The Trial, Part 5

Read Part 4 here.

*Mr. Horne ascends the witness stand*

Bailiff: “Mr. Horne, do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

I do.

Bailiff: *Glares*

Uh…excuse me?

Bailiff: “Are you quite sure you are capable of telling the truth?”

Justice Byclericalerror: “Bailiff, you may stand down.”

Bailiff: *Looks up hopefully*

JB: “No, you may not treat the witness as hostile.”

*Sulking, the bailiff steps away from the witness stand.*

JB: “He’s all yours, counsel.”

Mr. Devil’s Advocate: *Nods* “Your Honor.”

Testimony: Mr. Horne

Mr. DA: “Could you state your full name for the court?”

Thomas Alan Horne.

Mr. DA: “And what is your relation to the alleged victim in this case?”

We were…enemies.

Mr. DA: “What do mean by that?”

I mean that he had sworn an oath to kill me, and had attempted to fulfill that oath on multiple occasions.

Mr. DA: “How many occasions?”

Once with a flintlock musket. Once with a longbow. Once with an 18th-century canon. Once with a Model-T Ford. Once with a machete. And once with a Tommy gun.

Mr. DA: “Six times, then?”

Yes.

Mr. DA: “And had you ever attempted violence against him?”

Not until after the Tommy gun.

Mr. DA: “That was when you detonated the bombs that took his life.”

I…yes. That was when I made the decision.

Mr. DA: “Why did you kill him?”

Because he was dangerous. He didn’t care about collateral damage. He ended up hurting a bystander—someone who had nothing to do with his vendetta against me. So I stopped him.

Mr. DA: “And would you have killed him if he had not been dangerous? Did you have any other reason than the lives you wanted to protect?”

No. I was only trying to defend myself and everyone around me. I had no other issues with him.

Mr. DA: “So you killed him in self defense?”

Yes. It was self defense.

Prosecutor Downarrow: “Objection!”

JB: “On what grounds?”

PD: “The defense’s line of questioning is deliberately obtuse. It dances around the facts of the case while ignoring the key elements of the incident.”

JB: “Miss Downarrow, the prosecution is not in a position to criticize, much less control, the line of questioning for a defense witness. If you find the defendant’s testimony to be insufficient, you are advised to prepare a thorough cross examination. What say you, counsel?”

Mr. DA: “The defense has no further questions at this time, your honor. If the prosecution is anxious to cross examine, we are willing to oblige.”

Uh…what’s going on?

Mr. DA: *Whispers* “Don’t worry. I’ve got this under control. Just answer the prosecution’s questions truthfully.”

Cross-Examination: Mr. Horne

PD: “Mr. Horne, you have now claimed that you killed the victim, Dr. Horatio Heliogabalus, in self-defense.”

That’s right.

PD: “Yet you must have prepared your deadly explosive trap days before the incident occurred, right?”

It…was several days, yes.

PD: “Are we to understand that you installed the explosives, expecting to use them for self-defense?”

I don’t see why that’s so unbelievable. Say a woman keeps a gun in her purse. She may do so for years, not knowing if she’ll ever need it, but she expects to use it for self defense.

PD: “Guns are commonplace. Bombs not so much.”

I did not lure Dr. Heliogabalus into the blast radius. The bombs could not have killed him if he had stayed away from me.

PD: “Are you honestly using the ‘He threw his chest into my knife’ defense?”

I’m suggesting that I’m allowed to protect myself. And whether I do with it bombs, a gun, or a ballpoint pen is hardly the issue.

PD: “If you needed protection, then why not call the police? Surely you had time to file a report, during those ‘several days’ when you were preparing your trap.”

And you could have buried that report with my corpse after the doctor was done with me. The man had a magical, time-travelling hot air balloon. He’s not going to be stopped by a few badges with guns attached.

PD: “And you honestly believe that anyone has a right to defend themselves when threatened?”

Yes. Anyone.

PD: “Anyone…including the victim in this case?”

I don’t follow.

PD: “Mr. Horne, have you considered the possibility that the victim in this case was attacking you in self-defense?”

That’s not possible.

PD: “Really? In your testimony, you said that you and the victim were enemies. Tell me, how did you become the victim’s enemy?”

It was…just a big misunderstanding.

Bailiff: *Growls*

PD: “Allow me to be more specific: how was the victim’s life changed after the first time you met him?”

Mr. DA: “Objection. This subject was not broached during testimony. And the prosecution’s attempts to gaslight my client clearly cross a line.”

JB: “Well, Miss Downarrow?”

PD: “The witness has testified that he was the victim’s enemy. Are we to leave that confession unexplored?”

JB: “Very well. You may proceed.”

PD: “Mr. Horne?”

Dr. Heliogabalus considered me his enemy because of…a tragic accident.

PD: “And who was hurt by this accident?”

A lot of people. But Dr. H in particular.

PD: “And how bad were the damages?”

Well, he was kind of…*looks at Mr. Devil’s Advocate, waiting for him to object.*

Mr. DA: *Nods, but says nothing*

…he was kind of erased from existence.

PD: “Kind of?”

His past, I mean. He still existed, obviously, but every memory of him had been stricken from the universe. And every action he had ever taken had been undone.

PD: “That sounds rather hazardous. Would being erased in this manner be something like dying, in your opinion?”

Honestly, I hadn’t thought of that. I guess, in some ways, it would be much worse than dying. It would be almost the worst thing that could happen to a person.

PD: “And the victim blamed you for this ‘death’?”

It was an accident. But yes, he did blame me.

PD: “So was he within his rights to defend himself against you?”

Well, it wasn’t going to happen again. The damage had already been done, and the danger was over, yet he still tried to kill me. He wanted revenge.

PD: “And you didn’t?”

No. I wanted to be left alone.

PD: “Are you sorry?”

Should I be? I told you, it was an accident.

PD: “I get that. But still, are you sorry for the part you played in that accident?”

*Sigh*

Yeah.

I didn’t want it to turn out this way. I saw a man slowly become a monster, and nothing I could say would stop it from happening. I held off from doing something drastic for as long as I could, but eventually, I had to protect myself. Still, I’m sorry for failing him.

PD: “I see….”

Reconciliation

PD: “Your honor, in light of the defendant’s testimony, the prosecution would like to call a recess so that alternative avenues may be explored in proceeding with this case?”

JB: “Alternatives? Are you seeking some kind of plea deal?”

This is what you wanted, isn’t it?

Mr. DA: “Valerie insisted that you have a moment of contrition on the stand. That way, she comes off looking merciful when she reduces the charges against you. Everyone wins. You’ll end up with some community service and a highly publicized apology tour. It’ll be a redemption story that the media will eat up—something they can point to as proof that the system works.”

How on Earth did you get her to agree to that?

Mr. DA: “You don’t want to know.”

But…

Mr. DA: “You don’t want to know.”

Fine. Sheesh.

PD: “Further negotiation with the defense is in everyone’s interest, your honor. Above all, we don’t want to waste the court’s time. If a deal is struck, so much the better.”

Bailiff: “What?!?!”

JB: “Alright. In that case, this court is adjourned until…”

Bailiff: “No!”

JB: “What is the meaning of this outburst?”

Bailiff: “You can’t end the trial now. He’s GUILTY. GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY. Put him in shackles. Hang him from the tallest tree!”

JB: “Bailiff, you are out of order. For your own good, you had better stand down, now!”

Bailiff: “Oh, I’ll ‘stand down’…when I put my boot on Mr. Horne’s disgusting face. How dare you let him walk away from this. Enough lies and disguises. It’s time for some real justice.”

*POOF*

Dr. Heliogabalus! You’re alive.

Dr. Heliogabalus: “Don’t I know it! I tell you, it is not easy to fake your own death. Can’t say it was worth it, either, now that my plan to get you executed by the state has fallen apart.”

What?!

Dr. H: “But no matter. I’ve got you right where I want you. Now all y’all are gonna die.”

To be continued…