Located in the basement of the Criminal Justice Center, the courtroom for arraignment hearings looked like the set of a television show for good reason. It was, essentially. The courtroom was the size and shape of a stage, half as large as a standard courtroom. It was arranged conventionally; from left to right sat a defense table, judge's dais, and prosecutor's table, but a large black camera affixed to the dais dominated the courtroom. Next to the camera sat a TV screen divided into four boxes: judge, courtroom scene, D.A., and P.D. A bulletproof divider protected those behind the bar of the court from the public, who sat in modern seats like a studio audience. The Newlin case was breaking news, packing the gallery with media and spectators wedged tight in their winter coats.
Mary sat with Judy in the gallery, waiting for the Newlin case to be called, and she kept comparing the real courtroom to its TV version. The TV reduced the gleaming brass seal of the Commonwealth to a copper penny and shrank the judge to an ant with glasses. Jack wasn't anywhere on the screen. This is wrong,' she said. Blotches big as paintballs appeared on her neck. 'Today a decision gets made about whether my client gets bail or not, and he's in one place and I'm in another. How are we supposed to consult?'
'Lots of states do arraignments by closed circuit now, because it saves money,' Judy said. 'You can use the phone to talk to him, remember? If you press the red button, the gallery can't hear you.'
'But the sheriff guarding him can hear everything he says, and the courtroom and judge would hear everything I say. Wake me up when we get to the right-to-counsel part.'
'You think it's unconstitutional?'
'Is the Pope Catholic?' Mary checked the monitor as the boxes vanished and Jack's face appeared, oddly larger than life above the logo PANASONIC. The close-up magnified the strain that dulled the blue of his eyes and tugged their corners down. She gathered she had him worrying with her suspicions about Paige, but that was as it should be. Maybe because he was on TV, or maybe because of the Kevin Costner thing, but she sensed that he was an actor playing a role and his story was more fiction than truth. In any event, her job now was to free him on bail, against the odds. She rose to go.
'Good luck, girl,' Judy said.
Mary mouthed her thanks, ignored the itching beginning at her neck, and walked to the door in the bulletproof divider, which a court officer unlocked. It was quiet on the other side, an expectant hush that intimidated her, but she nodded to the public defender, who stood to the side as she took his desk. Across the studio courtroom, Dwight Davis neatly took the D.A.'s desk. He looked more used to it than Mary, and she noticed the two sketch artists drawing him. She understood completely. He was a real lawyer and remarkably unspotted.
At the dais, the bail commissioner pushed up his Atom Ant glasses and pulled his cardigan around him. Bail commissioners weren't judges and some weren't even lawyers, and they rarely saw a private attorney at an arraignment, much less a D.A. the caliber of Davis. Mary had the impression that the bail commissioner was enjoying every ray of the unaccustomed limelight. 'Mr Davis, will you be handling this matter for the Commonwealth?' the commissioner asked, his tone positively momentous.
'Yes, Your Honor,' Davis said deferentially. Even Mary knew that most lawyers called him commissioner.
'Good morning, Your Honor.' Mary introduced herself, following suit, and the commissioner nodded.
'Excellent. Mr Newlin, can you hear us?' The commissioner addressed a camera mounted at the back of the courtroom, above a monitor that showed another image of Jack.
'Yes, Your Honor,' Jack answered, his voice mechanical through the microphones.
'Mr Newlin, this is your arraignment,' the commissioner said needlessly. 'You are arraigned on a general charge of murder in the death of Honor Newlin.'
Mary saw Jack wince, the tiny gesture plain on the large TV screen.
'Murder, that is, homicide, is the most serious crime one human being can commit against another. Your preliminary hearing is scheduled for January thirteenth in the Criminal Justice Center. You will be brought down at nine o'clock and taken in turn. Do you understand?'
'Very well. I see you have a private attorney present, so I will not appoint a public defender. Now we come to the question of bail in this matter.' The commissioner turned to the D.A. On the screen his miniature face turned, too. 'Mr Davis, I expect you have something to say on the bail issue.'
'We do, Your Honor.' Davis stood straight as a pencil. 'As you know, murder is, as a general rule, not a bailable offense in Philadelphia County. The Commonwealth feels very strongly that the commissioner should follow custom and practice in this matter, for in this case, bail is not in order.'
Mary bristled. 'Your Honor, bail should be granted. There is precedent for bail in murder cases, as you know. The law is simply that bail isn't automatic, as it is for other offenses. Bail is routinely granted where the defendant is an upstanding member of the community.' She had been up all night studying the law. 'That is the case with Mr Newlin. He is a partner at the Tribe firm, a member of the Red Cross Board, and of several charitable trusts. It
goes without saying he has no criminal convictions. He is a superb candidate for bail.'
'You make a nice point, Ms DiNunzio.' The commissioner mulled it over, rubbing his chin like a miniseries jurist. 'It is true, the defendant is well known in the community. Mr Davis, what say you?'
'Your Honor, in my view, the defendant's prominence cuts both ways. First, he should not be treated better than other defendants merely because of his social status. Secondly, as a wealthy partner in a major law firm, the defendant possesses financial resources far beyond the average person and has a significant family fortune. All of this argues that he poses a significant risk of flight. This individual can use his resources to flee not only the jurisdiction, but the country.'
Mary shook her head. 'Your Honor, Mr Newlin poses no flight risk. He has a number of ties to the community and in fact has immediate family here. His daughter, Paige, lives and works in Philadelphia.'
Jack flinched at the sound of her name, Mary saw it; his forehead creased in a frisson of fear. He didn't want Paige brought into it, and it conflicted Mary. She had to make the right argument, whether he wanted it or not. She caught the ghost of her own reflection in the glass of the TV, and she looked almost as stressed as Jack.
Davis stifled a laugh. 'Your Honor, I find it difficult to understand that defense counsel can argue Mr Newlin's devotion to his daughter. He is, after all, charged with the murder of her mother.'
The bail commissioner looked into the camera lens, as if for a close-up. 'Mr Newlin, I've heard your attorney's arguments, but I must rule against you. There will be no bail in this matter and you are remanded to county jail until your next court date.' The bail commissioner closed one pleadings folder and opened another. 'That concludes your arraignment, Mr Newlin. Please sign the subpoena in front of you and the sheriff will escort you back to your cell.'
Jack vanished as abruptly as if someone had grabbed the remote and changed the channel, and Mary watched with dismay as the screen returned to its four boxes. She knew, more than she could rightly justify, that he was innocent. All she had to do was prove it.
But her client was her worst enemy, and the first round had gone to him.