She glanced at the wall clock as the witness droned on trying to answer the district attorney’s questions, or evade them, or whatever. Twenty minutes or so, she figured, and this witness would be done and she’d be down the street with the girls, partying. It was her retirement party and it had been planned for weeks. Everybody was going to be there. Was this assistant district attorney ever going to get to the point with this guy?
She’d been a court reporter for almost thirty years, ever since she got divorced in 1956. Mostly she did trial work and depositions. Her retirement plan was still a work in progress. She was moving on and maybe getting into interior decorating or pottery or something like that. She wasn’t sure, just anything except what she was doing right now.
She smiled to herself as she continued to type. Did anybody really understand that court reporters could do their jobs and still have a completely different line of thought going at the same time? A separate little voice working in the background. She didn’t think so. The girls always joked about this, usually after their second cocktail.
The current criminal case was a manslaughter trial. The witness was a jailhouse snitch who had overheard the Defendant make certain incriminating statements. Bored and restless, she continued to type the questions and answered testimony word for word:
"D.A. Jones: “Did the Defendant ever tell you about any other criminal acts that he had committed, Mr. Webster?”
Webster: “Yes sir, he did.”
D.A, Jones: “And can you tell this court what the Defendant revealed to you in that regard, Mr. Webster?”
Webster: “He, the Defendant, said he raped a young woman back in 1956 near the Bayside Beach pier early in the morning. June sometime, I think he said.” "
She froze and stopped typing as the District Attorney continued. Quickly recovering, she interrupted him and asked, “Can the witness please repeat his last answer?”
The judge so instructed the Defendant and everything got back on track except for the little voice in the back of her head that was screaming, He was the one who raped me! as she caught a quick look at the Defendant who was staring back at her with an evil half grin on his face. And he knows I know.
She looked at the clock. Maybe another fifteen minutes of testimony. Just enough, she thought to herself, just enough. She put away the little voice and focused completely on the task at hand. And fifteen minutes later, it was over. The judge indicated that the proceedings would recess now and reconvene at ten o’clock Monday morning.
As the jurors, the Defendant, the lawyers, and the rest filed out of the courtroom, she busied herself packing up for the last time. She knew from experience that the case against the Defendant was rock solid. He’d get the maximum sentence and would be out of her reach. And he’d never be charged with a purported rape decades ago on a lonely beach that had gone unreported.
But she also knew a few other things. She knew that the Defendant would have to appeal. Otherwise, he’d die in prison and he knew it. And she knew that even a rookie appellate attorney would pick up on the egregious stenographic errors in the transcript. The intentional ones she made during the last few minutes of testimony. And that alone would get the Defendant a new trial.
And he’d get out on bail pending the new proceedings.
Her true purpose in retirement was now very, very clear. And it had nothing to do with interior decorating or pottery or whatever.