He was determined to plead guilty and face death in spite of the circumstances. Blood Land.
May 13, 2013
A VG Serial: Blood Land
“YOU KNEW all of this,” Hanson asked his client.
“I knew,” Ty said.
Hanson was sitting on the cot; Ty McIntyre’s back was to his attorney, and he leaned languidly on the bars of his cell.
“How did you find out?” Hanson said.
“My old man let it slip. He was drunk. Told me he didn’t want to go to his grave not having told me how good he screwed me. Said I’d never be able to prove it.”
“I have some news that may change how you feel about all this,” Hanson said.
“Ain’t nothin’ ever going to change how I feel about all this,” Ty said. “Not ever.”
“I think Beulah Jorgensen was involved,” Hanson said. “I think there may have been tampering with your grandfather’s will.”
“Don’t matter,” said McIntyre.
“She can’t prosecute you, Ty. Not if we can find the proof we’re after. She’ll be disbarred and criminally charged. Your old man, too. And I doubt seriously if the City Attorney’s office is going to want to go full tilt on a new trial. I think you can plead out to manslaughter two. Maybe negligent death. You could get probation with time served, considering the injustice.”
“Told you what I wanted you to do. Just need you to do it, lawyer man.”
“Ty, as your attorney…”
“Just fucking do it,” Ty hissed.
* * *
The plea hearing began at ten A.M. At nine o’clock, Pruett met with Hanson in an anteroom, before the proceedings began.
“You tried to talk him out of it?” Pruett said. “Pleading guilty, I mean?”
Hanson nodded. “The determination of that man is as astounding as it is problematic.”
“This is all wrong,” Pruett said.
“I’d think you of all people would feel just the opposite.”
“There’s more behind this. We’ve just been pickin’ at scabs—there’s a lot more bleeding to come, I believe,” Pruett said.
“It’s within my ability to withdraw as counsel under such a plea. It would add some time to the process, but it’s very unlikely to change the outcome.”
“Let him plead guilty,” Pruett proclaimed. He was tired and felt old as time. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know the truth anymore. If Ty had killed Bethy, why shouldn’t he just say so?
* * *
Pruett sat in the crowded gallery, behind the defendant’s table. Deputies Munney and Baptiste stood at opposing sides of the courtroom and Zach Canter guarded the door. It was standing room only. The court granted media access, but only at the rear of the courtroom and only as space permitted. He stated there would be no camping out—that the courtroom doors opened at eight o’clock each morning and that the first half hour was designated for family, friends, and townsfolk, in that order. The press was to be allowed the final fifteen minutes between eight forty-five and nine to gather in the rear of the courtroom.
“All rise,” Baptiste bellowed as the Honorable Bridger C. Butler entered the courtroom. He was shorter than Pruett remembered.
“Be seated,” Butler said, reviewing some paperwork on the bench.
He looked up, nodding at the prosecutor, who was standing already.
“Beulah Jorgensen, Your Honor. From the Town Prosecutor’s office, representing the State of Wyoming.”
“Ms. Jorgensen,” the judge said. He looked to the defendant’s table.
Hanson stood. “J.W. Hanson, Your Honor. Representing the accused.”
“Mr. Hanson,” Judge Butler said. “Before we begin, I wish to say a few words to the courtroom. It is not within my domain to lessen the sensational nature of the charges in this case, nor am I inclined to issue any directives to the press insofar as any gag orders. I am a staunch believer in our ancestors’ intent to protect the freedom of speech. That said, I would ask that all reporting heretofore be as accurate and without intentional drama as is prudent. Otherwise, it is well within my power to exclude all media from these premises.”
Without asking for anyone’s acquiescence, Butler turned to the defense.
“Mr. Hanson, how does your client plead?”
J.W. Hanson nodded to Ty, who stood up.
“Guilty, Judge,” Ty McIntyre said.
Butler looked as if he’d swallowed a fly. He turned toward the Prosecution’s table. “Ms. Jorgensen, is there an agreement between these parties of which the court is unaware?”
“No, Your Honor. There is no plea agreement.”
“Counsel, approach,” Butler said, waving them in.
When Hanson and Jorgensen were in front of him, the judge twisted the small microphone to the right and covered it from view with his right hand. He addressed J.W. Hanson quietly.
“Mr. Hanson, this is a bit irregular. Truth told, we would have saved the State of Wyoming significant tax dollars were a simple confession presented upon arrest. With all respect, you do realize your client is charged with an offense that will result in him being sentenced to the most severe punishment allowable by law.”
“I understand, Your Honor.”
“He will be put to death, sir.”
“My client is aware, Judge. He makes this plea against my advice and despite my sternest objection.”
Butler turned to Beulah Jorgensen. “Ms. Jorgensen. Under the circumstances, is there leeway in the severity of the charges at hand? Under Wyoming law, a conviction for a premeditative act such as this leaves me little room for mercy. None, actually.”
“The State is not willing to lessen the charge, Your Honor.”
“Return,” Butler said, obviously annoyed.
“Mr. McIntyre,” the judge began when counsel had returned to their respective tables. “Do you understand the nature of the charge levied against you—that charge being murder in the first degree with aggravating circumstances?”
“Yessir,” Ty said, his head bowed.
“Please speak up for the record, Mr. McIntyre,” Butler said.
“Yes, I understand the charges against me,” Ty said, loudly this time.
“For the record, do you understand that a plea of ‘guilty’ will result in you being sentenced to death? I need you to understand the gravity of what you are pleading, and more importantly, sir, the seriousness of the sentence that will be imposed upon you.”
Ty McIntyre looked directly into the eyes of the judge, annunciating each word:
“I am guilty of murder, Judge. What I wish is to receive full sentence for what I done.”
Butler held Ty’s gaze for a few moments, perhaps looking for a lack of surety. He apparently found none. “I assume you make this plea of your own accord, Mr. McIntyre. That you are under no obligation or duress?”
“No, sir. No duress. I admit what I done freely.”
Butler turned again to the Prosecution. “Ms. Jorgensen?”
Beulah paused, staring down at the blank notebook before her on the table. “The State opposes the defendant’s plea, Your Honor.”
Butler drew back perceptibly. “Excuse me?”
“Based on the nineteen ninety-seven decision in the case State of Wyoming versus Roy W. Montgomery, Judge; a capital murder case. The Prosecution has the right to decline any plea, even—and under some circumstances, particularly due to—a guilty one.”
She reached in her satchel and removed a printed sheet of paper. She read aloud: “From Judge Henry Reinwald’s written decision:
‘In response to a charge of murder with special circumstances, wherein the death penalty is sought; if the court believes there is substantive cause to suggest the accused harbors a ‘death wish’, i.e. makes his or her plea under self-serving or suicidal auspices, the court may require a ‘not guilty’ plea in expectation of a trial by a jury of peers’.”
Judge Butler sat, transfixed.
“The decision was upheld, Your Honor,” Jorgensen said. “The jury found Montgomery guilty, and having received a death sentence, the defense even petitioned the Appellate Court to set aside the verdict and accept Montgomery’s original plea. The court upheld the decision and was adamant in denying the defendant’s plea of ‘guilty’ and refused to set aside the verdict, based on the grounds that were it to accept the original plea in place of the verdict, the court would be condoning the man’s wish to die.”
Butler looked back to J.W. Hanson. Then again to Jorgensen. His expression was that of a cornered animal, wary of the next step. He eventually found his poker face and addressed the room:
“Contingent on my review of Ms. Jorgensen’s precedent, this court denies the defendant’s ‘guilty’ plea and enters one of ‘not guilty’. Opening arguments begin tomorrow, Tuesday, and nine A.M.”
Hanson did not object.
The thunder of Butler’s gavel was the only sound in the room.
Chapters of the serial are published Monday through Saturday.
You can learn more about R. S. Guthrie’s novels on his Amazon Author’s Page.