Justice is Not the Name of It
I should have lied, I thought as I glanced around the cold, boring courtroom.
Okay, admittedly, that’s not the best thought to have in a courtroom, but I’m just the juror who didn’t lie on the questionaire that allowed me to get picked for this murder case. I tapped my fingers against the oak wood of the jury box as the petite defendant limped into the room on grey heels and in a dingy, old dress that covered nearly every inch of her skin. Looking down at my outfit, I noted that we have the same style
—hide as much as pale skin as we can with clothes. The defendant winced as she sat down beside her court-appointed lawyer, but no one made an effort to help her.
At her private table, the prosecutor in a cocky, pinstripe pantsuit took a seat and grinned into her briefcase. A wealthy family with upturned noses sat behind her. Some of them wept into silk handkerchiefs, but I felt no sympathy for them.
The judge was the last to enter, letting his robe flutter behind him as he walked. “All rise,” the bailiff said. “Court is now in session.”
In the jury room, my fingers moved in rhythm while I listened to the other eleven jurors discuss the evidence. I only stopped when a piece of dark red nail polish flaked off. Pulling my hand inside my long-sleeved sweater, I made a mental note to book a salon appointment later.
“I don’t know why we’re still discussing this,” a juror said as he swept some of his blond hair out of his eyes to see the evidence better. “She’s obviously guilty.”
Juror #8, our chair juror, piped up in a squeaky voice like a mouse. “I just want to go over all the facts again. We’ve hardly been here for half an hour and you already want to convict a twenty-two year of first-degree murder."
Blond Juror scoffed and glanced over at her while Mouse Juror cleared her throat. “The defendant is Emila Knuff. She worked as a waitress for three years before meeting the victim, Julien Linscott, the only son of the billionaire Linscott family. They dated for two years before marrying.”
“Gold digger,” a red-beard, Scottish-looking, juror mumbled from the other end of the table.
Mouse Juror continued. “On the day before their one year anniversary, the housekeeper found Julien dead, sprawled across their marriage bed. He died from blood loss due to fifteen stab wounds to his chest and lower abdomen. There were signs of struggle from the broken lamp by the bed stand.” Mouse Juror laid out a photograph of the scene on the table. “But no signs of forced entry. All the windows and doors were locked, plus nothing was stolen, which rules out a burglar.”
“Just the theft of Julien’s inheritance,” Scottish Juror said. “Emila probably killed him for his money.”
“Doubt it,” Juror #2 said, or Second Juror as I decided to call him. “Most marriages like this have a prenup, and, based on her outfit, I’d say it hadn’t run out yet by the time Julien was killed.”
Glaring at Second Juror, Scottish Juror growled. “Her outfit could have been a ruse, made to make us think she was poor—proving yet again, what a thieving, conniving, evil mastermind she is!”
“An evil mastermind wouldn’t use a court-appointed lawyer when defending against murdering a rich family’s son,” Second Juror said.
“She’s guilty!” Scottish Juror exclaimed.
“We haven’t finished going over all the evidence yet,” Second Juror said. “Let juror #8 finish for Christ’s sake.”
Mouse Juror cleared her throat. “The housekeeper, gardener, and personal chef all testify that they were requested to be gone from the estate around five p.m.—the time of the murder. The police found the murder weapon—a steak knife covered in Julien’s dried blood—buried shallowly with some cigarette butts in a house plant in Emila’s private bathroom.”
“It does seem pretty cut and dry,” Scottish Juror said..
“What about motive?” Second Juror asked.
I looked up as he said that. What about motive? I thought. The only one we were offered was the lukewarm claim about money, but that didn’t settle right with me.
At one point, the question of an affair had come into play, but the Linscott family immediately stood up and denied it. They claimed that so much as suggesting such a thing was slander against their good name, until the judge ordered them to sit down and stay quiet during trial.
“Maybe they were going to divorce? And she couldn’t stand the thought of it?” Scottish Juror said.
“There’s no history of marital problems. All of the house staff testified that they seemed like a perfectly happy couple,” Second Juror said.
“What if she secretly hated him? Then one day, the hate got too strong and she just… snapped?” Blond Juror asked.
“No, the cook said that the knife found with Julien’s blood was missing for several days before the murder. Whoever did this planned it out—poorly planned it out, but still planned it.” Second Juror said. “It wasn’t a ‘spur of the moment’ type deal.”
“It’s obvious the only thing that girl hates is heels! Did you see the way she limped in them? Ridiculous,” Scottish Juror said.
“All of these motive theories are under the assumption that she did kill him. If we have to make up reasons for it, then it’s unlikely that we ourselves even believe that she’s guilty,” Mouse Juror said.
“The evidence is the one claiming she’s guilty, not us,” Blond Juror said as Mouse Juror bowed her head, to hide a disheartened expression “But if you’re so sure, let’s take a vote. All those who think Emila is guilty?”
Eleven to one. Guilty.
Everyone’s eyes turned to me, for sitting silently and keeping my hands down.
Scottish Juror groaned. “Oh come on, really? If you just agree, we can all go home.”
I crossed my arms and stuck out my lip. “Pass.”
“Do you really still think Emila didn’t kill Julien?” Mouse Juror asked.
“Nope, she definitely did.” I leaned forward. “However, I think she’s already been punished so it wouldn’t be fair to convict her.”
“What are you talking about?” Blond Juror asked.
“I’m saying Emila Knuff did kill Julien Linscott, but we shouldn’t convict her,” I said.
“Why the hell not?” Scottish Juror grumbled.
“Because Julien abused her. Murder was the only way out.” I said.
“That would answer the motive question…” Second Juror mumbled.
“What makes you think Julien abused her?” Mouse Juror asked.
“She limped into the court house, but that couldn’t have been from the heels. If she’s been married to a high society fellow like Julien, then she would have been used to shoes like that. And, when she sat down, I noticed her wince. Her long clothes are also probably hiding injuries from him.” I said.
“That’s an assumption, not a fact,” Blond Juror said.
“More of an… educated guess, really,” I shot back.
He squinted at me, opened his mouth to speak when Scottish Juror slammed the table. “That doesn’t make any sense! Why not bring up the abuse in the case? Say it was self defense?”
“It was,” I said. “She must have stashed the knife to defend herself. Then last time Julien hurt her, she must have fought back—”
“Which would explain the signs of struggle…” Mouse Juror said.
“But why wouldn’t she bring it up? Use it in her case?” Second Juror asked.
“Reputation,” I said.
Mouse Juror cocked her head to the side. “I hardly think she’s trying to protect her reputation here.”
“Not her reputation, the Linscotts’,” I said, “remember how furious they got when a possible affair was mentioned? They’d destroy anything that tarnished their good name—including mentions of abuse. Emila’s probably terrified of the consequences. Even if she avoided jail, she won’t be able to avoid their wrath for revealing their son’s dark past. That’s also what’s probably prevented her from coming forward beforehand, or escaping.”
“What about the house staff’s testimonies of a perfect marriage?” Scottish Juror asked.
“Lies. Probably paid off.” I said.
“So?” Scottish Juror leaned back in his chair. “You already admitted you agree that she killed him—and had intent to at least harm him by stashing the knife. Let’s just pronounce her guilty and leave.”
“No. That girl already suffered three years of abuse and only killed him to be free.” I said.
“Murder is murder!” Scottish Juror exclaimed as he stood. “That’s the law!”
I matched his standing figure so fast my chair knocked over. “The law can’t account for everything. New situations are constantly forming. Nothing is black and white. That’s why they have juries in court systems. You need a human heart in these kinds of situations.”
“Maybe we should ask the judge for a mistrial and start again based on this new idea...we aren’t getting anywhere...” Mouse Juror suggested.
“And let her face the same repercussions from the Linscotts’ by keeping quiet? The less people who find out about this, the better.” I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, sat back down, and folded my hands neatly on the table. “Chances are no one is going to realize what she’s been through. If given the chance through mistrial, the Linscotts will cover this up. Acquitting Emila is her best option—”
“Best option? Best option? Sure, it’s best for every murderer to get off scot-free, but that’s not what’s best for everyone else. She needs to pay for what she’s done. Learn a lesson before she can hurt anyone else. There’s a grieving family out there who just lost their son… they expect justice or some kind of closure.”
“And Emila has a family that worries about her all the same,” I countered. I opened my eyes and gazed at Scottish Juror. “Scottish Juror,” I said.
“I’m not Scottish…”
“I understand that you believe people should abide by the laws,” I said. “They protect innocents. They’re important to follow. However, the law has already failed to protect Emila once, and if we sentence her, that’ll be us failing her. She’s not dangerous or a crazy psychopath, she’s a scared twenty-two year old girl just trying to survive. How is that a crime? We have to acquit her.”
Everyone stayed quiet for a minute before Second Juror asked. “Shall we take another vote then?”
Twelve to zero. Innocent.
I should have lied, I thought again as I left the courthouse. Tugging down my sweater again to cover the cigarettes’ butts burns from my ex-boyfriend that dotted my arms, I exhaled a shaky breath. They were the same type as the ones I spotted on Emila’s arms outside the courthouse, before I was selected for the jury on her trial.
“Do you have any bias in this case?” The pinstripe prosecutor had asked me before the case began.
“No,” I had lied.
I should have lied, my thoughts repeated, trying to justify it to myself as I walked past Julien’s sobbing mother.
My eyes fixated on my clipped red nail polish. I held it to the boundless sky and let it glint in sunlight. I had always preferred red since the day I killed him. Looks just like his blood under my nails. The constant reminder that I was finally free felt… perfect.
I should have lied.
And I’m glad I did.