"I couldn't hit anybody hard enough to knock them out."
I glance at Rosie, who signals me to wrap up. I say to the judge, "In light of this testimony, we respectfully request that the charges be dismissed as a matter of law."
Judge McDaniel's poker face gives way to a wry grin. Erickson starts to talk, but she cuts him off with a wave and asks him, "Are you aware that Mr. Love could be sentenced to life in prison if he's convicted?"
"Yes, Your Honor."
She sounds like my third-grade teacher at St. Peter's when she asks, "Do you really expect me to send him away because of a shoving match over a chicken?"
"Mr. Harper had to go to the hospital, Your Honor."
She looks at the clock and starts tapping a Bic pen on her bench book. She sighs heavily and says to nobody in particular, "Gentlemen, how are we going to resolve this?"
Erickson glances at me for an instant, then he turns to the judge and says, "Your Honor, we're prepared to move forward."
He's exhausted her patience. She points her pen at him and says, "You aren't listening to me, Mr. Erickson. How are we going to resolve this?"
It's the opening I've been waiting for. "Your Honor," I say, "I've tried to persuade Mr. Erickson that this matter can be resolved without any further intervention by this court."
"What do you have in mind, Mr. Daley?"
I TRY TO STRIKE A TONE OF UNQUESTIONABLE REASON WHEN I SAY, "MR. LOVE WILL APOLOGIZE TO MR. HARPER FOR INADVERTENTLY HITTING HIM, AND MR. HARPER WILL APOLOGIZE TO MR. LOVE FOR ACCIDENTALLY TAKING HIS CHICKEN. IN THE SPIRIT OF COOPERATION, MY CLIENT WON'T PRESS THEFT CHARGES."
The judge mulls it over and says, "What else can you offer, Mr. Daley?"
I need to sweeten the pot. "In an effort to conclude this matter amicably, I will take everyone, including Mr. Harper and Mr. Erickson and Your Honor, across the street for lunch. The roast chicken is pretty good."
It takes the judge a moment to warm up to my proposal. Finally, she says, "Sounds fitting." She turns to Andy and adds, "That's going to work for you, isn't it, Mr. Erickson?"
"Your Honor," he says, "you can't simply dismiss the case."
"Yes, I can." She points a finger at him and adds, "If you plan to work here for any length of time, you would be well advised to keep that in mind before you press felony charges against somebody who got into a shoving match over a chicken."
Andy Erickson's initiation is now complete.
The judge says to him in a tone that leaves no room for negotiation, "Mr. Daley's proposal is acceptable to you, isn't it, Mr. Erickson?"
"I guess so, Your Honor."
She bangs her gavel. "Case dismissed, subject to Mr. Daley agreeing to take the defendant, Mr. Harper and Mr. Erickson to lunch. I will expect all of you to behave in a civil manner and I don't want to see any of you back here this afternoon. Understood?"
Erickson and I mumble in unison, "Understood."
The judge grins at me and says, "I'm going to pass on your generous offer to join you."
"Perhaps another time."
"Perhaps." She stands and says, "It's nice to have you back, Mr. Daley. You bring a certain practical expedience to our proceedings, along with some badly needed humor."
"Thank you, Your Honor."
The smile leaves her face as she adds, "I trust you won't be back in my courtroom anytime soon."
"No, Your Honor."
From Final Verdict by Sheldon Siegel, copyright © 2003 Sheldon Siegel, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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