“Are you listening to me?”
I shook my head and directed my gaze to my lawyer Aaron Weaver, He was supposed to be one of the best criminal attorney’s in Boston.”Sorry, what were you saying?”
He let out a sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose, obviously annoyed at my distraction.
“I was saying that we need to go through your testimony.”
“We’ve gone through this a thousand times.”
“And we’ll go through this a thousand times more, if I say we should.” He banged his fist on the table. “Why does it seem like I care more about you spending the rest of your life in jail than you do?” he hissed, obviously frustrated with me.
I scoffed at him but said nothing.
I had overheard my parents talking with Aaron the other day. I knew things didn’t look good for me. The prosecutors had wanted to charge me with first degree murder but they changed it to voluntary manslaughter. Which made it far easier for the jury to find me guilty. All the prosecutor had to prove was that although I did not go to Cole’s home with the intent to kill him, the killing occurred in the “heat of passion”
“Today will probably set us back. The prosecutor is playing the 911 call that Cara made when she found Cole’s body. It’s going to be released to the press too. I haven’t heard it but from what I’ve heard the call is pretty intense. The court of public opinion is going to crucify you. The jurors are sequestered but we can’t guarantee that they wouldn’t be influenced by outside forces.”
I shrugged. Public opinion was the least of my worries. After waking up in jail with a butch woman named Tigger’s tongue down my throat and her finger poking my asshole, people’s bad opinion of me didn’t faze me.
“Your testimony could change things. Tell the court the truth. Let them see your pain. Make them believe you. Cry, if you have to. You have to win their sympathy. Do you understand?”
I nodded. “Is Cara testifying?”
Aaron shook his head. “No. They’re going to lay the video from her deposition.” Apparently her doctor think testifying in front of so many people would be very bad for her emotional health.”
I was escorted into the court room by a security guard with my hands shackled. When I walked in my eyes met Jackie’s. Sawyer was seating next to her. I couldn’t control the jealousy that coursed through me. Jackie was married. She was happy. While I was living in a hell hole of my own creation and I had no one to blame for me.
The judge walked in and the courtroom became quiet as the proceedings began.
“Remember to look contrite. Make the jurors want to believe you.” Aaron hissed at me, when I was called to the stand.
I nodded and I shakily walked over. I could feel all eyes on me as I took the stand and swore to tell the truth. I looked to the crowd and I saw everyone staring at me. Jackie and Sawyer, my parents and brother, Tricia and Katie were also there. There were many other people I didn’t know. All staring at me, judging me, wondering if I was guilty or not.
The prosecutor was a tiny middle-aged Asian woman who was very intense. She had the best prosecution rate in Massachusetts. Her hair cut was cut in a short and sharp bob and her almond-shaped eyes had a glint of something feral. This woman was determined to win.
“Ms. Keller what where you doing in Mr. Haywood’s apartment that faithful night?”
“I got a call from him. He told me that I should come over and he would tell me the truth.”
“The truth about what?”
“The truth about why he lied that he was raped by Jackie, when in fact he was the one who raped her, and why he convinced Ian to lie that he was also raped by Jackie.”
“If you thought this man was a rapist, why did you think it was a good idea to go over to his home at night, alone?”
I balled my hands into a fist and calmed myself. I had heard that question way too many times. I inhaled and gave the response that Aaron and I practiced. Her line of questioning was just as Aaron predicted. When she asked me about the moments leading up to the stabbing I knew that this was the part where I was supposed to start crying. Aaron wanted the jurors to sympathize with me, to feel my distress.
But I wasn’t sad. I was mad as hell. If I hadn’t defended myself, I would have been raped and God knows what else Cole would have done to me. I did what I had to do to protect myself and I was being condemned for it.
I tried, I really did but I couldn’t muster up tears. It was like I was incapable of producing tears. I cried myself to sleep every night during may first three months in jail. One day after I had been held down and molested by Tigger and Dime, two of the burliest, butchest women in jail, I realized that I was all cried out. That night instead of crying myself to sleep, I imagined shooting Tigger and Dime over and over again.
I had escaped Cole just to end up in jail and be raped. Dime had shoved her hands stubby hands into me while Tigger sat on my face and told me if I dared to bite her vagina, in an attempt to escape, she would make sure I regretted it. I knew she wasn’t joking. While they had their way with my body I could feel the anger in me growing.
I took that anger, used it as a shield. Built it like a fence around my emotions. That anger was the reason I hadn’t become a shell of myself. Now, Aaron wanted me to keep the anger at bay and muster up tears.
I banged my fist on the stand and glared at the prosecutor after she asked me an especially provoking question.
“Cole was going to rape me. That son of a bitch, wrapped his hands around my throat. He smiled at me as I cried and begged him to stop. I was on the floor trapped underneath him. my vision was blurred and I could barely breathe but I fought. I fought for myself because I refused to let that bastard have his way with my body. So, yes, I stabbed him to get away. I protected myself and if it happened again I would do the same thing.”
My breathing was labored. I chanced a glance at Aaron and his lips were in a grim line.
Oops. That wasn’t part of the plan.
The prosecutor seemed unfazed by my outburst as she continued to ask me questions. Questions that made me seem guilty. Why didn’t I call the cops. Why didn’t I tell anyone? Why did I go through with the wedding knowing that I had killed a man. Questions that everybody had asked me. My mum, my dad, the lawyer, my brother. They all wanted to know the same thing. Why?
I told the prosecutor what I told them all. He wasn’t dead when I left. After I stabbed him multiple times, I rolled him off me and scrambled away. He was bleeding and in pain but he still had enough strength to say, “You fucking with. You stabbed me? I’m going to kill you.”
He tried to lunge at me but he was too weak. He slid to the floor instead, his breathing labored.
“You don’t look too good.” I said in what I hoped was a smug voice, as I stared at him from the other end of the room. My hand was on my neck as I sucked in much-needed air.
He laughed at me manically, “I’m coming for you. When I get my hands on you…” He didn’t finish his sentence. His eyes were manic, even as he laid there in pain, with the knife still in his back, his focus was on me and the depraved things he wanted to do with me.
I began to gather my things that had fallen out of my purse as I scrambled to leave. I eyed his sunken form. He was still alive, still breathing, still laughing, watching me with his evil eyes.
I gathered the rest of my things and got the hell out of there. That decision was what haunted me. I didn’t call 911 because I wanted to get away from there. I didn’t want to wait around for the police and answer questions. I wanted to go home and wash Cole’s filth off me. I wanted to head to Mansfield and marry the love of my life. I assumed that because Cole was alive, he would call 911 for himself. Make up some story about a burglar or something and that would be the end of that. I had no plans to ever see Cole again. In retrospect I was stupid, but in the moment, with the adrenaline still rushing through my veins, I couldn’t think clearly. I didn’t consider that he might bleed to death.
I explained all this to the courtroom. I forced myself not to look at the jurors. I didn’t want to look in the eyes of the people who were deciding my fate. If I saw skepticism in any of their eyes, it would break me. Retelling this story of the horrible night was bad enough, I didn’t think I would be able to handle it if they thought I was lying.
Then it hit me. This must have been what Jackie felt. This was the reason she didn’t tell me about being raped. She would not have been able to handle it, if I didn’t believe her. If I had taken Cole’s side over hers, it would have been like twisting the knife Cole had stuck in her. Thinking back to the kind of person I was in high school, I knew that she was right not to tell me because I most likely would have taken Cole’s side. I searched for Jackie across the courtroom and when our eyes met, I tried to convey everything I was thinking through me eyes.
She gave me a small nod and I know she understood. Her understanding brought me a small sense of peace.
After I was questioned, there was a small break. When court resumed the prosecutors began showing evidence of the crime scene. They had pictures of the stab wounds in Cole’s back, pictures of the bloody scene, pictures of the weapon. Then, they played Cara’s 911 call.
“911. What’s your emergency?”
“Please help me. My husband….” Her sentence broke off as she cried.
“Ma’am, what’s the issue?
“Someone stabbed him. There’s b-blood everywhere. I don’t know what to do. Please help me. Cole, baby, stay awake. Please stay awake. There’s a knife still in his back. Should I take it out?”
“No Ma’am. Do Not take it out! That will only speed up the bleeding. What’s your address?”
“I love you baby. Please. Please. This can’t be happening.”
“Your address please.”
She rattled off the address in between sobs.
“The police and the ambulance are now the way. Does he have a pulse?”
“I-I don’t know. He’s not breathing. He hasn’t moved. Oh God! This can’t be happening. Cole, you can’t die. Don’t do this to me. I love you.” Cara’s sobs were loud and guttural.
“Can you check for a pulse?”
“I can’t feel a pulse. He’s not breathing. Why isn’t he breathing. Cole! Please! Who did this? Why would anyone do this? Why?” She wailed. You could hear the pain in her voice.
It went on for a few minutes, her begging Cole to not be dead. The 911 operator tried to calm her down and tell her what to do. Then suddenly there were sounds of sirens in the background.
“They’re here. Oh thank God, the ambulance is here. Cole do you hear that. You’re going to be okay. Wake up baby. You’re not going to die on me. You hear me?”
Then the line went dead..
Next, they played the video from Cara’s deposition the day after Cole died. She looked small and fragile. She recounted what happened before she went to bed and what happened when she woke up and found her husband laying in a pool of blood. Her voice was feeble as she spoke and tears were streaming down her eyes. When the video ended. The court room was silent. I chanced a glance at the jurors. Most of them looked distraught. The call recording and the video had put everyone in the courtroom through an emotional wringer. Three of the jurors had tears in their eyes
Shit. That didn’t look good for me. My heart began to pound as I realized for the first time that I might actually be found guilty.
The judge called for a lunch break and everyone left the courtroom. I was taken to a small room and when I got in my parents were already in there and a few minutes later Aaron walked in.
“What’s next?” My dad asked him.
“Next, we’re going to present out closing arguments and then the jurors are going to make their decision.”
“What do you think that decision is going to be?” My mum asked shakily. She placed a hand on the table to steady herself.
Aaron didn’t reply. He didn’t have to. The grim look on his face said it all.
——- ——– ——
I want to give you all a heads up and let you know that the next post will be the last post. Thank you all for reading and sticking with me on this journey. I hope the final post lives up to your expectations.