2010-08-23: Reasonable Doubt

Featuring:

cross_icon.pngvasha_icon.png

Date:

08/23/10

Location:

Colorado, USA — ADX Florence, supermax prison

Summary:

A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act. —Mahatma Ghandi


One Week Ago

Alexandra — South Africa

"We stay for tonight," Porter agrees. Once his shirt is buttoned and his collar is properly adjusted, he shoots another glance at Vasha. "We both need the rest. We'll leave in a few hours. Start looking for a radio. I don't know about you, but I'm ready for a chopper to take me any-damn-where but here."

Five Days Ago

Somewhere near Tel Aviv — Israel

The Halo touches down with a couple of bounces before it finally settles on the restricted pad in Israeli territory. Two lines of soldiers jog out in two lines, dispersing once they hit the pad and taking different spots to cover the five that exit the hangar next. The one in the middle is dressed in an orange jumpsuit, a black bag over its head and shackled at the wrists and ankles. One each side, the prisoner has guards, each firmly gripping an arm. The guard in front has a machine gun at the ready, as does the one in back. They're waiting, preparing for something. This extraction has been anything but easy.

As the five approach the giant bird gunfire breaks out. Two of the men on the pad fall instantly and the others start yelling and looking for the point where the shots were fired. The group of five move at a little faster pace, trying to get to the sliding door. They'll be happy when it's over.

Today

Colorado — United States

A woman with long brown hair is escorted down a hallway of jeering men. It only takes one look from the woman to quiet them as she passes. It's a glare of pure hatred for some, for others a raised brow of respect, and try as they might, the guards are unable to keep her from turning her head. No matter how roughly they jostle her or hit the bars with their nightsticks.

Led into a small room, she is cuffed to a desk and told to keep her hands flat on its surface.

"If you even blink an eye in a pattern, we'll be all over you like a fly on shit," the guard growls low near her ear. They know who she is and what she's accused of. No one kills Americans on foreign soil and gets away with it. Not even some rich bitch.

"Good for business," the boss had said. "Good for your career," he'd urged. And apparently the urging had worked because P.I. Cross is here, at the prison, poised to meet his client. His black suit and red tie make add to his professional appearance as he proudly walks into the small room. His briefcase is set on the table and opened. Several documents are removed before the suit assumes his own seat across from Vasha. "Ms. Kruger?" he shoots her a charming smile.

"P.I. Cross. I'll be serving as your defense lawyer. Currently no one is listening to our conversation although I've been told we're being watched on closed circuit television. It seems the powers that be don't trust you. If our meeting goes without a hitch I think I can get the cameras turned off next time as they are clearly in violation of attorney/client privilege." He would normally extend a hand to shake, but considering they've insisted she keep hers on the table, it's futile, really.

"Do you understand the charges laid against you?"

Vasha's head has been kept down the entire time the lawyer has been talking. When he poses that last question though, she raises her head to give him a low brow glare. He's being treated like every other American that's kidnapped and put her through this humiliation. Her lips smack once before she licks her lips and takes a deep breath to let it out in a rather bored sigh.

"Six counts of murder, one of them being a justice of the Supreme Court of these… United… States… of… America." Her tone is low and blase, as though she doesn't care in the least. Her words are slow, as though she's drawing them out so that he might understand them better. Though she is seated in the manner that she was told to remain in, her posture is hostile, like a caged lion tensed and ready to pounce on the first unsuspecting victim.

"Indeed. And these six counts could add up to more than just prison Ms. Kruger," he states matter-of-factly. His body language, unlike hers is stilted, controlled. Every word, every flicker of his lips, and every twitch of his face is under his control, there are no tells, no way to see what he's thinking, and no way to know what lies behind his pokerface.

"Do you understand? I'm defending you. If I fail, it could mean your life." Now his expression becomes grave. "And yes, six counts of murder. All in the first degree, meaning they think you premeditated these — making you, essentially, a serial Ms. Kruger. Do you know what the Supreme Court will do to a serial killer? Particularly for murdering a Supreme Court justice?" The question must be rhetorical as he moves on from it before there's even time to answer.

A hand is rake through his blond hair. "I'm trying to build you a solid defense. Something that will hold up so we can, at the very least, get your sentence trimmed down. Unfortunately this is difficult considering these didn't transpire on American soil and the agent who brought you in is currently unavailable. Do you want my help or not?" His tone has an edge to it, a sternness generally reserved for the court room. "If we're going to succeed at all, I need you to tell me anything you know about the death of these people."

Keeping her hands on the table, Vasha licks her lips again and purses them together. "Mister Cross," she begins, her voice still the same low tone as it was. "I am not a serial killer, at best a mass murderer. The six people were gunned down in the middle of a conflict of territory in my country." Her South African accent carries her words with a bitter edge and they echo through the nearly empty room with a ferocity that she may use on the outside. Maybe on the inside too. She doesn't admit to being the one doing the gunning though, in all of the tapes and interrogations, she's remained steadfast but she's also refused to point any fingers.

"Your courts are innocent until proven guilty, huh?" She looks up at him and though her body is still tightly wound, there's a softness in her eyes, a sheen that diminishes with every blink. "Beyond a reasonable doubt, ja? Then give them doubt. That should be simple enough, huh?"

"Conflict in your country or not, Americans got caught in the crossfire, Ms. Kruger. We'll be lucky if we get an unbiased jury, and even luckier to get a judge who won't shut down our every move. I will work my damned ass off to make it happen, but those are the cold hard facts," Cross is one of the best in the business, and it shows his own hands rest on the table as he stares bullets at her with his cold, steely eyes. "So if you have evidence: an alibi, a tale, anything it can't hurt us. The investigation is patchy at best, but the pricks that arrested you? Well, frankly, the arrest wouldn't have stuck in any state court. It's all hearsay. The problem is most people, like the damned lemmings they are, have already made up their minds."

"So. What happened? What was this conflict about? What were the Americans doing there? Who was there? And, more importantly, do you have an alibi?"

The woman flits her hazel eyes to the camera and then back down to her hands on the table. "You are certain that no one is listening to this exchange?" Her slow speech is quiet, she obviously doesn't want anyone else to hear what she is going to tell him. Even though her words are quiet, they still seem rather loud when amplified by the echoes in the room.

Taking a deep breath, she looks Cross in the eye and purses her lips together. "I will tell you everything in confidence, but … It must be in confidence."

Cross gives a glance to the camera before he turns back to his client. Rolling his eyes at it's presence, even for his own safety, he finds it offensive anyone would watch an attorney and his client talk. "No one's listening. There's no microphone. Anything you say to me here, in this room, is subject privilege. If they listen, their hands are tied and we get their asses hauled off to jail." He pauses as his jaw clenches, "And they know I'll see to it they never the light of day." His lips curl into a sinister smile, he disapproves of how this case has been handled so far. "And they're not recording what we're doing, just watching a live feed."

"I was not part of the conflict." Vasha's breath comes out louder than those words, an admission that makes her look and feel guiltier than the weight of all those deaths on her shoulders. Her eyes shift to gaze into Cross', her jaw tenses and her lips curl into a sneer. "I was not a part of the conflict," she repeats just a little louder, giving him benefit of hearing the words in case he hadn't before.

"The authorities in charge of the investigation in South Africa knew this. This is why my country refused deportation. Whether or not there were Americans caught in the cross-fire of a territory dispute, it does not matter." She pauses then, that sneer turning up at one corner to form a sardonic smirk. "Over twenty black men, women, and children died, do you think your country gives a shit about them, huh? No, six Americans… One of them a judge." She leans back and slouches in her chair, her hands remaining flat on the table. Shaking her head, Vasha lets a pff sound through her lips and looks away, leaving Cross with only a view of her profile.

For better or worse, Cross watches her with that same intent stare, cold and detached while he hmmms quietly to himself. "Look. I get it." His jaw tightens now while his blue eyes watch her closely, seeking eye contact and aiming to hold it as long as he's permitted. "You're pissed off. You don't like Americans. You think they're selfish prats who don't give a damn for anyone but their citizens." He narrows his eyes now, still trying to maintain that eye contact. "And you're right. In a way you're right."

"But." He holds up a single finger to drive his point home, this but is a big but. "BUT. You could help our defense if you tried to act sad for the lives lost. Supreme Court Judges are an old boys club; they have money, influence, and thanks to our justice system, power."

There's a pause now as Cross finally breaks eye contact, his gaze turning to the camera before returning to Vasha. "Then who was in the conflict, Ms. Kruger? If you weren't there where were you and is there anyone, anyone, anyone that can corroborate your story?"

"Mister Cross, I will not pretend to be apologetic for an extinguished existence. Black, white, colored, rich, poor; death happens, huh? It is one of the inevitable things that happens at the end of life." Vasha's cool voice rings clear through the room as she turns to fix the lawyer with a cool stare of her own. "The conflict was between warlords in a dispute over territory. Rather than focus on who was there, why are you not focusing on the more important detail of why your Americans were there?"

She slides up in her chair again, sitting properly with perfect posture. "The area is not particularly known for its tourist attractions. Why would an American Supreme Court justice be visiting an area known for heated conflict, especially an area where the conflict begins and ends with the illegal trade of diamonds?"

"The problem is they're not on trial and I can't make them pay for their deaths — believe me, once I'm on the other side of eternity and I'm batting for the hellfires the sure thing, I'll get 'em where it hurts. Passing blame to the victim? That never works. Except in rape trials — then everyone wants to blame the victim, like what she was wearing is relevant," Cross's arms cross over his chest as he leans back in his chair.

"Even if the Supreme Court Judge was caught up in the illegal diamond trade, all we'd have is a convenient distraction. The fact remains: the court justice was killed. He died. That's the way it goes."

"Reasonable doubt, Mister Cross. What is it you Americans say now? If the glove does not fit, you must acquit?" Vasha's jaw tenses and her lips turn downward in an expression of disgust. Still she offers nothing more in regards to his questions. "That is all that I need from you, reasonable doubt. I am certain that my father is paying your company well enough for that service, yes?"

From the government file on her and the criminal profile that was written, everything points to the fact that she seems to be protecting someone. The prosecution knows this but she is an easy scapegoat and although unwilling to cooperate with the authority, she hasn't once complained about being incarcerated.

"My kidnapping and exportation was extraordinarily illegal," she continues slowly, her cold stare still fixed on him. "I was refused my rights, beaten and humiliated… While I do not expect compensation for these things done to me, I would appreciate it if my legal counsel would at least do the things he can rather than what he wishes. I wish to win my life back, but if that requires compromising myself, I will take death."

"Reasonable doubt is what I intend to provide, Ms. Kruger. Believe me. But right now we are up a creek and we have the odds stacked against us," Cross slides his chair away from the table to the loud creak of metal scraping tile. "Even if your apprehension was illegal, agents have immunity in their country when operating under the orders of the powers that be."

Slyly, a smile cracks across his lips as he stands to his feet and returns the documents to the briefcase before snapping it closed. "Ha!" He slides it off the table, grasping the handle again. "This isn't about compromise either. You're allowed to be pissed. But building some empathy with the jury — smartest thing a defendant can do." He winks and makes a clucks his tongue while his nose wrinkles, "Think on it." That said, he marches from the table.

With the departure of the lawyer, the guards come back in and unlock the woman from the table. Not a word is uttered in her direction but when she is led back through the prison halls to her cell in solitary, a single clap begins what can only be described as a roar throughout the system.

Terrorists, serial killers, mass murderers, members of a plethora of mafias, all are at the doors of their cells, shouting cheers and banging against their bars.

The daughter of a South African warlord, whose own men are currently incarcerated in this very place, is being led down the hall. A woman considered too dangerous by the country's government to be trusted in a women's facility. Her cocky smile remains as she is pushed into her cell and shut into complete darkness.