[continued from Day 28]
Fenton “Fen,” Jr., a lanky boy of 13, with closely trimmed hair, took the stand, swore on a bible, said “yes ma’am,” and “yes, sir,” and did a pretty good job of appearing to be what he was, a kid from a tough neighborhood who had somehow managed to stay out of trouble. Until now.
“Fen, is your father Fenton Walker, Sr., the defendant in this case?”
“Yeah, that’s my dad.”
“And the victim, Tanya Walker, that was your sister?”
“Yeah.” Fen’s eyes dropped to his lap, where his hands lay clasped in his lap.
“Fen, would you please take a look at this photo, marked as People’s Exhibit No. 25. Can you tell the jury what you see there?”
“A blue hat. It’s a Fila baseball hat.”
“Fen, did you and your father live together?”
“Yeah, we all did. Me, Tanya, my dad, my mom.”
“And you saw your father often?”
“Objection, Your Honor.” The ASA was losing her patience.
“Overruled.” Judge Kilwin gave me a look that could wilt lettuce. “Counsel, lay your foundation and get to the point.” To Fen, he said “Son, you can answer.”
“I saw him every day.”
“Would you say you are familiar with your father’s clothing, then?” I said, eyeing the judge.
“Yeah, I’m familiar. We ain’t rich, okay? My dad don’t got a lot of different clothes.”
And so I got right to the point. “Fen, did your father own a blue Fila baseball hat like the one in People’s Exhibit 25?”
“No.” Fen shook his head twice. “He ain’t never had a hat like that.”
I could have stopped here. I thought about it. But that wasn’t the plan. So I asked my last question.
“You’re sure about that, Fen?”
“I’m positive.” And he did look positive. Damn. The kid had done great.
“No further questions, Your Honor.” The Judge narrowed his eyes at me. He knew I was up to something but wasn’t sure what. I got the impression that the judge didn’t think too highly of my skills as a litigator. And that was fine. I wasn’t here to win an award. I was here to get my client acquitted. I returned to counsel’s table wearing my best poker face. I pretended to look through a file, watching the ASA from the corner of my eye.
She was thinking, tapping her pen on her lower lip. Maybe she smelled a trap. But that bait … those two words–I’m positive–dangling there in the space of the courtroom. One thing you have to understand about lawyers, certainty in an adverse witness is like blood in the water. It triggers something primitive.
“Counsel?” Judge Kilwin was eager to wrap things up.
The ASA stopped her tapping and stood. She’d decided. “Just a few questions, your honor.” Atta girl.
She took her time approaching the witness stand, pacing back and forth as if she was debating something serious. You had to admire the theatrics. Finally she asked, “Mr. Walker …,” and then, as if it had just occurred to her, “May I call you Fen?”
“Most do.” He was being nice, just like I’d told him.
“Fen, have you memorized every article of clothing in your father’s closet?”
“I wouldn’t say memorized.”
“You wouldn’t?” The ASA raised her eyebrows about as high as they would go.
“Well I’m a little confused, then. When you say you’re positive that your father didn’t have a blue hat like that, isn’t that what you’re really saying?”
“No.” Fen looked a little indignant. I couldn’t blame him.
“Well, let me put it this way. Is it possible your father bought a new hat and wore it once or twice before you knew about it?”
“Does your dad own a lot of hats?”
“Some.” Now Fen was looking at her like she was a complete idiot. Keep cool, kid, I thought.
“How many would you say. More than five?”
“More than ten?”
“More than ten!” The ASA’s eyebrows appeared ready to take flight from her face. “More than 15?”
“Nah, not that many.” The eyebrows settled back down to earth.
“Ten to fifteen hats.” She let that sink in for a moment. “Sitting here today, Fen, could you describe each one of those hats to us?”
“Fen, are you still willing to tell this jury–and I want to remind you that you are under oath–are you still willing to tell them you are positive that is not your father’s blue hat?
Fen didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”
The ASA was smirking now. She should stop. But I could already see she wouldn’t. “But how can you be so certain?” I stopped breathing. That was it. She’d stepped into the trap. And just like that, it slammed shut on her.
“Because that’s my hat, ma’am. Ain’t nobody wearing it that night but me.”