Friday, December 19, 2003

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Tom Pierce

The courtroom was hushed and the only sound heard was the sound of Matty Moro's voice. He spoke in a hushed tone. He never raised his voice in front of a jury. He learned in law school that to do so was to bully the jury. Nobody likes bullies. Moro saw himself as an actor. The courtroom was his stage. He was a virtual Tom Cruise. He was Paul Newman in The Verdict, he was Perry Mason. And the jury was loving it.

Matty's client, or rather his clients was Mid Continental Health Care. They were being sued by a class action group. At stake was several million dollars. The reason for the suit was because the major health care provider refused to cover individuals suffering from aids. It was a high profile case. It was Matty's biggest case in his career.

"Individuals who choose to engage in risky behavior must be held accountable for their own actions. If one chooses to engage in gay sex, or knowingly engages in sex with a partner who has sex with same sex partners then they are engaging in risky behavior. This is clearly described in the contract that every one of the plaintiffs had signed. It is written in the policy manual."

"The HMO is a product of the Mid Continental Health Care Corporation of Delaware. This corporate entity exists for the purpose of making money. This is not a charity. If this company did not turn a profit it would become bankrupt. Furthermore, by paying the health care costs of those with HIV related illness, other clients of Mid Continental would be unfairly penalized by higher premiums. What is worse, by awarding the plaintiffs in this case, you would be setting a dangerous president. Are we to force HMOs to go beyond the contracted responsibilities? Are we to force them to pay for any type of illness or injury a client acquires, regardless how responsible the client is?"

"This is about the virtues of capitalism..." Matty raised his voice for the first time.

"Capitalism is the free market. It is what distinguishes the US healthcare system from that of the rest of the world. It is what makes our health care second to none. Those who would insist that corporations be forced to pay beyond their obligations, who are they but socialists! Yes, that is what this case is about ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Its about socialism vs. capitalism. Remember that when you decide."

Matt stepped down. His hair was perfect. His suite was a conservative black. His tie was a bright red. His shoes were polished. He had perfected his look of sympathy. In able to win the jury, you should not be gloating. You need to be almost sorrowful.

To deny sick and dying people the money they need to survive you need to convince them that they are doing the right thing. It may be true that these people are going to die but that is beside the point. A bigger issue is at stake. You must convince the jury that Capitalism is at stake and therefore the American way of life. If a jury is convinced that there are issues more important than life itself than you have won the battle.

It was early evening at Bishop's Steakhouse. Bishop's was a darkly lit bar and grill favored by businessmen. It boasted thick prime rib so tender you can eat it without a knife. At a table reserved for the event a calibration was held. Matty sat at the table of honor.

Wesley Conner gave the toast:

"To our boy Matt, who came to our office a kid and is now the finest litigator in the whole dam country. Matt, nothing can stop you now boy. The partnership is yours my friend."

The beer glasses were raised and the drinks went down. All the surviving partners of Conner, Weiss and Murphy, namely Wesley and Norman Weiss patted Matt on the back.

Conner, a 50ish man who always dressed down for any occasion talked to Matt as he would his own son.

"So what are your plans, kid? You know dam well after a victory like this we have to give you a partnership. There is no other way around it."

"I don't know yet, Wes. I worked so dam hard on this case, maybe I would like to chill a little at home. Maybe go for a trip somewhere with the Mrs."

Wes chuckled a little, "I nearly forgot about the Mrs. You have been around this place for so long you probably forgot about her yourself. I would get away for a good long time."

As he said that Wes looked over and noticed Norman Weiss approaching them. He whispered, "Careful lad I see our octogenarian co partner coming our way. He may try to get you into one of his silly crusades."

Norman Weiss was a man of 80 years. He was still very tall in spite of his failing health. He was bald headed and had a mustache. He dressed like the old barrister he was. He wore a bow tie. Norman had founded the law firm in the 40s with his partner Jay Murphy.

Norman had a reputation for being honest and doing everything the right way. To the young lawyers in the firm, he was seen as a senile old fool. A sort of Don Quixote in pinstripes.

"Congratulations to you young man." He said earnestly to Matt.

"Thank you Mr. Weiss."
"I heard of your success today. I would, if I may, like to have a word with you in private." He glanced at Conner who smiled while leaving.

"Now I must tell you, your performance today was impressive. You will make a fine lawyer some day, but there are a few things about the business you still have yet to learn. Now your friend, Mr. Conner, he has a lot of spunk and he likes what he sees in you, but I have some reservations. You see Conner is from a younger generation of lawyers. But you are, well I sense that there is something more than just a litigater. You can go much farther."

"What do you mean by that sir?"

"Well, some may say that defending HMOs who are trying to screw ordinary people is not good for our image. Now.. yes I know its how our firm makes its money but we do have an image to look after. That is why I would like you to handle a special project for me."

"What kind of project would that be?"

"It involves picking up some of the load from the Poverty Law Center. You familiar with them?"

"Not exactly. Tell me about them."

"They work with indigent clients. They handle cases that the Public Defender cannot handle. They are young guys like you but the kind of lawyers who don't earn as much bread as you do. In fact all of the lawyers working for them combined do not make as much as you do."

"Now listen up, I know you have a vacation due so I promise you, take on one of these cases and I promise you, you will get a whole month at our expense, not to mention a full partnership."

Wearily, Matt answered, "The Mrs. won't be thrilled but sure, why not."

Lisa Moro waited at home. She was tired. She wore a bathrobe. Her blonde hair was tied back. A one time fashion model she was a full time lawyer's wife. She knew nothing of Matt's work, nor did she care. Her life consisted of making ceramics and cooking for Matt.

"Where the hell were you?"

"I won the case. Aren’t you happy?"

"And then what?"

"I was out calibrating."

"Well I was home doing nothing."

"The good news is that we have a vacation. A whole month."

Lisa's eyes perked up, "really?"

"But I have one more case first."

"Oh...Damm you! Its always just one more case. Why in the hell don't you go into your father's business."

"Fuck my father's business. I would rather be an ambulance chaser than work for those assholes!"

"At least he would respect you more."

"Lisa, I won the biggest case of my career."

"Fuck your career. I saw the whole goddam thing on TV. You screwed those people dying of AIDS. Does that make you happy?"

Matt was pissed now...

"What the hell are you talking about? You want to only believe what you see on TV? And for you information, its because of my career that we have this house and your car and all your jewelry."

Lisa got up off the couch and went to bed. "Your dinner is in the refridgerator. Be sure to clean up after yourself."


Matt entered Weiss’s office. It was rather like entering an antechamber of an old monitory. Everywhere were aged law books. The scent of mold and must were everywhere. Sitting opposite of Weiss was a woman with extremely short hair. Though she was seated, Matt could tell she was at least six ft something. She was in her thirties but not very attractive. Matt made an effort not to stare. Above all she was dressed in a very unsexy pant suit.

Weiss greeted Matt, "Come inside my boy and meet Ms Branscomb. Eileen, do say hello to our star player."

Eileen Branscomb put out her hand to Matt, who shook it, pretending not to be shocked at how large her hand was or how tight a grip she had.

"Norm was telling me what a fine attorney you are. He says you have quite a gift. We can really use a lawyer like you."

"Mr. Weiss has a tendency to be too generous with his praise. But I did score a good win yesterday. Perhaps you saw it on the news."

"I don't watch TV," she replied, almost scolding Matt.

Norm cut in, "Eileen has a case that we would like you to work on. Its something you can really sink your teeth on."

He handed Matt an envelope.

"And what sort of case is this?"

Eileen answered cutting off Norman before he could answer, "A capital murder case."

Matt paused.... for a very long time.
"Norm, can we talk a little, alone please?"

"We will in a while. But lets hear what our guest has to say about this case."

Eileen asked, "Have you ever handled a capital case before Matt?"

"Afraid not Miss. Just property law and lawsuits and the like."

"That’s Mam to you, Mr. Moro."

"Matt, this is nothing you cannot handle. I saw you work. This is really no different. You have all the resources of the firm behind you. If you really need help you can come to me."

"That’s a generous offer sir," Matt answered, "but I do not know if this is right for me."

"Well read the file first and then you can meet the defendant. Maybe this afternoon. Ms. Branscomb will be more than happy to show you."

Alone in his office Matt read the file.

The defendant’s name was Jeremy Hook. Race: African American. Ht. 5'-9", Wt. 260 lbs. Born Memphis TN. 1961. Age 42. Married. Two Children. Occupation: Short Order Cook. Place of Employment: Lucky's 24 Hour Grill. Charged with Murder, Rape of Minor. Conspiracy to Commit a Felony.

He read the particulars of the case.

Jeremy Hook was alone with his children while his wife was working. He called 911 that his 8 month old daughter had stopped breathing. After medical examination it was found that the daughter was violated in the genital area. No semen was found on the body.

Charges were filed against Hook and his wife, Mildred, a Guatemalan national. Mildrid was charged with prudery and conspiracy to cover up a felony. The two surviving children were taken into custody and the elder has given testimony that Jeremy has abused all three children.

Jesus Christ Weiss! Not only do you assign me a Capital Murder case but a god dam child molesting murderer! What the fuck are you thinking anyway!!!

Matt was pissed as hell. He did not care that Norman's office was closed. He barged in anyway.

Norman was hunched over a group of papers.

"In this office its standard protocol to knock before entering."

"Forget protocol. Can you tell me why you are laying this garbage on me?"

"Tell that to Ms. Branscomb. She was the one who brought the case to me."

"Give me one good reason why I should take this case. Jesus Norman, I never handled a criminal case before and you bring me this case?"

"And I suppose you would rather be defending greedy HMOs trying to bilk money out of dying people?"

"At least the money is better."

Norman leaned back in his chair and took off his glasses.

"Mr. Moro, the reason this case was given to you is because you need a case like this. Its about time you see the other side of law. The side of the law that is not sexy, that is not glamorous. Did you see that woman who was here? Yes she is a witch. But she is the kind of lawyer we are not. You probably made more money this month than she made all last year. But you know what? She would not trade with you for all the gold in Fort Knox. Do you know why? Because she is a believer."

"But why this case? Do you know anything about it?"

"Not much, just some guy charged with a crime that nobody wants to get their hands dirty with. Even the public defenders wont touch it. But the Poverty Law Center, well they would take it but they felt it required too much expertise to let some long haired hippy handle so they gave it to us."

Norman added, "Look Matt. Please, just pay the guy a visit. Listen to the case from his point of view."

The Crypt at 26th and California was the nations most feared address. It was legendary as a place where people entered and never left. It was known for being a place where brutal inmates were chained up in close quarters with even more brutal guards.

The inmate society was one where the strong survived and the weak perish. The Crypt had its own hierarchy of inmates. It had its own code of honor and its own rules.

When a new inmate arrives at the Crypt, they are immediately sized up by fellow inmates. They are judged by what gang they were in, what they are charged with or convicted of, what hood they are from. The newby is tested. A small object is demanded of them. Maybe its a necklace, maybe its their shoe. Will the inmate fight or will he give up. If he fights he is then judged by how well he fights. If he gives in he becomes a punk or a fish. This is the label he will wear until he ether proves himself or he leaves the jail. Usually it follows the inmate around to whatever prison he is assigned. The inmates have their own networks and they get information on all new arrivals from their friends in the jail.

Jeremy Hook was removed from the GP or general population. His case was known among the inmate population the first day and therefore was a marked man as molesters were as good as dead.

This was a world that Matty Moro had never penetrated. Matt with his pinstripes and his Mercedes came from a world of his North Shore Condo overlooking the lake. His world was one of elegant suppers, early morning cappuccino, manicures at Mario Tracoccis and evening games of racquetball at the health club.

The bored looking guard was looking at the latest issue of Hustler. Two other men armed with shot guns escorted Matt as he passed through the iron gate. The bored guard pressed the buzzer to let them through. In a secluded and very dirty looking room Matt took his seat.

"You have five minutes with the prisoner," called a young guard in a military sounding voice.

Jeremy Hook wore an orange jumpsuit which accented his dark skin. Though he was not tall, he was a beast of a man. He breathed heavily as he sat.

"Hello Jeremy, my name is Matt Moro. I am your attorney. I have very little time so lets talk about your case..."

"How are my kids?" Jeremy blurted out before Matt could finish his sentence.

"I don't know, Mr. Hook. If you like I could find out."

"They took them from my wife. Said she was unfit to be a mother because she refused to lie in court. She stood by me and this is how they punish her. This is how the law works."

"I promise I will find out what I can for you. But first we need to see about your case. Mr. Hook can you tell me about what happened when your daughter died?"

"She was asleep is all. My wife was at work. She works days and I work nights. I noticed she was asleep a very long time. So I pick her up and notice she is all hot and sweaty. She is shaking and turning blue. I call 911 and the paramedics come. Then they take her away. Next thing, I am at the hospital and they tell me she is dead."

"But I read that your own daughter has given a statement that you sexually abused your daughter. She said both her and her sister were repeatedly forced to have intercourse with you."

"I don't know why they say that. All I can say is that they were forced to tell lies by whoever controls them."

"How have you been treated."

"When I was first arrested they beat me. The detectives will never admit it but that’s what they did. They tried to get me to tell lies. They first cuffed me to a radiator and turned up the heat. Then they yelled at me and slapped me. But I never lied. I told the truth."

"How long did the interrogation last."

"I don't know. Two days, maybe three. I was so dam tired I forgot."

"And now?'

"The first day in the jail I was beaten pretty bad. The guards didn't give a fuck. They just let them beat me until I passed out. Then they put me in protective. I got nothing there. No TV. No books, nothing to do all day. Better than getting beaten though."

The buzzer sounded. Jeremy turned around and put his hands behind his back as a large looking man put on the cuffs. As he was being led away he yelled, "Mr. Moro, look after my wife. Please...."


Dam it to hell Norman. The guy was a gorilla. You going to tell me that guy did not kill his daughter? He looks like he eats children for breakfast."

Matt was pissed as hell as he got inside his car.

"Matt, what chance does he have if even his own lawyer doubts him?"
"I am not his goddam lawyer. Look Norm, I can't do this. Its not my kind of law."
"My boy, you are the only hope this man has. Just give it your best."
"Why, so he can get out and kill again? You have no idea what this guy is like."
"Matt, just relax ok? You want to get off the case that’s find. But you need to go to Eileen's office yourself and explain your position."
"Screw that, I never agreed to do this."
"Just be a man and face up to her."

Eileen's office was in a run down office building in the south loop. Outside, on the street, street people sat outside begging for change. Matt was besieged by an elderly woman. He turned his face from her. He had enough of charity for one day.

Inside he entered the office of Ms. Branscomb. She was talking to an elderly black woman about her housing situation.

"But if I am evicted I got no place to go. You telling me you can't help?"
"Ms. Douglas, the city program dropped you because your son was convicted of selling crack."
"He doesn't live with me any more. I forced him to leave."
"The city doesn't care. He was living with you when he was busted."
"But where do I go?"
"If you go to social services they can help you find something."
"They cannot do anything for me. The sent me away."
"Have you tried the Salvation Army?"
"But they will put me in a shelter. Its terrible in those places. Those gang bangers take everything you got."
"I am sorry Ms. Douglas. Give me time and I will look further."
"I don't got time. I just have three days and I will be evicted."

The elderly woman left. Eileen did not look at Matt. Before he could speak she spoke up...
"Mr. Weiss told me you were coming. I know why you are here."
"I am sorry Ms. Branscomb, this case is not my sort of thing."
"Stop making excuses. At least you had the decency to tell it to my face."

Matt rose up and before leaving Eileen followed up...
"Tell me Mr. Moro, is the reason you rejected the case because there was no money in it or is it because Jeremy Hook is black?"

Matt nearly screamed....
"Listen Ms. Branscomb, don't use that moralizing race baiting on me. It does not work. I believe in helping people who need help. I believe that people need to take responsibility for their actions. If you want to work and sacrifice than you will go places. If you want to sit on your ass and smoke crack than you deserve what you get."

"What do you really know about Jeremy, Mathew? Did you get a chance to sit down with his wife? Do you know anything about how the DCFS came to her house and took away her kids?"

She added, "These are honest people. You only see a fat black man in a prison jumpsuit but do you know anything else about the man you saw today?"

"Maybe he needs a better lawyer than me. I never handled anything like this before. Its not fair to him."

"That’s a copout Matt. You are a dam fine lawyer. You are probably the only hope he has in fact."

Her voice tone changed to one of pleading, "Matt, please, at least come with me and we can visit his wife. Won't you?"

Hook's place of residence was an old one story house of pealing stucco. It was on the far edge of the city, near some old factories. The neighborhood was a primarily Hispanic one. Matt and Eileen both approached the door and before they got there the door swung open. I short, muscular Hispanic man stood at the door. He had an unshaven face and wore dirty work clothes.

"Waat theee fock do yooo waant."

"We are here to see Mildred Hook. Is she home?" Asked Eileen.

"No Mildred here. She no want to see anybody. Get the faak out of here."

"Look," Matt cut in, "If you see here please give her a message..."

"Faak Yoooo. Mildrid no here. Get the faak out or I kill you!"

"Listen you motherfucker," Eileen shouted, Matt looked at her shocked. "We came here to help Mildred. I don't know who the fuck you think you are but she better get the message."

"Eileen, I think we better go." Matt whispered.

"No fucking way I am leaving." She shouted at Matt, then turning to the man in the door. "Look you bastard, I don't know what you are doing here but this is Mildred’s house. I can't help notice that chopped up car you have in back. Tell me, would that be a stolen car? You running some kind of business on the side here?"

Then a female voice from behind the door sounded in Spanish. The man came inside and an angry bantering ensued.

At the door came a tiny woman, no taller than 5 ft tall. She had dark hair and eyes and swarthy skin and was noticeably pregnant.

"Hello Mildred," Eileen said in a suddenly calm voice.

"Hello Ms. Eileen." Replied Mildred. "Please come in."

Eileen and Matt entered the living room of the place. Unlike the outside, the interior of the home was tidy and well decoder. The couch and carpet were new. On the wall was native artwork from Central America.

"Excuse my brother. He is an idiot. I keep him here for protection but I wonder if its worth it sometimes. He though you were police or something."

Matt noticed a photo of Mildred and Jeremy together on their wedding day. Jeremy, just a bit thinner, wore a white tux. He had a grin that made him look almost cute. Mildred wore a beautiful wedding dress. The two of them together was a picture of true happiness. Looking at it made Matt want to cry.

"How are you doing?" Eileen asked Mildred, in a voice so soft it amazed Matt.

Tears formed in Mildred’s eyes. "They took away my babies. Gone forever."

"We will get them back once Jeremy's case is over."

"And who are you?" Mildred asked Matt.

"I am your husband's attorney." Answered Matt.

Eileen said noting as she gave Matt a cold, blank stare.

"What I need from you is a statement of what happened that day..."

Matt arrived at home. Lisa was looking at some interior design books. With her was a long haired man who she introduced to Matt,
"This is Jerry, an interior decorator."
"Hello Jerry, replied Matt," extending his hand.
They shook. "Your wife was showing me how she wants the walls. In marble was it?"
"I don't know how the building commission would feel about that." Replied Matt pouring himself a glass of wine.
Jerry had an odd accent that Matt could not decipher.
"So where are you from Jerry?"
Before he could answer, Lisa answered, "He's from Poland. You would not believe the kind of work he does."


An old parable goes something along the lines of, if it looks like a rat, smells like a rat and tastes like a rat than there is something rotten.

Matt was at his apartment. Lisa was nowhere to be found. He did not care. He had work to do and didn't need any of her bullshit this evening.

There was so much about the case that did not seem right. The more he read the more odd it seemed. Jeremy came into the police station of his own free will. He gave a voluntary statement. Yet the statement was not part of the evidence file. He saw none of it. The Prosecutor in the case left pages and pages of the police report out of the file. What were the authorities trying to hide? Jerome came in of his own free will but was held in interrogation for almost three days. The reports read he never requested a lawyer during this period. Only after he gave a vague statement which was scratched from the record was he given a public defender, who immediately referred the case to the Poverty Law Center.

The only real evidence that the police had was bruises and abrasions to the genital area of the victim. The rest of the evidence was circumstantial. There were some previous arrests. A DUI case. An eyewitness who saw the suspect smoking marijuana several years ago.

There was also a deposition by the dependents daughter who gave a statement that she and her two sisters were molested. The wording of the statement sounded as if it was prewritten by an adult:
"I had witnessed my father, Jeremy Hook, insert his penis into her vagina. He than committed an act of sodomy by inserting into the anus of another victim."

Physical examination of the two sisters revealed that neither had shown any signs of sexual intercourse. This directly contradicts the statement on the deposition.

One paper was marked, "Testimony of Janice Hook by Psychiatrist" was blacked out entirely. Only thing that was written read, "The daughters have sustained certain degrees of trauma."

Assistant States Attorney Phil Stillo was regarded by many as one of the rising stars among county prosecutors. Just a look in his office read the biography of his brief but stellar career. Everywhere there were trophies, awards, certificates, photographs next to famous people. As a teenager he was a star athlete in football and basketball. He was also an honors student. He rejected scholarship offers from several universities to enlist in the US Marine Corps. He was in Forced Recon and had a distinguished military career. After that he attended Purdue, graduating with honors and finally University of Chicago School of Law.

Stillo had become well known as a deadly prosecutor who sent many to death row. He was believer that the prosecutor's duty was to pursue the truth at any cost. He was known by all who knew his as a man who was relentless in his duty. He put in long hours. He was known to be shrewd and cunning. He often compared his work to that of a commando. To convict an individual, one must know the case. They must know the individual. They must get inside the head of the criminal.

Stillo's crowning achievement was the Paul Roberts case. Roberts was a man who was charged with killing a police officer a year ago. The officer, a certain office Constintino, was shot to death and no witnesses were there to see the killing. The nature of the killing suggested that it was a random act of some psychopath. It was later revealed that there was a homeless beggar in the neighborhood whose erratic and often violent behavior made him a suspect. One of the homeless man's friends reported that he bragged about the killing in a bar. The police interrogated the man for hours and produced a confession. The public defender in the case, a young man who was just out of law school, tried to point out the fact that Roberts was a chronic liar and a braggart. The pointed out the fact that Roberts had a third grade education and an IQ of 80, or that he was treated for Schizophrenia several times.

Stillo knew how to win the jury. He knew what buttons to press. He talked about how Constintino had served for years with honor. He spoke of the valor of police work. The evidence he produced was shotty but it was the confession that won the jury. The defense did their best to argue that Roberts was tortured. Evidence, such an etching in the chair which read "the confession is a lie" were not admitted into court.

The result was a guilty verdict. Roberts was sentenced to death.

Bleeding hearts and those fags from the ACLU have bitched and whined about the case but Stillo knew that for all the right people, this case was a victory. He received invitations to speak at dinners sponsored by the Police Union. He received a plaque from the police at the station where the officer had served. He even won praise by the mayor. It was said that he was being groomed for the State's Attorney's job.

The Hook Case was now his real chance to shine in other areas. As far as he knew the coroner’s report showed some blood in the genital area and signs of potential abuse. Yet the death was ruled "inconclusive." A report by paramedics at the scene read that in able to check the body temperature, the infant was prodded in the vagina by a thermometer. It was standard procedure in fact. The detective, a certain Lieutenant Delores did not trust the report. Especially after seeing Jeremy Hook.

It was not in any report, nor would it be, but it was known that Delores had a secret dislike for blacks, particularly black males who seek the company of Hispanic women. Even Stillo was made aware of these reports. None the less Delores's Detective work dug up some interesting results. The report was that during interrogation, Hook appeared nervous. He later was violently angry and it was necessary to use force. This would explain lacerations and bruises on his face following the interrogation.

Stillo detested dependents who accuse cops of being brutal. To him police brutality is a cop out.

Based on the evidence gathered, Stillo pieced enough evidence to hold Hook. But he needed more. He had to get his wife to testify.

Mildred Hook was a harder case to crack. Delores was said to have a way with women, which would explain several sexual misconduct charges in the past, which were later dismissed. But Mildred would not budge. Even when he threatened with loosing her children.

It was in fact the children who proved to be the missing thread that Stillo needed.

The children were yanked from their mother, thanks to a friendly judge. They were placed in a home for evaluation. The initial psychiatrists could find no signs of abuse. Nor did the physicians who examined them. But evidence was needed so stronger measures had to be taken.

This is when the "Center for Child Abuse Investigation" entered the picture. These were trained experts. Their methods were controversial but Stillo knew them to be good for getting convictions. Within a week both daughters turned over depositions. The case could now roll.

The result was that the indictment was handed down and Jeremy Hook now stood trial for murder.

"Mr. Stillo?" Matt asked Phil who was reading briefs.
"I am Matt Moro. I am the attorney for Jeremy Hook."
Phil Stillo looked him over, wondering what sort of loathsome creature would defend a monster like that child killer.
"What brings you here Mr. Moro?"
"I wanted to know first of all if you had the evidence file for the case?"
"You should have it already. I handed it over to that Poverty Law Center, or whatever you call those people."
"But it was missing certain documents."
"I can assure you, everything used in the trial is there?"
"But there was certain evidence blacked out. Especially transcripts of the interrogation."
"I got that from the detectives. Only relevant information was included."
"The interrogation was 2 days straight. Don't you think there would be more information?"
"Look, Mr. Moro. I do not have anything else to give you."
"You cannot have much of a case than. I can't see how you can build a capital murder case on that flimsy evidence."
"Mr. Moro, I represent the people of the State. I determined based on what I saw that a crime was committed. It is my responsibility to bring this in front of a court so that the justice is done. If you believe something is not right than tell it to the judge. Now I am very busy and have nothing more to say to you."

Moro turned and went to the door.
asshole prick," he whispered to himself


Rene Donovan was 50 years old, but looked much younger. It was a miracle that a woman with a stressful job like hers would manage to stay so healthy. Of all the forensic psychologists in the court system she was said to be the most dedicated.

Her job included countless interviews with criminals and crime victims. These include abused and battered women, children, rape victims, victims of all forms of crime.

Rene was a black woman who grew up poor. She lived in housing projects. He father had left her mother when she was young. They lived in a cockroach infested apartment where electrical shutdowns were a norm. She often woke to the sounds of gunfire.

Her school was said to be the worst in the city. On several occasions she was beaten on the way to school. On others she was chased. In school she avoided the girls room because it was the meeting place for gangs and anyone who goes in had to pay a "tax" to use the facilities. Every bathroom belonged to a different gang in fact.

Rene had one escape when growing up and that was the library. She stayed in the school library after school until it was closed. Other times she went to the city library.

After graduation she won a scholarship to a local college. She wanted to study archeology because it was what she loved, but eventually she chose psychology because it was something she could use to do good.

Later she attended the University of Illinois Medical Center studying Psychiatric Medicine. She graduated second in her class. Though offered teaching positions and research positions nationwide, she chose to work for the local circuit court because she felt it was where she could do the most good.

Rene had finished her workout at the gym downstairs. She was sweating and cooling off with a bottle of mineral water. She sat in her t shirt and sweat pants. Looking at her watch she knew it was time. No time for a shower. Her 10 AM appointment had arrived.

She welcomed Matt with a kind handshake and apologized for her appearance. Its always difficult appear dignified to a suited man when you were dressed in exercise clothes.

"Its about the Hook case right?"
"Yes, I understand you worked with Natasha Hook, the older daughters?"
"Both daughters. Will you excuse me for a second?" She smiled but as she walked to the door her smile faded. She knew where this discussion was headed. She opened the door and looked outside in both directions down the hall.
"Now Mr. Moro, would you mind telling me what your interest is in the case?"
"I am the attorney representing Jeremy Hook."

Rene took a deep breath.

"You know Mr. Moro, I am not allowed to discuss matters related to that case. Especially not to you."
"I do understand, Ms. Donovan, but I do have a question about the case file that I would like to clear up if I may."
"Well, I don't know if I can do that."
"Just one," He handed her the statement related to the case that had been all blacked out.
"What is this?"
"Its your statement. Just what is it that was on this statement that nobody wanted anyone to see?"

Rene sat quietly a moment, the wheels in her head were now turning.
"Well Mr. Moro, whoever blacked that out had a reason to do so. I cannot say what was there but I am sure someone did not want you to see that."
"And why is that?"
"I cannot tell you. I can only guess."
"Ms. Donovan, I understand your position but I really need to know who is sabotaging evidence and why this is. Furthermore I would like to ask you about this 'Center for Child Abuse Research'. Just what is this? What can they do that you can tell me about that organization?"
"You can call the place if you like or visit their website. I myself don't care for those people."
"Why not?"
"Because they are people who engage in brainwashing. But that comment was strictly off the record."
"Tell me about this brainwashing?"
"Do your own study on it. Across the country, hundreds of cases of sex abuse have been reported and they are turning out to be bogus. I would think as an attorney you would know something about it."
"I am new to this kind of law."
"Well my friend, you are in a tough place to be a beginner. Would you mind if we continue this conversation outside?"

Outside the building they went for a walk.

"You see Mr. Moro, I cannot be overheard talking about this. I can only talk to you off the record. I can loose my job if any of this gets out. Now let me continue."

Matt said nothing.

"The reason that case file was blacked out is because I knew that the whole case was bullshit. If Jeremy Hook did kill his daughter he did not do it in front of his kids. Also the prosecutor in the case..."
"Mr Stillo?" interrupted Matt.
"Yea him. He was trying to make this guy into some kind of monster. He wanted me to work on his kids and have them say what a bastard he was. Trouble is that no matter what I said to them they said nothing happened. Then he and that officer, Delores, they both tried to get me to work harder. Said I needed to prod the kids into telling more stuff."
"Did you?"
"At first because I believed what the cops were saying. Then I really got to talking to Delores. He is a real fuckerer. He was calling Hook a 'fucking nigger' right in front of me. Saying that no matter what we do we need to 'fry that fat coon.'
"After talking to Natasha several days I realized that she was just a scared and lonely girl. She had nothing bad to say about her father. Stillo told me once that I should promise her that if she did as we say we will return her to her parents. It was an obvious lie and I would have nothing to do with it."

"Was Stillo mad?"

"Mad? He was fucking pissed. That cracker tried to have me fired. He went to my supervisors and everything. Fortunately everybody knows me here and they told Stillo where to stick it."

"So what should I do, Ms. Donovan?"

"I would start with that 'Center for Child Abuse research.' They are a bad bunch and somebody has to bring them down?"

"What about them?"
"The center is run by some lady. She is not a doctor or anything. I think she has a bachelors in Criminal Justice but no real experience other than writing books and stuff. She got involved in interviewing kids. Really she keeps these kids there overnight for days and forces them to remember details on things that never happened. She makes tapes of them."
"Are the tapes public record?"
"Probably not but if you get the judge to go along with it you can subpoena them?"


Stan Leibowitz, who was arguably the greatest American lawyer of the 20th century had attributed his success in the courtroom to using strategy. According to him, you are giving a performance to the 12 people who are determining the fate of the defendant. In effect, there are three factors at work that any defense attorney needs to be aware of, the Judge, the Prosecutor and the Jury.

To be a great lawyer, one must be an actor and a politician. One must be willing and able to negotiate and one must be willing to fight. One must instill confidence in their client, whether its a defendant in a criminal trial, the state, or a plaintiff in a civil case.

Common Law is possibly the greatest social development of western civilization. This is based on literal hundreds of years of documents and decisions from early England. The law began with the Anglo Saxons. The Saxons were decedents of seafaring barbarians who came to the isle of Britain from what is now Germany and Denmark. They conquered Britain from the celto-roman Britains and established a society based on simple law. The Anglo Saxons were ruled by kings but their society was one of great respect for law. All individuals in the Saxon society were entitled to the same rule of law. Land and property disputes were administered by courts and not by arbitrary decisions of the rulers. Criminal laws were determined by juries. This form of law was often very crude. Punishments could be severe. If a man was found guilty of murder, rape, theft or treason the punishment was death by hanging. Noblemen were executed by beheading. Witches, or suspected witches were burned or drowned. For lesser crimes, such as adultery, whore-mongering, drunkenness, etc. the punishment could include whipping or branding.

The common law of England survived the Norman invasion and over the years became the legal standard for all the English speaking world. It contrasted greatly with the arbitrary laws, based on Roman Law which existed in the European continent. In some categories, England did have courts which did not obey common law. Ecclesiastic courts did use Cannon Law for all forms of disputes, including members of the clergy charged with crimes. It was this fact that Cannon Law superceded common law that partially led to England's acceptance of the Reformation under Henry VII an Henry VIII.

The Law in the United States has been an enduring feature of American life and is a legacy of the nations British Heritage.

On the day before the court case was to begin in earnest, Matt was at home studying the specifics of the case. He knew the prosecutors case and how it will be presented. It was the same old cat and mouse game all over again, with a new twist. This time it was no longer billions of dollars but now it was human life at stake.

He had spoken for a very long time with Norman Weiss. Norman had defended literally hundreds of clients. Some of them infamous killers. It was said that he earned his rep by being the countries top mob lawyer. He had defended members of the Big Tuna Acardo's gang and on occasion gave legal advice to the big fish himself.

Weiss knew strategy and knew it well. He told Weiss of his plan to attack the way the children were coerced into giving statements.
"I don't know Matt. That could be risky. First of all, the jury could see that as an attack on innocent children and turn against you. Furthermore, if you hang your entire case on that, the judge can strike you down and then you will loose."

Another point that he disagreed was Matts decision not to put Jeremy on the stand.

"For God's sake Matt, you have to let Jeremy tell his side of things. Its the only thing that will save him."

Matt disagreed. If the jury sees this huge gorilla, they will certainly send him to the executioner.

Weiss wanted to appeal to the jury and Matt wanted to appeal to logic.

In the end, Weiss explained the pitfalls of using this strategy and explained how to fight this.

"It is the Judge who you will need to convince here. He is the director of this show. If he shoots down any attempt to dispute or present any evidence than ask for a side bar. Be very specific in asking why he decides the way he does."

Matt had always been nervous the night before a major case. It was always a good kind of nervous. But this evening something was wrong. He knew the prosecution had a bullshit case they were presenting. Weiss had told him not to think about the injustice of the case. If you concern yourself with whether the case is just or not you will screw up worse. Matt had in fact made the mistake of hearing Jeremy tell him the whole truth. Defense attorneys should not know the truth. They need to get their client off regardless of the truth. That is what they are paid to do.

It was about 9 or so and he was hungry. The kitchen was bare. Lisa was out late again. He could hardly concentrate any more. He thought of when he was in college, how he went to the movies the night before a big exam. Yea, that was what he needed. Nothing too deep. Something funny.

After a quick burger, he went to the Cinema. Monty Python and the Holy Grail was showing. It was re-released for distribution at certain artsy movie houses.

Somehow the movie did not seem funny. The nagging thoughts kept bothering him. In one scene a woman was being put on trial in a village. One villager charged her with turning him into a newt. He had a carrot tied on to her nose and a silly witches hat.

None of this seemed funny to Matt. It occurred to him that little has changed since the middle ages. Its the same old game as before. Witches are no longer tried and burned, but fear and injustice still are alive.

His thoughts turned to that same afternoon's meeting with Jeremy. He told Jeremy that he had a plan. He told him he would not have to be put on the stand, that he would handle everything. He tried to offer some comforting words.

"After tomorrow everything will be settled. You will get the best defense anyone can give."
"I trust you Mr. Moro." Jeremy replied. His eyes were trusting indeed like a grown child.

Defending such a person was harder to do than defending a total bastard. Matt remembered all the big companies he went to bat for. He hated all of them. They were big mean and evil. He did not care if he won or lost. That all worked for him. He could afford to be reckless because he did not give a dam. Just send the check to me when this is over.

But Jeremy was a man fighting for his life.

As he got home he opened the door and found that Lisa was still out. Then as he slipped into bed he heard the door open and heard her voice giggling. Lisa was drunk again.

Matt didn’t care. He went right to sleep.


John McEnroe considered the tennis court his own theater. He inserted a sense of passion into the game which many mistook with poor sportsmanship. But his love was genuine. He was a child who never grew up. The tennis court was his playground.

So it was for all children whose careers were decided while they were still rocked in their cradles.

Bobby Fisher was a child prodigy. His child like behavior in Reykjavik - while playing grand master Boris Spasky was something he learned as a child.

Children by nature must test their boundaries. When a child learns a gift and knows that if they can do what they are taught they will never be punished, then they carry on this behavior into adult life.

This is why Micheal Jackson created a virtual amusement park in his yard and sought the company of children. Because he never had a real childhood.

Mathew Moro was one such childhood prodigy.

On the morning of what he would later consider the most crucial learning experience of his entire life Matt was thinking of his own childhood. Alone in his bedroom he listened to Kitaro's Gayia. He listened to this music every time before an important case. But this time the music carried a special meaning.

He did not know how this day would end. Just that something important was about to happen. The fear was back. But it was no ordinary fear.

He sat in meditation. His mind carried him back to private school.

Matt was no more than a small child when his teachers recognized his special gift. He could memorize facts and recite him. His first grade teacher predicted that he would do great things in his life.

His own father was famous.....but not famous in a good way.

When Matt approached his dad there were always others. They worshiped him. They kissed his hand. He stood on his fathers knee and others smiled at him. He never knew why. Just that this was who is father was. A man of importance.

In private school he was special. Other kids did not know his father but his teachers did.

Mathew was a small kid. He had dark hair and olive skin. He had bushy eyebrows even as a kid. Other kids picked on him. On one occasion he was thrown into a locker. Then the other kids pissed all over him.

The word got to his dad. His dad was angry.

"You will find those same kids and beat them" was his answer. He taught him to fight. He slapped him and threw punches.

At school Matt did fight back but it was to no avail. He just was too small and too slow.

But in the classroom he shined.

His gift did get him the best grades of the class.

Then he did realize his gift. He could argue and out wit his classmates.

The other kids had their fists but he had his tongue.


Justice Roy Wei had a short but distinguished legal career. He was, at age 35 the youngest circuit court judge in the state. Before being elected to the judgeship he was a prosecutor, a criminal defense lawyer and in Law School he was a star pupil.

Wei was third generation Chinese. His grandfather came to the US and worked as a ditch digger in California and later as a cook. His father was a civil engineer and it was though that Roy would follow and become ether a great doctor or an engineer of some sort.

As a child he grew up in a middle class suburb of Los Angeles. He was the only Asian kid in his white school. He was used to all the taunting. His nickname was Chinaman. He was called that so much that he often forgot his real name.

His father was extremely strict. He did not play in any sports. He never went to parties. He spent his time reading and studying while other kids were out.

But it was in the classroom where he was the star. He graduated as a valedictorian.

He studied pre med and was accepted at Johns Hopkins, Harvard and other top medical schools, but in the end he went against his father's wishes and chose University of Illinois Law School.

As a Judge he had already earned a reputation for incorruptibility. He was known as being tough. He issued the maximum sentences to any conviction. Yet he balanced this toughness with fairness and a relentless adherence to the rule of law. On more than one situations he threw out a case because he found error in the prosecution's case.

Standing in front of the two attorneys present, the defendant, the jury and all witnesses present he gave his speech.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have before this court the case of Jeremy Hook. Mr. Hook is represented by council and is aware of the charges before him. The jury selected has been approved by both attorneys. The case shall be determined by this jury without prejudiced or outside influence. The jury will determine the case according to, and only according to the case presented here."

The prosecution began with what would be proven to be the most devastating testimony. Natasha pointed to her own father and gave testimony that she saw her father rape her infant sister, her younger sister and herself. She then told the court how her father threatened to kill her if she told any of this.

Moro, remembering what Weiss told him on how to play on the juries sympathies chose not to cross examine the child. It would be seen as tormenting a young victim to do otherwise.

Then came Melissa Fuller, founder and director of the Center for Child Abuse Research. She told of how Natasha was so guarded but after that she told her everything. She then produced tapes which where played in court. Stillo rested with a look of satisfaction. It was a look of smugness which made Moro hate him more than ever.

Now was time to play the strategy.

"Ms. Fuller, what is your educational background?" asked Matt.
"I have a bachelors in Criminal Justice from the University of Texas."
"Any post graduate work?"
"I was involved in several workshops in child abuse prevention and investigation."
"What education do you have in the field of Clinical Psychology?"
"I was not trained as a Psychologist."
"Yet you claim to have knowledge in the field of child abuse. Particularly you have knowledge in repressed memory of child victims."
"This falls in the field of Criminal Investigation, doesn't it?"
"Not when the victims are children who do not have memories of their abuse. To commit such an investigation would take a trained psychologist."

"Objection" roared Phil Stillo, "Council is attempting to discredit the witness. The witness has been qualified by Police Departments nationwide as an expert on these matters."

Moro turned, "Your honor, I would ask on what grounds is this witness and expert."

"You may both approach the bench...."

The decision by Wei was to allow defense to continue with the questioning, but to do so with caution.

"Ms. Fuller. I would like to know your specific methods you use to get the children to remember their trauma."
"We use exercises ."
"Such as?"
"Anatomically correct dolls. We ask the victim to show what they were forced to do."
"Are the victims coached at all?"
"How do you mean coached?"
"Do you suggest that the victims were penetrated ether orally or by the genitals of the perpetrator?"
"I will make the suggestion and ask if this was what happened."
"How many times is this asked?"
"Or is it until the child believes this to be true?"
"This is not true?"
"Is it? Maybe we can see those films again. Perhaps we can see the part of the film that has been omitted. The part of the film in which you talked to Natasha Hook and help her with her repressed memory."
"There is no film like that?"
"And why not?"
"We at the Center do not feel it is appropriate to film this process. It does not pertain to the case anyway."
"I beg to differ. I think its vital."

Then he glanced at the jury and added, "Maybe, Ms. Fuller, it will show that you are really forcing the children to tell something that isn't true."

Stillo could not hold back, "Objection your honor, this is badgering."

Wei answered, "Sustained. The Council for the Defense will kindly stop this line of questioning."

"Yes your honor. I would like to ask the witness something else if I may."
"Just watch you step Mr. Moro. You are treading on thin ice here."

Moro turned again to witness...
"Ms. Fuller are you aware that your work has been discussed in the Journal of the American Psychiatric Association?"
"I do not doubt it. I have been mentioned in the American Pediatric Association and other publications as well."
"Well, an article which I will quote in full says that your work is "Scientifically unsound. It is also potentially harmful to children."

He went on to quote the article and went on quoting a number of other articles.

Stillo, in turn quoted the American Pediatric Association's article praising the centers work.

Moro, none the less felt he had the upper hand now.

Other witnesses came. The coroner who examined the infant's body and ruled it a homicide, yet admitted under cross examination that it may have been an accident.

This went on for two days. Then on the third day Moro presented his case.

There was the paramedic who stated that he inserted the thermometer in the victims genitalia as a matter of course. This caused the vaginal bleeding.

There were character witnesses. There was Hook's wife, who could not stop crying on the stand.

But there was not Hook. Moro stood his ground. He would not testify.

Then the case went to the jury.

Pro Bono Part 9

After a long period of deliberation, the jury came to a verdict: Guilty on all charges. The sentence was handed down. Life in prison without parole.

Jeremy was led from the courtroom in handcuffs. He was emotionless.

Mildred broke out in wailing and crying. He needed help from her brother and mother to leave the the room.

Mathew left with his head heavier than ever before.

At home it was quiet. Lisa was out again. Mathew had nothing but his own thoughts to keep him company.

The phone rang. It was Wesley Connor.

"Sorry to hear about that loss there. We all lose some now and then."
"Thank you Wes. What is happening in the firm now?"
"Big cases waiting for you. But you got those two weeks. Take the misses and have yourself a good time."
"I don't know about that Wes, I have to work on the appeal."
Wesley laughed on the other end...
"Come on now. Your work is done. Let those hunger artists at the poverty center do the dirty work. We got some real work for you."

After hanging up, Lisa came home. She looked tired. "So is your Pro Bono project done?"
"In part, but I have the next phase ahead?"
"What the hell does that mean Matt?"
"It means my client is fucked unless I can get his appeal going."
"Jesus Matt, you promised two weeks in Vegas. At least a week."
"I have a client whose life is dependent on this."
"Fuck him....and fuck you! Why are you killing yourself over a dirty molesting child killing bastard like that?"
"Because I think he did not get a fair trial. Because he is innocent and he was convicted because I screwed up. I am responsible so I have to fix it."
"I am going to bed. If you don't change your mind by the time I get up then you can expect to hear from my lawyer very soon."

The next week saw more meetings with Mildrid. He had his plan and he intended on following through. He needed to find more evidence on a deliberate deception by the Child Abuse Resource Center. He needed testimony by experts. He also had to undo his mistake by putting Jeremy on the stand.

Eileen Branscomb was pissed about that detail.

"What the hell were you thinking. The only time a lawyer will not let their client testify is when he is guilty and the lawyer knows it. You sent the message to the entire court that you doubted him!"

One afternoon, almost two weeks after the trial he got a call from Roy Wei asking to join him for lunch.

The Peacock Room was an elegant venue for any business lunch. It was so upscale that even attorneys from the firm seldom went there.

The Maitre 'D showed Matt the table. Wei was already seated.

"You know Mr. Moro, I seldom meet with attorneys after a case but I fealt I owe you one for the way I treated your client."
"Then why don't you invite him to lunch instead."
"I am trying to do you a favor. Say, try the porterhouse club, its really good here."
"I am not that hungry. A salad will do."
Roy ordered for both of them.
"A cocktail, Matt?"
"I never drink before working."
Wei turned to the waiter, "Coffee for my friend."
"So what is this favor you are trying to do me?"
"Some advice if I may. I understand you are working on an appeal."
"Your client is innocent... you believe that?"
"It looks more and more that way."
"Then give it up and let somebody with less passion handle the case. You are too involved. You can't win when you care that much. Believe me, it never works that way. You owe it to your client."
"But I must. He has not hope without me."
"You didn't do too well in the courtroom."
"I made mistakes. Now I know."
"If you insist, let me tell you what you have to do. You first of all need to put Jeremy on the stand. Second, don't let the prosecution get away with putting that quack on the stand."
"Ms. Fuller?"
"Yes her."
"But you would not let me shoot her down."
"Of course not. I had no choice. You had no evidence to shoot her down. You need to get witnesses."
"Where do I find them?"
"You are a smart guy. Find them yourself. This woman has made hundreds of enemies. Its up to you to find them."

After lunch, Matt's cell phone rang. It was Mildrid's mother. Mildrid gave birth to a baby boy. Immediately after the birth, the DCFS came in and took the baby into custody. Matt hopped into his car and drove like mad to the hospital.

Pro Bono Part 10

The hospital had a deceptively cheery atmosphere. In the room where Mildred Hook was staying a baby cradle stood. There was an enormous teddy bear. There was also a a plush Winnie the Pooh and a vase full of flowers.

"Its not enough that they have to punish Jeremy but they have to destroy my life as well and that of my children." Mildrid's voice was worn. Her eyes were red. She had cried herself out and all signs of emotion had left her.
"Tell me what happened."
"I held my baby in my arms. I was to name him Jeremy, after his father."
"These men came in. There were two of them. They told me that I had to give them the baby."
"Did they have a court order. Did they show you any papers?"
She handed them a copy of a notice signed by a judge stating that the State was to have custody of the baby. The name given to the baby was "Baby X." The document stated that this was by order of the Department of Child and Family Services and gave the name of Caseworker Floyd Shawnessy.

Shawnessy was a thin, severe looking man who wore glasses and never smiled. He had grey hair and wore a polo shirt.
"Please tell me your business he stated directly as Matt entered the room."
"I am the attorney representing Mildrid Hook. She had her baby taken into custody after giving birth."
"I am aware of the case. Ms. Hook is a suspected child abuser who has given purgerous statements to protect her husband who is a convicted child killer. She was deemed to be a danger to her child."
Matt had to struggle against a sudden urge to slap Shawnessy in the face.
"The fact that her husband was convicted of a crime does not make her an unfit mother, Mr. Shawnessy," he replied, trying to hide his anger benieth a calm voice.
"The DCFS had made the determination."
"Mrs. Hook was never charged with a crime so by what legal right does the state have in taking her child?"
"For the same legal right that her two other children were taken. Because her home has been deemed an inappropriate place for children. If she allowed her husband to abuse her children and refused to cooperate with our investigation then she is considered to be unfit to be a mother."

By this time Matt's patience were at his end, he said briskly, "Well Mr Shawnessy, who was the individual who made this decission? Was it you?"
"I am not at liberty to discuss this case any further."
"Well if that is your attitude that it shall be your name on the lawsuite that I am about to file. Have a good day Mr. Shawnessy."

He went home and saw the house was in dissaray. Then he realized that he had not seen Lisa in over a week. Looking through the house he also noticed that a number of items were missing: the microwave, a sterio, a number of CDs and the television.

Officially his vacation had ended and he was due at work the next day.

When he came in he spotted Conners and Conners spotted him. Conners was on the phone, but quickly said into the receiver, "I gotta run."
"Hey hey, our golden boy is back from vacation. How was the trip?"
"I didn't go anywhere. I was working on the appeal for the Hook case."
"You can forget that Pro Bono shit. From now on you are going to get the cream and not just the coffee. My man, I got a case with your name all over it. It involved a hit and run. And you will never guess who the defendent is. Its none other than the mayor's kid. We are going to hit t he jackpot on this one!"
"Its tempting Connors but we are entering a critical phase on the Hook case. I have to strike while the iron is hot."
Connors looked at Matt as if he were looking at somebody who told him that he came from outer space.
"Matt, I don't know what that case did to you but it really screwed you up."
"No Conners, you got it wrong. I really feel like I am doing something here. We have us an innocent guy who has been railroaded. I can't just drop this one."
"Mr. Moro, in case you don't know, this law firm is in business to make money. Weise and his charity work is nice and all but it does not pay our bills. Or haven't you remembered."
"Wes, I have no choice, I have to follow this one to the end. I hope you will excuse me."

Matt gathered up his files from the desk and left. He could work better from home.

The next day Norman Weise paid him a visit.

"Well well, our little hot shot has a soul after all. Seems like you found a cause you can really believe in." He said walking in as Matt opened the door.

"What would you do? I can't give up on this one."
"You know what Mr. Moro, I really hired you because of your father. Did you know that?"
"You knew my father?"
"Yes, he was a client of mine. I saved him from going to prison on more than one occasion."
"Between you and I, I think he deserved to go to prison. I never liked the way he earned his living. It was never anything I wanted to be involved with."
"I am aware of it. You see, your father came to me one day and told me that you wanted nothing to do with his business and he pleaded with me to give you a job."
"Did you like my father?"
"Like? Not really. He was kind and paid well but I never liked defending people like that. But I did believe in the principal that all people accused of a crime are entitled to legal representation so I took the case. Anyway its total garbage how they use tax laws to try to convict people they don't like. If you want to charge a man like your father with something than charge him with something really horrible."
"Mr. Weise, tell me, what really brought you here."
"Its the firm Matty. They want you back. They want you to drop the Hook case and help with the other cases."
"Is that what you want?"
"No Matt, what I want is for you to decide where you want to go with your career and make the decision which best suits you. What really makes you happy?"
"What is to happen if I stick with the Hook case?"
"We will have no choice to dismiss you. I have disagreed with handing you this ultimatim but I am only one partner and the majority rules."
"Its a hell of a choice."
"I am sure you will do the right thing."

Norman left.

Pro Bono Part 11

Angelo Moro was celibrating his 60th birthday. His son, Angelo Jr. had made all the arrangements. All of his friends and business associates were gathered. His second wife, Elizabeth was busy in the kitchen.

For a man of his wealth and prestigue, he lived in simple surroundings. Not really poor, but hardly what one would expect from a man of his position. He lived in the northwest suburbs by the airport. His house was inconspicous in a middle class community. Most of his neighbors were Italian American business and professional people. It was a community where people worked hard and paid their taxes. Mostly they voted Republican. They were people who were a generation away from the "old neighborhood."

Moro went to great lengths to make his name respected. He gave generously to local hospitals and to the church. He sponsered a children's baseball team. He tried to contribute to the Republican Party (the only party that ever got elected to anything in this middle class community), but the money was always returned out of fear that the candidate who accepts that would be tainted as corrupt.

Moro has always seen himself as a successful businessman. In fact he owns several strip malls, a tire shop franchise and a real estate business, but his real business has always been what some call the "protection and collection business."

Moro had always surrounded himself with his "business associates" at all times. He always drove in a Cadillac. He, in fact, owned several.

His home was a split level, modern looking, half brick and half timber structure. The garden was immaculately manacured. His wife maintained a flower garden and several roman style statues in the yard. She also hired Mexican gardeners to do the rest of the work.

It was a summer day. It was very hot outside so the party was inside where the air conditioning was working extra hard.

Matty arrived. He dressed well but not in his usual business attire. Just a Dress shirt with an open collar and slacks.

"Matty my boy," yelled Angelo as soon as he caught site of his youngest son. Please come here and talk. We have a lot to talk about."

Angelo Jr., who was called "Sonny" also saw Matt but gave little more than a scowel. Sonny had been dissapointed at Matts choice of careers, his reluctance to associate with the family and most recently, his work defending a black man accused of rape and murder.

"Matty, come give your papa a hug, stated Angelo. They embraced and Angelo kissed his son, the way a father would kiss his newborn baby."

"You are so beautiful Matty. Just look at you. If only your mama could live to see you."

Turning to Elizabeth he yelled out, "Lizzy, take a look at him. Isnt he a sweetheart."

Lizzy smiled, "Takes after his own daddy."

Sonny was even more pissed than before. It was rumored that he was trying to make a play for Elizabeth who was half his daddy's age. The trouble was that Lizzy hated him.

"My son, you have class and style. You got that beautiful blonde wife and work for that Jew downtown. You are some big shot eh? So why don't you come out here and see the family more often?"

"Thats just it dad....I have something important to tell you. But alone if we can."

"OK, but later, this is a party. Lizzy, get my baby a drink. Anything he wants."

Later that evening behind the closed doors of Angelo's office, Matty told everything: about quitting the firm, about his wife and about the case.

"Matt, I know that you took this case some time ago. I didn't care because its what lawyers do. But why do you want to throw away your life on some worthless jiggaboo who rapes and kills his own kid?"
"Because the guy is innocent."
"But he's a spook. You don't want to be getting guys like that off. Next thing you know they will be thinking they can get away with anything."
"Dad, this is about helping an innocent man facing a life sentence. I have to do it because its the right thing."
"Look Matty, you were the smart kid in the family. When the other kids beat you up you came to your mama and she came to me. Yet you had something none of the other kids had and that was brains. You are not a bumm like Sonny. I knew you could be a lawyer so I sent you to law school. You wanted nothing to do with the business. I could see in you that you were too good for the dirt and the grime. So I got you a job at that Jew law firm with that Weise character. It was me who got you that job. You made lots of money and forgot where you came from. I don't care because I love you. But if you want my blessing to throw it away than the answer is no."
"But dad, I got to a point where I found that being a lawyer is not all about making money. Its about doing what is right and believing in something."
"You sound like some kind of bohemian with this do whats right shit. You can have principals but where will that get you? Can you pay your mortgage with principals?"

After an hour of grilling Matt left. Not really happier than when he came, then he saw Sonny.

"So little brother. Besides getting fired and defending black rapists, what else is new with you?"
"So Sonny, have you killed anybody lately?"
"Fuck off Matty, go back to your part of town and leave us alone. You don't belong here anymore."
"I came to see my father. I have that right don't I?"

Elizabeth came in and seeing these unpleasantries said to both of them, but mostly looking at Sonny, "What is going on here? Its your fathers' Birthday. Can't we have one day of peace?"

Then she turned to Matt, "Matt, do you remember your cousin Frankie?"

Frankie was 19 years old. He was a thinly built and had bad teeth. He was fond of dressing in dress suits with silk shirts. Today he wore a silk shirt of bright orange color. He had two buttons open to display a gold chain. He smiled at Matt.

"Yes Lizzy, its been a while but I do rember Frankie."

"I was just a kid when I last saw you dude."

"Been a long time. I have to go now. Its getting late."

"Why don't you come with us. Me and the gang are headed to the neighborhood. Going to check out some of the old haunts."

It was a temptation too good to resist. Matt had not been to the neighboorhood in ages.

They hit the dance bars, the pool halls and the sandwhich shops. The beer went down easily for the crew but Matt held his liquor as he was the oldest in the group, it was up to him to watch the group. After all, it would not look good for the hottest lawyer to be busted for some stupid act of drunkeness.

The night ended in Rosies, a 24 hour Italian eatery. Frankie eating a sub and Matt was sipping coffee.

"What are your plans in life Frankie?"
"Don't really know. Sonny says I can be a liutenant like he is. Maybe I can go all the way."
"You want to join the business then."
"Yea, its good work. Right now I work as a collector for the unions. I go down to the halls and collect money from the bosses there. It feels so good to get that kind of respect. I got people who are twice my age who shit in their pants when they see me."
"But have you ever thought that what you are doing is wrong?"
"All the guys tell me that its money that makes it right. How about you? I have heard that you are helping companies cheat people and you are doing it in the courts and its all legal."
"Well Frankie, what you say is true. And lately I have learned to hate that kind of work. That is why I quit and am now helping poor people."
"Thats what I do too Matt. I help the Unions because they help get working people the money they have comming to them."
"But you cheat the working people?"
"No Matt, I don't cheat anybody. I do these people a service and they pay me a fee is all. If people do things the right way than nobody gets hurt."

The dim lighting of Rosies was intoxicating. The napkins were neatly folded. The white tablecloaths were so clean that they seemed sterile. The aroma of garlic was so thick one could taste it.

It occurred during his conversation that Matt learned the secret that has eluded him.

The most evil people in the world will always find a way to justify thier own deeds. This applies to gangsters as it does to lawyers.

Pro Bono Part 12

Matt Moro was now at the Poverty Law Center. Eileen Branscomb let him do his work there. It was a sparcely furnished place. His office was a threadbare place with one desk and a couple of plastic office chairs, similar to the one used in classrooms. There was a chalkboard and a file cabnet. The only air conditioning was a window mounted unit which did not work too well. The floors were dirty as the staff took turns washing the floor once a week. His office was seperated from the main room by a wall with a plexiglass window. There was always a heavy smell from the Gyros resturant nearby. Occasionally a cocaroach was spotted. The staff made a sport of killing roaches. As soon as one was killed they would mark a digit on the chalkboard.

Working with him was an assistant name Haley Jones. Haley was not a lawyer but a journalism student who volunteered his time with the center. He was, as it turned out, a master publicist. He had connections to dozens of underground papers and radio stations. He issued dozens of press releases. Within a very short time he elevated the status of Jeremy Hook into a celebrity among the independent media.

Haley always dressed like he had just left the campus quad. He came to work on his only method of transportation: his skateboard. He wore a backpack. He was clad in cutoff shorts, a Phish T shirt, though he often also wore his Che Guevara shirt, and high top basketball shoes. His hair was in a pony tail and he wore wirey glasses. He had a soul patch and an unshaven face.

In spite of his bohemian appearance, he had remarkable organization skills. He also had a very mature sounding phone voice and a natural ability to win friends and influence people. Matt loved him instantly.

The days went by. Matt sold his condo and split the money with Lisa who by now was shacked up with her Polish Interrior Designer. He lived in a cheap appartment in the suburbs. His family had disowned him. He lost all of his friends. He also lost weight and lived off of 5 hours of sleep a day.

He did keep in contact with Mildrid, who by now had lost all hope. She had filed for a divorce, hoping that it would increase her chances of getting her kids back. She was about to remary as well. Eileen suggested that it would be better for her to focus on getting her kids back after the appeal.

Matt was busy planning the appeal. He took the advice of everyone and decided at chipping away at the credibility of Melissa Fuller. He found more information than he bargined for in fact. But getting qualified people to testify was another problem. Those who were most critical tended to be journalists or lawyers. The doctors and shrinks who gave their opinion refused to be called, mainly out of fear. Then came the one breakthrough.

Rene Donovan called in the evening and left a voice mail on the Center's voice mail. Matt called back and they spoke.

"I have someone you need to meet."
"Who is it?"
"I cannot tell you. I promised her to keep her identity unknown until you meet her. I think she can help you a lot with your case."
"When can we meet."
"Friday. We will meet downtown at Maxwell's Bagels."

A simple looking place. A bagel shop downtown near the Federal courthouse. Every lawyer knew the place.

Matt entered the place and saw Rene, this time very well dressed. With her was an attractive woman of about 30 years. She was tall and blonde. She wore conservative looking business attire but it all added to her loveliness.

"Matt, this is the young lady I spoke of. She has something to say."
"Hello Matt. I have been following the Hook case. I have something to say to you."
"What is it?"
"You must first promise me that you will not supenea me unless I agree."
"As a lawyer of a man fighting for his life, and a woman fighting for custody of her children I cannot make that promise. Please understand."
Rene cut in.
"Matt what she has to say is very important."
"But Rene, I need someone willing to talk. I need witnesses."
Then turning to the young lady, "At least let me know, who does this involve. Is it about Melissa Fuller?"
The lady nodded.
"Tell me what you know. I promise not to use you in court. But at the very least please let me know where I can get evidence."
"If you want evidence then you may look at this."
She produced a manilla envelope full of documents and memos. He looked through them and caught one handwritten document signed by Phil Stillo:


I am counting on you to destroy this note. It is vital that you get the Hook children to confess. The detective on the case, a certain Liutenant Delores really screwed the case up. He could not get a confession out of Hook or his wife. That bitch who calls herself a victim's advocate wont do anything. Use any means necessary. You give me what I need and I promise that you will get paid extra, and do expect a good deal more business from us.

Phil Stillo.

Jesus Christ.... You can't get more incriminating than that. Rene, you struck the jackpot. Who is this angle from heaven you brought me? I want to kiss the both of you.

"This is some heavy shit. But we need somebody to come forward."
Rene added, "There are names. Plenty of them. If you contact them all then one of them will talk. Especially if you know that you have the goods. I know how this works. Everybody will be scrambling to save their ass."

"Ladies, lunch is on me..."

He never did find her name. But then he was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

How does one get a potential informant to rat out his buddies? As a defense attorney it is not a skill Matt knew. This was the task of prosecutors or detectives. But Matt read enough detective stories to know how to start.

The documents were signed by name after name. Each call resulted in a click. Nobody wanted to come forward. People were too afraid. Then he called none other than Melissa Fuller's secretary.

"I will testify for you. I can tell you everything."

"Your voice is familiar. Do I know you?"
"Yes. We met for lunch."

Her name was Debbie Zwibek. It seems that her consience had weighed very heavy and she could no longer go through with the lie. She was ready to talk.

Matt was ready to cry victory. He had the evidence he needed to not only free Hook but to crusify Fuller, Stillo, Delores and the whole rotton crew. He went home to celibrate with what he needed most, a good nights sleep. As he went home he received a call on the cell phone. It was Eileen Branscomb.

"Matt, I want you to pull to the side of the road and be ready. I have some terrible news."
"What can be wrong? I got the goods Eileen. We can free Jeremy."
"No we cannot Matt. Jeremy is dead."
"He's dead Matt. He was shanked in prison!"
"Who did it?"
"I don't know. Who the hell cares. Dammit Matt, he's dead!"

Pro Bono Part 13

Matt had up all night. He could not sleep at all. It was early in the morning and the sound of birds was too loud. He wore his bathrobe and was watching a cheap, 2nd hand tv that came with the appartment. Lisa had taken his giant plasma TV.

The phone rang several times but he ignored it. Finally the answering machine picked up,
"Matt pick up the phone for God's sake. This is Eileen. I know you are home."

Matt finally picked up the phone.
"What the hell do you want?"
"Matt, I don't know what you are doing but we still have work to do."
"For the love of God Eileen, he is dead. The case is over."
"What about Mildrid? What about the children. This case needs to continue?"
"You got to be joking. We try a dead man in a court of law?"
"Of course not. But we still have to get her kids back don't we? Maybe you can stop pitying yourself for a minute or two and just listen."

Fighting the system at this phase was an exercise in futality. Matt had never fought a custody case before and found that the DCFS was a worse buracracy than the courts were. For weeks the nightmare continued. In the end it was determined that the only way that Mildrid could be proven to be a competant mother is by proving that Jeremy was innocent.

So the appeal was filed.

Pro Bono Part 14

Ondrej Jindrle and Zdenek Ruklos were known by guards at the prison as the tag team. Both were enforcers for the local mob. Both were known as vicious thugs. Because they were professionals they were high in the ranks of the inmate hiarchy. Because they were killers they were feared by everyone.

Both were from what is now the Czech Republic. Both men knew eachother since childhood.

Zdenek was tall and blonde. He was lean and muscular. In his native land it was said he was the number one seated middleweight boxer. He could have had a decent career were it not for his love of drink.

Ondrej, by contrast was shorter. He had dark hair in a sort of afro.

As young men, both Ondrej and Zdenek were involved in the "Hard Money" curency trade, ripping off foreign tourists and selling the money in the black markett. Later they traded in drugs, hookers and protection money. But it was the west and the lure of easy money which took them to the promised land.

After moving in with an unsuspecting american couple, they began working in a series of low paying jobs. Finding that life in the Land of the Free was not all it was cracked up to be they decided to take a short cut to wealth. They then scored paydirt working as an enforcer for a Russian loanshark.

Their method was very effective. Ondrej was the smart one. He did the talking while Zdenek let his fist do the talking.

After a while their methods were too nasty even for the Russian mob. Zdenek had a habit of breaking body limbs. On one ocasion, he broke the neck of one customer. Their boss was furious, after all how can a person pay you back when thir neck is broken?

So the two started a racket of their own. They loaned money and collected at ridiculous rates. They also recruited young women to work as prostitutes. They ran corrupt card games and actually ran an illicit cassino.

In the end it was not any of these illicit enterprises which landed them in jail but a rather stupid crime involving the married couple they were staying with. It seemed the Zdenek had taken quite a liking to the lady of the house. It mattered little to him that she was married or that she was a mother.

It was on a drunken evening when they were having drinks with their guests. The lady of the house was at home and the man was out at work. It was a supper party with laughter and much drink. Then he snuck a kiss at her. He had money and power. He was at the top of the world. How could any woman resist him?

To his own surprise she did not resist but kissed him all over. In an instant they were having sex on the floor.

He began having sex with her. Then when he was done it was Ondrej's turn. Just as he was finishing with the man of the house, a certain Albert Wallace entered. Albert was naturally very angry when he saw his wife spread out naked on the floor and his two houseguests on top of her. He ordered them to leave but they only laughed. Seeing that Zdenek was a potentially dangerous person with his immence muscles, Albert went to the phone and called the police. Before he could make the call, Zdenek threw him to the ground and began kicking him.

"Say to police and I kill you", Zdenek shouted in broken english.
"Fuck you pig. I will tell everything."
Ondrej then shouted in Czech for Zdenek to go ahead and kill the bastard. Then he went back to finishing on his wife.

Zdenek finished on Mr. Wallace by smashing his head into the floor.

But then one problem remained. Albert's wife, Celine, was no longer enjoying this three way orgy. He was now screeming in shock.

They tried to plead with her, telling her that she was just as much a part of this. But she was histerical...
"You killed him. You fucking bastards...." she screamed, slapping Ondrej.

Zdenek knew what to do to resolve the situation. He put his arm under her chin and in a single motion seperated her head from her neck.

"What the hell do we do now?" Ondrej asked, suddenly aware of what kind of shit they were in.
"Fuck if I know. Youre the smart one."
"Fuck you, you son of a bitch. I was about to make the woman say that we rescued her from her husband. Now you Fucked it all up..."

They took whatever cash they could find in the house and all of the jewelry. They got in the car and drove off. They had a pretty good haul. They had $15,000 cash and a few credit cards. Now they could get to the air port and fly back and live it up back home.

They did not realize that when they paid for their plain tickett in cash that the tickett agent would see the wad of bills they had.

No flight home. No big party with booze and whores to awaid these two.

They were charged with first degree murder. A rape charge was dropped because it could not be proven the sex was not consentual, especially after it was found that Celine Wallace was legally intoxicated.

Now they were in prison and they faced yet another murder charge: for the death of Jeremy Hook.

It was believed to be a "juice" killing. What inmates use to get status among fellow inmates. Being foreign these two had few friends so they decided that they needed all the prestigue they could get.

Of course they got a little help from the night guards who left Hook's cell door open and kept a blind eye.

Corrections Officers Ernie Flores and Mike Delany were both pissed as hell. The plan was to get the killing to look like suicide. They went over the plan with Jindrle and Ruklos repeatedly. You take the son-of-a-bitch's shirt and rip a long sheet and tie it into knots. Then you tie one end on the overhead bars and another around his neck and he drops down and voila!

It turned out that Hook was a lot stronger and tougher then they thought. In fact he fought like a kamakaze. He damm near knowcked out Ondrej with one punch and Zdenek ended up having to stab him several times before he went down. Rather than hanging him they decided that since there was enough blood around the place, that they would cut his throat.

Now they were facing a suspension or even worse. "Damm those fucking foreigners," said Delany to Flores. You can never trust them to do anything right.
Flores replied, "Why the hell doesn't the union help us. We were doing the downtown cops a favor? They did ask us to arrange the hit on that Hook fucker?"
"They told me yesterday, I spoke with that Delores guy. He said that we can keep our jobs. Just a minor suspension until things die down as long as we keep our mouths shut."
"What about that damm lawyer who keeps nosing around?"
"I hear he is a nobody. Better to let him fall on his face."

"So what will happen to those two?" asked Matt to the warden, a Mr. Jackson.
"The two killers? They will get two more life sentences. What second life sentence to someone already serving one sentence? I suppose they will put them in supermax for a while."
"And the guards?"
"What guards?"
"You had two guards on duty in that wing. What happens to them?"
"We are looking into to filing diciplinary actions."
"What does that mean?"
"They may be suspended, perhaps even fired."
"What about criminal charges?"
"That is up to the DA and we seldom see charges brought against prison officials. Not when it comes to the deaths of inmates."
"And you think this is just?" Matt was not hiding his anger.
"Mr. Moro, I never said this is fair. If you want to bitch at someone bitch at the District Attorney's office. Better yet, file a criminal complaint. I doubt it would get you anywhere but go ahead and do it."

Charges were filed. A whole shitload of them. But in the end it was decided to wait until after the appeal and the retrial of Jeremy Hook for any new motions to be filed.

Moro was now ready. He also had his ace in the hole. He had Debbie Zwibek who was ready to put a nail in the coffin of the prosecution!

Pro Bono Part 15

"Please state your first and last name." Matts voice was solemn as he could make it. And this time he was sencere.
"Debrah Zwibek."
Debbie was nervous and it was very visable. Matt told her ahead of time that this was good. It would convey to the jury that she was a vunerable woman facing a terrifying evil.
"Ms Zwibek, can you please tell me your profession?"
"I am an office assistant. Currently I am employed by Express Business Temps."
"During the Month of April, where were you employed?"
"At the Child Abuse Research Center."
"And what was your position there?"
"Clerical Assistant to Melissa Fuller."
"Can you tell me what your duties were?"
"I was to type and noterize all documents. I was to take dictation and shorthand. I was to send faxes. I was to file all documents."
"All the things that a secretary would do."
"No, all the things an office assistant would do." She corrected him with a smile. There was a slight laughter in the courtroom. This was a good sign. She wore a very smart looking business ensamble which included a skirt just short enought to show her knees. It was a deliberate and shameless attempt to use sex appeal to win the case. It seemed to be working. Even the prosecution team took notice as she took the stand.

"Tell me about the Hook case. What did you know about it?"
"I knew that Ms. Fuller spent a lot more time on the case than any other case. She would have the kids in her office day and night."
"Have you observed any of those sessions?"
"What went on?"
"She would ask Natasha what happened to her. Natasha would not tell her anything. Melissa would get angry and tell her she was lying. Natasha would begin crying."
"Was Melissa ever physically abusive to the children?"
"Sometimes she would shake them. On one instance she slapped Natasha."
"How long would the sessions go on?"
"10 to 14 hours."
"Did Melissa make tapes of the sessions?"
"What happened to the tapes?"
"She made me destroy them?"
"Did she give you a reason?"
"Did she ever threaten you?"
"What did she say to threaten you?"
"She said if I told a soul that I would never work again and that she would have me arrested and put in jail."

The cross examination followed. The prosecutor in this case was a woman. It was decided that Stillo had gone too far with the previous case and was about to screw this one up. The Prosecutor was a certain Janice Hodges. She was a former airline stewardess (from the era when they were not called "flight attendents") who later became the most trusted prosecutor in the state. She had an air of kindness about her. She was charming and suddective.

The State's Attorney's office must really be desperate to win if they put Hodges on the case, thought Matt. He actually knew her from several cases before. She represented the state on several cases when high profile corporate clients were being sued by the state. It was probibly for this reason she was chosen to lead the State's case. This was personal for her. In fact it was war.

Matt remembered back when he represented Wallace Securities which declaired bankrupsy after the board of directors voted the officers of the company a hardy pay raise. The CEO was commanded a 2 mil a year salary. Then they filed Chapter 13. The stockholders were left high and dry. Matt used his usual tounge to caress the jury. He left the prosecution in the dirt.

Hodges spoke calmly to Ms. Zwibek the way a mother would speak to a child she knew was lying.
"Ms. Zwibek could you please tell us why it was that you no longer work at the Child Abuse Research Center?"
"I was laid off because things were slow."
"Really? Ms. Fuller says in an affidavit that you were terminated for stealing documents. Now isn't that the truth?"
"I did not steal them. I made photocopies. They were evidence. I saw something wrong and decided to make it right."
"You know Ms. Zwibek, sometimes we may think something is wrong but it does not give us the right to do it. In your case you were trusted with your employer's documents and you betrayed her trust."
"I don't see it as betrayal maam."

The cross examining continued. Zwibek was forced to admit that she once had a cocain addiction and that she dated a man who was convicted of dealing in drugs. All of Matts objections were overuled.

During the following recess Matt met his old nemisis.

"Good afternoon Janice. Would you mind savaging my witnesses a little more?"
Janice looked at him coldly.
"You just don't get it do you?"
"Get what? I am trying to defend a guy who may be innocent. He is dead now but I have to win this case otherwise his wife will never see her kids. Or is that something that is irrelevent to you."
"You are such a good samaritian arnt ya? Yes, you must have been born again. A regular Billy Graham? Or more like an Elmer Gantry. Well guess what Matt. You never did get a chance to talk to all those widows and old men who lost their life savings thanks to those snakes you defended. Or what about the time you defended the oil company that polluted the water and caused all those people to get cancer. Should I continue?"
"Why are bringing up the past? This is now."
"Wrong, this is the law Mr. Moro. Its the same old game. We don't fight fair. We never have. Its whose got the best lawyer. Its who has the sexiest witness who can hike up her skirt and bare their leggs so the jurers can get hard ons. Isn't that what its all about Matt. Isn't it all strategy?"
"Well Janice, maybe you don't know it but I invested my entire life in this case. I gave it all up. The firm, my marriage, my reputation, everything?"
Janice reached in her pocket...."Here it is Matt. A quarter. Use it and call somebody who cares cause I am all out of sympathy. I lost it all when I first met you in law school. Or don't you remember those days. So you say that hot little blonde dumped you. Well it serves you right. Now you know how it feels don't you."

A shock appeared on Matt's face. It all came back. Law School. Meeting Janice when she was Janice Wells and not Janice Hodges. The long afternoons studying together. The evenings at the pub laughing about moot court. The long nights in the dorm room lying together.

"You are not still bitter about that are you?"
"Its OK Matt. I did promise I would keep it all a secret didn't I? Incidently, that young witness is really sweet. Are you sleeping with her now?"
"Why would I tell you if I did?"

The bailiff called out. The trial had commenced again.

More witnesses appeared. This time the testimony from the paramedic was allowed in court in full detail. More admissions of falsified documents.

In the end the Jury conviened. It was a long deliberation. Several days in fact. When it was all over the virdict was read.

"The Jury finds the defendent Jeremy Hook not guilty on all charges."

Pro Bono Part 16

It was a victory, albeit an empty one.

Matt was sitting inside of the House of Paine, a popular coffee house recommended by Haley Jones. In earlier days he used to celebrate with coctails. This night it was steamed latte and intense conversation.

Sitting at his table were several minor staff members of the Poverty Law Center, though Eileen did not show up. Debbie Zwibek was invited also but declined the invitation out of fear. Mildrid also declined the invitation, but surpisingly Rene showed up.

Matt was riding a definite caffine high at that time. Haley spoke to him in a voice barely above a whisper.

"You know Matt, this thing we call the law is really all bullshit. It never gives us real justice."
"But what else do we have but the law? Anarchy?" Answered Matt.
"Anarchy? No. But Anarchism? Perhaps not a bad idea."
"And what sort of law is that? Do we allow the criminals out of the prisons to rob cheat and plunder."
"I don't mean that ether. But we need to have real courts. We need to get rid of the rich man's justice,"
"So why not keep what we have and make it better?"
"Because you have fucking assholes like Phil Stillo who want to exploit the system and build careers on the bodies of innocent people. Because the Melissa Fullers of the world are on one big crusade to invent crimes when they are not happening. Do you think its any accident that no nation in the world spends more money on its court system than the United States? Are you aware that more people are in Prison in the US than in any nation of the world except for China?"
Rene cut in, "Come on now. Don't you really think that the prisons are there for a reason. There are some really bad people in this world."
"Maybe, but what do we do to the bad people in this country? Do we really try to make them better. Do we teach people the errors of their ways? And what methods do we use? We cram them into tiny cells and shut the door. We give them condoms and a half hour tv but do we really do anything to make them better human beings?"
Matt cut in, "What do you propose? Hard labor, electro shock maybe?"
"Thats the old way of doing things. But did it ever work? Can anyone look at other countries and see how things are different? Why is it that the United States has the harshest laws, has the cruelest prisons and yet the crime rate remains higher than any other industrialized democracy? Why is it that Canada does not have problems that the US does?"
Matt answered, "Canada is hardly a sort of place you would want to live."
"Why do you say that? I think they are years ahead of the US in a lot of things?"
"Like what may I ask?"
"They have national health care. They have gun control. They invest their money in schools and not into prisons. You don't hear about people going bizirk and shooting up post offices. Prisons actually make an attempt to make people better instead of raping and torturing them."
Rene had something to say, "But you really have to see things from my point of view. I see kids who come into my office beaten and bloody. Some are abused so badly they will not talk. Can you really be so forgiving to those who abuse children?"

Harley shook his head, "Its a terrible thing to see an abused kid. But its really about the kids, don't you get it? You see, we can kill off the abusers just like Stillo and his bunch would like to see, but it does not get to the root of the problem. Its not the liberals who are responsible for child abuse. Its not lack of family values. Its mental illness. Its generations of people who were abused as children and handing down the same cycle of abuse to a newer generation. People who want to kill off the pediophiles and the rest of the bad people are ignoring the real problem."

Rene laughed, "You are really sure of yourself, young man. What makes you such an expert."

"I joined the Poverty Law Center because of a case that affected my own family. My own mother owned a day care center. She was a single mother trying to make ends meet. She was accused of abuse after a child in her care became ill. She was charged with giving drugs to children to make them sleep. It was an aburd charge. But it got worse. She was accused of molestation and worse. She had no money and the public defender who was supposed to defend her tried to force her to plea bargin but she refused. She was innocent and would not be bullied into making any kind of deal. That is why she came to the Poverty Law Center. They got her out of one hell of a bind, but not until after she lost her business, all of her money and her reputation in the community."
"What does she do now?" asked Matt.
"She is an agoraphobiac. She became frightened because of all of the anonomous threats she got by phone and by mail. She is terrified by all of the cold hateful stares she got in the supermarket or when she was standing in line at the bank and a woman cut ahead of her and told her she would not wait behind a dirty child molestor. Yes, she does have reasons to stay home."
"Has she thought of leaving. Maybe starting life else where?"
"Are you joking? Its something she always dreamed of. But now that she lost her work and cannot work elsewhere she has no money to relocate. She still needs to see a therapist. Plus her family, who she counts on for money are all here. She is an old woman now. It would be too hard for her."

Matt was now curious, "Harley, what are your plans in life, if you do not mind me asking?"
"I am now studying Journalism at City College. I may transfer to U of I or maybe to Northwestern. I would like to leave but my mother needs me here."
"Have you concidered Law as a career?"
"Yea, but then I would be part of the system."
"You can work within the system for a change."
"Well its a thought, but really I cannot stand seeing the poor people of the world being screwed by the system. At least as a journalist I can do something about it?"
"Is that what you think a journalist does for a living?"
"Maybe not, but in time I will have my moment. In the meantime I have been submitting articles to different independent publications and stuff."

Harley then turned the conversation on Matt. "What are you going to do next? Your days at the the corporate law firm are finished?"
"Well Harley, I will be honest. My life is in shambles. My wife left me and is screwing some Polish interrior decorator. I've lost my condo by the lakeshore. I have no more career. I suppose I can work for the Poverty Law Center if they will have me. Eileen told me we can work something out. Its not much money but at least I can stop being a whore."
"Was it worth it Matt?" Asked Rene.
"I don't know. It seemed the more I got into the case, the more I could not let go. I think I failed Jeremy by not putting him on the stand. I cannot forgive myself for that. He probibly would have been alive today if it were not for my stupidity."
Rene put her arm around Matt and showed a rare display of compassion, "Matt. It was not your fault. You gave it your best. In fact you stuck it out until the end."
"I saw all those people who put it all on the line. There was you, there was Debbie. There was Mildrid. I had to win it for all of them."
"And you did Matt. You did. Jeremy is free of all of this. He is up there somewhere looking down on us."
"Well Rene, this is only the start you know. We have more battles ahead. We have to get the kids back to Mildrid."
"Thats easy. Let me handle that one."
"I am also thinking of a good law suit. I think we can get Mildrid some money from the County."
"Yea, I am sure you can."

Harley cut in again, "Matt, do you really think you can give it all up. The big money law."
"Yes Harley I can. I now see how lost I was. It was the money I was addicted to. I had to win because I wanted to feed the addiction. But no more."
"So you have cleaned your soul?" Harley said with a chuckle.
"No.... not yet. I have one more big task ahead of me. It will be hard but its what I must do!"

Pro Bono: Final Chapter

“Don’t give us this condescending attitude of yours. After what you and your company put us through you can at least listen to what we have to say.�

The thin, pale young man spoke with anger. He sat in a wheelchair and was guided by his mother.

They were just two of several people Matt invited to join him. Others were not there. Some were too sick to attend. Others were too angry. Matt sent the same letter to all of them and promised that whether they showed up or not, they would all be sent the money that he would collect from the suit.

Another man stood up and spoke to the whole assembly, deliberately turning his back on Matt. “Listen people, I don’t know about you but I will be dammed if I will let some lawyer who stole everything we have turn around and represent me.�

Matt replied, “This is different. I am using my own money to fight for you. I realize that a mistake was made. You people deserve to get your money from the insurance companies. I want to help you.�

“Why do you want to help us? Is it because you can make more money with us?�

“Its not about the money. If it were I would not have put up my own money to fight this.�

“So its all about that? Tell me Mr. Moro, do you have any idea what we have been going through? Do you think that having AIDS is fun? We are dying, all of us. Some of us are dead already. These are people who could have been alive if they received the treatment they needed. But you and the fucking insurance company set out to screw us. Well Mr. Moro, you won and we lost. The game is over. Now we all are going to die. Feel any better? What the hell do you want from us? Forgiveness? Sorry but you won’t get it here.�

“What I want is for you to let me work for you. I promise you that I can win this for you. You may be pissed and I can understand why. Now I am offering you a chance. I can help you because I know the people you are fighting. Believe me, they will find another lawyer, just as mean and nasty as I was and they will unleash them. The only way you can win is if you let me fight for you.�

“I ask nothing from any of you. If you wish to testify I can put you on the stand but if you just want me to fight for you then I will do it. I do not want money because I changed my priorities. I quit working at my previous law firm because I stopped believing in what they believed. I could no longer sleep at night doing what I did. Maybe you cannot believe that I am telling the truth but I really am.�

The long class action suit of the HIV victims against the insurance companies was a landmark in the history of such cases. It led to a decision, later upheld by the US Supreme court which said that Insurance Companies could not deny coverage on victims based upon classes of illness. It was a case both praised and cursed by media commentators. Conservatives assailed the ruling as a shameless act of interference by the judiciary upon the rights of private corporations. Some conservatives went so far as to call this a recipe for a socialist health care. Religious rightists went one step further and said that this case rewarded the “gay lifestyle� and showed that a definite bias existed in the courts for the “homosexual agenda.�

Progressive leaders across the nation praised this ruling. There were praises that this ruling was the most important civil rights ruling since Brown Vs. Board of Education.

Throughout the case Moro kept a curious silence. When asked about the case he referred all questions to the victims and their spokesmen. Even people who knew Matt for many years found this odd for the previously flamboyant golden boy.

As time went on more and more developments happened with the Hook case. Mildrid Hook went forward with her suit against the Department of Children and family services. She was then remarried. The DCFS launched a last ditch effort. It seemed they could no longer prove her incompetence as a mother so they instead focused on the children. They showed a report stating that to reunite the children with their mother would be traumatic to them. It failed miserably.

When the children were reunited it was found that the infant daughter who was taken at birth had suffered a fall and had serious brain damage. No explanation was given how the fall occurred.

Attempts to sue the state for the miscarriage of justice were not possible. A recent law prevented victims of wrongful convictions from suing the state. This was from an initiative which only a year before sailed through the state legislature and was highly praised by conservatives.

Though the entire Hook case was seen as a fiasco for the police department, Detective Delores continued to serve in his position. Other allegations did come back to haunt him, particularly the use of torture to obtain confessions, but he was cleared of these.

Phil Stillo continued to serve as an Assistant States Attorney. Thought he was sued by Mildrid Hook, the suit was dismissed. He later ran for the office of States Attorney for the county and was elected. During the election, not once did the Hook issue come up in spite of angry letters to various publications by Moro.

Ondrej Jindrle and Zdenek Ruklos had won their new status as being "hard men" in the Prison. It was a mixed blessing though. Even as they were now part of the prison elite for shanking a child molester/killer, they were now in Supermax where they were locked up 23 hours and allowed out one hour a day. It was an experience which drove many inmates insane. Zdenek wrote his long estranged wife in the Czech Republic, "America is not the land of opportunity for me."

Matt Moro accepted a permanent position with the Poverty Law Center in spite of the fact that it paid less than one tenth of his previous salary. His divorce was finalized and his ex wife married her Polish lover. He now lived in a garden apartment in a “collar� suburb. He lived on Spam and rice except for an occasional dinner at Taco Bell.

It was almost a year since Matt had first taken the case. The same cycle as always. Summer turned to autumn. Autumn turned to Winter. Then after months of severe cold and miserable rain and chill came April and the rebirth of life.

As he drove, Matt listened into a radio conversation. On the air was a famous radio host. The program was focused in on a 20 year old who was about to executed in the state of Texas for a crime he committed as a 15 year old. His final wish was to be given a case of beer for his breakfast. The state refused the request on the grounds that he was too young to drink and to give him liquor would be a violation of the saw. The debate went from one caller to another. One rather frantic caller said that the boy should be thinking about Jesus and not about beer for his final moments on earth. Another caller said that murdering scum like that should not be given anything. Let that sonovabich die hungry. Finally some good old boy got on the radio and said, “If that damn kid is old enough to kill somebody and get fried for it than why not get him a case of beer.� Matt agreed with that logic.

He was driving south on the Interstate that left the city. It was a part of town he knew little of. The air was rancid with the smell of factory smoke. Visible from the highway were smokestacks and old, crumbling brick buildings. He exited at the right exit and crossed an old, black Iron bridge. Below a barge was hauling coal through the rancid canal.

The industrial community was like an island of habitation surrounded by heavy industry. The air smelled like factory smoke. It was so thick he tasted it in his mouth. The inhabitants of the community all sat on their porches. They were a mixture of races and ethnic groups. The old Ukrainian and Croatians who build the community were gradually replaced by Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and blacks, though a few old timers could still be found. On every corner there was a pub. These were the same pubs where workmen would quench their thirsts after a hard day in the steel mills. The streets were full of potholes and the sidewalks were cracked. On the sidewalks young people sat, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. The talked about the Basketball or the up and coming Baseball season.

This was a community which saw better days. Though it was about ten miles from downtown it was really a world away.

The houses looked alike. They were all stucco covered and designed in a Central European style and built by the original settlers, in a style that reminded them of home. They were really sort of attractive. Would they have been located further uptown they might even be considered quaint.

Matt drove up to the address he wrote down. He approached the door of a one old cottage. He rang the bell and out came an older lady.

“I am looking for Mildrid Hook.�

The woman smiled but shook her head.

“Excuse me,� replied a child’s voice.�
Matt looked around and saw a child. He recognized the child as being Natasha Hook.

“She does not speak English. If you are looking for Mildrid you have to go to the Church.�

The church she was talking about was the only one in the neighborhood. It was an enormous place, probably a very place in its early years but now it was hardly used. It looked like a massive cathedral like one found in Germany or France. It was beautiful beyond description, in fact but like the rest of the neighborhood had suffered. On its sides were graffiti. One scribbling read “Black Sabbath,� which for some odd reason made Matt laugh.

The door of the church was open. It was so quiet inside that the silence was defining. In his ear Matt heard a loud ringing.

The church was adorned with various statues and paintings of saints and martyrs. He looked around and saw at the very front of the enormous church was Mildrid kneeling.

“Hello Mildrid.� He said silently. She did not respond.

“I came to see how you were doing. I hope this is not a bad time.�
At last she replied, “No time is a bad time Mr. Moro.�
“I know that you have been through a lot these last couple of years. I am sure things can only get better.�
“I was praying for Jeremy. But I really know he is ok. In fact it is we that need the prayers.�
“Tell me Mildrid, do you find it hard to believe after seeing so much injustice?�
“Injustice, Mr. Moro? Tell me what you see there?�
She pointed to the crucifix.
“You see, he too was judged unfairly. That is why he died. He knew that the world was a cruel place. He died to show us that nothing in this world is just. The justice is not here in this world. Its in the next world that there is justice.�
“How are your children?�
“They are all fine. Except the youngest. They say she has epilepsy. Ironic isn’t it? They said I was unfit but when they took her into custody she fell and almost died?�
“I am sorry I could not get you a better settlement. I really think you deserve better.�
“No Mr. Moro, I am very happy with what I got. I have my family back. And Jeremy is in heaven watching over me. You see, I grew up poor. I learned as a child that happiness comes from what is within you. It is your family and your God that makes you strong. Don’t you see that? The state tried to destroy my family but they failed. In the end it was God that won.�

As they left the church together Matt said, “It’s a lovely Church.�
“Yes it is. It is no longer used but we keep it open as a sort of refuge. The Archdiocese will be tearing it down soon.�
�That’s a shame.�
“Yes it is but that is how it works. It does not matter though. God does not live in Churches. He lives in the human heart.�

Outside a group of kids were playing. Matt recognized two of them as being Mildrid’s children. It was an unusually warm afternoon. The kids of the neighborhood were all playing with a garden hose and screaming. The is always some sort of magic when you mix kids and water, Matt thought.

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