30 Days of Fiction: 22

"Can you tell me what happened on the night of July 5th, Mr. Meeks," a lawyer named Jim asked a very sweaty man named Walter Meeks who sat in the witness seat looking up into the rafters. Walter was now staring off into space and looking nervous with the audience's gaze bearing down on him like a dozen firehoses trying to put out a raging fire.

"Mr. Meeks," the kind looking judge leaned toward Walter and calmly yet authoritatively asked, "Mr. Meeks, can you please tell us what happened on July 5th? Tell us about what occurred at your house that led us all to be here."

With that, Walter perked up, focused on the lawyer who had asked the original question and began, "I'm sorry. I haven't slept in a few days. It's actually fairly straightforward now that I have had some time to think about it. I was attacked by three armed men who broke into my house intent on doing my family harm. They were not there to simply steal our things. I know this because they must have seen our cars outside and most likely had cased my house to get to know what we had, who we were and when we would be there or not."

Walter paused for a moment to look around at the audience whose attention was wrapped.

He continued, "I was asleep in bed with my wife, our 9-year-old son Erik was in the room next door when I woke up and heard someone in the house. I woke my wife up, who wanted to get our son but it sounded like they were already in the house and would have heard if we went for him then. I got my Glock 17 out of my safe and told her to go into the bathroom and call 911. I had to get my son, so I slowly opened the door to the hall and could see that Erik's door was still shut. I looked through the crack in the door and could see a man in a mask with a pistol in one hand coming up the stairs. I knew I had no choice. I opened the door, leaned out on my side and shot him three times in the chest."

Walter's head bowed as he talked about killing the first robber, visibly shaken by recounting the night.

"What happened next," Jim asked when Walter had remained silent for too many moments.

"It was so loud," Mr. Meeks said looking back at the lawyer and the audience. He continued, "I got up and rushed into Erik's room but he wasn't in there. I panicked and started calling his name softly. 'Erik, Erik' I called and then he came out from under the bed and I grabbed him. 'It was so loud' he said as I started for the door. I went to open the door but as I did they started shooting at the door. I jumped back and had Erik hide under the bed again. I lay on my back with my gun trained on the door ready to shoot but they didn't come. Instead, I heard them rush into my bedroom, where my wife was. I got up immediately and rushed after them. I opened the door and saw two men but then I heard shots. At least 4 of 5 loud bangs and I saw my wife holding her Glock 19 and one of the men goes down. The second one is in front of me so I put my gun up to the back of his head and fire one shot."

Walter goes back to staring at the rafters, this time slightly rocking back and forth.

"What happened after that," the judge interjected the silent fog filling the room.

Mr. Meeks slowly turned his head and looked down at the floor before saying, "My wife and I got our son, put our guns on the bed, went downstairs and waited for the police."

"Is that everything Mr. Meeks," asked the judge.

"Yes," Mr. Meeks said softly without looking up.

"Alright, with that we will take a short recess and the prosecution will begin their cross-examination in 1 hour," the judge said before hitting his gavel.

One hour later the judge was sitting behind his bench, the lawyers were behind their desks, Walter Meeks was in the witness chair, and the audience started filing in the room. After a few moments of murmurs and shuffling the gavel struck again.

"Alright, the prosecution will now cross-examine the witness," the judge said as the state's prosecuting attorney slowly made their way up to the witness.

Walter sat in his chair, this time focused on the attorney as they meandered around the room, stopped at the juror box for a moment and then finally came up to him.

"How long have you owned a gun, Mr. Meeks," the attorney asked.

"Objection, relevance," Walter's lawyer said calmly.

"I just started your honor, I have to start somewhere," the attorney pleaded with the judge.

"Overruled, answer the question please," the judge said.

"I've been shooting most of my life, my dad taught us how to shoot, " Walter began but was cut off.

"Answer the question, how long have you owned the gun that you used to shoot two men. One, in the back of the head," the attorney said with disdain.

"Two years," Mr. Meeks replied looking up at the ceiling.

"And where did you buy that gun," the attorney asked.

"Objection, relevance," Walter's attorney said without looking up.

"I'm getting there, your honor," the attorney explained.

"Overruled," the judge said looking at Mr. Meeks.

"I bought it from a friend," Walter replied.

"Why did you buy it from a friend and not at a store," the attorney asked.

"Objection, why does it matter how my client acquired the gun he used to defend his family," Walter's lawyer said, now fully annoyed.

"What is the point of this, Ben," the judge asked the attorney.

"It goes to the defendant's mental state during the incident and his violent nature," the attorney answered confidently.

"Permission to approach the bench," Walter's lawyer asked already rising out of his chair.

The judge gestured the two suit-wearing men to him and they began to talk for a moment. Walter stared at the ceiling while they talked and when they finished the lawyer sat back down and Ben walked back over to the witness.

"Have you ever been committed to a psychiatric ward," Ben asked.

Mr. Meeks slowly brought his gaze back down to earth, looked up at the judge pleadingly, but when he saw no reprieve, he answered, "yes."

"How many times, Mr. Meeks," the attorney asked while pacing around the room.

"Three, times," Walter answered.

"Can you tell us about when and why you were taken to a psychiatric ward three times, Mr. Meeks," Ben asked as he stopped at the jury box to rest and look over the jury.

"Once when I was 14, once when I was 17 and once when I was 23," Walter said and then paused before continuing, "The first time I got into a fight with another boy at school. The second time I jumped out of a moving vehicle, and the last time I was..." he couldn't finish the sentence and looked down.

"Please continue, Mr. Meeks, what happened when you were 23," the judge asked with a soft tone.

"I, uh," he stuttered, "I was manic and went walking around the city at night with a 22 rifle. I guess I shot it off a few times, and then I was taken into custody."

"You aren't allowed to own a gun are you," the attorney asked, but before Mr. Meeks could answer he said, "and when you were 14, that fight you were in, you bit the other boy's finger off, didn't you?"

"Objection, badgering," Walter's lawyer interjected.

"Sustained," the judge said.

"I'll rephrase the question," the attorney replied and with a smile asked, "Are you allowed to own a gun in this state, Mr. Meeks?"

"No," Walter answered softly.

"And you take medication for manic depression, bi-polar, and schizophrenia, is that correct," Ben asked.

Walter looked over at his lawyer who nodded for him to answer.

"Yes," Walter replied.

The attorney leaned up against the witness stand and leaned over to ask, "And you enjoyed shooting that man in the back of the head and watching his brains splatter all over the wall, didn't you?"

"Objection," Walter's lawyer exclaimed and stood up astounded at the attorney's tactics.

"Sustained," the judge said and added, "Do not answer that Mr. Meeks. That was highly unprofessional and if it happens again you will be done here."

Walter was staring at the ceiling and rocking back and forth dramatically now as the judge banged his gavel to silence the uproar in the audience. A few moments past before the judge announced to the court that they would have another 30-minute recess where he would tell the jury how to deal with the most recent information and speak with the lawyers in his chambers.

45 minutes later the courtroom was filled and the gavel struck again marking the beginning of the next set of arguments.

"Does the prosecution have anything more," the judged asked.

"Not at this time, the witness is yours," Ben replied.

"Do you wish to redirect," the judge asked looking at Walter's lawyer.

"Yes, I do your honor," he said before standing up and walking over the Walter who was not looking at the ground or ceiling at the moment but directly forward. He asked, "do you feel that you did everything a reasonable person would do in the situation you were in?"

"Absolutely, I had no choice," Walter said confidently.

"And do you feel that your mental state was clear and focused during the events that night," the lawyer asked.

"Yes, sir. I take my meds, and they work for me. I don't know what else I can say," he said with tears starting to come down his face.

"Thank you, Walter," the lawyer said before adding, "No further questions, your honor."

"You may take a seat next to your lawyer Walter," the judge said gesturing for Walter to leave the witness stand.

After a moment he continued, "The prosecution will now make their closing statements, followed by the defense."

Ben stood up swiftly and strolled toward the jury to begin his monologue, "I am not here to tell you that Mr. Meeks is an evil man. Or that he shouldn't have defended himself. What a horrible situation he was in. But he admits that he illegally obtained a firearm and he has a history of violence. He has an unstable mind and engaged in a level of violence that goes beyond self-defense. His wife owned a gun legally so why did he need one? Because he wanted to use it! He pushed the barrel into the back of a man's head and pulled the trigger. Could you do that? I know I couldn't, and we can not afford to have a man like that out on our streets. Who knows if his medication will continue to work? And what he is capable of when they stop working?" He finished his speech pointing at Mr. Meeks and then sat back down at his desk.

"The defense will make it's closing statements," the judge explained.

Walter's lawyer shuffled some papers before standing up. He too strolled over to the jury and said, "This man was put into the worst possible situation anyone could ever deal with. Three armed men, in masks, broke into his house intent on who knows what kind of horrific acts, and he defended himself and his family. It's that simple. The prosecution wants to make him out to be a danger to society but from what I see he is exactly the kind of person I would want living next door. Someone who admits their faults; learns from them and acts heroically in the face of overwhelming terror. The prosecution wants you to be distracted by irrelevant details about his past, and the gun he used. He wasn't supposed to have a gun but thank God he did because his child and wife are alive because of it. So, when you go into that room to deliberate just ask yourselves one question, 'What would I do to save the ones I love?"

Walter's lawyer concluded his speech and sat back down. The judge told the bailiff to take the jury to deliberate and as the last of the jurors left the room silence fell on the court.