The courtroom was packed—all attention riveted on Deputy District Attorney Nicky Rivers. She tilted her head in my direction, and for a moment, her eyes caught mine, her expression unmoved—but that was enough. I flashed on the memory from the night before in the front seat of my Ford truck. Her parting kiss had been alive with emotion. It had not been our first kiss—not by a long shot—but this one, for me anyway, had been different. This one beckoned me to take our relationship to the next level of commitment.
But here in the courtroom, I knew what she was going to do next, and I'd warned her against it. Not in a courtroom filled with friends and family of the victim.
She picked up a legal pad and approached the witness on the stand. Pam Peterson, the deputy coroner, had already been on the grill for more than an hour under cross-examination by Gloria Bleeker, the defense counsel. Now it was Nicky's turn for redirect. "Ms. Peterson, can you tell the jury again how the victim was killed?"
Peterson looked at Judge Connors first and then back at Nicky Rivers. "As I said before, the victim's throat was cut with a thick serrated blade."
Don't do it, I whispered.
"How deep?" Nicky asked.
"Almost to the point of decapitation."
Judge Connors said, "Counselor?"
Nicky ignored the warning. "Ms. Peterson, do you know if the victim's five-year-old daughter was present during this brutal attack?"
Gloria Bleeker stood. "Objection."
Nicky proceeded against the judge's earlier recommendation and pushed the button of the remote in her hand. A PowerPoint presentation in full color depicting the violent death of the victim came up on the television screen positioned directly in front of the jury.
A loud din rose in the courtroom.
I sat at the bailiff's desk, my finger poised on the panic button, ready to push it. I watched for something to ignite the small riot, something thrown, an object, a punch, a shove. An action that would force me to protect the evil that sat quietly in the defendant's chair. Force me to defend Louis Borkow against the innocent and misguided in the courtroom audience. The panic button would summon additional help that would arrive too late. Lives would be disrupted, people hurt. And for what? Not justice. Not by any stretch.
Judge Connors had instructed me not to push the button in the standing- room-only court except in an extreme circumstance. According to him, "This monkey shit of a circus already has too many reasons for an appeal and we don't need another one. So don't you push that button, Bruno, unless you're absolutely sure."
Louis Borkow sat unperturbed at the defendant's table and used the verbal disruption—the yelling from the audience, the rap, rap, rap of the judge's gavel—to, one at a time, stare down the members of the jury. Twelve of his "peers" who sat in the jurors' box, tasked with giving him the needle for the brutal slaying of his black girlfriend. The jurors would have every right to fear him if there had been one chance in a million he'd ever see the light of day. He would never get out, not with all the evidence stacked against him. The jury was smart enough to know it.
Borkow's jet-black hair made his pale skin seem even whiter, and his intense blue eyes brought out the psycho in him. He was the most dangerous threat in the room, so I watched his every move.
The Honorable Judge Phillip J. Connors, in his black robe, continued to bang his gavel until calm gradually returned and everyone sat down in their bench seats or went back to leaning against the wall. Two uniformed extra-duty deputies, on overtime, stood behind and to each side of Borkow. Not so much to restrain him but to keep the crowd from tearing his skinny ass apart. Keep the crowd from dragging him out in front of Compton Court and throwing a rope over the lowest branch of a pepper tree.
With order restored, Judge Connors said, "If it happens again, I'll clear the courtroom, and this proceeding will be closed to the public. Now"—he looked to Deputy District Attorney Nicky Rivers and pointed his gavel at her—"let's move on, shall we, Counselor? I think you've made your point with those crime scene photos. Don't you?"