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Srishti-2019   >>  Short Story - English   >>  INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY


Company: UST Global

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              Robert was going back from work after a long day, his police car sirens off so as not to alert anyone nor to wake the sleeping residents of Pecker’s Street. The night was cold and warm and the streets were empty while he slowly drove his car while humming a tune to himself. Suddenly, he noticed a black Chevrolet Impala car bit lopsided from the street and parked in an awkward angle towards a nearby tree. Robert put his car sirens on and pulled behind the parked car; after checking his service pistol was in place, he slowly opened the door and moved towards the stopped Impala.

                Robert noticed that there were scratches on the left side of the car. He couldn’t see the insides due to the tinted windows, he just knocked on the glass and asked: ”Is anybody inside, this is Robert from Sheriff’s County department; if anybody is in please open the door and put your hands where I can see them”. Nobody replied and Robert could feel the adrenaline rush in his body. He took the pistol from the holster and held it firm in his right hand and slowly tried to open the front driver side door. The door opened with a click and he could see a man in his mid-thirties in the driving seat who was shot on the head, blood had splattered everywhere. A bottle of gin was on his lap, which was almost empty. Robert felt his stomach churning, he quickly ran back to his car and messaged via the police radio: “Man shot dead in Pecker’s street, calling immediate assistance; no signs of suspect.”

                     It was half past midnight and the officers were conducting their research on the car. Robert had found that the victim was William Peters, an automobile salesman, identified from the driving license he got from the body. The victim had his purse, license with him and so he had overruled ‘theft’ as a motive. As luck would favour it, the murder weapon, a Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm handgun, was found under the co-driver seat, making his fellow officers calling the murderer an ‘amateur’. The weapon and the car was traced back to Jane Jenner, a former ballet performer and celebrity who lived a few miles away. Robert didn’t knew how Janet, his colleague did it that fast but he was not in the mood to go home unless he got hold of the culprit. It was 3 A.M in the morning when they rushed towards Jane’s residence; she had lived there after her much publicized divorce from business magnate Stephen Gertrude, who was in marine business.

                      Robert was shocked to find the front door was open and once entered he could see a lady, almost drenched in blood sleeping on the sofa. She had a high heel on one feet alone and was sleeping. Janet motioned Robert that she would do the talking and tried to call her up. She was beautiful with blond hair but looked terrified on waking up telling:” I didn’t do it; I didn’t mean to.” Janet made her sit up and asked: “Are you Jane Jenner?” She looked perplexed but nodded in agreement, her eyes frequenting between Robert and Janet. Janet held her hands and said:” Madam, we have few questions to ask. Do you know Mr. William Peters?” Her eyes were terrified when she mumbled “We went to dance together.” Janet looked affirmatively at Robert and asked: “Did he drive you home? What happened between you two?” Jane shook her head while telling “I can’t remember; I am drunk, the car was moving.” Her eyes half closed as she fell asleep again, possibly she was drunk high.

                    Jane was arrested on “suspicion” of murder and the media went on frenzy. Her estranged husband had hired a defense attorney named Sean Sheppard who claimed the prosecution’s case was purely circumstantial, as there were no eyewitnesses or solid evidence. Sheppard even came up with a claim how William was undergoing a treatment for depression and might have shot himself. Sheppard had a reputation of saving his clients at any cost for which he always charged a fortune. The trial started and the prosecution was not able to connect Jane to the murder, except she had met the victim earlier (no eye witnesses could attest to that on that particular day) as per her own words, which Sheppard challenged was a misunderstanding Jane had made while in an inebriated state. Jane was silent all over the trial, looking blank most of the time, while the media called her Pecker County Jail’s most stylish woman. The only statement she made while surrounded once by the press was “No woman can love a man enough to kill him” while Sheppard didn’t allow her to speak more while he escorted her to a black limousine, shielding her from the paparazzi.

                     When the trial started, the panel of judges were all males, headed by Arthur Penn, who was known for ‘quick judgements’, that lead the media again to a heated speculation that Jane was not getting a fair trial and she was being ‘cornered’ and was the real victim as she had become an alcoholic only after her divorce. The police found no other evidence connecting Jane to the murder, although Robert claimed that the car and gun was enough evidence, which Sheppard called “not substantial but circumstantial” and “childish”. Jane’s former husband Stephen maintained that she was a possessive lover but always calm and couldn’t commit such a crime. The media speculated a possible affair between Jane and William but made her a ‘victim’ again as she was seeking love as Stephen was so busy with his business that they called him a “bird” flying in an aero plane for more than half of the year.

                     The forensics couldn’t find any prints of Jane on the murder weapon, which the media hailed as “innocence” for a woman who was “corrupted” by a fast growing city. The jury verdict came a week after, acquitting Jane of all charges saying “The Jury is disinclined to believe, like the common people, that an attractive woman like Jane could be a stone cold murderer. Jane was found in her house and not at the crime scene and was drunk so she would have been unable to commit murder and plot an escape in that state of mind.” Robert challenged the decision but was warned as the decision was final and he couldn’t explain how Jane reached her home after the murder and why there were no eye witnesses of Jane’s presence at the crime scene. The media rambled on the jury’s decision about how beautiful woman can’t be murderers but in effect praised that ‘justice prevailed’ as Jane was now a free woman.

                  Robert had a fallout with Sheppard outside court which the media called ‘none less than a drama film’ as he accused Sheppard of terrorizing possible victim’s family or bribing them.  Sheppard told that he would file a defamation case against Robert as Jane was ‘innocent as he is, until proven guilty.’ Much to Sheppard’s dismay, Jane addressed the media while coming out of court saying: “I am not guilty; Gin and guns—either one is bad enough, but together they get you in a dickens of a mess, don't they?". Robert decided to take a break from his career as he still believed that Jane had murdered William and the money Stephen provided and a master mind like Sheppard had helped her escape conviction. Robert had agreed to pen his thoughts (after 3 years) in a book which Sheppard (now running Sheppard’s and Garrisons LLP law firm) has challenged he won’t be able to publish until his law firm reviews and approves it as it possibly ‘tarnishes’ his clients or a jury decision. It remains a mystery though, how William was killed and by who, as long as the statue of justice is blindfolded.