Some men are alive simply because
it is against the law to kill them.
—E. W. Howe
San Francisco Superior Court Building
Criminal Courtroom Number 8
On the morning before attorney Richard Caxton was shot, he spent an hour in court doing what he did best—lying to the jury.
This time around, Caxton’s client was the son of a wealthy mortgage banker. Brice Riabraun had “allegedly” been driving under the influence of alcohol when he’d crashed his luxury SUV into the Tate family’s economy car. In court, Caxton claimed that the police had mishandled the case.
In Caxton’s successful cases, he often found a loophole in the law, or a small procedural error by the police, or a semi-believable alibi that would hold up just long enough to bamboozle a jury. He exploited these opportunities with the smooth-talking technique of a used car salesman. Other attorneys in the city marveled at—and envied—the creatively dishonest con man.
After arguing relentlessly for his version of the truth, Caxton listened to the court clerk read the jury’s verdict aloud and pronounce Riabraun not guilty.
Judge Emerson frowned.
Caxton had to make an effort not to laugh.
Brian Tate bolted from his chair and railed at the jury. “How could you find him innocent when he was driving with a 0.15 blood alcohol level? Witnesses said he drank seven beers before he crashed into our car and almost killed my wife and kids!”
Tate’s wife, Judy, sat next to him with her arm in a plaster cast. The twelve jurors seated in the jury box averted their eyes and didn’t reply to him. Tate turned and stared at Caxton and his client with the righteous fury of someone who had been cheated out of justice.
Judge Emerson slammed his gavel down. “Order! Sit down, Mr. Tate.”
Caxton and his client just sat there gloating, and trying not to laugh at Tate, the working man in his department store suit and tie.
Tate curled his lip and ignored Judge Emerson’s warning and jabbed his finger at Caxton. “Anyone else would be going to prison now, but your client had the cash to hire the best lying lawyer that money can buy. Somebody ought to teach you two a lesson—the hard way.”
“Mr. Tate, that is enough!” Judge Emerson said as he banged his gavel again. “Do not test my patience, or you will find yourself held in contempt of court.”
Tate took a deep breath and let it out, struggling for control. “Yes, Your Honor.” He sat down, but continued to glare at Caxton.
Caxton shrugged and maintained his cool and professional appearance. He had perfect teeth, a year-round tan, manicured fingernails, and the latest hairstyle. His suits, shirts, and ties were all custom-made by the finest tailors in the Financial District.
Caxton was used to having that level of helpless anger leveled at him by now. He couldn’t have cared less about it. He’d earned a reputation in San Francisco as the lawyer you loved to hate. But as he often said, being hated sure did pay well.
Caxton’s favorite story was about a client who had asked him if he could seek justice. He’d answered, “Yes, and how much justice can you afford to buy today?”
“You are now free to go, Mr. Riabraun,” Judge Emerson announced.
Riabraun grinned and shook hands with Caxton, then exited through a side door. He was already sliding into a waiting limousine when Emerson dismissed the jury.
Caxton headed toward the front entrance of the court building with his head held high. He went outside and faced the news reporters and gave a brief but well-rehearsed speech. “Today, justice was served. My client was found not guilty by a jury in a court of law. Thank goodness we live in a country where lawyers can protect honest, hardworking people such as my client from false accusations.”
Reporters yelled questions at Caxton, but he walked away, looking pious. His publicist would issue a statement to the press any minute now. As he strolled toward the parking lot and his brand-new BMW, he didn’t notice someone sitting in a car watching him.