Saturday, April 28, 2018

All the same at the end

The attorney approached Jayne Ann Smith, who was fidgeting in the stand.

"Miss Smith, you claim my client robbed you, is that correct?"

"Yes."

"What were you wearing at the time you were robbed?"

Jayne Ann raised her eyebrow. She waited for her attorney to object and ask the relevance of the question. She waited for the judge to intervene. No one did. "A yellow sweater and black slacks."

"Yellow? That's a bit of an attention-getting color, isn't it?"

"I guess it could be." Again, Jayne Ann looked around, wondering why no one thought the line of questioning was irrelevant.

"So you were aware that, in wearing yellow, you were drawing attention to yourself?"

"It's a sweater. I have the same one also in blue. There was a sale."

"You weren't wearing blue; you made a choice to wear yellow. That's correct, isn't it?"

Jayne Ann rubbed her elbow. "Yes."

"Now then, were you wearing anything else?"

"Pardon?"

"Was the sweater and slacks all that you were wearing when you entered the grocery store that day?"

"Well, no. I had on shoes."

The attorney nodded. "Any other information you're leaving out in regards to what you were wearing?"

Jayne Ann no longer knew what was relevant. "I had on silver earrings shaped like triangles. And underclothing, of course."

"What sort of underclothing?"

"A bra, panties, and stockings." She crossed her arms over her chest.

"What color were they?"

"Seriously?" Jayne Ann looked around the courtroom. No one cared why someone would ask such a question.

"Yes. Answer the question."

She had to think about it. "I believe my bra was white with a pattern of silver swirls. And I think my panties were beige. The stockings were nude."

"A bra with a pattern, certainly something meant to be seen. And beige panties and nude stockings. Almost as if you weren't wearing the coverings at all. You might well have been luring my client into robbing you. "

"What? No. My underclothing was all under my clothing. I did not intend for anyone else to see it."

"So you claim. Now, Miss Smith, had you ever gone to that grocery store before?"

"Yes. I shop there regularly."

"How often is that?"

"About once a week, I suppose. Sometimes twice, if I've forgotten something."

"Grocery shopping every week! That's quite frequent. It sounds to me like you were asking to be robbed, being a regular shopper. Miss Smith, were you, in fact, hoping to be robbed?"

"No one hopes to be robbed."

"I didn't ask about other people. There are, in fact, certain groups who enjoy playing out robbery scenarios. Perhaps you're one of the members of such a group? Have you ever played such a scenario?"

Jayne Ann felt her face turn bright red. "What one does consensually in the privacy and safety of one's own home should not matter. It is not the same as being robbed by a stranger."

"So you have thought about being robbed. Perhaps you were sending signals to my client. The yellow the sweater, the frequent trips to the store. Is it possible he could have interpreted your actions as an invitation to rob you?"

"How would I know his state of mind?" Jayne Ann seriously wondered how this line of questioning was allowed to continue.

"Is it possible that you hoped your signals would result in my client approaching you for money?"

"No. I did not want to be robbed." The statement felt so obvious to her that she felt her stomach churn as she said it. How was it even a question?

The next person took the stand. Karl Darling, who also alleged that he was robbed. Karl's experience had been caught by a security camera.

"Are you gay, Mister Darling?"

"Excuse me?"

"It's a simple question. Are you gay?"

"I've been married to my wife of thirteen years. We have five children. No, I'm not gay."

"But have you ever been gay? Ever dabbled in the same sex?"

Karl looked around the room. The question had no relevance to his being robbed. But he was required to answer it.

"I was in the theater in college. I played a gay character in one play. My co-star and I rehearsed our kiss scene. He confessed to having feelings for me. I thanked him politely, but declined an off-stage romance, as I did not share the feelings."

"But, perhaps, you did have those feelings for my client? Perhaps you've been wondering all these years what it would be like if another man, a different man who wasn't an actor, were to kiss you. Maybe more. Did you initiate contact with my client at the store?"

"Huh?"

"Did you initiate contact with my client at the store that day?"

"Oh. Well, yeah, I guess. I probably said hello or asked him how it was going when we stood in line together."

"So it's possible you were giving my client a signal that you wanted to be robbed?"

"No."

"Have you ever  been robbed before?"

"No."

"Are you certain? Isn't it true, Mister Darling, that in the seventh grade, you accused William 'Bobby' Miller of stealing your baseball cards from your back pocket?"

"What?" Karl scratched the back of his neck while he thought back. "Oh, yeah. That was school thing. Bobby didn't hold me up in store. He took baseball cards from the back pocket of many of the guys."

"But perhaps you missed that thrill."

"It wasn't a thrill. That was why I reported it and asked the principal to make Bobby stop reaching into my back pocket."

"In the video, where you're allegedly being robbed, you turn around. Were you showing my client your back pocket."

"He told me to turn around. It was turn or be harmed."

"It had been so long since another man reached into your back pocket. And years since one kissed you. Perhaps you were sending signals to my client, hoping he would rob you."

A third person took the stand. Then another. And another. Each time, they were asked what they wore, how often they went to the grocery store, if they'd be robbed before, if they'd ever thought about being robbed, and other such questions that seemed irrelevant.

In the end, the jury asked how to define robbery. The twelve people were no longer sure, as perhaps people were asking to be robbed.

Oh, and then someone pointed out that the crime wasn't robbery, it was rape. But that doesn't matter, because alleged victims of either crime are always asked the exact same questions anyway. It is a justice system, after all, and crime is crime, no matter the name. That's why courtrooms hold seances to ask the dead what they were wearing when they were murdered and to double check if the person wanted to be murdered. It's just something an attorney has to know.