The Naked Truth

by Richard Birken

He sat in the witness box feeling very small, feeling the eyes of the world, not just the jury, the small audience, the judge, the lawyers, the court reporter, the bailiff, the miscellany, on him, all on him, not as observers or participants in a process but as voyeurs. He thought his eyes must look very dark; he felt extremely tired but in no way ready to sleep. As uncomfortable as he felt, he wanted to be right where he was.
He wasn’t a man who would draw attention in a group; he had an average build, an average speaking voice, an average education, held an average job that paid an average salary and was as contented and happy as the average person. He had average looks, did about average with the ladies, and was engaged to a woman with moderately good looks. But sitting here he felt uncommonly uncomfortable, uncommonly tense, and he knew he wanted to go through with it. As if he had a choice; he had no choice.
The defense attorney rose slowly from behind the table he shared with the defendant and snatched a few last glimpses of his notes; perhaps he wasn’t really looking at his notes, perhaps he just wanted to seem nonchalant. The jury paid too little attention to care, and as the witness sat in the witness box and waited he paid too much attention to himself to notice. As the defense attorney stood, the prosecuting attorney sat down, as if playing on the same seesaw; once seated, the prosecuting attorney adopted a stance of absolute apparent alertness, as if he were planning to miss not even the subtlest meaning of words or gestures to follow. The jury didn’t notice this, either; they were too anxious to get on with it and out of it, and he, in the witness box, was too concerned with himself to notice. The judge leaned on his hand, readied for endurance. The defense attorney reached the podium, spread his notes before him, cleared his throat, nodded to the judge and then the jury in some perverse sense of decorum and order and then, finally and at last, looked at the witness.
“Mr. Dubris,” he started, pronouncing it Dew-bree, “am I pronouncing it right, Mr. Dubris?”
Mr. Dubris nodded from the witness box; the judge leaned over and said, “Would the witness please state his answers . . . the record must show your answers.” Mr. Dubris nodded to the judge before turning back toward the defense attorney without actually looking at him.
“Yes,” he replied.
“Very well,” the defense attorney began again. “And thank Your Honor,” he said smoothly to the judge as if they shared some open secret. The defense attorney’s face now changed; his glance became a half-scowl, half all-knowledge-of-the-known-world wise. This was his cross examination face, and it sent shivers up Mr. Dubris’s spine not out of fear of the attorney but from exaggerated self-consciousness. “Mr. Dubris, in your testimony you stated that the incident you alleged occurred took place at the hour of . . . let me see.” He made a show of searching for what he wanted in his notes and giving up. “What time did you say the incident began?”
“I believe it was around eleven A.M.,” Mr. Dubris answered. He feared his voice was cracking; he felt very young, very small, but he was neither.
“Yes. Eleven A.M.,” the defense attorney repeated. “Exactly what you said before. Eleven A.M.” The defense attorney looked away from Mr. Dubris toward the jury box. “Could you please tell us, I know you’ve already testified to this but bear with me if you please, why you went to the scene of this alleged incident?”
Mr. Dubris cleared his throat; when he had to form long sentences he felt his voice was seeping out some hole in his neck instead of making it out of his mouth. “Yes. As I said, I went to the butcher shop. . . ”
“That’s Mr. Warren Ellison’s butcher shop?”
“Yes. On 32nd St. I often buy my meat there; it’s a good shop. Was a good shop, I mean.” He stopped and looked at the defense attorney to see if he’d perhaps said something wrong, but noticed no additional sign of reproach and continued. “I went to buy some chops.”
“And you testified that Mr. Ellison wasn’t there. This was, what, still eleven A.M.?”
“Yes, sir.” Mr. Dubris wondered why he added the “sir”. He felt no respect for this man, his confessor -- his inquisitor, that is to say, though he wasn’t the one on trial. “The shop was empty. I mean, there was nobody in it. It was fully stocked, I mean, and open . . . the door was open.”
“Yes, exactly,” the defense attorney said. “You testified that you found the door open, you went inside, you found the shop fully stocked, but no butcher anywhere. Did you check the back room . . . there is a back room, isn’t there?”
“Yes. That is, I’ve never been back there, but I’d seen him go back there many times . . . I suppose that’s where he does his slicing and such. Of course he has a back room.”
“And you said you didn’t go behind there the day in question, to check if he mightn’t be back there?”
“No, I didn’t. I rang the bell on the counter. I never thought to look back there for him, I mean, I never had a chance to think of going back there. That is, before they came in.”
The defense attorney checked his notes. “We’ll get to that,” he said as he read, then his head popped back up. “How long did you wait there before ‘they’ came in? What I mean is, and I know you’ve been through this, this is just for my clarification, please bear with me” -- he smiled ingenuously but dishonestly -- “how long were you in the shop apparently alone?”
Mr. Dubris closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then opened them again and spoke. “I’m not sure. But there was a clock in there, and the first time I remember being aware of it was around eleven thirty. But the two intruders had already been there for at least a few minutes by then.”
“All right. So you were in there, you say, for a good . . . let’s give you the benefit of the doubt . . . fifteen minutes at least before anyone else was there with you. What did you do during that time?”
“What do you mean nothing? I mean, a breathing human being can’t just do nothing. Did you sleep? Did you twiddle your thumbs? Did you whistle?”
“I don’t remember. I guess I just stood there waiting.”
“For Mr. Ellison to return?”
“Yes. Or to come out of the back room. I did ring the bell.”
“Ah, yes, the bell,” the defense attorney said, as if this were a very significant revelation. “Why didn’t you leave? Come back later? Go to another shop? Why. . .”
The prosecuting attorney jumped up for the first time; only he didn’t exactly jump up, he more exactly stood with the deliberateness of a snake rising to the call of the snake charmer’s flute. “Your Honor, I can hardly see the relevance of all this. I wish my colleague would get to the point.”
The judge leaned over toward the defense attorney. “Yes, please, do get to the point. You are going somewhere specific, I trust?”
“Yes, Your Honor. I’ll try to speed it up a little. Thank you.” He faced Mr. Dubris again. “All right. Explain what you did when the two men allegedly entered the shop.”
“What I did?”
“Yes. Did you scream? Scamper about? Describe your reaction.”
“Oh. Yes. No, I didn’t scream. They burst through the door shouting something like, ‘Don’t move or I’ll blow your asses through the ceiling.’ I think that’s what they screamed. I put my hands in the air. I guess I was copying a movie, but it was the only thing I could think to do. All I remember is being frightened to death, so frightened I remember the muscles in my arms hurt within seconds of raising them. One of the men, their faces weren’t masked, ran up and threw me to the floor and told me to keep my face down.”
“And did you? Keep your face down?”
“All right. You’ve been there for fifteen minutes . . . at least . . . supposedly, as far as you knew, alone. Then you say these two men allegedly run in, throw you to the ground . . . how much time elapsed between them running in and throwing you down?”
“How much time? I don’t know . . . I’d estimate about a minute or two at most. They burst in, it was very frantic.”
“So you had at most a minute, maybe two, to see the two men. Is that right?”
“And yet you’ve testified in court that this man” -- he pointed to the defendant sitting at the table -- “was one of the men you saw that day. How can you be sure? Let me ask you, have you looked at the observers . . . no, better, have you looked at the jury today?”
“How long have you looked at them? What’s the longest you’ve stared at them for any one time?”
“I don’t know. . .”
“Longer than two minutes?”
“Yes, I’d say so. I don’t. . .”
“Tell me, tell the jury, describe for us the foreman of the jury. You know which one is the foreman? Without . . . don’t look now, play fair . . . describe the foreman of the jury for us.”
The prosecuting attorney jumped up; this time he really jumped. “Your Honor. . .”
“Your Honor, if you please,” the defense attorney interrupted, “this witness says he can identify this man sitting at the table. I don’t think he, or you or I, for that matter, and he was involved in what could only be described as very difficult circumstances, could identify anyone after seeing him for only a minute or two. . .”
“Your Honor,” the prosecuting attorney interrupted back, “may I suggest that the witness said before that he ran to the window. . .”
“Your Honor,” the defense attorney interrupted again, “I believe it is my turn. . .”
“All right, gentlemen,” the judge said. He faced the witness. “Did you see the alleged intruders any other time other than when they first entered the shop?”
“Not from the front,” Mr. Dubris answered. “But I wouldn’t forget those faces if. . .”
“Your Honor, I’d like to take exception,” the defense attorney said. “I believe it’s my job to ask the questions. . .”
“Mr. Appleman, in my courtroom I expect a certain amount of respect,” the judge said. “But you’re at least half right, so I’ll assume you’re only half rude and I’ll correspondingly be only half angry. Please continue, but try to stay within the body of the testimony.”
The defense attorney thought a long time without speaking. He decided to drop that line of questioning; he was afraid the next statement would only hurt his case. “Thank you, Your Honor,” he said at last. “Mr. Dubris, how long do you estimate the intruders, the alleged intruders, were in the shop?”
“I don’t know exactly. The next time I remember looking at the clock it read twelve o’clock. Noon. I remember because there was . . . I noticed for the first time a spot of blood on the clock face. The glass covering the clock face, I mean. I remember thinking he must have done it when he was slicing some meat.”
“Mr. Ellison,” Mr. Dubris said. His voice felt like it was beginning to crack again.
“And how could you tell it was blood? On the clock?”
“Well, I’m not positive, but it looked like blood. Dried blood. The clock isn’t very high up on the wall.”
“Okay. You seem to have a tremendous facility for identifying things under iffy conditions. But we’ll get on with this. So according to your testimony, you were in the shop lying on your face . . . on the ground . . . for half an hour, approximately?”
“No . . . I don’t know. That’s just the time I remember looking at the clock. They were in the shop maybe less than that.”
“So you’re not definite on the time. You’re definite on the identification, but not on the time. Anything else you’re not definite about?”
“Your Honor,” the prosecuting attorney protested, “this is getting amateurish. . . ”
“So was that comment,” the judge said. “Mr. Appleman, just ask questions. Let the jury draw the inferences. Will you do me that favor?”
“Yes, thank you, Your Honor,” Mr. Appleman said. He eyed the jury; his eyes may have twinkled. He looked positively cherubic. “Mr. Dubris, what could these intruders have possibly done for thirty minutes?”
“I don’t know.” Mr. Dubris began to sweat, for real this time. His imagination had caught up with reality. It was very cool in the courtroom. “I was very frightened, I suspended thinking. I remember just wanting not to think, to just let them disappear in my mind. I thought I was going to burst from fear. They had those guns . . .”
“Didn’t you at least hear something from the two men? Two men, heavily armed, burst into a shop and make no memorable noises?”
“Yes, they made noise,” Mr. Dubris said with some irritation. “I heard some glass shatter. What sounded like glass shatter. I noticed later they’d . . . that the meat case was smashed. I heard the cash register drawer open. I heard the ringing, you know, when you push the buttons to open the drawer. And I do remember them . . . one of them . . . making a noise of pushing through the doors that lead to the back room. I think I heard him searching in there. I didn’t look up, as I said, I tried not to think. I just wanted to live.”
“Yes. So you said. What do you think they were looking for in the back room?”
“I don’t know.”
“Perhaps Mr. Ellison?”
“I don’t know. Maybe they thought I was Mr. Ellison. I don’t know.”
“Yes. But that still wouldn’t use up thirty, or even twenty minutes of time, would it? You describe a scene . . . let’s try and reconstruct it together. You’re there for fifteen minutes, at least. Just waiting. Then two men burst through the door, throw you to the ground, scream, search the place . . . that sounds like people in a hurry. But according to you, they were there for almost thirty minutes.”
“I don’t know exactly how long, I said that.” The prosecuting attorney stood but the judge waved him down and nodded in a very commanding and demanding way to the defense attorney, who took a breath and nodded, too.
“Yes,” the defense attorney began again. “Did they say anything to you in all this time you’re lying there on the floor? Beyond what you’ve said, to lie down in the first place?”
“No. Not until they were ready to leave.”
“And you maintain that you couldn’t hear what they were doing for all this time?”
“Didn’t,” Mr. Dubris said. Now he knew what was coming. He began to feel dread, and excitement, and anxiety all at once. He wanted to be in the chair.
“Fine. Didn’t hear,” Mr. Appleman said snidely. He began to pace a small circle behind the podium, but seemed to need to stay close to it to keep from falling down. “What happened next?”
“I’ve already testified,” Mr. Dubris said, looking at the judge for the relief he didn’t expect and didn’t want. The judge said nothing, indicating by silence that he was to answer. “Okay. One of the men, I think it was the same voice that had told me to get down on the floor, told me to take my clothes off. I started to get up, but he told me to do it without getting up. I struggled out of my clothes . . . it was very cold on the hard floor when I took my shirt off. I took that off first.” He realized he was getting into detail, he hadn’t been asked for such detail, he hadn’t put in such detail when he told it for the prosecuting attorney. “I didn’t want to look up, I didn’t want to do anything that would get them angry. I was scared, they had guns, they burst in and I didn’t want to. So I laid there on the floor and undid my belt and took off my pants . . . I curled up and took them . . .”
“Fine,” the defense attorney cut in. He was losing his man and he didn’t know how to take advantage of it. He didn’t want him eliciting sympathy. “So even then you managed not to look up. We’re still left with the one or at most two minutes you saw them at the beginning of the alleged incident. Fine. So they had you take off your clothes. How much longer after that did they leave?”
“Right after. They took my clothes . . . they spoke about locking me in the freezer, but I mumbled something . . . I was so scared . . . about dying in there. Anyway, they ran out with my clothes. I didn’t look up to see. I can only assume they took my clothes because after they left I couldn’t find them anywhere. Not even in the freezer. I looked for a coat, anything . . .”
“Wait a minute,” the defense attorney said. “The freezer? You looked in the freezer for a coat?”
“Where was the freezer?”
“The meat locker. I guess that’s what they call it. The large freezer in the back room. I thought maybe there’d be a coat there, I tried to find something to cover myself with, I did try, I did . . .”
He was racing now, and the defense attorney had a hard time stopping him.
“Yes. But before, twice, in fact, you testified that you’d never gone into the back room. Didn’t you?”
Mr. Dubris stopped racing. He hadn’t thought of that. He was thinking of something else, and he wasn’t very well in control just then. “Yes, but I guess I meant before that. Before that day. Of the incident.” He was using the defense attorney’s word now. “I did go in there after the men were gone to look for something to cover myself with. They took my clothes, I couldn’t help . . .”
“But you distinctly said that you’d never gone in there. Never generally means never, Mr. Dubris . . .”
“Your Honor,” the prosecuting attorney said, jumping up. This was a real jump, too. “He said he went in there after the men left. I don’t see the value of beating the witness in the face with it.”
“Mr. Appleman,” the judge said, “please stick to questioning the witness.”
“Thank you, Your Honor,” Mr. Appleman said politely. Almost sweetly. But then he turned his cross examination voice right back on Mr. Dubris. “Mr. Dubris, how long was it before you went into the back room . . . strike that. How much time elapsed between the time you heard the men leave . . . I assume you heard that . . . and the time you got off the floor?”
“A while,” Mr. Dubris said. His heart raced ahead of him. “I looked up from the floor after a couple of minutes and noticed no one there. I had heard them run out the door . . . Mr. Ellison kept bells on the door so he could hear someone come in. I heard the bells. I waited a couple of minutes, looked up, then looked back down and stayed on the floor for a while longer. That was when I saw the clock . . . the noon. From the floor. And noticed the blood. They had me lay down behind the counter, out of sight. As I testified.”
“That’s near the door to the back room?”
“But you heard nothing when you say they went into the back room.”
“I tried not to.”
“Fine, tried. You noticed with your sharp eyes the blood on the clock and it was about noon. Then you got up?”
“No. I laid there for what seemed like a long time.”
“What’s a long time? An hour? A half hour?”
“About a half hour. I was afraid they’d come back, or weren’t gone in the first place. I didn’t want to move.”
“But you did move after about half an hour. You seem to be very good at waiting. You waited fifteen minutes without anyone being there, you waited without hearing or seeing or thinking, you waited naked on the cold floor and didn’t move for half an hour. Then you got up?”
“Why did you get up then?”
Mr. Dubris looked at the floor. “I got too cold, and it’d been a long time. I guessed they were gone . . .”
“Mr. Dubris, what time did you call the police?”
“Pardon?” His mind was far away from that; he was back in the room and he was excited.
“How much time elapsed between you getting off the floor and you calling the police? You did call the police?”
“Yes. I did.”
“What time?”
“I don’t remember exactly. A while later.” He held his head down.
“How long is a while?”
“I don’t know exactly. A while.”
“Your Honor,” the defense attorney said, “would you please instruct the witness to answer?”
“Mr. Dubris,” the judge said, “if you please, answer the question as best you can.”
Mr. Dubris looked long and hard at the wood rail before him. “I think they got there about four. I guess I called thirty minutes before that. Maybe fifteen minutes before.”
The defense attorney straightened his posture and pondered the podium as if questions of preternatural weight and momentousness were answered there. But his eyes were unseeing, his ears unhearing. He was instead consciously and instinctively, as rehearsed, adopting his closing-in posture. He had apparently been searching for just this opening; Mr. Dubris knew this, expected this, had been fidgeting for this moment for weeks. “Mr. Dubris, please tell the jury, please tell us all, why, if events transpired as you maintain they did, if, as you maintain, two men jumped into this deserted shop and terrorized you, made you lie down on the floor, a cold floor, strip naked, thrust guns at you until you feared for your very life . . . why did it take you approximately, by your own testimony, nearly three and a half hours to call the police? Does that make sense to you, Mr. Dubris? Please, tell us; we want to know how a man with senses so sharp they can conclusively, to his own mind at least, identify, weeks later, a man he claims to have seen for only two minutes at most, probably even less, under the duress of a gun pointing in his face, by his own testimony, by your own testimony, and yet did not call the police until at least three and a half hours time had passed . . .”
“Your Honor,” the prosecuting attorney interjected loudly. “Please, I would be most pleased, and relieved, as I’m sure would the jury, if you would instruct the defense to let the witness answer the question. I’m sure we all love the sound of . . .”
“That’s enough,” the judge said. “Mr. Appleman?”
“Excuse me, Your Honor,” the defense attorney said apologetically, and he made what appeared to be a bowing motion to the jury. He may have smiled just narrowly, barely perceptible. “Mr. Dubris?”
“Yes?” Mr. Dubris knew exactly what was being asked, and he wanted to answer, but he knew he shouldn’t want to and played it that way. But he knew his reserve wouldn’t last because he didn’t want it to. Anymore than he wanted . . . back then . . .
“Please tell us why you waited so long. Isn’t it because nothing out of the ordinary happened in that shop? No intruders. No butcher. Just you and . . .”
“Your Honor!” the prosecuting attorney exclaimed.
“Excuse me,” the defense attorney said. “Mr. Dubris, isn’t it true that you did not call the police for approximately three and one half hours following the alleged events you’ve described so far?”
“Yes, it’s true.”
“Isn’t it true that you only called the police when Mrs. Burton, who has already testified to the members of the jury, entered the store?”
“Yes,” Mr. Dubris said, looking as defeated as he believed himself to be.
“Isn’t it true that when she walked in you were in the back room?”
“The same back room you said you had never seen?”
“Objection, Your Honor,” the prosecuting attorney interjected. “The witness has already stated that he meant he had never been in the room before the intrusion by the two men who forced him to the floor at gunpoint. This endless repetition . . .”
“Excuse me, Your Honor,” the defense attorney said abjectly. “I withdraw the question. Let me ask it this way; is it true she found you in the back room?”
“Not behind the counter?”
“Not tied or bound or otherwise limited in freedom of movement?”
“No. Well . . .”
“Not locked in the freezer?”
“No, but . . .”
“And that the telephone worked perfectly well when you did use it? No cut wires or other malfunction?”
“No, not when I used it.”
“Mr. Dubris, I believe . . .”
“No!” Mr. Dubris yelled suddenly from the witness box. The courtroom immediately exploded into silence. Mouths dropped. The initiative changed. “No!” he exclaimed again, not about to let it end here, fearing the defense attorney was done with him. Not out of any antipathy for the robbers, not out of any sense of fear of reprisal, not to lock anyone up, not to settle any aims of justice. To confess! “No!” he screamed a third time, “no, I was not bound, I was not tied or locked up or anything else like that. But I was left naked. I . . . they took my clothing. I had nothing to wear. I wasn’t about to walk into the street like that. I . . .”
“Mr. Dubris,” the judge said. “Please calm yourself. This is a courtroom, and your job is to answer questions. Now . . .”
But the defense attorney also couldn’t wait. “Mr. Dubris. . .” -- the prosecuting attorney sprang up but the defense attorney continued -- “. . .being naked doesn’t affect dialing a telephone, does it? You could have done what you in fact eventually did do, call the police on the telephone, could you not? Did you not do that?”
“Yes. Sure. All right. And I did see that man, and his partner, and I know he was the one and nothing else affects that. You hear? But you’re right, I didn’t phone for over three hours . . .”
“Three and a half,” the defense attorney emended, but now the judge was talking and the prosecuting attorney was talking and the defense attorney, too, tried to cut off the witness, but Mr. Dubris went right on talking despite all of them.
“Yes, three and a half hours. And it would have been longer, if Mrs. Burton hadn’t arrived. You’re right. But I did call, I did do my duty, but now I’ll tell you all what you want to hear. Dammit, I’ll tell you and then you’ll have done with me and you’ll all have done with me.” Everyone quieted, both attorneys and judge had lost control of the room, and the jury now pricked their ears high for the first time, to listen to the surprise, the first burst of unrehearsed spontaneity of the trial. “I’ll tell you, you . . . you . . . Yes, they burst in, they did everything I said. But you want to know, where was the butcher? I don’t know . . . neither do you or anyone else. You want to know, how could I identify that man? I don’t know how, but I’d know him if he had on a Halloween costume. You want to know why I waited so long alone without leaving when I found out the butcher wasn’t there. Maybe I’m good at waiting, I don’t know. I will tell you what you wanted to hear from the start, though. Yes, I enjoyed that!” He was racing again now, and there were no red flags, not even a yellow one; it was like a good enthralling movie that nobody wanted to disturb by even so much as a whisper. “Yes, I enjoyed it. There I was, scared out of my wits, I’ve never been that scared before, but I’ve had urges. Haven’t you? Well, I don’t know that either. So I was left scared stiff and cold and naked and there I was in the shop by myself and I went into the back room. I was afraid somebody was going to see me. Yes, see my naked body. But I hoped somebody would. Oh, yes, I hoped and dreamed with all my being that somebody would look and see me in my full naked splendor. But still I hid in the back room, hid even from the telephone. Because I knew I should call, should phone the police, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to be seen accidentally, by somebody illicit, that shouldn’t see. But still I hid, because that made it all the better, don’t you see? Made it so much better, made it so much more illicit, like hiding your naked body when you’re a child and hoping your parents don’t find you exposing yourself. Yes, okay, so you wanted to know. You wanted this. Yes, I stayed back there, in the back room daring someone to come in and see me and maybe I’d even wet my pants in front of them. Of course,” and now the seemingly crazed Mr. Dubris laughed for the first time that day, for the first time in weeks, “I wasn’t wearing any pants to wet, this person who would see me would even see that. Yes, I loved every moment of it, I was so nervous and excited and wet and I wanted somebody to come in and find me there naked and alone like that naked exposed and guilty child. So I didn’t phone, I kept thinking of it, but it was so cold and I was so excited and so I didn’t. Okay? Is that what you wanted?” By now he was standing and screaming, the bailiff was the only one who moved, getting himself ready for whatever action he might have to take. The marshals opened the door leading to the holding cell and wondered if they too might be needed. And they too were surprised when it was not the defendant, but a witness who was standing and ranting. “Yes, I loved it, I loved it, but you know what? There I was, for all that time, enjoying all that terrible pain, and you know what? When Mrs. Burton came in, did I love it? No, I instantly changed. All that expectation, all that fantasy, God, I haven’t spoken this many consecutive sentences in years! I changed back into the me you don’t want to seem like Mr. Citizen, I didn’t want her to see me but she did, and then I told her what happened while I hid . . . yes, imagine that, after three and a half hours I even hid when she finally did come in, I hid half my body behind a chopping block and nervously explained what had happened and she gave me her sweater, I wrapped it around my midsection and made the damned phone call I should have made long before that.” Then, just as suddenly as it started, it stopped, and the courtroom snapped back to life. Mr. Dubris sat down, looked around, and thought about ruined lives and relief. The defendant smiled, then caught himself and regained his practiced sobriety. The defense attorney was about to speak, the prosecuting attorney was pleading for recess, the judge was telling everyone to quiet, his gavel was pounding, he so seldom used it he almost couldn’t locate it, and the bailiff moved over to the witness.
It took a while to quiet the courtroom; the witness was led out, head down, drained, in a kind of hysterical composure. With the witness removed, the courtroom returned to its dull but dignified posture. The defense attorney, knowing when from what, decided to ask no more questions. The prosecuting attorney, knowing trouble when he saw it and not caring enough about this small fish to make a big deal about it, let the trial go on; he offered no redirect and wanted none. After what had happened, nobody was surprised that the closing arguments were brief. The judge instructed the now wide-awake jury, sent it on its way to ponder its decision, and retired to his chambers.
At the vending machines the defense attorney found himself next to the prosecuting attorney. They knew one another well. “Looks like I win this round,” Appleman said. He didn’t believe it either, but it happened. Defeat snatched by victory. “Did you know about all that?”
“No,” the prosecuting attorney laughed. “Obviously not.”
“Well, no jury would convict based on that man’s testimony. Even I couldn’t look beyond that, if I were on the jury. I’ve never seen credibility lost so quickly, no, vast unbelievability expressed so quickly, so convincingly.”
“Yes,” the prosecuting attorney agreed.
“But can you believe anyone could do that? Be like that?”
“No, I can’t believe it. But I’ll tell you what really bothers me; it had to happen in one of my cases. Of all the blasted luck.” He laughed again, and shook his head.
“Yes,” the defense attorney agreed; then they both laughed as they fed coins into the machine. “God, nobody could believe that man now. That’s a real weird one, one unique deviant. Just bizarre.”
They shared their cups of coffee and laughter for only a short time; a man came running and said quickly, “They’re out already.”
It took ten minutes for the jury to make its decision. The judge, when informed, made them take more time; ten minutes was just too unseemly, and, besides, not enough time had passed for him to enjoy his much deserved cup of coffee. So the jury told jokes for another twenty minutes, then decided thirty minutes was seemly enough and sent word again. This time, the judge just nodded and put his robe back on.
In the jury room there had been instant unanimity, no dissent. After all, it was open and shut all the way. The witness, almost the entire case, said he saw what he saw and then stood there liking being naked and horny for all that time. That was how the jury analyzed it; either they believed him or not. Lawyers deal in perception, not reality, evidenced by the stories they weave about events about which they have no first-hand knowledge, measured only by wins and losses. Jurors, on the other hand, are conscripts, torn away from their routines; they have only what’s in front of them to go on. Dubris might be a pervert but the facts were on his side.
The judge walked in, sat down, and then the other courtroom participants sat, too. The crowd had nearly doubled; the news had spread quickly through the building. The defense attorney leaned to the defendant. “What do you think?” he whispered, and winked, making sure the jury wouldn’t notice.
The foreman rose, and, when asked, said it very simply; it had been so easy. “Guilty, Your Honor.” After all, it had only taken ten minutes.
It didn’t take long for the courtroom to empty; everyone hurried to their various destinations. After all, it was almost dinner time, and a trial, even an easy one -- though the word “trial” presupposes the impossibility of ease -- can be very draining and, on rare occasions, even revealing.


The Adirondack Review