Authors: Shawn William Davis
Shawn William Davis
This is a work of fiction. All of the names, characters, places, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright 2014 by Shawn William Davis
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher.
Printed in the United States of America
The courtroom was eerily silent. Only an occasional nervous coughing or clearing of a throat interrupted the quiet. The elderly, white-haired judge sat impassively at his bench like the rest of the audience, awaiting the arrival of the jury. Many of the spectators leaned forward in their seats with anxious anticipation as if they were attending a Superbowl game with a tied score.
It had been an unusual trial; a police officer was rarely accused of major drug distribution and trafficking charges. If convicted, he faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years and a maximum sentence of twenty years in State Prison. Some of the evidence was damning, but the defense was adroit in its arguments supporting the officer’s innocence. The character witnesses testifying for the officer and the complete absence of anything resembling a history of wrongdoing or a criminal record up until this point made the outcome of the trial uncertain.
Ray Burnside was twenty-seven years old and he had only been on the force six years when he was accused of one of the most ignominious crimes imaginable for a cop: drug dealing. Not surprisingly, the case caused a sensation in the media. Every supposed expert in the criminal justice system had an opinion. The circus never reached tabloid level, but it was getting close.
Courtroom observers saw the accused officer sitting calmly at the defense table next to his lawyer. He sat with a blank expression on his face, staring straight ahead. However, from where his lawyer was sitting, sweat was noticeably beading on his forehead. Also, his hands trembled slightly as he nervously clasped and unclasped them in his lap. The tension of waiting was becoming unbearable, even for the spectators. The judge announced that the jury had reached a verdict and they were on their way to the courtroom.
The suspense was broken by an unobtrusive door opening behind the jury box and a line of stone-faced jurors filing solemnly through it. It was impossible to read anything on their cold, expressionless faces. The defendant fidgeted anxiously in his seat as he watched the procession of solemn men and women shuffling silently into the box. When all the members of the jury sat down, the judge spoke.
“Has the jury reached a verdict?” he asked in a deep, resonating voice.
“We have, your honor,” a female voice answered.
“Would you please announce it to the court.”
A mousy, bespectacled, middle aged female juror, who looked like she belonged on a recruiting poster for a Librarians of America Club, stepped forward.
“On Count 1, Distribution, Manufacture, or Possession with Intent to Distribute,” she began.
The jury forewoman locked eyes with the defendant, briefly, and then looked down at the piece of paper in her hand. There was a two second pause as she caught her breath before speaking. “Guilty,” she said in a faint, unsure voice.
There was an audible gasp followed by an excited muttering in the courtroom.
“Order in the Court!” the judge bellowed, striking his gavel on his podium like a thunderclap.
The audience hushed.
“Please read the rest of the verdict,” the judge instructed the jury forewoman.
“Count 2, Drug Trafficking.” She paused, briefly, without looking up this time, and spoke in a clearer, surer voice. “Guilty.”
“So say you all?” the judge asked.
“Yes, your honor,” the jury members responded in sync like a congregation repeating the words of a minister.
All eyes turned toward the convicted former police officer. At first, it appeared that he had no reaction to the news, as he stared straight ahead at the judge’s podium. Those spectators closest to the defendant’s table noticed his face transform from pale white to scarlet. They also noticed his eyebrows pressing together as his mouth turned down and his eyes blazed. Still, he didn’t move. To those far away, it appeared that he had no reaction at all to the verdict. However, the nearest spectators saw his body trembling as if he were about to have a seizure.
A pair of court officers approached the apparently motionless defendant and took up positions on either side of him. The defendant didn’t take his eyes from a spot on the judge’s podium as the bailiff put a hand on his shoulder.
The bailiff’s touch was like high voltage electricity to Burnside. His formerly motionless body became a frenzy of motion. He backhanded the bailiff with a closed fist, striking him on the bridge of his nose. There was a sick crunching sound as the bailiff groaned and sank to his knees, clutching his face as blood gushed through his fingers.
The second court officer barely had time to react as the defendant twisted his body around to face him and went to work with the same fist he had used on the other bailiff. The second bailiff was barely able to dodge aside, so the fist only dealt him a glancing blow on the side of the head. Still, the punch was enough to knock him to the floor. The former police officer then seized the edge of the defense table with both hands.
He lifted the table as if he was doing a bicep curl and flung it forcefully across the room. It smashed into the base of the judge’s podium, scattering papers through the air like a rain of fluttering confetti.
The quiet courtroom transformed into pandemonium. Spectators screamed at the sight of the spectacle as they stood from their seats. The people seated closest to the former officer pushed past anyone blocking their way. A minor stampede ensued, causing the panic to spread throughout the courtroom like wildfire. Burnside glared, contemptuously, at the panicking throng as they pushed and shoved each other in the spectator aisles. His eyes darted across the courtroom chamber, searching for court officer reinforcements. From the moment he heard the verdict, he abandoned all rational thought in favor of pure instinct. He allowed his emotions to take over, letting them dictate his actions.
Twenty years in prison for doing nothing wrong!
The thought caused more adrenaline to surge through his already tense body. He trembled with rage as he scanned the courtroom. His eyes locked with the judge, who was staring at him with shock from the bench. The jury was also standing motionless at their seats, apparently waiting for somebody in authority to take over the situation.
They should think about improving the court’s security response-time to crisis situations,
Burnside thought, grinning darkly.
He watched people running away, but no one running toward him. Glancing over at the prosecutor’s table, he realized the prosecutor and his assistant had already joined the mob pushing their way toward the courtroom’s main doors.
He looked down and saw one of the bailiffs attempting to stand to his feet. He released all conscious control of his brain and allowed instinct to guide him; he slammed his fist into the guard’s forehead and the court officer crumpled to the floor. The other bailiff was still lying prone on the floor and Burnside guessed he must have used his peripheral vision to view what happened to his partner because he stayed where he was.
The convicted criminal turned to the left and locked eyes with the chairperson of the jury. He saw that her expression was frozen into a mask of terror. He walked calmly toward her.
As the jurors realized he was moving in their direction, they panicked like a herd of gazelles spotted by a hungry lion, pushing and shoving each other in an effort to reach the small door at the back of the jury box. A pair of court officers carrying riot batons had the unfortunate timing to be coming through the door the other way, causing them to collide with the panicked jury. The bailiffs were knocked back by the sheer force of the mob of twelve, fighting to squeeze through the small door. The chairwoman found her way blocked by other jury members and glanced over her shoulder to see the defendant closing in. She looked wildly around the courtroom for any sign of help.
Burnside turned to the right when he heard loud shouting from the direction of the spectator mob fighting to squeeze out the main entrance. He grinned maniacally as he spotted a group of cops and bailiffs trying to push through the mob toward him without much success. The frantic mob was practically trampling the officers, shoving them back through the main doors.
Burnside ran toward the jury box and vaulted over the railing. The chairwoman screamed as he grabbed her shirt collar and drew back his fist. At the sight of the terrified screaming woman, another part of his mind kicked in and caused him to hesitate. The woman reminded him of a domestic violence victim he met at a call he responded to in the past. He let go of her collar and let his fist drop to his side. The chairwoman seized the opportunity to scramble over the next row of seats to freedom.
By now, the twelve frightened jurors had squeezed through the back door, allowing bailiffs access to the jury box. Burnside saw five court officers moving toward him. He didn’t care. He leaped over the seats toward them. The closest bailiff pulled a baton from his holster and swung it at him. The baton glanced off his left arm. The ex-officer shoved the bailiff back into his comrades, knocking the entire group over like ten-pins. He seized the opportunity to turn and leap back over the seats. He re-vaulted the railing to the floor and charged the judge's podium. The judge was gone, but it looked like a good place to make a last stand.
They can only come at me a few at a time.
The convict sprinted up the podium steps to the judge's bench. Standing on the high point in the courtroom allowed him a better view of the chaos. The cops and bailiffs appeared to be making some progress through the mob. They reminded Burnside of harried explorers wading through a tumultuous river. Glancing left, he saw the foremost bailiff in the jury box leaping over the railing toward him. He looked ahead again and realized the cops at the vanguard had broken through the mob.
This is useless. I’m wasting my energy.
Burnside stepped down from the judge's bench. His adrenaline high was fading, he felt exhausted, and he could not remember what had caused him to go berserk in the first place. He walked down the podium steps toward the closest bailiff with his hands raised in the air.
The bailiff reeled back as if he was dodging a charging rhinoceros. Burnside watched another cop approaching him cautiously from the right, holding a baton.
"Forget it. It's over," the ex-officer said, turning toward the podium and putting his hands behind his back.
Despite his acquiescence, one of the bailiffs swung a baton. The baton struck him in the back of the head with a sharp crack. His vision faded to black as his body slumped to the floor.