The Price of Justice
Written November 2005
Synopsis: The rape and subsequent murder of a prominent judge leave the squad with no evidence and no suspects.
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of Wolf Films, Universal Television, Studios USA, and other corporations. No infringement is intended.
Criminal Court of New York City
100 Centre Street
Wednesday, December 1
“The People call Casey Novak.”
The courtroom was as silent as a morgue as she walked up to the witness box and was sworn in. No one coughed or whispered, no chairs squeaked from movement. Casey sat down, wiped a wrinkle from her skirt, and looked at Ashland. He was back in trial mode, very professional and friendly, nothing like he was in her office at lunch.
She knew exactly what to expect, but she wasn’t ready. All the early questions were easy: name, address, education, profession, years practicing. But when he began asking her about Martin Leonard, her chest tightened. God, it was like reliving the moment over again, and when the bile rose in her throat, she thought she might.
“So after he quoted the line from The A-Team, tell us what happened.”
Casey shook her head repeatedly. “I–I don’t remember much. I thought I was going to faint. I managed to make it to the restroom before I vomited.”
“Why such a strong reaction?”
“Because a man I respected and admired had used the same quote that a rapist had used before assaulting Judge Woodward.”
“How were you so sure that he did it?”
“The look he gave me.” Her own voice echoed in her ears. “That sick, twisted smile that I’ve seen on so many rapists.”
“Objection,” Leonard said. “I think it would be a bit premature to call me a rapist, considering I haven’t been convicted yet.”
Both Ashland and Petrovsky gave him a stern look, most likely related to his earlier ‘prostitute’ remark. She overruled his objection and allowed the prosecutor to proceed.
Eventually, the questions drifted to the night he attacked her, and Ashland was very cautious whenever Munch’s name came up. She knew he didn’t like him. “How did you feel when you walked into your bedroom and saw the window was open again?”
“Unsettled. I was certain I had closed it earlier, so when it was open, it made me a little nervous.”
“So you asked Detective Munch to stay with you that night?”
“No, he offered.”
“Did you feel uncomfortable about that?”
“Because you have a personal relationship with him?”
“I have a personal relationship with all of the detectives,” she said, hoping she didn’t sound defensive. “It wouldn’t have mattered if it was one of the others who had stopped by that night. If they would have offered, I would have accepted.”
“After you went to your room for the night, did you check for any disturbances to your personal items?”
“Yes. I even checked the closet in case anyone was hiding in there.” Like he had been at Marianne’s apartment.
“So you’re certain that you were alone in the apartment, aside from Detective Munch.”
Ashland nodded, giving the jury a moment to ponder over the information before continuing. “Tell us what happened after you woke up, Ms. Novak.”
“I couldn’t fall back asleep, so I went to the kitchen. The light from the window glinted off the door lock, and I noticed the chain had been cut. I felt a presence behind me, so I grabbed my baseball bat, swung around, and hit somebody. Then he pushed me to the ground, and my head hit the floor. A pair of hands circled my neck and started squeezing.” Her throat felt constricted as she told the story, and she took a sip of the water beside her. “I scratched at his face, and he slapped me so I punched him. Then Detective Munch appeared and saved my life.” She saw Munch smile in the audience, but she forced herself to stay focused on the trial.
Ashland revealed several large posterboards with blown-up photographs of the bruises on her neck and the bump on the back of her head. Casey stared at them too. Was that really her? They looked so much worse than she recalled. It served as a reminder of how close he’d been to choking her to death.
“Ms. Novak,” Ashland continued, “after Detective Munch turned on the lights, did you see the face of the man who attacked you?”
“Is that man in the courtroom today?”
“Could you please identify that man?”
She nodded. “It was the defendant, Martin Leonard.”
“Thank you, Ms. Novak. I have no further questions.”
When Leonard stood up, Petrovsky said, “Counsel, I would remind you that Ms. Novak is an officer of the court. Please keep your antics to a minimum.”
He bowed stiffly. “Yes, Your Honor.” Casey tried not to smile. “Ms. Novak, you knew about the alleged rapist’s so-called catch phrase fairly early on in this investigation, is that correct?”
“And how did you come into this knowledge?”
“I was given a copy of the investigative report to review.”
“And is this normal, ordinary procedure?”
Casey knew what he was doing. Making an investigation look improper was a favorite practice of defense attorneys. “I can’t answer on behalf of the NYPD, but as far as the DA’s office is concerned, there’s nothing wrong with it.”
“So you get access to whatever confidential police records you choose?”
“No. I’m their attorney. I offer legal advice when requested.”
“And what legal advice did they request when they gave you a copy of Marianne Woodward’s file?” He didn’t wait for an answer and instead withdrew his own question. “If you hadn’t seen the file and therefore didn’t know about the alleged rapist’s catch phrase, would you have suspected me as her rapist?”
Casey opened her mouth to answer then closed it. She paused for a moment. “I don’t know.”
“Your testimony, the testimony of Detectives Stabler, Benson, and Munch — all of it implies that you assumed I was the rapist because I quoted a line from The A-Team, the same line used by Marianne Woodward’s alleged rapist. Was that your only reason for making such an assumption?”
“At that time–”
“Yes, Ms. Novak, at that time.”
She resisted the urge to glare at him. “Yes.”
“So based off of a popular phrase from a nineteen eighties television program, you assumed I was a rapist?”
Ashland stood up, as if he’d been waiting for that moment all along. “Objection. Asked and answered.”
“Withdrawn.” Leonard paced a few steps in front of the witness box before staring at Casey. It was a powerful gaze, but she refused to look away. “On the night of October thirtieth, when I allegedly broke into your apartment and attacked you–”
“Nothing alleged about it,” she interrupted. “You did attack me.”
He chuckled. “You are correct about the attack but not the break-in. Allow me to rephrase that. On the night of October thirtieth, when I allegedly broke into your apartment and not-so-allegedly attacked you, were you afraid, Ms. Novak?”
“Afraid?” She hesitated. Where was he going with this? “Yes.”
“But I didn’t kill you.”
“And why do you suppose that is?”
“Because Detective Munch pointed a gun at your head.”
There were a few unrestrained chuckles from the audience, and Leonard joined them. “Yes, I suppose that’s true. But my real question is this: what proof do you have that my intention was to kill you, as opposed to incapacitate you? In my statement to the police, I said that I thought you were an intruder.”
“There was only one intruder in my apartment that night, and that was you.”
“Oh? Tell me, Ms. Novak, was your window open or closed when I was arrested?”
Her heart skipped a beat. “What?”
“It’s a very simple question, really. Was your window open when I was arrested?”
He returned to his desk and picked up three copies of a document. He handed one to Ashland. “Your Honor, I have this report filed by NYPD crime scene investigator Andrew Baker.” He gave the second copy to Judge Petrovsky. “It was completed on October thirty-first and filed November seventh. Mr. Baker has already testified as to this report, and I would like to refer to it now.”
“Any objections, Mr. Ashland?”
“No, Your Honor.”
“You may continue, Mr. Leonard.”
Leonard flipped to a dog-eared page of his own copy. “Ms. Novak, Investigator Baker was the chief investigator of your premises after the alleged break-in and not-so-alleged attack. Have you viewed his report?”
“Then allow me to read a sentence or two if I may. Well, first, how many windows do you have in your bedroom?”
“And that is the window which was open on October thirtieth, the one with the lock that had been broken which your building maintenance crew had repaired?”
“And this window is on which wall?”
“The east wall.”
“Upon examining your bedroom, Investigator Baker noted that — quote — ‘the window on the east wall of the room is open approximately eight inches’ — end quote.” He placed the copy back on the desk. “Did you open the window, Ms. Novak?”
“Did Detective Munch open the window?”
“Not to my knowledge.”
He gave her an all-too-pleasant smile. “Then who did?”
“That’s his argument?” Olivia rolled her eyes. “The case of the mysteriously opening window?”
Casey sighed, rubbing her hands over her face. “And then, when I didn’t have an answer for who opened the window, he asked, ‘Well, if Marianne’s rapist could stay hidden from the housekeeper and sneak out without being seen, what’s to say he didn’t hide in your apartment until you left and then snuck out the window?'” A tidal wave of stress and alcohol rushed over her brain, and she closed her eyes until the moment of nausea passed.
“He really doesn’t plan on winning, does he?”
“That’s just it, Olivia. He’s cast enough doubt on the circumstances that I can’t say at least one member of the jury won’t be pursuaded by it. Tara Hill from the lab is scheduled to testify tomorrow regarding the DNA results and cat hair matches, but if it was over right now…”
“Give yourself a little credit, Casey. Munch said you did great, that you were more level-headed than the rest of us.”
“Years of practice,” she said with a much-needed chuckle. She had been on the stand for so long that Petrovsky let them out early since there wouldn’t be enough time to call another witness. “Jay is on the verge of mutiny. Says my relationship with John is … ruining everything.” She finished the last of her beer and ordered another one.
Olivia tilted her head to the side and looked at her. “Do you think it is?”
“It’s a non-issue. That’s Leonard’s strategy: to bring in a bunch of non-issues and try to make them issues. As long as it’s not a felony or a crime of moral turpentine, it doesn’t matter.”
“A crime of moral turpitude. You said turpentine.”
“I did?” Casey looked at the beer bottle that had been placed in front of her. “Maybe I should cut myself off.” She slid the bottle over to Olivia and rested her head on the counter. “I wanted to prosecute this case so badly. Now I just want it to be over.”
She rubbed Casey’s back then gave her a couple of pats. “Come on, honey, I’ll take you home.”
District Attorney’s Office
Manhattan, New York
Thursday, December 2
Arthur Branch was speaking much too loudly, Casey decided as she lifted her aching head and looked at her boss. He was glaring at her. “What’s up?”
“What is the most popular morning radio program in New York City?” he asked, giving her an annoyed smile.
She tossed her hands up. “I give up.”
“It’s that ridiculous shock jock, Scorpion Jack.”
“Feel the sting,” she said, quoting the show’s catch phrase.
“And guess what he’s stinging today?”
Branch was about to explode, his jowl shaking with the fury he struggled to contain. He lifted up his micro cassette recorder and pressed play. Scorpion Jack’s perpetually whiny voice filled the air. “Haven’t seen too many hookers on the corners lately. Either the NYPD is doing its job, or the DA’s office is hiring.” He clicked stop. “Did you get that the first time, or do I need to play it again?”
She shook her head. She hadn’t expected Leonard’s comment to get so out of hand. “I–”
“This is bad, Casey. Makes the DA’s office look like fools.”
“I’m sure the town prostitutes aren’t happy about it either.”
“You think this is funny? He just made a mockery out of the legal system.”
“You forget who opened that can of worms — and who that comment was directed toward in court.” His defenses dropped at her comment, and she took the opportunity to walk around her desk and face him. “Once upon a time, Martin Leonard was a good judge and a good man, but now he’s a rapist and a murderer. All of the evidence points toward him, and he knows it. He’s using any excuse he can to make himself look less guilty. The jury will convict him.”
Branch was quiet for a few moments, but his scowl soon returned. “I’m sure your squad did their level best, but there’s some doubt. Hell, I’ve known Martin Leonard for years. I just can’t picture him doing something like this.”
She sighed. She was so tired of defending herself and the trial that she shook her head and sat back at her desk. “I’ll take care of Scorpion Jack. Is there anything else I can do for you today?”
He frowned again then turned to walk away. “You’re in this deep, Casey.” He glanced at her over his shoulder. “I just hope you can climb back out when it’s over.”
Some people thought working in a crime lab was fascinating, but Munch could see that the jury didn’t include any of them. While Tara Hill was on the stand, describing the ins and outs of DNA profiling, the jurors were slowly losing interest. When Ashland began his final question with the words, “So in summary,” their faces lit up, an end in sight.
“Thank you, Ms. Hill. Your witness.”
Leonard’s contemptuous smile returned. “You say the blood found on the fork at Marianne Woodward’s apartment the night she was murdered and the blood I submitted upon my arrest matched?”
“Was that an exact match?”
“Yes, one hundred percent.”
“No, but according to the standards set forth by our lab and the FBI, it was a match.”
“But there could be another person out there who also matches according to those standards, am I correct?”
Tara looked somewhat nervous. “I suppose.”
“Well, tell me, Ms. Hill, how accurate was your testing? For instance, one in … a billion that you’re correct?”
“Probably closer to one in a million.”
“One in a million?” Leonard chuckled. “What’s the population of New York City?”
Ashland rose. “Your Honor, Ms. Hill is a scientist, not a member of the U.S. Census Bureau. Is there a point to this line of questioning?”
“There is,” Leonard said, “and if you’ll let me finish, I’ll get to it.”
Petrovsky gave a small sigh. “Let’s do it quickly then. Ms. Hill, you may answer the question.”
“The population of New York City?” she repeated. “I don’t know.”
“Uh … six million?”
“If that’s the case, and your match was only one in a million, then statistically there are five other people in this city alone that could have done it, correct?” She opened her mouth to answer, but he continued speaking. “And if there are six billion people in the world, well … your figures don’t seem so accurate now, do they?” She made a tiny noise, and he interrupted, “No further questions.”
“Redirect, Your Honor.” Ashland rose, giving Tara a comforting smile. “Ms. Hill, when one takes into account the number of tests you’ve performed on this particular blood sample, your results, and the current standards for testing, does that increase the chances that Martin Leonard’s DNA does, in fact, match the DNA from the blood found at the scene of Marianne Woodward’s apartment the night she was murdered?”
“There is no doubt in my mind that it is his blood on the fork.”
“Thank you, Ms. Hill.” He waited until she had stepped down before speaking again. “Approach the bench, Your Honor?” Petrovsky waved he and Leonard forward.
“Good save,” Munch muttered. “You notice he didn’t question the cat hair?”
Casey wasn’t paying attention; her eyes were fixed on a familiar-looking man a few rows back. Large nose, short black hair, a bit heavy… “I know him. I think…”
“The People call Frederick Tibideux to the stand.”
The man Casey had been looking at stood, straightened his navy blue tie, and headed for the witness box. She raised an eyebrow. “I’ve seen him around my building. Oh, I know. Head of the maintenance crew.”
Munch frowned. “He wasn’t on the original witness disclosure, was he?”
“No. That’s probably what they were talking to Judge Petrovsky about: calling of a non-disclosed witness.” She turned her attention back to the trial.
“You are the head of the maintenance crew which is employed by the apartment complex where Casey Novak is a resident, is that correct?”
Tibideux nodded at Ashland’s question. “Yes, sir.”
“I have asked you to bring the logs from your repair visits with you, and I’d like them to be submitted into evidence at this time.” He waited for the necessary procedures to be completed before continuing. “Could you please read the complaint that Ms. Novak made in late October regarding her apartment?”
He thumbed through the pages. “Uh, on October twenty-ninth, she reported ther her bedroom window lock was jammed in the unlock position and that with a gust of wind, the window would open spontaneously.”
“Did you go to her apartment?”
“Uh, the next day, October thirtieth, a Saturday. Ms. Novak wasn’t home at the time, but she gave us permission to enter when she wasn’t there.”
“Did you examine the lock on her bedroom window?”
“And what did you find?”
“Well, I went through the usual checks, tried a few different trade secrets if you will, and I got the actual lock unjammed but it still wouldn’t stay locked. So I put in an order for a new window.”
“So technically, her window was never fixed on October thirtieth?”
“No. Uh, correct.”
“The lock remained broken?”
“Thank you. I have no further questions.”
There was a hum of excitement in the courtroom, followed by the furious scribbling of the reporters in the back three rows. Casey felt John squeeze her hand, but she remained still. Leonard was a quick thinker, and she didn’t want to get too comfortable with the fact that Tibideaux’s testimony had just cast doubt on the escape-by-window theory.
As calm as ever, Leonard rose from his chair. “Mister Tibideaux, do you receive many calls from Ms. Novak?”
“No. She’s pretty good at fixing things herself.”
“Did you find it odd when you saw that your work for the day would involve going to her apartment?”
“I didn’t think anything of it.”
Ashland stood. “Your Honor, I have to object again. Is there even a purpose to this line of questioning?”
“I’m getting there,” Leonard said, slightly annoyed.
“Overruled,” Petrovsky said. “But please stay on track, Mister Leonard.”
“Yes, Your Honor.” Leonard took a breath. “Mister Tibideaux, when you examined the faulty locking mechanism to the window, did you notice any evidence of tampering?”
“When did you replace the window?”
“Uh…” He flipped through his work orders again. “November third.”
“And did you ever notify Ms. Novak of your need to do so?”
“I didn’t. Someone else may have, but it wasn’t me.”
“So she assumed you had repaired the window on October thirtieth when, in fact, you did not. Is that correct?”
Tibideaux suddenly looked guilty. “Yeah…”
“So for four days, anyone could have climbed the fire escape and gained access to her apartment?”
Leonard did a double take. “No?”
“She called again on Monday to say her window was still opening on its own. When I came to replace the window on Wednesday, I noticed that she had jimmied a wooden handle in place so the window couldn’t open.”
“How resourceful of her. No further questions.”
Fin shoved the last of his hot dog into his mouth. “I’m still confused. Why does he care so much about this window?”
“Because he has nothing else going for him.” Munch sighed, looking at his own uneaten hot dog. “You want this?”
“Haven’t had much of an appetite lately.”
“Trial will do that to you,” he said before taking a bite.
Munch didn’t tell him that it had less to do with the trial and more to do with Casey. She had him wound up in knots. It was an unusual but not unpleasant feeling. It wasn’t like him to lose control of his emotions. Then again, he wasn’t sure he had control of them in the first place.
“Still don’t get the window thing though. Suppose Leonard’s story is true.”
“Which it’s not.”
“Casey’s apartment isn’t that big,” Fin continued, ignoring his partner. “She’s got, what, that kitchenette thing off the living room, her bedroom, her office, and a bathroom. If some guy broke into her apartment, what’s he gonna do? Steal the television, attack the resident. But there was no one in the living room, and Casey was alone in her bedroom. No one was in with you.”
“I called for backup after I pulled Leonard off of her, and we didn’t leave until there were police swarming her apartment and CSU had arrived. There was nobody else there, Fin.”
He nodded a few times and finished off the hot dog. “So what do you think?”
“Think you’ll win?”
“I’ll move out of the country if we lose. However…” Munch sighed in frustration. “For every good piece of evidence we have, Leonard finds something to counter it. I think we need a rehaul of the judicial process. Discovery rules stink.”
“Everyone said he was a good attorney.”
“He’s more of a spinner than Marianne Woodward ever was.” He paused. “I know that he’s guilty, but…”
“A guy gets stabbed with a fork, you’d expect some puncture marks in his skin or some scarring or healing indications, but–”
“Come on, John, you arrested him a week after he killed the judge. It was a superficial wound. Plenty of time to heal.”
“Maybe.” He glanced at his watch. Half an hour until trial resumed. “I’m going to head back, see if I can find Casey at her office.”
“She’s trying to work during all this?”
“No, a radio deejay tried to pull some stunt this morning. She’s writing up a complaint or delivering a complaint or something.”
“I don’t know. She mentioned it in passing, and I wasn’t really listening.”
Fin laughed. “The best way to finess a lady is to hang on every word she says. So far, your methods are questionable.”
“I didn’t have to finess her; I won her over with my good looks and boyish charm.”
“Didn’t realize Casey was blind.”
“Nah. Lawyers aren’t my type.”
“No, I meant of my good looks and boyish charm.”
Fin regarded him seriously for a moment. “Mmm … no.” He chuckled. “I’m going back to the precinct, though I’m going to save about half this paperwork for you.”
“Hurry up, go get your woman.”
“She’d slap you if she heard you say that.”
Munch stood up and walked away, his smile broadening with each step.
Thursday afternoon, Jack Smith left the radio studio where he was the host of the most popular morning show in the city, where he was Scorpion Jack instead of another nobody. There was a spring in his step which had appeared a few weeks ago. Nothing could touch him. The executives were so thrilled by his success, they let him push the envelope. That was fine by him.
Thirty-seven pairs of high heels clicked toward him, led by a cute redhead with pouty lips and an expensive maroon suit. He knew her. He didn’t know the other thirty-six women.
“Casey Novak! Hey, you want some air time? New York would love to hear from you.” He chomped on his chewing gum and gave her the biggest grin he could, showing off his newly bleached teeth. God, he was amazing.
She flashed a smile of her own as an equally cute blonde flashed her badge — Sheriff’s Department? — and handed him thirty-seven fat envelopes.
“Let me guess. You’ve finally started the official Scorpion Jack fan club?” He readjusted the duffel bag on his shoulder and fumbled with the first envelope. Novak kept grinning at him, like she had a secret.
“You’ve been served,” she said. “Thirty-seven times.”
“With what?” His cheery mood was fizzling. He finally got the subpoena and thick complaint out of the envelope and skimmed it. “Thirty-seven counts of slander? Who did I slander?”
Thirty-seven hands rose.
Novak withdrew a micro cassette recorder and pressed play. His voice filled the air. “Haven’t seen too many hookers on the corners lately. Either the NYPD is doing its job, or the DA’s office is hiring.”
Jack scoffed, then scoffed again, then did a little pirouette before giving one final disgusted scoff. “Are you– Oh, come– Haven’t you ever heard of the First Amendment?”
“Slander doesn’t count.”
“How was that harmless little comment slander?”
Novak continued smiling. She wasn’t so cute anymore. “Francine?”
A disembodied voice said, “Fellow attorneys keep asking me which street corner I was on before coming to work for the DA’s office. They call it a joke. I call it mental anguish.”
He mouthed the name as the woman said, “Can’t make any money. All the johns point and laugh, asking us when we’re due in court. Talk about an insult — uh, no offense. Anyway, I’m losing income on account of you.”
Another woman spoke up. “Defendant grabbed my ass in the courtroom, asked me how much for a blow job then wanted to know if we’d have enough time before he went to jail. Public humiliation.”
Jack held up both hands, dropping a few envelopes in the process. “Okay, I get the point.”
“Good. We’ll see you in court.” Like an army marching band, the women pivoted around and, shoes clicking rhythmically, walked away.
End of part eleven