Pub Date: 2006
Summary: Chapter One The Argument "May it please the court," booms Jordan Sapperstein from the podium. "This case must be reversed. Your Honors have no choice." Seated behind the elevated walnut bench a dozen feet away, Judge George Mason suppresses an impulsive wince at Sapperstein's excesses. The judge is seldom reluctant to let lawyers know when their claims are unpersuasive, but making faces, as his father warned him when... he was a boy in Virginia long ago, is simply rude. The truth is that George Mason recoils even more from the case, People v. Jacob Warnovits et al., than from the celebrated attorney beginning his oral argument. Before he was elected to the bench, at age forty-seven, George was a criminal defense lawyer, perpetually engrossed in his warring feelingsloathing, amusement, intrigue, envyabout those who broke the rules. Yet from the instant the Court of Appeals's docket department randomly placed him on Warnovits five weeks ago, he has been uneasy about the assignment. He has found it uncharacteristically difficult to read the briefs or view the record of the trial in the Kindle County Superior Court, where nineteen months ago, the four young defendants were convicted of criminal sexual assault and given the mandatory minimum sentence of six years. Now the judge thinks what he has every time the matter has come reluctantly to mind: hard cases make bad law. As the senior member of the three-judge panel, Judge Mason, in his inky robe, occupies the center spot on the long bench between his two colleagues. Judge Summerset Purfoyle, with his time-engraved pecan face and a sponge of white hair, is perhaps more regally handsome now than in his days as a successful soul balladeer. The other judge, Nathan Koll, small and stout, his plump jowls like a croissant beneath his chin, eyes Sapperstein from his first words with a dark, merciless look. Beyond the lawyers in the well of the court, the security officers have fit onto the walnut pews as many as possible of the spectators who lined up at the courtroom door, leaving the air close on a warm day at the start of June. In the front row, the reporters and sketch artists hastily record what they can. Behind them the onlookerslaw students, court buffs, friends of the defendants, and supporters of the victimare now intent, after having shifted through three civil cases argued before the same panel earlier in the morning. Even the stateliness of the appellate courtroom, with its oxblood pillars of marble rising two stories to the vaulted ceiling and the gilded rococo details on the furnishings, cannot fully dampen the high-wattage current of controversy that has long enlivened the Warnovits case, which has taken on complex meanings for thousands of people who know nothing about the legal principles at stake and not much more about the underlying facts. The victim of the crime is Mindy DeBoyer, although her name, as an alleged rape victim, is never used in the frequent public accounts. More than seven years ago, in March 1999, Mindy was fifteen and a member of the rowdy throng at a house party for the Glen Brae High School boys' ice hockey team. Earlier that day, Glen Brae had finished second in the state. The players were sorefrom the pounding of six games in six days and from failing after coming so close to the state titleand the celebration in the home of the team co-captain, Jacob Warnovits, whose parents had flown off to a wedding in New York, was out of control from the start. Mindy DeBoyer, by her own testimony, 'got hammered beyond belief' on the combination of rum and a pill provided by Warnovits and somehow ended up passed out in his room. Warnovits claimed he had discovered her there and took Mindy&a [read more]
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Pub Date: 2006
Pub Date: 2006
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