Elegy - Cover


Copyright© 2023 by Lumpy

Chapter 30

As the following week passed, my nerves ramped up as we were closing in on the hearing to consider the motion to dismiss my case. If we got this granted, I’d be able to finish the school year, although catching up on almost three weeks of classes was going to be hard, and I’d have a chance to get something done with my music. If it wasn’t granted, it would be fall before my case actually went to trial, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever recover from that kind of delay.

It got so bad I was physically sick the morning of the hearing. I couldn’t imagine anyone living with this much anxiety, although it did give me new respect for what Kat had been able to deal with. I could barely take a week of it, and she’d done it for years.

I sat beside Mr. Eaves in the empty courtroom, trying to focus on the imposing oak-paneled walls, the tall ceiling, and the frankly intimidating raised desk where the judge would sit, and not on Mr. Campbell at his table to the right of us, shuffling through an impressive stack of papers. It was only how calm Mr. Eaves seemed to be that kept me from falling apart.

Finally, a bailiff came out and said, “Order in the court,” followed by the judge walking out in her robes and stepping up behind her desk. Mr. Eaves grabbed my sleeve and tugged me to stand next to him, causing me to scramble to get up in time. He’d warned me about that, but I was so overwhelmed that I’d almost missed it.

The judge herself was an impressive woman. Tall with pinned-back curly black hair, she had this air of authority that I had never seen before. It was the thing that I think some teachers and people like Mr. Packer tried for, but until this moment I hadn’t realized how much they’d failed. Even looking over her hawkish nose, through reading glasses, at the documents set out on her desk, she still came off as stern and commanding. It didn’t do a lot to settle my nerves.

She set down the papers and looked at the three of us at our respective tables and said, “Good morning. We are here today to discuss the motion to dismiss charges in the case of The State of North Carolina versus Charlie Nelson. A few ground rules up front. I want to remind everyone that our purpose here is to examine the legal arguments and evidence presented, and to ensure a fair and just process. I expect all parties to conduct themselves professionally and respectfully throughout these proceedings.”

She paused to look at Mr. Eaves and Mr. Campbell, I guess to make sure they were paying attention, like there was even another option.

“It is the court’s responsibility to carefully consider the arguments put forth by both the defense and the prosecution. We will assess the evidence presented, the relevant legal principles, and any applicable precedents to arrive at a just decision,” she continued. “I want to emphasize that today’s hearing is not a trial. It is a focused discussion centered on the motion to dismiss. The burden rests upon the party making the motion to demonstrate that the charges should be dismissed based on legal grounds. The District Attorney will have an opportunity to present counterarguments and evidence to support their position. Does everyone understand?”

I was pretty sure she was talking to Mr. Eaves and Mr. Campbell, but I added, “Yes, ma’am,” just in case.

“Good. Mr. Eaves, present your arguments.”

“Your Honor,” Mr. Eaves began, his voice firm and even. “The crux of our position is this: this case should never have made it to the grand jury in the first place, let alone inside a courtroom. We believe the only reason an indictment was handed down in this case was because the District Attorney failed to present evidence that would have made it clear that Charlie is innocent of what he’s accused of. Now, I can hear my colleague’s counter-argument already, that the District Attorney is not required to present exculpatory evidence during grand jury proceedings. However, the prosecution is not allowed to shape a charge, using false and misleading facts while removing anything that counters those lies.”

“The charge against my client started with a description of him plunging a knife into his father’s chest. What wasn’t included was that his fingerprints weren’t on the weapon at all. His mother’s fingerprints were on the knife, confirming my client’s description of his mother grabbing the knife from the counter and it being knocked out of her hand just before she was pushed into the counter edge, which forensics shows was her cause of death. His father’s fingerprints were also on the knife, again confirming my client’s description of his father picking up the knife and using it against him. There’s a slash on my client’s arm, where his father tried to stab him. The knife fight only ended when the two grappled, as my client tried to keep the knife from stabbing him. They fell and my client hit his head, resulting in the concussion that left him unconscious, which was how the paramedics and the sheriff found him. The only explanation in that situation was that his father fell on his own weapon. What isn’t possible is my client pulling the knife and stabbing his father, which is all the grand jury heard.”

“They also heard that Charlie is a violent offender with a long criminal record, which is not true, as my client has never been convicted of any crime, let alone a violent one. What they didn’t hear was that Charlie was with his girlfriend at the house where he has been staying since his emancipation, when his mother called, telling them his father was kicking in her door and that she needed help. They didn’t hear nine-one-one’s recording of the call that has his girlfriend, who happens to be the daughter of the sheriff, describing his mother’s panicked call and that Charlie had rushed over there after hearing the sound of the door to the trailer breaking down.”

“They also did not hear that his mother actually had a restraining order against his father, who tried a similar attack a month previously after she filed for divorce from him. They didn’t hear that he attacked my client in a courtroom and was released when this District Attorney decided there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue the charges, even though a family court judge was actually one of the ones attacked. They didn’t hear that the father was, in fact, the violent offender, previously convicted of stabbing another man to death in a bar brawl.”

“Finally, the District Attorney never called the sheriff or any law enforcement before the grand jury to give a witness statement about the attack. He simply described it to them and instructed them to find my client guilty. The reason he didn’t call the sheriff to testify before the grand jury is because the sheriff, who’d previously dealt with Charlie’s father and knew of the restraining order, had argued against my client being charged, making the same argument that I am making now: that my client could not possibly be guilty of manslaughter, let alone second-degree murder, based on the facts of the case. This entire case has been nothing but a legal form of harassment against my client, and the way it has been handled is nothing short of prosecutorial misconduct. I actually have the sheriff here today to give the testimony that should have been given to the grand jury, to show how egregious this entire process has been.”

“I object, Your Honor,” Mr. Campbell said, hopping up quickly. “If Mr. Eaves wants to call the sheriff as a witness, the appropriate place to do that should be at the trial itself. His entire argument is that the case should never have gone to the grand jury, which is exactly why this motion is a farce against the entire judicial process. One of the staples of our system is that district attorneys are allowed wide latitude on how cases are presented to a grand jury, and that we are not required to make the defense’s case for them.

“I believed then, and I believe now, that there is sufficient evidence to present this case at trial. Mr. Eaves, in fact, just pointed out that Charlie’s father was present at the trailer another time when tempers were raised, and no one was assaulted or died in that incident. It can be argued that Mr. Nelson’s presence was what turned the incident deadly, and it would be up to a jury to decide the truth of that. Moreover, I still believe there is a public interest in seeing Mr. Nelson finally being charged. Since the day he arrived in our small town a year ago, he has been in numerous altercations, some involving serious, life-threatening injuries. It is a matter of public safety that Mr. Nelson is finally held accountable for his actions. And lastly, the victims in this case deserve to have their day in court. His mother and father are dead, and the only voice they have to cry out for justice comes from my office. They too deserve to have their day in court. If Mr. Eaves feels our accusations are in error, I say again, he can make that argument then, and he can bring any witnesses, including the sheriff, forward to testify at that time.”

“Your objection is overruled, counselor. Nothing you said refuted the attorney for the defense’s stated reasons for requesting a dismissal of this case. I would like to hear what the sheriff has to say and make a determination based on that.”

“Your honor...” Mr. Campbell said, clearly not ready to let his objection go yet.

The judge, however, cut him off.

“I said overruled, counselor,” she said, sounding a little annoyed she had to repeat herself. “Sheriff, come up here, please.”

I didn’t know a lot about courts of law, but I was pretty sure annoying the judge was high up on the list of things you shouldn’t do. Sheriff Gibbs, who had been the only person sitting in the seating area behind us, since this wasn’t an open hearing, got up and walked around to the witness stand, and sat down.

“Sheriff, you understand that, while we aren’t officially at trial and you aren’t being sworn in, I expect you to answer my questions forthrightly and honestly, yes?”

“Yes, your honor.”

“Good. Now, is it correct to say that you were not planning on charging Mr. Nelson with a crime and argued with the District Attorney over this?”

“Yes, your honor.”

“Why is that?”

“Because it’s the most cut-and-dried case of self-defense I’ve ever seen, and that was even before the forensics came in.”

“What makes it obviously self-defense?”

“For one, I’ve dealt with Charlie’s father multiple times since he came to town last fall. He was frequently drunk and belligerent and had a history of violence when he was drunk. There was a nearly identical incident a month before, where he was at their trailer, trying to get inside, screaming about his wife divorcing him, and making some fairly direct threats. That time, I happened to be nearby when the call came in and managed to get there in under two minutes, which I believe is the only reason it didn’t turn deadly that time. I was even forced to tase him to stop him from attacking, which I think goes to show that nothing was going to stop that man. This time, I was further away, and it took me almost five minutes to get to their trailer when the call came in, which wasn’t fast enough.

Then, there was the nine-one-one call from my daughter, who I do think is a trustworthy source. That call is also recorded. Everything she said corroborates Mr. Nelson’s version of events, including that the door was kicked in while he was still with her, at the house of Jennifer Philips, which is about a hundred yards away from the Nelson trailer. Finally, we found Mr. Nelson unconscious when we arrived, his father lying on top of him. He didn’t wake up for almost an hour, which was long enough for the doctors to worry that he had more than a concussion and might have suffered serious head trauma. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, but he had to have received a serious hit to the head to be unconscious for that long. That, I think, is the thing that convinced me the most. If he stabbed his father, how did he get knocked out and pull his father on top of him, the knife between them? Self-defense and Charlie’s father accidentally falling on the knife as the two struggled was the only way I could see that happening. Once the forensics came in, and it was clear Charlie had not touched the knife, I was even more convinced, since even if it was possible for him to pull his father on top of him and for the two of them to fall hard enough to knock Charlie out, there wasn’t enough time for all of that to happen before I arrived.”

“I see. Mr. Campbell, do you have any questions for this witness?”

The source of this story is Finestories

To read the complete story you need to be logged in:
Log In or
Register for a Free account (Why register?)

Get No-Registration Temporary Access*

* Allows you 3 stories to read in 24 hours.