One by one they told the same tragic story of conflict and violence. Blood Land.

More chapters from Blood Land

A VG Serial: Blood Lane

Chapter 13 – 2

It took only that first day for the prosecution to present its case. Hanson had expected this tactical approach. It was smart. Keep it simple. Keep the jury alert and frosty; don’t let them wander off and dream up some other version of the crime. It was for this reason Hanson chose his opening remarks. The prosecution could hardly be accused of being biased if they concentrated primarily on the evidence at hand.

The prosecution called all the people present that night at the ranch—Vance Dustin and the McIntyres who were there: Honey, Rory, and Rance. Jorgensen also marched a few character witnesses through the courtroom who each testified to the violent nature of Ty McIntyre—kept them coming, in fact, until J.W. Hanson objected, stipulating that each of the next dozen or so witnesses would tell a similar story of conflict and/or violence with the accused.

It wasn’t as if every member of the jury didn’t already know Ty anyway, Hanson argued, which elicited a few chuckles from the box.

Jorgensen did call one final character witness, as Hanson knew she would.

“The prosecution calls Ms. Wendy Steele to the stand.”

“Objection,” Hanson said, standing up. “Prejudicial and irrelevant.”

“The witness testimony is completely relevant. Establishes the defendant’s propensity for violence toward family members, Your Honor,” the prosecutor argued.

“Objection overruled. We’ve been over this, Mr. Hanson,” said Butler. “However, this is a short leash, Ms. Jorgensen. A very short leash.”

Hanson had filed a motion to exclude Wendy’s testimony based solely on the fact that Ty was never convicted of a crime. Butler concurred but felt the testimony from a family member who, according to her own admission on the police report, had been stricken, was appropriate for the jury to hear. The compromise he devised was to allow Jorgensen to question Wendy on whether or not there had been any violence perpetrated against her by the defendant. No mention of charges, a police report, arrest, another trial, or any other details were to be allowed.

Of course, Hanson knew Beulah Jorgensen would do everything in her skillset to get a mention of the charges even to have them stricken from the record. Once in the jury’s mind, you didn’t strike memories.

“Ms. Steele,” the prosecutor said. “You are the daughter of the victim in this case.”

“You know I am.”

“Your honor, please instruct the witness to answer the question in the affirmative.”

“I’ll order her to answer the question in a direct manner,” Judge Butler said, intentionally allowing a bit of his Wyoming vernacular to slip into the remark. “How she answers questions is between her and her oath with God, ma’am.”

There was a murmur and cameras hummed and clicked. Butler tried to look judicious.

“Thank you, your honor. Ms. Steele?”

“I don’t remember the question.”

“I asked if you were the daughter of the victim.”

“Then my answer is no.”

“Excuse me?”

“You asked me a direct question and I said ‘no’. Directly.”

“You swore an oath before sitting in that chair, Ms. Steele.”

“The victim is my mother. Her dying did not change the facts.”

Butler shrugged.

“I want this on the record clearly. Are you the daughter of Bethy McIntyre Pruett?”

“No.”

“Do you need to be reminded of the penalties for perjury?”

“Her name is Pruett.”

“What?”

“She didn’t keep her maiden name. Believed rather strongly in it, if I remember correctly. So I won’t let you change her name here. For the record, that is. So no, I don’t even know anyone by the name you are using.”

“Permission to treat the witness as hostile,” Jorgensen said.

“Granted.”

“Are you her daughter or not?”

“Every person in this courtroom knows I am.”

“At your parent’s home on Green Ridge when you were but fifteen years old, did the accused, Mr. Tyree McIntyre strike you across the face with his fist, breaking your orbital socket?”

“No,” Wendy said.

“I’ll remind you again of your sworn oath, Ms. Steele.”

“It was fractured, not broken. You should get your facts straight.”

“And were you indeed fifteen at the time of your orbital socket being fractured by the defendant’s fist?”

“I don’t recall.”

“You were fifteen,” Jorgensen said.

“Is that a question?”

Judge Butler looked sternly at Wendy. “The witness will answer.”

“Yes, I was fifteen.”

“So you admit that the defendant is capable of perpetrating violence against his own family. A young girl—a child?”

“I most certainly do not.”

“But you said…”

“I told you what happened. That’s what you asked me.”

“And being stricken does not equate to an act of violence?”

“Violence is wanton, ma’am. I was stricken accidentally.

“That is not an answer to the question I asked. Your honor, this is going nowhere,” said Jorgensen.

“I am inclined to agree, Madam Prosecutor. I believe you’ve established what you set out to establish.”

“With due respect, how is it you know what I am after?”

“I do know. And you’re done here. Approach.”

Hanson and Jorgensen walked forward to the bench. Butler covered his microphone.

“This has been discussed at length,” the judge hissed. “The defendant was never convicted of anything. All parties say the same thing, including the police report. You’ve been allowed to introduce the act by deposing Ms. Steele. She admitted to being struck by the defendant. Accidentally, I might add.”

“Then I ask you to strike the word ‘accidentally’ from the record.”

“Request denied,” said Butler.

“She’s not answered one of my questions directly, Your Honor.”

“On the contrary, ma’am. She has answered each of your questions directly. That you are unable to engage a tripwire and force the witness to say something disallowable by this courtroom so that the jury might hear it even after I ruled such testimony prejudicial to the accused is your own failure, not hers. Move away.”

To the courtroom, Butler said: “Your witness for cross, Mr. Hanson.”

“No questions, Your Honor,” Hanson said, and flashed the jury a slight smirk.

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.

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