“We the jury find the defendant…Not Guilty.”
I hear the various reactions behind me. Cries of stifled joy from those who believe these twelve strangers got it right. Clicks of cameras going off rapid fire as the press capture this moment. Gasps of disbelief and outrage from those, like me, who know this man is guilty.
But as my boss frequently reminds me, knowing it and proving it are not the same thing.
I remain stone-faced, showing no emotion as the judge and foreperson wrap up the formalities of the court before the judge finally ends the proceedings. Her gavel slams down, releasing a killer back into the community.
Because I failed. I failed to prove my case and convince the jury no one other than this man, Phillip Mann, had killed his girlfriend ten months ago.
Grimly I gather up my files and briefcase. As I stand and turn my eyes fall on him. Phillip Mann. He’s watching me with a smirk on his face, gloating in his eyes. He knows he beat me. I swallow my own rage, barely keeping my composure. I’m supposed to be sitting on the scales of justice, operating in facts and evidence, losing my shit in front of all these people shatters that belief and trust.
I’ll do that later, when I’m alone.
Ignoring the monster being congratulated fifteen feet away from me I instead turn to Carrie’s parents. Her mother’s presence has been strongly felt during the case, proud and grief stricken sitting in the gallery every day of testimony. Her father silent and stoic but red eyes reflecting his pain.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t do more. I’m sorry for your loss.” They give me jerky nods, her father finally cracking in public, a rough sob bursting out of him. They leave, arms wrapped around each other, sniffling.
I meet the eyes of Detective Melrose, standing at the back of the courtroom. He knows we blew this one. This is on both of us. He raises his chin, acknowledging our shared defeat.
Next to me, my assistant Dean seems to be taking the loss even harder than I am. His dark eyes are troubled, a gray pallor over his mahogany cheeks. The inexperienced DA made a critical error, costing us valuable evidence on a legal technicality. It happens. But it doesn’t ease the vicious blow of guilt when you are the one responsible. I place a hand on his shoulder, squeezing in some attempt at reassurance.
“Take the rest of the day. We’ll meet in the office in the morning.” He nods, acknowledging my instructions.
Outside the courthouse, I make a brief statement to the press. I say nothing of substance. There’s nothing to say. This is the system. Do I wish we had successfully gotten justice for Carrie? Of course. I am as convinced today as I was two months ago, when we began this trial that Phillip killed her, that he belongs in prison. But there is no point in saying that to the cameras. There is nothing I can do now for Carrie or her family. The media isn’t that interested in my boring platitudes, they rush passed me to Phillip Mann and his legal team as they exit to the front steps.
I walk away without looking back. I don’t want to hear what they have to say.
The only thing keeping me together is the knowledge that it’s not over. I won’t let it be. Not yet.
Hours later I’m at my favorite dive bar, deep in my thoughts a bourbon in front of me.
I look up from my glass and see Dylan Melrose sliding onto the stool next to me. He signals the bartender and orders a pint of beer.
“What did you find out?”
“You were right,” he says. “Carrie isn’t the only one.”
My hand squeezes into a fist, channeling my rush of emotions – rage, relief, determination.
“Then we get him for those.”
Dylan nods at me, the same determination on his face.
“We’ll get him.”
We first meet Ian last year in Xander’s story.