What makes America absolutely unique
and admirable—exceptional—is not
democracy, it is freedom.
by Jim Davidson
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
[Continued from Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Parts Nine, Ten, & Eleven, part Twelve, part Thirteen, part Fourteen, part Fifteen, part Sixteen &Seventeen, Title and Art Contest, part Eighteen, part Nineteen, part Twenty, part Twenty-one, part Twenty-two, part Twenty-three, part Twenty-four, part Twenty-five]
"….it is usual for the jurors to decide the
fact, and to refer the law arising on it to the decision of the judges.
But this division of the subject lies with their discretion only. And if
the question relate to any point of public liberty, or if it be one of
those in which the judges may be suspected of bias, the jury undertake to
decide both law and fact."
—Thomas Jefferson, " Notes on Virginia," 1782
Sarah Pinero watched the grand jury come back into the room. They had been deliberating separately for only twenty minutes.
The assembled crowd which now completely filled the room had been joined by eighty-seven media drones. These represented news organisations from all over North America, and included several pool feeds for more distant places. Outside in courtyards around the building, large screens conveyed the views from the two closed circuit television cameras mounted above the doors at the far end of the room from Sarah’s dais.
As the grand jury came back in and sat at their places, a hush fell over the crowd. Everyone was interested in the outcome. They quieted themselves with a few shushes here and there.
Figuring it was good form to do so, Sarah tapped her gavel one time. "Thank you for your deliberations. Have you come to a consensus?" she asked.
The juror sitting at front right of the assembled jury stood and said, "We have, yes. We have unanimously found there is sufficient evidence to indict Joe Jones for the crime of murder in the second degree."
Sarah scanned the jurors, then said, "Thank you. Please be seated. As a matter of form and not to cast doubt on the most recent speaker, I’d like to ask any grand juror who disagrees with the statement just made to please stand."
After waiting a few moments, Sarah tapped her gavel. She now looked at the defendant.
"Joe Jones, at this time, a petit jury will be formed from among the members of the grand jury. Do you understand?"
Jones whispered in Ben Stone’s ear. After several moments of this consultation, Ben stood up. "Yes, Sarah, my client does understand," he said.
Sarah nodded. Now she looked back at the grand jury. "As is customary at this time, any members of the grand jury who cannot, or do not wish to serve on the petit jury for the remaining part of the trial, please stand."
Six of the twenty-four grand jurors stood up. Sarah smiled at them, and gestured toward the doors at the far end of the room. All six gathered their belongings and walked out.
"Well," she said, "and then there were eighteen."
Sarah could see Ben, Sally, and Bob exchange looks of amusement. They all recognised the expression from an old Agatha Christie novel. Sarah also smiled.
Looking toward the front row of the audience, Sarah saw her foster daughter Dori sitting next to Jane Harris. Again Sarah smiled and said, "Dori, would you come forward with your deck of cards. Let each member of the grand jury draw a card, please."
Dori bounced out of her chair and ran over to the jurors. Then, looking at her foster mom and then back at the audience, Dori spun on her left toe and as she completed her turn pulled a deck of cards, seemingly from mid-air. It was a feat of legerdemain she had practised for many weeks. The audience was suitably impressed. Fanning the cards, Dori moved from one juror to the next, quickly distributing eighteen cards.
"Thank you, Dori, that was fun," said Sarah. Nodding and smiling, she made a gentle shooing motion, and Dori returned to her seat. Then Sarah continued, "Okay, everyone please hold your card up next to your head, facing so I can see them. We’ll keep the twelve high cards by rank. As you all know, murder is a serious crime and so a jury of twelve is needed."
After a few minutes, six more grand jurors departed the jury pool. One of them gathered the cards from the other jurors and handed them back to Dori as she passed by. Instead of leaving the building, the former jurors took positions on the sides of the audience. All the available seats had been taken, so they sat on the floor or leaned against walls as the mood suited.
Sarah smiled and looked over the jury pool. "Thank you all for agreeing to serve. We have a commitment here to providing a speedy and public trial. As you can see, the public part is well in hand," and here she gestured out over the audience, her hand motions taking in them, the drone presence, and the closed circuit cameras on the back wall. Several of the jurors smiled.
Sarah continued, "For the speedy part, I’d like to ask Sally Smith and Bob Dockery to make their opening statement."
Sally stood up and turned to the jury. She said, "Joe Jones came to Paradox Valley last Thursday. Bernard Grossman was murdered on Friday night. Yesterday, we began this proceeding. Also yesterday a group of Red Rangers came to this valley. This morning, a member of their band, Theodore Paul Josephson gave a sworn statement whose text is now displayed on the screen behind Sarah. As you can see, he says that last Wednesday he saw the person known as Darla Ranger order Joe Jones to come to Paradox and make ’as much trouble as possible, even if that means killing someone.’ As the prosecutors working on behalf of the family of the late Bernard Grossman, we conferred with our clients after receiving this affidavit. They agreed that given that the grand jury was in deliberation already on the charge of second degree murder, it would only be appropriate to bring a separate charge of pre-meditated murder in the event the grand jury did not choose to indict. Nevertheless, these facts being relevant to understanding of the events of Friday night, we agreed to bring this sworn statement to the attention of the court."
At this news, one of the jurors stood up. She said, "I’d like to know if we the jury are free to consider the new evidence in making a motion to amend the indictment to one of first degree murder."
Sarah nodded. "The jury is free to determine the facts and the law in this case, as in every case. However, although the members of this jury also sat on the grand jury, a finding of indictment would involve the empanelling of a full grand jury. Are you making a motion to recess and empanel a new grand jury?"
Looking at the other members of the jury, the standing juror said, "Well, I guess not. That seems like it would delay things too long." She sat down.
Joe Jones had been in whispered consultation with his counsellor. He began to gesticulate furiously. Ben just glared at him and whispered, "Calm down. Now."
Ben stood up. He addressed the jury. "My client has asked me to object to any change in the indictment. Since he has not agreed to testify, I won’t mention any of the things he said to me just now. I will say that the affidavits from witnesses to the events of Friday night indicate that Bernard and Joe were in an argument, their voices were raised, they insulted one another several times, and then went outside where pushing and shoving began between the two of them. Those events indicate that there was an emotionally charged situation on Friday, without respect to what may have been said in Denver last Wednesday." Ben sat back down.
Sarah nodded. She looked at the jurors each in turn. Then she spoke. "No motion has been made, so the indictment as received from the grand jury stands. Unless any juror objects, let’s move forward on the existing charge. Sally, is there any further evidence you’d like to share with the jury?"
Sally shook her head. Again, she looked at the jury, and this time she made eye contact with each juror. Addressing them, she said, "We have presented the evidence we have and placed it at your disposal on the Decentral Justice app."
Sarah said, "Before we proceed to the defence are there any questions from the jury about the materials provided by the prosecutors?"
A male juror stood. He asked, "What about finger prints? There was no discussion of the defendant’s fingerprints on the murder weapon."
Sally nodded. She said, "That’s right. There are two reasons for that omission. First, we presented a number of eyewitness statements that the defendant was seen drawing the knife from his belt scabbard and that he was seen plunging the knife into the victim. We inventoried the defendant’s property when we took him into custody and turned him over to the bailiff. He had an empty belt scabbard. Second, we are aware of a considerable body of independent scientific evidence that finger prints are not completely unique to particular individuals. We therefore felt that a presentation of fingerprint evidence was neither necessary nor desirable to proving our client’s case."
The juror tilted his head to the left, imagining the new world where fingerprint evidence was not regarded as convincing. Then he brought his head back up and looked at Sally, nodded his head, and sat down.
Sarah waited several seconds. She said, "If there are no further questions from the jury, let us proceed to the defence presentation, please."
After a few more seconds, seeing no other jurors rising to ask questions, Sarah gestured to Sally. Sally sat down. During this time, Ben had been carefully writing out on a blank sheet of paper several sentences. Then he turned to his client and gave him the paper and his pen.
Jones looked over the block letters. He read through the page three times. Then he clicked the pen twice and signed below the words.
Leaning over, Ben said, "Please put today’s date below your signature."
Jones nodded and did so.
Ben set the paper on the desk, stood above it with his phone, and took a picture of the page. A few taps on the screen of his phone, and the document was on the Decentral Justice app. A few more taps and it appeared on the screen behind Sarah. Ben now picked up the paper and stood up.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury," he said, "I’d like to present into evidence this statement signed just now by my client. As you can see it says that he asks that no defence be presented on his behalf on the grounds that he does not recognise this court’s right to try him because he is a United States citizen and is entitled to a trial in the legal system of the United States. As you can see, it also says that he holds me harmless in this matter. I would like to add that as a result of this action by my client, I withdraw as defence counsellor in this matter and waive any fee from this trial."
As Ben sat down, the import of his speech and the document on the screen was reverberating in the audience with murmurs spreading from place to place within the room like ripples in a pond from several stones landing at different parts of the surface. There were crescendos and caesuras as the murmurs reinforced or cancelled out one another.
Giving these private discussions a few seconds, and gathering her thoughts, Sarah looked at the audience, then at the jury. Finally, she tapped her gavel a few times. The audience quieted.
Sarah looked at the jurors. "Please exit the court and return to the room where the grand jury held their deliberation earlier this morning. Exercise proper decorum, please, and sit down together. When you have a verdict, please return to this room."
The jurors stood and filed out. The audience began talking openly amongst themselves. Dori ran up to talk to her foster mom, who gave her a gentle hug.
Five minutes later, the deliberation room door opened and the jury returned to their seats. Sarah gestured Dori back toward her seat, and knocked the gavel a few times.
When the room was quiet, Sarah asked the jury, "On the charge of murder in the second degree how do you find?"
The male juror who had asked about fingerprints stood and said, "We the jury find the defendant guilty." He sat back down.
There was an in-drawn breath from the audience. Nobody said anything, as Sarah chose that moment to strike her gavel again.
"Thank you," she said. "We’ll now proceed to the sentencing part of today’s trial. Sally?"
Shaking her head, Sally gestured to Bob Dockery, who stood. Bob said, "The survivors ask that the chattel property of the defendant found in his room and on his person be turned over to the bailiff for immediate sale to reduce the financial obligation involved. Bernard Grossman was making 20 grams of gold a day for his work as logistics manager for Milling & Printing Production. His career could have lasted an additional 35 years given his age and health, so his survivors claim 175,000 grams of gold for the direct loss of their kinsman. In addition, they ask the jury to award a further 25,000 grams of gold for the shocking trauma of having their loved one’s life ended so brutally, for the anguish and suffering involved, and for inventions, memoirs, publications, and other value creation that Bernard would have been capable of making had his life not been cut short. I’ve placed into the Decentral Justice app a statement of earnings prepared by Bernard’s family’s accountant showing his earnings over the last three years. They also asked me to include samples of his recent writings, including two published short stories."
Sarah nodded. She turned to the defence table where Ben was still sitting with his erstwhile client. "Mr. Jones, this court has found you guilty of murder. We’re now discussing how much you owe the family of the victim. Do you wish to make any statement regarding the events of last week, or about what has been said just now regarding how much you should pay?"
Jones looked at Ben, who looked back, shrugged, and continued to look Jones in the eye. Moments later, Jones broke eye contact and looked down at the table in front of him. He then turned his head to the left. Then he rose to his feet, and as he stood, he turned his head to face Sarah.
Sarah shook her head and gestured at the jury. Jones turned to them, and reacted to their stony silence and expressions of quiet certainty by moving his head back suddenly. He stood facing them for several more moments, then said, "I don’t accept that this court has any right or power to judge me. I don’t agree with your verdict. I don’t agree to pay anything. I have a kilo bar of gold back in Denver, I could have sent here if I thought any part of this process were just, but I don’t."
Jones continued to stand facing the jury. No one spoke. The entire room was silent. After several moments, seeing that he had not gotten any reaction, Jones sat back down.
Sarah nodded, tapped her gavel once, and said to the jury, "If you’d please go back to the jury room and deliberate on the punishment you believe is appropriate in this case. Thank you."
Again, the jury stood up and filed out. The crowd relaxed. Ben, Sally, and Bob stood around the prosecutors’ table and chatted. Twenty minutes later, the jury room door opened and they filed back to their seats. Ben, Sally, and Bob all took their seats. Sarah tapped her gavel a few times, and the crowd became quiet.
Sarah said, "If you would, please state the punishment for the convicted."
The same juror who had been speaking for them stood. He said, "We have added a punitive amount, and the total to be paid by the convicted felon is 500,000 grams of gold. We further say that should the convict fail to produce the necessary funds, he be remanded into the custody of the survivors of his victim to work at labour suited to their choices and his capacities at whatever labour rate they deem acceptable. So say we all." He sat down.
Sarah nodded. Still looking at the jury, she said, "If any member of the jury wishes to speak up in contrast to the statement just made, or to add anything further, now is the time."
Shaking their heads, the jurors remained mute. Several of them turned looks of disgust on Jones.
Sarah tapped her gavel. "Let the record show that a duly constituted jury has found the accused guilty of murder and has assigned damages, including punitive damages, of 500,000 grams of gold with the convict to be taken into custody by the survivors of the victim."
In the second row of the audience, three very large black men stood up. The middle one, who was largest, broadest-shouldered man in the room said, "You’re mine now, Jones."
These words brought everyone to their feet. As he stood, Jones turned to Ben Stone, who was also rising, and used both hands to grab Ben’s hunting knife scabbard and the handle of the knife. Feeling this tugging on his personal weapon, Ben stepped back away from Jones suddenly, spilling his chair onto its back and using his right hip to shove the table away from him.
Jones, meanwhile, had stepped into the space between the defendant’s table and the jury, brandishing the knife and looking wildly about. Several of the jurors who had also been in the process of standing now drew their pistols. So did Ben, Sally, Sarah, Jane, and the members of the Grossman family.
Ben said, "If you want to walk out of here, you need to drop my knife. I’d take it kindly if you’d set it on the table here."
Instead of complying, Jones darted toward the audience, straight at young Dori. Ben didn’t hesitate. Seeing that a shot to centre of mass would potentially go through Jones and hit someone in the audience, Ben made his point of aim the right buttock of the convict. He fired.
The shock of the impact a moment later jarred Jones, who stopped, arched his back, dropped the knife as his arms flew up, and fell on his right side, howling as his right hip hit the floor, jarring his new gunshot wound. Writhing on the floor, he contrived to grab the knife.
While these events occurred, Jane Harris had stepped forward, both hands on her pistol. Just as Jones grabbed the knife with his right hand, Jane’s left combat boot smashed down on that hand. She put nearly all her weight on that foot, leaving her right foot back and in contact with the ground so she was stable.
Rather than letting go of the knife, Jones continued to struggle, moving his left hand to grab at Jane’s boot. So she stepped forward and kicked him directly in the face with her right boot, while her left continued to stand on his hand. The impact knocked him unconscious. Jane stepped back, holstered her weapon, grabbed her handcuffs off her belt, and made quick work of cuffing Jones with his wrists behind his back. Then she grabbed a bandanna from her back pocket, knelt next to Jones and pressed the cloth into his gunshot wound.
Sarah came forward and said, "I’ve called for an EMT. Thank you for your quick work, Jane."
Jane nodded and looked up to see Ben Stone grinning at her.
Ben said, "That went well. Thanks Jane."
Jane smiled, and turned her attention back to her hands, which were now starting to redden from the blood pumping out of Jones through her bandanna.
Bernard’s family had come up behind her. Glancing back, Jane said, "I’m gonna need another cloth."
[End part twenty-six, continues in part twenty-seven]
Jim Davidson is an author, entrepreneur, actor, and director. He is the cfo of KanehCN3.com and the vision director of HoustonSpaceSociety.net You can find him on Twitter.com/planetaryjim as well as Pocket.app and Flote.app also as planetaryjim. He appreciates any support you can provide as times are very difficult. See the Paypal link on this page, or Flote.app for crypto options. Or email your humble author to offer other choices. Please visit Kaneh’s IndieGoGo and please help him get to Paradox Colorado with a small gift if you are able.
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