Curt's life takes a turn that he never expected, and he realizes that it's because he forgot something that didn't seem important at the time. He also discovers that others have forgotten things that are important and that turns out to both help him and hurt him.
Mature or distressing themes. This story deals with abuse.
Chapter 37 — Lee Ramsen Testifies
Beth Wolman stood and addressed Judge Young. “Your Honor, may I have two minutes to confer with my staff?”
“Granted,” Judge Young replied.
She sat talking with her two assistants. After almost two minutes (I timed it on my smartphone) she stood and announced, “The Prosecution rests, Your Honor.”
Judge Young looked at the Defense table. Lawrence Wilde sat talking with one of his assistants.
“Mr. Wilde, is the Defense ready to proceed?”
“May we have a brief recess, Your Honor?”
“Granted. The Court will be in recess for fifteen minutes.”
I turned to Mr. Williams. “Did he ask for a recess because the Defense isn’t ready?”
“Yes. It’s a usual request.”
“How did the Judge know how long Mr. Wilde wanted for the recess?”
“There’s a code in the way it’s requested. A brief recess is fifteen minutes. A short recess is a half hour, and a recess is an hour. If the recess being requested is a different length of time, that’s included in the request. For example, a recess until tomorrow morning, or a forty-five minute recess. The only thing is that the code might vary according to the type of court where the trial is being heard.”
“That’s cool. I have another question. Can you explain why Don wasn't arrested for kidnapping Kyle?”
“Don was Kyle’s father, even though Kyle had been adopted. Don hit him, but under Illinois law he was in his right to use corporal punishment that didn’t cause injury. Tying him and transporting him to a religious ‘retraining’ center wasn’t actionable because again, there was no injury caused by Don himself. Also, crossing the state line into Wisconsin wasn’t illegal. However, in California transporting him across the state line would have been illegal.”
“How about the First Brethren Journey Camp injecting a juvenile without anyone’s consent, with a drug by an unlicensed person in order to control him?”
“The First Brethren Journey Camp and the staff members could have been charged with abuse but there was no evidence nor any witnesses to support Kyle’s claims. His condition when he was rescued in the hospital emergency room could have been the result of his own decision to not eat or drink while there. Also, his testimony about nothing to eat or drink for almost a week could be refuted by the First Brethren Journey Camp. They could say they did give him food and water but either he refused to eat or drink or because of his meditating he didn’t remember eating and drinking.”
“It all comes down to evidence, doesn’t it?”
“Curt, you’ve learned the first rule of a trial: follow the evidence.”
I grinned. “I think I heard that on a CSI show.”
Mr. Williams laughed. “You absolutely heard it on CSI, Curt, because I heard it there myself.”
“Who do you think the Defense will call as their first witness?”
“If I was the defense attorney, and note that I’m not so this is pure conjecture, I’d attempt to discredit the prosecution witnesses one by one.
“The first Prosecution witness was Tom. The only witness they could call to rebut his testimony is Otto Vanvelick. However, Vanvelick perjured himself in Don’s bail hearing. If he’s called as a Defense witness the Prosecution’s cross examination would be brutal and he and his testimony would be discredited. However, remember that Lawrence Wilde told the Judge that he reserved the right to recall Tom. I’m not sure why they’d want to do that unless they are disputing the provenance of the bat.”
“The simple definition is the provenance of something is its source. But it goes beyond source, which could, in the case of the bat you traded to Tom, be the manufacturer. The way it’s used in court also means everyone who possessed it, where, and when.
“You were the next prosecution witness. It would be very difficult to discredit your testimony. Lawrence Wilde attempted to discredit your claim that you’d never had sex with another boy. That revealed a possible defense strategy, to claim that thinking you were gay caused Don to enter into a state of violent temporary insanity caused by homosexual panic. There’s no scientific research to support the concept of homosexual panic. I doubt that it’s going to be successful as a defense strategy in this trial.
“Let’s move on. The next Prosecution witness was Office John Brady. Like your testimony, Curt, it would be very difficult to discredit Officer Brady’s testimony. Again, Lawrence Wilde attempted to discredit Officer Brady when he cross examined him by implying that he’d entered your house without a valid reason. He also questioned the legitimacy of the police being called to your home.
“The next Prosecution witness was Mrs. Hutchins. Lawrence Wilde went on a fishing expedition questioning her rationale for calling the police after hearing you screaming for help. I can’t see why he’d recall her.
“The next Prosecution witness was Doctor Leonard. He verified your account of Don’s assault on you and the injuries that it caused. Lawrence Wilde didn’t have any questions for the doctor. He couldn’t refute the photographs of your injuries taken in the hospital, the x-rays, your broken arm in a cast, and the actual bruises on your body.
“The final Prosecution witness was Kyle Campbell. He was Don’s son at the time that he was taken to the First Brethren Journey Camp. His testimony most likely helps the Prosecution. It might help the Defense because it could support a homosexual panic defense that Don was so enraged when Kyle told him he was gay that it caused him to tie and gag Kyle and take him to that camp. As I’ve already said, I don’t think a homosexual panic defense is going to work in this trial. I’m certain that Beth and her staff have researched this defense strategy. I haven’t done that research, but my guess is that it has been declared inadmissible in some California jurisdictions. Using that as Don’s defense could be a big mistake.”
“Now, back to your question about who might be the first Defense witness. It could be your mother, Curt. She would be questioned about Don’s background and demeanor. If he sticks to questions that support Don as a good husband and stepfather then Beth would be constrained to asking rebuttal questions only on those topics. Then, it could be other witnesses that I don’t know about that were on the Defense witness submission list.”
We were interrupted by the Bailiff who announced that Court would be back in session as soon as Judge Young returned from his chambers. He did that about a minute later, and the Judge addressed Lawrence Wilde.
“Are you ready to proceed, Mr. Wilde?”
“Yes, your Honor. I’ll call my first witness, Otto Vanvelick.”
I stifled a chuckle. Old man Vanvelick as a Defense witness? Really? What was Don’s attorney thinking? What a dipstick!
The Bailiff swore him in, and he gave his name and address.
“My name is Otto Rolf Vanvelick. I am sixty three years old. I live at 215 Pauley Court.”
The Bailiff walked away and Mr. Vanvelick remained standing. He looked confused, just like he’d looked during the bail hearing.
“Please sit down, Mr. Vanvelick,” Judge Young told him.
He sat down. Lawrence Wilde approached the witness stand.
“Mr. Vanvelick, do you know Donovan Clarey, the defendant in this trial?”
“Do you know the purported victim, Curtis Fischer?”
Judge Young banged his gavel.
“Mister Wilde, do you know the definition of ‘purported’?”
“Yes, your Honor.”
“Would you say it’s appropriate to say the victim in this case is claiming falsely or pretending to be the victim?”
“No, your Honor. I was using the definition that he claims to be the victim.”
“Mr. Wilde, the victim in a criminal trial is defined by the Court, not by the Defense Attorney. In this case Curtis Fischer has been defined as the victim by the Court. Your job is to defend your client who is charged with assaulting the victim. Do you understand?”
“Yes Your Honor.”
“Then please continue with your witness.”
“Mr. Vanvelick, do you know the victim, Curtis Fischer?”
“On Friday, the thirteenth of July, did you observe Curtis Fischer playing basketball in his driveway?”
“Yes. I saw him and another kid shooting baskets.”
“Did they do anything that caught your attention?”
“Yes. I saw them hugging and then I thought I saw them kissing.”
“What did you do then?”
“Nothing until Don, that’s Donovan Clarey, got home. I figured he should know what I saw so I told him.”
“Were you sure you saw them kissing?”
“I thought I saw them hugging and kissing and holding hands. That’s what I told Don.”
“Thank you, Mr. Vanvelick. Your witness, Ms. Wolman.”
Beth Wolman stepped up to the witness stand and looked at Judge Young. He nodded, and announced, “Mr. Wilde, I want to remind you of what I ruled, that in order for Mr. Vanvelick to testify he has been declared as a hostile witness so the Prosecution will have more leeway in cross examining him. Ms. Wolman, you may cross examine the witness.”
“Mr. Vanvelick, you testified that you saw Curtis Fischer and Thomas Williams playing basketball. Is that correct?”
“When asked if they did anything that caught your attention, you replied that you saw them hugging. Is that correct?”
“What happened just before you saw them hugging?”
Lawrence Wilde stood up and almost shouted, “I object!”
“The reason for your objection, Mr. Wilde?” Judge Young asked.
“This is an exploration into topics that weren’t covered in direct examination.”
“Mr. Wilde opened this line of questioning. He asked Mr. Vanvelick if something caught his attention. I’m exploring other things that might have caught Mr. Vanvelick’s attention.”
“Mr. Vanvelick, what happened just before you saw Curtis Fischer and Thomas Williams hugging?”
Old man Vanvelick was looking nervous.
“Alright, let me refresh your memory from testimony already given in this trial, okay? The two boys were shooting hoops. The basketball rolled across the street and ended up in the gutter in front of your house. Is that correct?”
“Then Thomas Williams came across the street to pick up the basketball, is that correct?”
“You made some racist comments to Thomas Williams, is that correct?”
“I don’t consider any of my comments to be racist.”
“You called Thomas Williams a nigger, is that correct?”
“And that’s not racist?”
“Let’s move ahead in time to the conversation that you had with Donovan Clarey. Please describe where Donovan Clarey was located and where you were located.”
“Don was in his car in his driveway. I walked up and stood next to his car.”
“On the driver’s side, the passenger side, in front of the car, exactly where were you standing?”
“Next to the driver’s side door.”
“What did you tell Donovan Clarey?”
“I told him that his son was homosexual.”
“What else did you tell him? I want to know everything that you said to him.”
“I told him I saw his son and the nigger kid hugging and kissing.”
“Thank you, Mr. Vanvelick. I have no further questions.”
As Mr. Vanvelick left the witness stand and Lawrence Wilde sat at the Defense table, I turned to Mr. Williams and whispered, “Why did Beth Wolman ask Vanvelick those questions? How does that help prove that Don attacked me?”
“It doesn’t prove that, Curt,” He whispered to me. “Beth Wolman is very clever. She expects Lawrence Wilde might try for a homosexual panic defense. So she’s going for racial hatred. If Don hates blacks that could be the reason for his attack on you, thinking you were having sex with Tom.”
“The racial thing is better than the homosexual thing?”
“If Lawrence Wilde is able to bring a homosexual panic defense, then she wants to show that he attacked you because he reacted to you hugging a black friend. That might defuse the idea that homosexual panic is the cause of his attack on you. Racial panic defenses aren’t allowed in California.”
“You know, I just remembered something I forgot and so did Beth Wolman. After Don threw me against the table in the living room he yelled something… he called me a ‘little nigger loving faggot’. I told Beth Wolman he said it when we talked about my testimony. If I’d just said everything that happened to me in one part, I’m sure I would have remembered. But instead she asked me questions that I could mostly answer with yes or no and she must have forgotten about it, and it slipped my mind too.”
“You’re absolutely certain that’s exactly what he said?”
“I am absolutely certain. He also said ‘Get the fuck off the floor’ first. Then after the ‘you little nigger loving faggot’ part he grabbed my broken arm and tried to pull me up off the floor. That’s when I screamed a whole bunch of times, real loud, because my arm hurt like hell.”
“You need to remind Beth Wolman as soon as we have another break. She has the right to recall you, and when you testify what Don said that will bolster her argument that he’s racist and that’s what caused him to attack you, and not a homosexual panic.”
Lawrence Wilde stood and walked to the front of the Defense table. “I call Virginia Clarey as my next witness.”
I wasn’t surprised that my mom would be called as a witness. ‘This should be interesting,’ I thought.
The Bailiff swore her in, and she gave her name and address.
“My name is Virginia Clarey, and I’m forty one years old. I live at 216 Pauley Court.”
“Mrs. Clarey, how long have you and Donovan Clarey been married?”
“Almost a year and a half. We were married on April second last year.”
“How would you say your married life with Donovan Clarey has been?”
“Very good. We met and found that we had many of the same interests, and our married life has been very happy.”
“How did Donovan Clarey and your son, Curtis Fischer, get along?”
“They weren’t close, but they weren’t hostile to each other.”
“Curtis’s last name is Fischer and not Clarey. Can you explain that?”
“Curt was adamant that he wanted to keep his father’s last name.”
“What did Donovan Clarey think of that?”
“He was supportive. He said he understood where Curt was coming from and why he would want to keep his father’s surname.”
“And what was that reason?”
“Curt and his father were very close. His father was one of the first American soldiers killed in Afghanistan, that was about six or seven years ago. Curt grieved for months. I guess when you’re nine losing your father is extremely traumatic.”
“Is Curtis gay?”
“No, far from it.”
“Does he have a girlfriend?”
“I don’t know what his current girlfriend status might be. You’d have to ask him.”
“Does he have friends who are girls?”
“Yes, quite a few.”
“Can you name one or two of them?”
Beth Wolman stood up, but Judge Young banged his gavel. “Mr. Wilde, you seem to be on some sort of fishing expedition. I can’t understand why you’d want the names of girls who Curtis Fischer is friendly with, and unless you can give me a very good reason, I want you to abandon this line of questioning.”
“Alright, thank you, Your Honor. I have no more questions for this witness.”
“Ms. Wolman, do you have questions for this witness?”
“Yes, your honor, I do.”
She got up and approached the witness stand.
“Mrs. Clarey, Curtis Fischer isn’t living with you at this time. Can you explain why?”
“Curt and I had a disagreement about whether Don was fully responsible for Curt’s injuries.”
“What was the outcome of that disagreement?”
“Don was about to be granted bail, and Curt told me he wouldn’t live in the same house as Don. He got an attorney, Michael Williams, and they arranged for Curt to live with him and his family.”
“You said that you and Curtis Fischer had a disagreement. What was the nature of that disagreement?”
“I couldn’t believe… no, that should be I wouldn’t believe that Don attacked Curt. I realize now that I was wrong about that.”
“Do you mean that you now accept that Donovan Clarey attacked your son, Curtis Fischer?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Is Donovan Clarey still living in your home at 216 Pauley Court?”
“Why is that?”
“We are divorced.”
“And the divorce is final?”
“Yes. It was uncontested and fast-tracked.”
“Thank you, Ms. Clarey. I have no further questions for this witness.”
“Mr. Wilde, please call your next witness.”
“I call Martha Kiffin as my next witness.”
This witness started a string of six witnesses who basically said what a great guy Don is and how if he did what he’s accused of doing there must be extenuating circumstances, yada yada yada.
Judge Young asked, “Do you have any additional witnesses, Mr. Wilde?”
“Yes, your honor.”
“Then because of the time we will adjourn for the day, and the trial will resume tomorrow morning at ten a.m.”
I felt totally exhausted. As we walked out I commented, “All I want to do is have some dinner and go to bed.” I yawned, a big, long, yawn. Tom laughed.
“Sorry, Curt,” he said, “your yawn looked very funny. But I know how you must feel, testifying twice and having that numbnuts cross-examine you. You must be wiped out.”
“I am. I’d go to bed as soon as I get home. But I’m hungry, so eating will come first.”
“I’m with you on that eating part. I’m starving.”
“You’re always hungry, Tom,” Mr. Williams said.
“Hey, I’m just a growing boy!” Tom retorted.
We got home and Mrs. W had veggie lasagne and salad, and for dessert home-baked apple pie with vanilla ice cream. I ate enough for two, said ‘thanks’ to her for a wonderful meal, and headed up to bed. I think I fell asleep before my head hit the pillow.
The next morning we all got up and had breakfast, bacon and eggs with scones and jam. I drank a cup of coffee so I wouldn’t fall asleep in court today.
The next day the trial started at ten a.m. on the dot. I thought Judge Young might decide that the case could go to the Judicial Panel today, and he wanted to get things moving right away.
“Mr. Wilde, do you have any additional witnesses?” he asked.
“Yes, your honor. I have one additional witness, and I might want to recall prior witnesses if the testimony we’re about to hear makes that necessary.”
“Alright, please proceed.”
Lawrence Wilde’s last witness was a big surprise.
“I call Lee Ramsen as my next witness.”
We waited for this person to be brought into the courtroom. He was a teen, and he looked to be about my age or maybe a little older. He was sworn in by the Bailiff, and Mr. Wilde asked him for his name and address.
“My name is Lee Alan Ramsen and I’m sixteen years old. I live at 1204 San Marcos Avenue.”
“Mr. Ramsen, are you a student?”
“Yes, I was a junior at Los Arcos High School last year.”
“Do you know the accused in this trial, Donovan Clarey?”
“Do you know the victim in this trial, Curtis Fischer?”
I whispered to Mr. Williams, “Bullshit. I don’t know him and I don’t remember ever seeing him at school.”
“How do you know Curtis Fischer?”
“I saw him and Tom Williams having sex in the boys’ bathroom on the second floor of Building E at Los Arcos High.”
I couldn’t believe what he just said. He was lying!
“And when was that and at what time?”
“On the fourth of May at exactly two twelve in the afternoon, between sixth and seventh periods.”
“Why are you so positive about the time?”
“I had my cell out when I walked into the boys' bathroom and I looked at the time to make sure I could get to my seventh period class on time.”
“And the day or the time couldn’t be wrong?”
“Nope. It was a Friday because I was looking forward to the weekend. The time’s right because it’s updated from the Sprint servers every time I turn on my cell.”
“Are you sure the two boys you saw were Curtis Fischer and Thomas Williams?”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Friends of mine pointed them out saying they heard that they’re gay.”
“Did Curtis Fischer or Thomas Williams see you?”
“I don’t know. I turned around and got the hell out of there. If someone else came in they might think I’m a faggot too, and I’m not.”
“You said they were having sex. What kind of sex?”
“Curtis was sucking Tom’s dick.”
“Thank you, that was crude but erudite. Where were they doing this activity?”
“The stalls in that boys’ restroom didn’t have any doors, and they were in the first stall on the right as you walk in.”
“Now, the fourth of May is a long time ago. Why would you remember that event so clearly?”
“I had a project to do for my Sociology class on deviant sexual behaviors. I used this event in my report. I didn’t include their names in the report I turned in, but I included them in my project notebook. Project notebooks don’t get turned in.”
“Thank you, Mr. Ramsen. Your witness, Ms. Wolman.”
Beth stood up. “Your honor, I’d like a short recess.”
“Granted. Court will resume at ten forty-five a.m.”
Beth turned and waved to me, and I got up and walked to the Prosecution table. She had me sit down next to her.
“What the hell is this about, Curt?”
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