CAST (in order of appearance):
Sally Fibber – an Assistant State’s Attorney for Cook County, Illinois
The Honorable Judge Linda Hackemov – the presiding judge
John Noble – The defense attorney
Mark Valentine – The handsome, brave, and stoic defendant
Joe Everyman – the jury foreman
The scene is a courtroom. The camera zooms in on Sally Fibber as she is concluding the State’s case against Mark Valentine, who is charged with murdering his wife.
SALLY FIBBER: Your Honor, the State has established that the gun used to kill Maggie Valentine belonged to the defendant, and that the defendant’s fingerprints were on said gun. Further we have shown a videotape of the defendant using that gun to shoot his wife, and we have played the 911 tape where the defendant admits to having shot his wife. I think we’re done here. The State rests its case.
THE HONORABLE JUDGE LINDA HACKEMOV: Does the defense wish to put on a defense, or shall we just proceed to sentencing?
JOHN NOBLE: Oh, we’re gonna put on a defense, Your Honor – we’re gonna put on a reeeal good defense. Prepare to be shocked, gentlemen of the jury. The defense would like to call as its first, and only, witness, the defendant, Mr. Mark Valentine.
Mark Valentine gets up from his seat at the defense table and solemnly walks to the witness stand where, at the direction of the bailiff, he places his left hand on the Bible.
BAILIFF: Mr. Valentine, please raise your right hand. (Mark does as instructed) Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
MARK: Damn Skippy.
Mark takes his seat and the defense attorney begins his questions.
JOHN NOBLE: Let’s cut right to the chase, shall we? Mr. Valentine, did you shoot your wife?
MARK: Yes – four times.
JOHN NOBLE: And why did you shoot your wife four times?
MARK: Cuz that’s all the bullets I had.
JOHN NOBLE: No, I mean what precipitated the shooting?
MARK: I’m not sure I understand the question – it wasn’t raining at the time.
JOHN NOBLE: Let me come at this another way. Did the decedent…
Mark looks confused
JOHN NOBLE: ‘Decedent’ just means the dead person, in this case, your wife.
JOHN NOBLE: Did your wife say anything to you right before you shot her?
JOHN NOBLE: What did she say?
MARK: She said, “You need to cut the grass.”
JOHN NOBLE: Were those her exact words?
JOHN NOBLE: ‘You need to cut the grass’. Not, ‘Honey would you please cut the grass?’, or ‘I’d like it very much if you could cut the grass’, but, ‘You need to cut the grass’.
JOHN NOBLE: So, it was in the form of a statement and not a question.
MARK: That’s correct.
JOHN NOBLE: Mr. Valentine, do you reside in the United States?
MARK: Chicago, Illinois – yes, sir.
JOHN NOBLE: Did you reside in the United States at the time of the murder?
JOHN NOBLE: Your Honor, I’d like to introduce as Defense Exhibit A, a copy of the United States Constitution, drawing the court’s attention to the thirteenth amendment which reads, and I quote, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
SALLY FIBBER: Objection, Your Honor. The decedent is not on trial here.
(Mark smiles upon hearing the word “decedent”)
JOHN NOBLE: Your Honor, the defense is simply trying to show some context. We intend to show that this directive to cut the grass typified that decedent’s attitude toward the defendant, an attitude best described as one of slaveholder toward slave.
THE HONORABLE JUDGE LINDA HACKEMOV: I’ll allow this line of questioning for the time being.
JOHN NOBLE: Thank you, Your Honor. Mr. Valentine, what time did your wife make the statement you just alluded to?
MARK: I’m not sure of the exact time, but there were two minutes left in the third quarter of the Notre Dame game.
JOHN NOBLE: And whom was Notre Dame playing?
JOHN NOBLE: Notre Dame – Michigan. That’s one of the biggest games of the year, is it not?
JOHN NOBLE: And you are a die-hard Irish fan, are you not?
MARK: From the time I was a young boy, sitting on my father’s knee.
JOHN NOBLE: Was this the first time that day that your wife had asked -- correct that – ordered -- you to cut the grass?
MARK: No, it was the third time.
JOHN NOBLE: The third time! When were the first two?
MARK: One came just at the start of the second half, and the second about five minutes after that.
JOHN NOBLE: And what did you say in response to those first two directives?
MARK: I told her I would cut the grass right after the game.
JOHN NOBLE: So, let me see if I understand this, Maggie...
MARK: Could you call her ‘The Decedent’ again? That was cool.
JOHN NOBLE: So the decedent, also known as Maggie, also known as your wife, had already expressed her desire that
you cut the grass, and it had already been established that you would, in fact, cut the grass after the game was over, and yet she felt the need to, in that shrill, fingernails-on-a-chalk board voice of hers, say it again. In fact she said it three times in all, within a span of fifteen maybe twenty minutes. Is that correct?
MARK: Yes, sir.
JOHN NOBLE: And this ‘nagging’, for lack of a better word, interrupted your enjoyment of a sporting event involving the University named for the Blessed Mother of our Lord and Savior, an event that was, for you, a small oasis of pleasure in the hellish desert of toil that is your life, an event that provided one of the only ties you still have connecting you to the memory of your beloved late father.
MARK: Yes, it did.
JOHN NOBLE: Obviously, she knew that you heard her the first and second times, because you responded. Was there then, any purpose in her repeating the directive a third time?
JOHN NOBLE: None, whatsoever. Unless it was simply to nag and browbeat. Let me ask you this – why was it so important to her that the grass be cut?
MARK: Her parents were coming over for dinner later that evening.
JOHN NOBLE: I see. How nice of you to have invited them.
MARK: Actually she did it without asking me.
JOHN NOBLE: Really? What did she plan to cook for dinner?
SALLY FIBBER: Objection Your Honor – I don’t see how the dinner menu is relevant.
JOHN NOBLE: Your Honor, I will show relevance in just a minute.
THE HONORABLE JUDGE LINDA HACKEMOV: Overruled.
JOHN NOBLE: Now, Mr. Valentine, what was it your wife planned to cook for dinner?
MARK: I was going to barbeque ribs.
JOHN NOBLE: Oh, so YOU were going to cook dinner for guests that you hadn’t invited after you cut the grass. Do you often do the cooking?
MARK: I ALWAYS do the cooking.
Audible gasp from the jury
JOHN NOBLE: Well, I guess every couple arranges the division of labor differently. I suppose your wife did the cleaning then.
MARK: Nope, I did all of that also.
JOHN NOBLE: Child care?
JOHN NOBLE: Grocery shopping?
JOHN NOBLE: Home repairs?
MARK: Definitely, me.
JOHN NOBLE: Mr. Valentine, was your wife a quadriplegic?
MARK: No, sir.
JOHN NOBLE: Was she in any way disabled?
MARK: She was a little stupid, but you know… functional.
JOHN NOBLE: Is there any reason she couldn’t have cut the grass herself?
MARK: Wow, I never thought of that before, but now that you mention it, I guess she could have cut the grass herself.
JOHN NOBLE: I hate to speak ill of the dead, but Mr. Valentine, is it possible that your wife was…lazy?
MARK: Very possible.
JOHN NOBLE: The defense rests, Your Honor.
THE HONORABLE JUDGE LINDA HACKEMOV: That concludes the testimony. We will now hear closing arguments, beginning with the State.
Sally Fibber gets out of her chair and the prosecution’s table and approaches the jury box.
SALLY FIBBER: Gentlemen of the jury, it’s on tape, for God’s sake! He admitted that he did it! What more do you need?
An exasperated Sally sits back down.
THE HONORABLE JUDGE LINDA HACKEMOV: Does the defense have a closing argument prepared?
JOHN NOBLE: Yes, Your Honor.
John Noble approaches the jury box, lowers his head, pauses for a moment, then proceeds.
JOHN NOBLE: Gentlemen of the jury, you’ll recall, during the voir dire process I asked each of you if you had seen the movie “Django Unchained”? You each answered yes. Now let me ask you this – who here cheered when Django shot the shit out of all those slave owners?
THE HONORABLE JUDGE LINDA HACKEMOV: Defense counsel will watch his language.
JOHN NOBLE: Yes, Your Honor. Sorry.
Now, where was I? Ah, yes, our friend, Django. Who among you cheered when Samuel L Jackson told Jamie Foxx “I count six shots” and Jamie Foxx responded “I count two guns”? (John turns to the judge) The court will note that I omitted the ‘n’ word from my citation of those lines for the sake of decorum. (John turns back to face the jury) Who cheered when Django blew Candyland to pieces with Samuel L Jackson inside? Who here understood how the years of humiliation Django suffered amassed inside him? Who understood how anger turns to rage and rage turns to violence? Who here understood Django’s need to reclaim his manhood?
And finally, who here can look at Mark Valentine, this pathetic, feeble-minded, shell of a man with an empty scrotum where his testicles used to be, and not be moved to pity him, to feel his pain, to understand his need for justice, to find him not guilty?
Tears roll down the jurors’ faces as John returns to his seat. Mark pats him on the back in gratitude.
THE HONORABLE JUDGE LINDA HACKEMOV: Final arguments having been presented, the jury will now retire to the jury room to deliberate.
JURY FOREMAN, JOE EVERYMAN: Your Honor, there is no need for deliberation. We, the members of this all-male jury, find the defendant not guilty. We further instruct the court to pay Mr. Valentine ten million dollars in punitive fees and six hundred million dollars to compensate him for pain and suffering.
THE HONORABLE JUDGE LINDA HACKEMOV: The jury understands that this is a criminal and not a civil case, and that this court has no power to impose monetary penalties, nor award compensation to the defendant.
JURY FOREMAN, JOE EVERYMAN: In that case, Your Honor, we’ll start a go fund me page for this brave hero that has been treated so unjustly.
THE HONORABLE JUDGE LINDA HACKEMOV: The jury is dismissed.
The “Battle Hymn of the Republic” plays in the background, starting in softly and crescendoing to a rousing finish as the jury files out of the room, and the camera closes in on the defendant’s face to show a single tear streaming down his proud cheek. The American flag is visible in the background.
Story of the Month
As is often the case in these autobiographical works of fiction, my wife, Maggie has turned up dead in this one. Please be assured that she is alive. In fact, while she may continue to die in future posts, please be assured that these deaths are pure inventions. I'll let you know if it's ever for real.