Jensen:: A Military Bad Boy Romance (The Bradford Brothers Book 1), page 11
I try to sit up straight and respectable, knowing that the jury is watching my every move. I listen to the prosecutor’s ridiculous opening statement: “This man may be a veteran but that shouldn’t stop justice from prevailing. He must be punished for the crime that he committed.”
And then I listen to Riley’s amazing opening statement— “Jensen Bradford is a decorated war hero who was merely defending and protecting his mother at the time this incident occurred.”
The scumbag boyfriend of my mother’s gets up on the stand and gives a sad sob story about how I repeatedly beat him to a pulp. You’re lucky you’re still alive, you douchebag, I think, as I try to look at him neutrally for the jury instead of with all the hate I actually feel towards him.
And then the State rests its case and Riley says, “I would like to call to the stand the defense’s first witness, Bobbie Jean Bradford.”
I whirl around in my seat, watching in shock as my mother enters the courtroom. I exchange glances with my equally bewildered brothers who are in the gallery, and then look up at Riley in confusion.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you she would be testifying,” she whispers. “But she wasn’t exactly… committed… and I didn’t want to get your hopes up if it turned out that she couldn’t make it.”
I can’t believe my mother is here, taking my side over one of her many no- good- loser boyfriends. And I can’t believe Riley was able to make it happen. I smile up at her in appreciation.
But at the same time, I’m also nervous about what my mother is going to say. She’s not exactly the most reliable witness, and I don’t know if Riley knows what she’s in for.
“Ms. Bradford, how do you know the defendant, Jensen Bradford?” Riley begins.
“He’s my son. My middle son, out of three boys.”
“And what happened on the day in question?”
“Bill Warner was over at my house and he was drinking and got mad at me for no reason. He began hitting me and pounding my head into the wall. I felt as if I was going to die. I could feel my life closing in on me and I even began to feel myself ascend into Heaven…”
Oh, Mom, you always did have a flair for the dramatic, I think, as Riley reigns her in with the next question.
“And just to be clear, Mr. Bill Warner is the alleged victim in this case?”
“He is,” says my mom. “Although he most definitely is not any victim. I’m the victim here. And my son Jensen, for being forced to defend these trumped- up charges just for defending me…”
“And then what happened, Ms. Bradford?” Riley expertly cuts her short again.
“My son Jensen saved my life. He pushed Bill off of me. But Bill just kept swinging. He was too drunk and belligerent to have any sense left in his noggin. He was still hitting me and also hitting my poor boy who was doing nothing but trying to help me. So Jensen had to hit him back.”
“Thank you, Ms. Bradford.”
“My son hit Bill so hard that he was knocked out. Because my son never misses a punch. He’s defended our country and now he defended me.”
Gee, thanks Mom, for that unnecessary and likely harmful information.
“I have no more questions for this witness,” Riley hurriedly tells the judge.
“I do,” says the prosecutor.
“Go ahead, ADA Stemple,” the judge motions his forward.
“Ms. Bradford, how would you characterize your son’s personality?”
“Objection!” Riley leaps up. “Outside the scope of my original questioning.”
“Goes to character,” says ADA Stemple, but rather weakly, as if he knows he’s lost the fight but has to say something.
“Sustained,” says the judge.
“Would you say he has a temper? That he’s quick to anger? Easily triggered?”
“Objection!” Riley shouts. “Badgering the witness. And Your Honor has already prohibited this line of questioning.”
“Sustained,” says the judge, and glares at the prosecutor. “ADA Stemple, please limit your questions to those that Ms. Riley asked this witness about previously. I will not give you any more leeway.”
I can see the beginnings of a victorious smile start to spread across Riley’s face, but she quickly suppresses it. Damn, she’s good. I just want to victory- fuck her, right here and now.
“My son has a great personality,” my mom says, with a smile.
Although my mom and I have never had a great relationship, to put it mildly, I can’t help but feel touched that she’s jumping to my rescue like this. Even if, in typical Mom- style, she’s not exactly cooperating with the way that things are supposed to go, she showed up for me, and she’s speaking up for me. That’s more than she used to do.
The prosecutor looks like he wants to run with that and ask her more questions about my personality, but he knows he can’t. So instead, he asks, “And you testified that Mr. Bradford knocked out Mr. Warner with one strong punch?”
“Objection,” says Riley. “Attempting to characterize and inflate previous testimony.”
“Overruled,” says the judge, but my mom has already started answering the question.
“He sure did! He’s one strong man.”
“Would you say that he overreacted more than another man would have, to the situation?”
“Objection,” says Riley. “Calls for speculation.”
This time the judge sustains her objection but once again my mom answers anyway.
“I think he reacted like any man would have and should have,” says my mom proudly, speaking to the jury with confidence and authority. “And I’m glad he has good aim because I raised him to act strong and quickly when justice requires it.”
No you didn’t, I think, but the jury buys her act. They’re staring at her spellbound like she’s a preacher at a revival service.
“But did he act too strongly and too quickly?” The prosecutor meagerly attempts to save himself but Riley objects and the judge sustains her objection.
“Mr. Stemple,” the judge says, with obvious impatience. “Is there anything else you’d like to ask Ms. Bradford that I’m going to allow you to ask?”
“No, Your Honor,” says the prosecutor, looking resigned. “No further questions.”
It’s obvious that he’s lost this round, and perhaps the entire trial. The jury is on my side, the judge is on Riley’s side, and even my mom is here by my side for once.
The prosecutor requests a short recess and then motions for Riley. She goes over to talk to him in a whisper and then leads me into a small attorney/ client room inside the courtroom.
When we’re safely inside with the door shut and locked behind us, she turns ecstatic. Absolutely glowing with happiness, she tries her best to throw her arms around my neck, but she’s quite a bit shorter than I am, so it requires me to bend over in order for her to be able to make it.
“It’s working, Jensen!” she says. “The judge is pissed at ADA Stemple and we have the jury wrapped around our finger. And to top it all off, the prosecution just lowered their plea offer. That means that even the prosecutor has realized we’re likely to win.”
“Should I take it?” I ask, but even as I say it, I know I don’t want to.
“Of course not. He only offered it because he knows you’re going to get off scot- free.”
“I can’t believe you got my mom to testify, and relatively well too, compared to what I feared,” I tell her. “Good job.”
“And just think… you fired me as your attorney.”
“Only so I could fuck you and then re-hire you,” I tell her, as I bend down to kiss her welcoming lips.
She returns my kiss and I’m glad that there are no windows in the room. Attorney client privilege is a great thing, I think, as I reach down to grab her ass.
But a strong rap on the door disrupts us and we pull apart like guilty school children, even though the door is locked.
“Enough hanky panky,” she says.
“Exactly. I still have to present my expert before we can say we have this trial in the bag.”
“Oh yes, the contentious expert that was the reason for all of our problems.”
“Just trust me, Jensen,” she says, reaching up to run her hands over my mouth. “I promise I’d never let you down.”
“I know, Riley,” I say, as I bend down to kiss her on the top of her head. We spend a brief moment in a comforting embrace. “I’ve definitely learned my lesson. I’ve learned to trust you.”
“Now let’s go kick some ass.”
I open the door to the consistent knocking, and see that it’s the Judge’s bailiff who is causing the ruckus.
“How much longer do you need with your client, Ma’am?”
“We’re all done here,” I say, although I suppress a giggle when I think about the answer I’d like to give him. I need a good twenty minutes more, so that he can make me feel really good and relaxed before my grand finale.
As soon as we’re back on the record, I play my Ace card.
“Your Honor, I’d like to call Dr. Levi Roth to the stand.”
“And I raise once again the objection contained in my previous opposition response to the defense’s motion to allow this expert,” ADA Stemple says.
He appears fatigued and worn down, as if he’s at the end of a battle he knows he’s lost, and now he’s just trying Hail Marys.
“Your objection is noted,” says the judge. “And overruled.”
“Thank you Your Honor,” says ADA Stemple, smiling at the jury as if he’d just won something instead of clearly losing. “I just wished to preserve it for the record.”
I figure that his motto right now is When all else fails, act confident.
“Dr. Roth,” I begin. “What is your current job title?”
“I’m a psychiatrist,” he says.
“And how long have you held that role?”
“I’ve been in practice for thirty- five years.”
“And what educational degrees and certification do you hold?”
He runs down an impressive list of qualifications and credentials, including awards he’s won.
“What is your area of expertise?”
“PTSD. I’ve treated many patients— mostly Veterans— who have PTSD.”
“How many times have you testified in court?”
He raises his eyebrows to the ceiling, as if trying to count in his head.
“Would you say it was more than 50 times?” I ask him.
“More than 100 times?”
“And you usually testify when the defendant has PTSD, correct?”
“Have you had the chance to meet with my client?”
“Yes I did.”
“And what was the purpose of the meeting?”
“It was an extensive evaluation much like I do with my own patients. An inquisition into their past, a counseling session about their current goings- on, and there’s even a written exam portion.”
“And what have you concluded about my client Mr. Bradford?”
“He does not have PTSD.”
“He does not?”
I stress the final word, for greater emphasis, making sure that the jury hears.
“Correct. Although he did witness his brother suffer a catastrophic injury during war— and also some other gruesome atrocities— unfortunately such events are inherent in any war and not every service member who witnesses them has PTSD. Mr. Bradford does not exhibit any of the symptoms. And I want to clarify that even if Mr. Bradford did have PTSD, it does not mean he would be any more culpable for this alleged crime. A person with PTSD is not automatically guilty of everything or anything with which they’re charged. If Mr. Bradford had PTSD, I would be saying that Mr. Bradford’s PTSD did not contribute to the incident in question. But the fact is that he did not have PTSD.”
“Thank you, Dr. Roth. I have no further questions.”
I return to my seat, but not before taking an exuberant peek at the look on ADA Stemple’s face. He’s surprised and unprepared for his cross examination. He thought I was going to ask more questions. And he is going to walk right in to the trap I laid for him.
“Dr. Roth, have you had the chance to review Mr. Bradford’s file as it pertains to the incident for which he is on trial, and the events for which he is charged with the assault and battery of Mr. Warner?”
“And you still say he does not have PTSD?”
“I do not.”
“Then how would you explain his violent reaction?”
“I would explain it as him reacting as any son seeing his mother get beaten to a pulp would react. It was only ‘violent’ in proportion to the violence already being exhibited by Mr. Warner. It was self defense.”
I’m elated, as this was exactly what I was hoping ADA Stemple’s line of questioning would elicit from the expert. Without even knowing it the expert has said the same thing that Jensen’s mom did, therefore giving the jury the opportunity to hear twice that Jensen did what he did in defense of his mother.
“Objection, Your Honor,” says ADA Stemple. At this point it just comes out like whining. “He’s assuming facts not in evidence. The victim is not on trial here, and no one has definitively proven that he was— as Dr. Roth so grossly mischaracterizes it— “beating anyone to a pulp.”
“Mr. Stemple,” says the judge, with a tone precisely in between humor and frustration. “You asked your question, and the witness answered it. What do you want from me?”
“In fact,” volunteered Dr. Roth ever so helpfully, “I did review the file and the charge, as you asked, and I would venture to say that if Mr. Bradford had not stepped in to defend his mother and protect her safety, she very well could have died. All that Mr. Bradford did was to stop the assault— he didn’t assault anyone or at least not unnecessarily, and should not be charged with this crime. I dare say it’s Mr. Warner who should be on trial today, rather than this decorated war veteran whose name you are attempting to smear.”
I’m surprised that the judge is indulging my expert to this extent but it’s obvious that he’s annoyed with ADA Stemple, who finally mutters a feeble, “Objection, your Honor.” I know that he fears the judge’s wrath but can’t let Dr. Roth keep poisoning the jury against him like this.
“Sustained,” says the judge, looking as if it pains him to do so. “Dr. Roth,” he instructs politely, “please limit your answers to the question asked.”
“Of course, Your Honor,” says Dr. Roth, with a jovial look that I just know the jury will love. He might as well have put his hand over his mouth and said, “Oops, my bad.” “As an expert in PTSD, I do not believe that Mr. Bradford has PTSD. I do not believe that any of his actions on the day in question are reflective of PTSD.”
“No further questions,” says ADA Stemple, with a grimace.
Jensen passes me a note that I can’t help but look down at right this second:
Thank you, hot stuff.
I smile at him, and then clear my head to drive home the point I want the jury to hear, now that ADA Stemple successfully walked into my trap.
“Re-direct, your Honor?” I ask.
“Go ahead,” he says, with a wave of his arm.
“Dr. Roth, in your experience as an expert witness in criminal charges against service members, how many of them claim a PTSD defense?”
“Oh, most of them,” the doctor answers. “At least, all of them have in the cases I’ve testified in.”
“And, in your experience, how does the prosecutor deal with a PTSD defense?”
“Objection, Your Honor!” ADA Stemple shouts. “This expert is not a lawyer or judge and has no way to know…”
“Overruled,” says the judge, and I resist the urge to smirk. “I’ll at least give Ms. Morrell some leeway on this
I had researched this judge’s background and saw that he was a West Point graduate and a veteran. I was banking on him being sympathetic to former service members and giving me this leeway.
“The prosecution always paints the defendant as a crazy mad man who unjustly flies off the handle due to having PTSD,” Dr. Roth answers.
“Much like what the prosecution tried to do in this case against Mr. Bradford?”
“Precisely,” says Dr. Roth. “And it’s a shame that our men and women who so valiantly defended our country come back to be met with this sort of stigma against them. Whether they do, or do not, have PTSD, they don’t deserve to be made out to be automatically guilty of any crime. They are still innocent until proven guilty, just as any non- service member is as well.”
“Objection,” says ADA Stemple.
“I do believe you’ve gotten your point across, Ms. Morrell,” says the judge. “Sustained.”
“No further questions, your Honor.”
“You are free to leave, Dr. Roth,” says the judge. “Thank you for your time.”
And now once the expert witness exits the courtroom, it’s time to deliver the cherry on top of my trial performance today: my closing statement.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the prosecution wants you to think that Jensen Bradford is violent and that he over-reacted due to having PTSD. It’s unfair to portray him— as well as people who do have PTSD— in this light merely because they served our country. As has been shown here today, the prosecutor— as well as the entire District Attorney’s office— has a habit of claiming that because a person accused of a crime served in the military, they must have PTSD, and they are therefore guilty. They never bother to inquire whether the accused really do have PTSD, or whether someone who has PTSD was actually affected by it during the commission of the alleged crime. This is a travesty for our veterans and I am calling on you as jury members to stop the cycle of unfairness. I am asking for justice for my client Jensen Bradford, who is an upstanding citizen and an innocent man. And I am asking for justice for all veterans in his position, so that the DA’s office will stop unfairly prosecuting them.”