"I ain’t doing it," Marcus Antoine’s nostrils flared as he spoke. There was a beauty and dignity to his anger that moved Shamir.
"What do you mean you’re not doing it?" Shamir was speaking from the other side of the cage. "Trial starts Monday. You have to be there."
"I ain’t going to no trial." Antoine sat with arms folded.
Mark Shamir was used to resistance. He had served as a public defender for two decades. He’d lost track of the number of times his clients had derided him for not being a real lawyer, or, he loved this one, for being a "public pretender." But it was a rare client who out and out refused to attend his own trial. Shamir figured that Antoine’s anger would pass, and that they would find common ground. It would take some time. That’s all.
"Well, here is what will happen. It will take maybe a month to pick the jury, a week to hear motions and then the trial will take about two weeks. I figure two months soup to nuts."
"Soup to what?"
"It’s just a way of talking, Marcus. I figure the trial will take about two months."
"I ain’t doing it, man. I ain’t gonna sit up there for two months while everybody stares at me like I’m some monkey on a leash. It ain’t gonna happen."
"Marcus, I called your mom and asked her to bring you a suit and some shirts. You don’t have to go upstairs in your yellows." Even men presumed innocent, but unable to make bond, were subject to all the rules and regulations applicable to sentenced inmates. Marcus Antoine wore a yellow jump suit. His torso strained against the suit. He remained in shape at the weight room while awaiting trial.
"Man, I didn’t tell you to do that. Leave her out of it."
"I’m sorry, Marcus. But time is short."
"Time, man, I ain’t gonna do nothin’ but time. When’s the last time a black man walked out of this courthouse? I read the papers. Every cracker in the state has it in their head that I killed some justice’s son. I even seen a picture of the crying momma on television yesterday. How’m I gonna get a fair trial?"
"That’s what jury selection is all about, Marcus. You’d be surprised how many people don’t read the papers or watch the news. You’ll see. But you have to be there."
"Man, I ain’t going. You can talk from now until your hair falls out. I ain’t gonna go and get lynched."
"Marcus, the trial will go forward with you or without you. If you refuse to show up, how’s that going to look? The jury will think you’re hiding because you’re scared, and that you’re scared because you are guilty."
"I did not kill that kid. I don’t know how many times I got to tell you," Marcus screaming now. "I was there, but I did not know it was going down until that Petrine dude pulled the knife. It was over before I even knew what was happening." Antoine was up pacing now, and breathing hard, trying to keep himself under control.
"I know, Marcus." Shamir believed him. Of course, Shamir learned long ago not to trust his gut on whether a client was truthful with him. By the time a case was reached for trial, Shamir always believed his client. He called it advocate’s disease. Perhaps that was the way the system is supposed to work.
Antoine wanted to believe Shamir. But when had a white man ever believed in Antoine off the football field? Walk into a department store and there are eyes everywhere, always on you. So much as look at something and get some nervous clerk running up to you. "Can I help you, sir?" You know all they want to do is help you out the door.
Or walking down the street at dark. How many times had he seen an old white woman, or even an old white man, glance nervously at him, all the while calculating whether there was still time to cross the street? And let’s not even talk about driving. Every black man knew the code. Driving while black could be a big problem in most neighborhoods. It’s not a crime, at least in so far as the law books are concerned. But drive down some high-rent street about dusk and you better pray the car is in tip-top shape. Turn a corner without signaling? That’ll earn a stop and frisk by the man. Signal too soon? That’s suspicion right there. White men were white devils, at least most of the time.
Antoine trusted The Shark. He was cold. He’d kill his mama if he had to. Every guy on the cell block had heard of him. The Shark had represented some. Sure, he lost cases, but he was straight up, and a cold-blooded killer.
But now Antoine got stuck with some public offender, as he called him. Some lazy ass cracker dude who didn’t know hustle. Didn’t want to know hustle. Content to have his life handed to him like some baby bottle. Nipping at the State’s tit all his life. In bed with the State; a butt-boy to the judge. Antoine needed a warrior, and what did he get? Some dude without enough game to do his own thing.
"I said, I ain’t going." Marcus didn’t want to hear it any more.
"Marcus, you’ve got ..."
"Yo, yo, guard. Get me the fuck out of here. Now." Antoine storming at the door on his side of the interview room, banging shackled fists on the door.
"They can have my black ass for killing that punk. But they ain’t gonna get to stare at me like that." Antoine was screaming now. His cell door opened.
"You tell that judge he can kiss my black ass."
Shamir made a note of the name on the guard’s nameplate. Captain Omar. If he knew Clarence Sterling, Omar’s name would be on the state’s witness list once jury selection began. "Question: And what, if anything did Mr. Antoine say? "Answer: He said, ‘They can have my black ass for killing that punk."
No attorney-client privilege there. Antoine was screaming for a guard, and clearly speaking in such a way that others could not help but hear his despair.
Shamir could keep the odds of that happening low by not letting the judge or Sterling know that Antoine was refusing to attend trial. No would ask questions down in the cell block that way.
Shamir left the jail in better spirits than his meeting with Antoine warranted. There was not much doubt in his mind that Antoine would attend trial. He was just blowing steam. He’d calm down some and do the right thing.
What surprised Shamir, though, was the presence of several news crews outside the courthouse when he returned from the jail. Channels five, seven and nine were already there. And Shamir recognized a couple of print reporters, too. Word had traveled fast. He had only been informed hours earlier that the case had been called in for trial.
"Mr. Shamir, Mr. Shamir," Betsy Harrow was running after him, microphone in hand and cameraman at her heels.
"Will Mr. Antoine testify?"
Shamir chuckled. Should he tell the truth?
"We doubt that will be necessary," Shamir said, suddenly conscious of the fact that he was wearing a white shirt. He’d learned long ago that blue is best for television. White made you look pasty and added weight. Blue somehow softened the hues.
"Will he testify about the others who were involved in the murder?"
Shamir stopped and turned to face the camera lens. Looking into it and mustering all the conviction he could manage, he said: "Mr. Antoine is innocent. He is not a murderer. The state knows this. I know it. Soon a jury will, too."
Shamir let the glass door close behind him as he continued into the courthouse and into his office. The cameramen were not permitted inside the building. Only the print reporters followed him inside.
"How’d you know so quickly that we were set in this case? I only found out this afternoon," Shamir asked a reporter for the Belle Grande Times.
"Press release," said the reporter. Shamir could not remember his name.
"Press release? Who?" He’d never seen a release done prior to trial.
"This once came from the chief prosecutor’s office in Harleton."
"Great," said Shamir. "Just great." The chief’s office wasn’t even handling this one, and still they are hawking the case. Getting the word out to jurors. Turning up the heat.
"You got a copy of the release?" Shamir asked.
"Yeah. Here you go."
"Marcus Antoine case set to begin on Monday. Former football star accused in the killing of Lester Fuchs, step-son of Justice Harmon Fitzgerald."
Nothing inflammatory there. No grounds to claim that the State was trying to tamper with the jury pool. Pure vanilla. But also pure poison. Repeat the accusation often enough and plenty of people, in fact, most people, will accept it as a fact.