile of worms.”
“Worms? Miss Jones.”
“Yep….the disgusting, tangled mess of poor decisions and regrets living inside of you that makes everyone you ever cared about run the opposite direction.”
The gentleman glanced at his watch indignantly. “Miss Jones, I feel we’re getting off topic. I truly do understand that you were distraught, but did you go looking for him that night? And if so what transpired when you found him?”
I hated jury duty, period. Call me cynical, but it seemed that somewhere along the line our justice system had been hijacked by an exclusive guild of high-paid actors posing as part-time purveyors of justice. Each side would take turns prancing before and pandering to a panel of twelve of their peers, who for the most part were moderately to severely disengaged and simply looking to end their own suffering as quickly as possible with little regard to justice.
But today there was a twist that appeared to offer the real possibility of variety. I was more than a little intrigued by the fact that the defendant insisted upon self representation. Miss Jones was an attractive brunette, middle thirties I supposed. My first inclination was that she may have saved time by slitting her own wrists rather than prolonging the inevitable by refusing representation, but as I glanced around the juror’s box I could tell that her opening words had garnered a significant amount of sympathy, while the prosecution had accomplished exactly the opposite.
From the juror’s box he was not at all what I considered to be patch-worked together; his features appeared to have been chiseled from one solid piece of granite; rather cold and unforgiving. He was well-groomed, squeaked when he walked, and had a general sheen about him—like the dark Armani suit had been painted on this morning and he rushed out the door before allowing it to dry completely. Presently, he crossed his arms high on his chest as if to disprove my theory of a painted on suit. I suspected he liked being right more than most, but the repeated tapping of his foot revealed the impatient nature that lie beneath the cool exterior he advertised. I doubt he was accustomed to delays when asking a question. He released an audible sigh. Once he exhaled fully he asked again. “Did you go looking for Mr. Mendoza, Miss Jones?”
“Yes, I went searching for the address I’d found on his phone a week earlier. He tried making up some lame excuse about meeting a client there for a working-lunch, but that’s the thing about habitual liars—they get confused sometimes. He’d told me the previous weekend he needed a break and was taking some personal time that day. None of it added up, so I wrote the address down.”
“So would you have the court believe this was a random act of indiscretion, or are you establishing the fact that you snooped through Mr. Mendoza’s private information on a regular basis?”
For the first time the defendant fired back at the prosecutor, matching his tone. “Is looking at your boyfriend’s phone a crime, especially when it wakes you up at 2:00am, 2:15am, and then again at 2:20? His mother was sick and in the hospital.”
Seemingly rebutted and sufficiently agitated, the prosecutor attempted to propel things forward. “Proceed, Miss Jones, I believe you indicated to the jury that you’d unethically gathered an address from your boyfriend’s phone while he slept, and that you went looking for the address.”
The previously silent judge interjected himself in convincing fashion. His gavel collided with the sound block with such force that I had to check twice to make sure the percussive sound waves had not inadvertently ruptured my spleen.
“Strike the prosecutor’s last sentence from the record as it highly inflammatory and suggestive. Will the prosecuting attorney approach the bench, please?”
The ringing in my head and the discrete whispering of the judge did not allow me to hear the one-sided conversation, but the sulking manner in which the prosecutor limped from the bench led me to believe he had been reprimanded soundly.
“Miss Jones, pardon the interruption, please continue—you went looking for the address.”
“Yes, your honor, I left the apartment around 10:30pm. I found his car parked about four blocks away—trying to keep a low profile I guess. I opened the door of the bar and looked all around. Just as I was turning to leave I heard his laugh. There he was tucked back in a dark sticky corner, nearly hidden completely by the shadow of a woman sitting in his lap. She was facing him, her long legs straddling his, bouncing up and down like he was her favorite carnival ride. I don’t know…maybe he was.”
The prosecution attempted to deflect and defuse, “So what was going through your mind, Miss Jones? Give us some insight.”
“I found a seat at the bar and ordered a shot of whiskey—because it hurts and goes down like barbed-wire. How did I feel? I was immediately crushed, but the more I watched the two of them the angrier I became. After the third shot I decided I was marching over to confront him. Each step I took toward the table fueled the boiling in my gut. It wasn’t just him, but half a dozen before just like him. All those emotions whipped around inside me like a whiskey-infused tornado just looking for someplace to touch down!”
Her tone was elevated and the look in her eyes intense. I glanced at the prosecutor and he was practically drooling at the way she was eating out of his hand, but something went awry—she had stalled.
“You were swirling inside, like a tornado looking for somewhere to touch down! That’s when you physically attacked my client and cut him, right, Miss Jones?”
The defendant’s shoulders slumped noticeably. She appeared to have entered a reflective state of silence, staring through her inquisitor to the other side.
“No, I didn’t have a knife, and I couldn’t have cut him even if I did. I knew that if I looked him in the eye I’d start making excuses for him and end up swimming circles in those milk-chocolate pools, drowning again.”
For a brief moment she’d bared her teeth and snarled like a rabid dog. Now she was a docile pile of fluff, loyal to a fault. I gathered that she was either hopelessly in love and likely had nothing to do with the crime, or significantly skilled in the art of deception and simply toying with the defense.
The prosecutor appeared to shift into a damage control mode. “Storms of that intensity just don’t stall out, Miss Jones. You were a cyclone of emotions heading for a target and my client was sufficiently damaged. Do we look like fools to you? Do you expect this court to honestly believe you had nothing to do with the maiming of my client?”
“I said I couldn’t have cut him, even if someone had placed a knife in my hand.” She snapped. “Oh, I was still seething—enough that I helped myself to a handful of hair and yanked the woman backwards onto the floor. With the buffer removed I could see him clearly. As I stated before I needed to avoid his eyes, and in doing so immediately spotted opportunity. I used his open fly for a hand-hold, snatching him out of the chair and dragging him toward the back door. All the while he kept calling me baby, and begging me not to do anything crazy.”
The latest revelation caused the prosecutor’s eyes to twinkle with promise again. “Basically, you needed him outside in a dark alley where you could teach him a lesson. No witnesses, his word against yours! The perfect crime, isn’t it Miss Jones. Isn’t that what you were thinking?”
Her retort came hard and fast. “Actually what I was thinking is that you’re quite arrogant and manipulative for putting words in mouth, Mr. Prosecutor!” She swiveled her head. “May I continue your honor?”
With a nod of affirmation she moved forward. “Actually, I chose the back door because of the proximity of the table. Considering the circumstance it shouldn’t have mattered to me at all, but I wanted to save him the embarrassment of being dragged the full length of the bar. Even so, many of the patrons were already applauding and toasting in our direction. Once outside I turned loose of him and he immediately fell to the ground. Too drunk to stand on his own, I propped him against the wall; his knees wobbled and he slumped a bit, but remained upright. I knew at that point trying to communicate with him was a lost cause—he was a lost cause.”
Miss Jones paused again.
“I see Miss Jones. A lost cause—hmmm. A lost enough cause it wouldn’t really matter if you carved him up and left him in an alley to bleed out?”
She shook her head in opposition. “With all due respect, you’ve obviously not questioned your client nearly well enough, Mr. Prosecutor. I heard the door open behind us. Turns out the woman straddling him in the bar was the jealous type. She was wielding a knife and pushed me to the ground. Like a cat she was on top of me. With a wild look in her eyes she laughed and told me I wasn’t his first choice. She must have been satisfied with me knowing that because she leapt from me to him in a flash. In a fit of rage she separated your client from his manhood in one downward motion and tossed the evidence in a dumpster. She muttered something about taking out the trash before running down the alley. While waiting on the authorities’ arrival the bartender cleaned and bandages my scrapes. We had a nice conversation. As I said before Mr. Mendoza is a habitual liar. I came to understand that his assailant was also his wife of thirteen years, to whom he was still married.”