Youth in Asia
Ryan Forrester was the attorney for Justin Rhodes. They both sat at the table for the defense—sat facing away from the goings on of the courtroom before the session began. Ryan wondered what went through the heads of those who sat behind. Did they wonder what really happened? There were, he knew, three sides to any story.
The version of the facts prompted by the insurance company and the hospital claimed that Justin Rhodes held a pillow over the face of his comatose wife. It was really a ghastly thing to be accused of. It was the stuff of daytime soap drama. Justin Rhodes didn’t need the insurance money, he had enough without that.
The version of the facts that he and Justin had settled on, seemed to hold sway in the courtroom. Defense attorney, Ryan Forrester was sure that was due to his own skill at bringing a courtroom around to his way of thinking. The attorney for the prosecution, George McAskill, looked a little frayed when he came in. It was with good reason. He was losing and he knew it.
The third side of the facts—the actual facts—usually fell somewhere in between the two stated sides. Ryan Forrester couldn’t fathom what the middle ground of the argument might be. Either his client killed his wife by holding a pillow over her face. Or he sat there, helpless, as she passed away relatively peacefully. The easier pill to swallow was the latter version. The easier story to sell to the jury was that the helpless yet loving husband happened to be there for his wife right to the bitter end.
The courtroom had quieted down some. Everyone who was coming must be inside already. He glanced at his watch and saw that it was nearly ten. The judge would soon be in to start the session. The jury was ushered in and they took their seats.
The bailiff said, “Order in the court; all rise. The honorable Richard C. Mathis presiding.”
Once the judge was seated, he said to Ryan Forrester, “I understand you have one more witness to bring forth.”
“Yes your honor. I call Jason Rhodes.”
Justin Rhodes son, Jason, stood from the front row and walked to the front where he took a seat at the witness stand just as he was coached earlier. Ryan Forrester, followed and stood before the witness stand.
The bailiff came over and said, “Your right hand.” He held his own up for show. He said, “Swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, so help you God?”
Jason Rhodes nodded and barely uttered a “yes.”
The honorable Richard C. leaned over to the younger Rhodes and said, “Jason, don’t be nervous. Just answer the questions the best that you can. Do you play any sports?”
Jason nodded his head and said, “I just started Football.”
The judge said, “Well think of me as the referee. Okay?”
“One more thing: When you answer a question here in my courtroom, I want to hear the answer. This young lady over here cannot hear you nodding your head and she has to write down everything that everyone says. So for her benefit, you have to answer loud and clear. Understand?”
Jason nodded again, realized that was wrong and said, “Yes, I do.”
The judge looked up to Ryan Forrester and said, “Your witness.”
“Thank you, your honor. So Jason, how old are you?”
“And you understand why we’re here today?”
Jason nodded, then said, “Yes.”
“Do you think your father is a good man?”
“Did he love your mother?”
Jason shifted in his seat and said, “Yes.”
“And your sister?”
“Was he the sort of father who yelled a lot? Or was he kind?”
“He was kind,” Jason said. He nodded in confirmation.
Attorney Forrester took a couple of paces toward the jury box, stopped, turned to Jason, and said, “Did your father volunteer at all? Did he help others out?”
“Where did he volunteer?”
“He helped my coach.”
“He volunteered to help at the voting booths.”
“I see. Is that it then?”
“He offered money for good Asian kids.”
Ryan Forrester scanned the jury, making eye contact, and said, “So your father is a kind, loving man, who volunteers when he can.” He turned to face young Jason and said, “Does that sound about right?”
Looking up to Judge Mathis, he said, “No further questions your honor.”
Judge Mathis said, “The prosecution’s witness.”
George McAskill stood and said, “Thank you your honor.” He wasn’t sure where to go with this witness. The insurance company was going to lose this one, he was sure of that. He had made some notes during the defense questioning: 9 yo, knows why here, good man? check, loves mom? check, sis? check, yell? kind? (latter circled), volunteer? coach-voting-Asian kids? (latter circled with a question mark).
McAskill picked up his legal pad with the notes and walked to the witness bench. Looking at young Jason Rhodes, he asked, “You said your dad volunteered by helping out your coach.”
“And he helped out at the voting booths.”
“Yes, we both did. It was fun.”
“You also mentioned that he helped Asian kids. Good Asian kids, I think you said.”
“If they’re Asian kids—kids in Asia, how do you know he helped them?”
“I heard my dad on the phone once, talking about them.”
McAskill straightened his stance a bit and said, “Really? Do you remember what he said?”
Jason thought for a moment and said, “I think so.”
“Can you tell us what he said?”
“He said…he’d offer some serious money for a good youth in Asia.”
“…A good Euthanasia?”
“OBJECTION,” Ryan Forrester roared. But it was too late, the tide had turned.