Malice kac 19, p.1

Malice kac-19, page 1

 part  #19 of  Karp and Ciampi Series


Malice kac-19

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Malice kac-19


  ( Karp and Ciampi - 19 )

  Robert K Tanenbaum

  Robert K Tanenbaum



  November 17, 1603 Westminster, England

  "THOU ART A MONSTER!" the prosecutor roared out his accusation and pointed at the defendant as the judges and jurors in their satin doublets and embroidered waistcoats shifted uneasily in their seats. "Thou hast an English face but a Spanish heart!"

  The defendant, Sir Walter Raleigh, remained calm despite the worst insult to someone who had spent much of his life fighting against Spain. But, forty-nine years old, his hair and the distinctive goatee shot through with gray, he now stood accused of treason.

  "Let me answer for myself," Raleigh demanded.

  "Thou shalt not," Prosecutor Sir Edward Coke thundered back.

  Raleigh turned to the jury. "It concerneth my life," he pleaded, though he knew the men before him were not sympathetic to him personally or interested in a fair trial.

  The hearing was a specialized sort of court procedure. In later years, it would be inaccurately referred to as a Star Chamber, a fifteenth-to seventeenth-century English court comprised of judges appointed by the Crown. The Star Chambers, so named because the courtrooms were decorated with stars, were notorious for being conducted in secrecy and were given to arbitrary procedures. They were a convenient way for the Crown, and its supporting nobles, to get rid of rivals and enemies both real and perceived.

  What Raleigh faced was actually a "special commission of oyer and terminer." Similar to the Star Chambers, the commissions had been created for the sole purpose of trying people accused of treason. However, unlike a Star Chamber, juries sat on these commissions and weighed what evidence was presented to them. The trials were also supposed to be governed by the rules of law, and the proceedings were followed with great interest by the general public. However, the method and outcome were still heavily weighted in favor of the Crown's wishes.

  The prosecutor, Sir Edward Coke, would someday be noted in legal circles as a man of substantial courage who in his waning years actually stood up to the Crown on behalf of English common law, which would become the basis of the American legal system. But at this time, he was not well liked by the general public because of his involvement two years earlier in convicting the popular Lord Essex of treason on orders of Queen Elizabeth. On the other hand, Raleigh was not universally liked by the common man either.

  Soldier, ship's captain, adventurer, poet, and courtier, Raleigh was one of the most famous men of his time in both his own country and among England's enemies, especially Spain, whose treasure ships from the New World he'd plundered on behalf of his Queen and himself. He was also one of the wealthiest men in England.

  With his taste for fine clothes and armed with charm and wit, he made a dashing knight in Elizabeth's court-with a reputation as a ladies' man-and occupied a special place in the heart of the Queen. Legend had it that he had once laid his cloak over a mud puddle so that Elizabeth would not have to dirty her royal feet. But it was his charms with the ladies that also got him in trouble with Her Majesty when he married one of her maids of honor-the lovely, and much younger, Bess Throckmorton-without the Queen's permission. The Queen had him thrown into the Tower of London, but she eventually relented when she realized that the couple truly were in love.

  Her Majesty's court was notorious for its intrigues and plots, with the various courtiers vying against one another for the position as her favorite. Lord Essex, Robert Devereux, a descendant of King Henry VIII, had been one of Raleigh's chief rivals.

  Devereux was a hero to the masses for his military successes against the Spanish and also a favorite of the Queen. However, he saw himself as deserving of the throne and was accused-with reason-of conspiring against her with King James VI of Scotland.

  Tried by Coke, Devereux was convicted and executed in February 1601. It was this execution that also would cast Raleigh in a bad light with the public. Although he had nothing to do with the trial, he held the title of Sheriff of London, which meant that he had the duty of presiding over the execution. The public saw this as a devious way to remove a rival, and he was reviled for it.

  In 1603, Raleigh's fortunes took a definitive turn for the worse when the Queen died. Soon thereafter, none other than King James ascended to the throne. And not long after that Raleigh was himself arrested for treason-accused of plotting with his friend Lord Cobham and with Spain against James.

  When the trial began that morning, Coke was faced with a dilemma; he had very little evidence, only an unsigned letter supposedly written by Cobham that accused Raleigh of being part of the conspiracy. On the other hand, the commissions of oyer and terminer were not known for their objectivity. The judges were selected from officers of the state-nobles and judges appointed by the King and his councillors, all with a stake in the survival of the current political structure, and therefore antagonistic toward anyone who might be a threat to the King or their positions.

  There was no attempt at impartiality for Raleigh's trial. The commissioners, or judges, included Secretary of State Sir Robert Cecil, Sir William Waad, who was Raleigh's jailer, the Earls of Suffolk and Devonshire, Lord Wotton, Lord Henry Howard, and Sir John Stanhope, many of whom disliked Raleigh and had envied his status with Elizabeth, or held him partly responsible for Essex's death. They sat with the Chief Justice of the King's Bench, Sir John Popham, who hated Raleigh, as well as the Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, Sir Edmund Anderson, and Justices Gawdy and Warburton.

  The jury was handpicked in advance. Comprised of four knights, four esquires, and four gentlemen, this deck of King's men, too, was stacked against the accused. Yet, when offered the chance to challenge the seating of any juror, Raleigh shook his head. "I know none of them, but think them all honest and Christian men. I know my own innocency and therefore will challenge none."

  Coke opened the trial by pointing to Raleigh and sneering, "I will prove you the notoriest traitor that ever came to the bar."

  "Your words cannot condemn me," Raleigh responded easily. "My innocency is my defense. Prove one of these things wherewith you have charged me, and I will confess to the whole indictment, and that I am the horriblest traitor that ever lived, and worthy to be crucified with a thousand thousand torments."

  "Nay, I will prove all," Coke promised, and introduced the unsigned statement of Cobham implicating him in treason.

  When he got the chance, Raleigh pleaded to be allowed to answer the charges by calling the only witness against him, Cobham, to the stand. "My Lords, let my accuser come face-to-face and be deposed."

  Raleigh knew that if he could get Cobham on the witness stand, he might have a fighting chance. While he was in the Tower of London, a letter wrapped around an apple was thrown through the window. It was signed by Cobham and recanted the earlier accusation. If Cobham testified to that in court, public opinion would surely swing in his favor, Raleigh thought.

  However, Raleigh was not allowed to confront his accuser, or call any other witness who might have vouched for him. In fact, only one witness was called to the stand during the entire trial and that by the prosecution. His name was Dyer, and he claimed that he'd once visited a merchant's house in Portugal where he was asked by an unknown gentleman if King James had been crowned yet.

  "And I answered, 'No, but I hoped he should be so shortly.'"

  According to Dyer, the gentleman then said, "He shall never be crowned, for Raleigh and Cobham will cut his throat ere that day come."

  Dyer's statement was hearsay; in fact, it was hearsay several times removed from the source, if there was one. And even if the "gentleman" existed and had made the statement, there was no evidence that the conspirac
y existed anywhere but in the man's mind. But the testimony was allowed anyway.

  Hour after hour passed in the courtroom, and it became increasingly apparent that Coke could not win the case with his evidence. So he resorted to name-calling and insults, which he repeated over and over again, as if repetition gave weight to his words. Raleigh, he said, was the "absolutest traitor that ever was" and "the notoriest traitor that ever came to the bar. Thyself art a spider of Hell."

  But Raleigh remained cool. "You speak indiscreetly, barbarously, and uncivilly."

  "I want words sufficient to express thy viperous treasons," Coke shouted.

  "I think you want words indeed," Raleigh countered quietly, "for you have spoken one thing half a dozen times."

  It was well into the night when the trial drew to a close with both men trying to get the last word in. Raleigh insisted that it was his right. "He which speaketh for his life must speak last."

  When the judges agreed, having perhaps been shamed by Raleigh's spirited defense, Coke sat down and refused to give his closing argument. The judges finally prevailed upon him to finish, which he did by reading a third letter that he'd forced Cobham to sign, which rescinded the retraction letter sent via apple to Raleigh.

  Finished, Coke sat down again, at which point Raleigh stood and with the flourish of the old courtier produced his own letter from Cobham. He prevailed upon Lord Cecil to read it:

  "'Seeing myself so near the end, for the dire charge of my own conscience, and freeing myself from your blood, which else will carry vengeance against me; I will protest upon my salvation I never practiced with Spain for your procurement; God so comfort me that this is my affliction, as you are a true subject for anything that I know… God have mercy upon my soul, as I know no treason by you.'"

  After the letter was read, Raleigh argued that the prosecution had not proved its case, despite the disadvantages he'd had defending himself.

  "Consider my disability, and their ability; they prove nothing against me. Only they bring the accusation of my Lord Cobham, which he hath lamented and repented as heartily as if it had been for a horrible murder-for he knew that all this sorrow which should come to me is by his means. Presumption must proceed from precedent or subsequent facts."

  Noting that without him his wife and son would be penniless, Raleigh asked the judges and jurors to put themselves in his shoes before convicting him based on the scant evidence presented by the prosecutor.

  "If you would be contented on presumptions to deliver up to be slaughtered, to have your wives and children turned into the streets to beg their bread; if you would be contented to be so judged, judge so of me," Raleigh said, and sat down.

  It was a valiant battle, but of little use. The trial had lasted for sixteen hours-from 8:00 a.m. to midnight-but it took the jury only fifteen minutes to reach a verdict of guilty. Lord Cecil then pronounced the sentence: death "in the full magnitude and horror" the law then required, which meant he was to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.

  However, Raleigh's spirited defense had one unforeseen impact. Though his perceived role in the death of Lord Essex had made him an unpopular character among the general public, the obvious injustice of his trial and the noble manner in which he'd conducted himself now made him a national hero.

  King James and his councillors recognized that executing him at this point might cause a general uprising worse than any treason Raleigh had been accused of. In fact, the King conceded that "by his wit, he turned the hatred of men into compassion for him." The king decided to grant Raleigh a stay of execution.

  For the next thirteen years, Raleigh remained a prisoner in the Tower of London. He was legally dead but was able to write and even have his family around him. Then in 1617, in an effort to gain his freedom, he proposed a voyage to the New World to find gold. He promised he could do this without attacking the colonies or shipping of Spain, with whom the Catholic King James intended to remain at peace.

  However, once in the New World, Raleigh's men attacked a Spanish community while he was laid up in bed. There were two major consequences for the action. One was that Raleigh's son was killed in the fight; the second was that Raleigh knew that his own life might be forfeited. But he sailed back to England and, as expected, was arrested.

  King James received a letter from the king of Spain saying that Raleigh would not-if the occasion arose-be executed in Madrid. However, the letter added, should he be beheaded in England, it would "please his most Catholic Majesty."

  As attorney general, Coke was asked to render an opinion on what could be done with Raleigh. It was a chance for revenge against the man who'd made a fool of him in the courtroom, and he took full advantage, noting that Raleigh was already "civilly dead," and therefore his execution had merely been postponed.

  On October 28, 1618, Raleigh was taken from the Tower of London to Westminster Abbey, where after another quick show trial he was placed in the gatehouse to await his death. He spent most of his last night in the company of his beloved Bess and writing his final letters.

  On the morning of his execution, Raleigh ate breakfast and smoked a little of the tobacco he'd made popular in England. He then dressed magnificently, the dashing courtier one last time as he was led from his cell.

  The Old Palace Yard was packed with spectators, many of whom jeered as he climbed the scaffold. There he gave one last eloquent speech that ended, "So I take my leave of you all, making my peace with God." He then removed his cloak and doublet before asking the executioner to show him the ax. "This is sharp medicine," he said approvingly, "that will cure all my ills…"

  With that, Raleigh refused the blindfold and laid his head on the block. Composing himself, he gave the signal that he was ready. The executioner, however, hesitated. Then Raleigh gave one final command. "Strike, man! Strike!"

  The executioner followed his orders and Raleigh's head was shown to the crowd. They had fallen silent, but then one man spoke up.

  "We have not such another head to be cut off."


  Butch Karp wasn't sure what it was that woke him. He'd been dreaming of murdered schoolchildren and gun-toting terrorists. But it was something else that pulled him from sleep, something to do with unfinished business.

  Disoriented, he lay quietly trying to remember where he was. It wasn't at home where he belonged-in bed with his wife in their Lower Manhattan loft. That's for damn sure, he thought, fighting off a small surge of apprehension.

  As a prosecutor for the New York District Attorney's Office, and as the district attorney for the past couple of years, he had a reputation among friends and opponents for his ability to concentrate on "what really mattered" to the exclusion of all else. It made him a formidable adversary in the criminal courts where in a nearly thirty-year career he'd lost only one homicide trial. But for that loss, Karp tried successfully a who's who of major league evildoers: assassins, career criminals, contract killers, and your classic Gotham homicidal sociopaths. Now he called upon that famous focus to clear the cobwebs.

  Breathing deep, he let the anxiety subside and thought, Okay, you're in Beth Israel hospital. You were shot… What month is this?…Mid-October? Time they let me out of this place.

  Karp looked around the room. Or at least tried. Except for a diffused glow from beneath the door, there was little illumination beyond the small green blips that stared out from the machines next to his bed like the eyes of lizards caught in a flashlight beam. All he could see were shadows within shadows, and there was nothing there to cause alarm or disturb his sleep.

  Yet something wasn't right. He sniffed the air and would have sworn that the usual antiseptic bouquet of the hospital room now carried a faint earthy odor, like the windowless basement of his parents' home in Brooklyn when he was a boy. He held his breath to listen. But all he could hear was the death rattle of a fluorescent bulb in the hallway and the far-off voices of the late-night shift hovering around the nurse's station. He could make out a male voice engaged in banter with a
bevy of female voices and supposed that the young police officer who'd been assigned guard duty outside his door was taking a break.

  Flirting with the nurses, Karp thought. Good for him. I don't see the point of wasting the night, sitting in a chair to protect me. Never wanted it, but that damn mother hen Clay Fulton…

  Detective Clay Fulton was the head of the DAO's criminal investigations unit, a squad of NYPD officers and detectives assigned to the DA's office to provide investigative and protective services. He and Karp had been friends for three decades, but the big detective-a former fullback for the Syracuse University football team-sometimes treated him more like a witless child than the top law enforcement official in Manhattan, or his boss.

  Karp glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand across the room: 3:00 a.m. The witching hour…try to go back to sleep. He tired easily and had been sleeping a lot over the past couple of weeks since the shooting. I guess that stands to reason after being shot three times, he thought.

  Karp's memory of the attack was a series of surreal vignettes-like watching one-act plays from just offstage. He remembered that he was leaving the Manhattan Criminal Courts Building at 100 Centre Street, which housed, along with the courtrooms, the Manhattan House of Detention for Men, affectionately referred to as the Tombs, and the Office of the New York District Attorney. He and his longtime colleague, Ray Guma, had just won a murder conviction against political power broker Emil Stavros, who'd murdered his wife a dozen years earlier and buried her in his backyard. As he walked down the steps of the entrance, he'd glanced with satisfaction at the inscription carved into the marble on the wall: "Why Should There Not Be a Patient Confidence in the Ultimate Justice of the People." Why not indeed, he'd thought.

  When he looked up, he saw his wife, Marlene Ciampi, waving to him from across Centre. They were going to go out to celebrate the victory with an expensive Italian dinner-on Marlene's dime-at Il Mulino on West Third Street, not too far from the West Village. He remembered smiling and distinctly recalled the warmth that coursed through his body whenever he saw her petite but well-proportioned frame-at least when they weren't fighting like bantam roosters-even after nearly twenty-five years of marriage. He'd had no clue that danger was approaching, not until he saw Marlene's attention suddenly shift to some point farther up the street.

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