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The Trial of Catrina: Motions in Villainy

by on March 4, 2013

Last time in the Catrina Chronicles, our heroine had just learned that she was to go on trial in the Supreme Court of the Metaverse for the murder of an alien blob. Worse, the prosecutor was her own brother, Edmund, the new ruler of Character Hell. This was, needless to say, a bit of a shock. At any rate, Catrina’s trial will commence soon, but first, a few procedural issues….

It is a fact that in the criminal justice system of the real world, most cases don’t go to a full-fledged trial at all. Instead, they are tidily disposed of through plea bargains, which are somewhat less dramatic, though no less important. If this case were like the real world, Catrina might’ve pled down to involuntary alienslaughter and served probation. Happily, this story isn’t in the real world, and Catrina hotly maintained her innocence anyway. So, she went straight to trial.
But it wasn’t quite as momentous as she expected. Learning that she was to go before the Supreme Court of the Metaverse, Catrina might have thought that it would be like the American Supreme Court, where two attorneys argue formally before nine black-robed Justices.  The Supreme Court of the Metaverse had once worked that way, and it had gone very well in the days when novels were copied out by hand, and consequently there were only a few of them. But the printing press had complicated their work immensely, and the Internet had made it downright impossible. So the justices of the metaverse’s highest court had solved their problems in a most practical way: cloning. They’d made thousands of clones of themselves, and then organized the clones into trial and appellate courts to handle all but the most important cases. That was why Catrina now found herself appearing before the Citrisica Division of the Forty-Second Circuit of the Supreme Court of the Metaverse.

Beside her at the table sat her defense lawyer, Tyr, the Norse god of justice. Tyr was tall and calm, casually making notes in neat script on a legal pad with his left hand. His right sleeve hung empty; Catrina asked about it but Tyr had only said something about a wolf and Fenris and a bearded woman and much more Norse mythology than Catrina wanted to know just then. On the other side of the courtroom, the queen of the Zarminnan Community, the massive mutant ladybug Annizizinna the Third, sat glowering like a thundercloud. Next her was the prosecuting attorney, Catrina’s brother Edmund. A faint smell of ash lingered about him, and an equally foul-smelling beastie sat on his shoulder, looking like the unholy love child of a bat and a slug. Edmund smirked at her, and made a sardonic wave; she endeavoured to ignore him and didn’t quite succeed.

Catrina had thought that her trial might be disposed of fairly quickly; she was under the impression that these things usually took 45 minutes (with commercial breaks) and concluded with dramatic speeches from one or other of the attorneys, and possibly a surprise confession. Apparently she had been misinformed. Tyr had told her that there were a multitude of procedural issues to deal with, before they could even get to the fun parts.

An ornate clock in the courtroom struck nine. Edmund rose, and bowed slightly to the judge, Clone #547-369B, a small, creaky man swathed in a big red robe and a tiny little white wig. “Your honor,” he began unctuously, “My name is Edmund, Prince of Character Hell, and this is my co-counsel and minion Sludgepipe.”  The bat-winged creature on his shoulder made a rude noise.  Edmund went on, ”  On my left is Annizizinna the Third, Queen of the Zarminnan Community, the state for which I am serving as prosecutor.” The ladybug queen lurched upright and clicked fiercely.

Tyr rose beside Catrina. “Your Honor,” he said quietly, “Tyr, Odin’s son, counsel for the defendant, Catrina.”  Catrina waved politely at the judge.

The judge peeked through a tiny pair of intricate wire spectacles. “Right,” he said, “Mr. Edmund, does the prosecution have any motions in limine?”

“We do, your honor,” Edmund said, as Sludgepipe produced a notepad from somewhere and handed it to him. “Primarily, we would like to exclude any mention of Catrina’s heroic exploits, or indeed any reference to her as a heroine, on the grounds that these are not relevant and would unduly influence the jury, as stated in Galactic Rule of Evidence 403.”

Tyr responded in an instant. “Your owner, while we do not intend to mention most of Catrina’s adventures and the many occasions in which she has saved the world from annihilation-”

“You weren’t going to mention that,” Edmund snarked.

Tyr went on regardless. “We do believe that the particular adventure in which Catrina visited the space station is relevant. If we might make an offer of proof, we intend to show that Catrina was in that bar in that space station in an attempt to track down someone she believed intended to destroy the metaverse. She was acting as the heroine of that particular story, which is probative of the fact that the aliens in that bar, particularly the deceased, were acting as villains or at best minions, thus justifying her act of self-defense.”

“But if she wasn’t the heroine,” Edmund shot back, “then her actions weren’t justified, and really the only people who could label her as a heroine are the author and/or the readers, none of which we believe are going to testify at this trial. Therefore, any mention of her as a heroine is inadmissible hearsay, Rule 801, an out of court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.”

“But we do intend to call a reader, your honor,” Tyr said calmly.

Sludgepipe squawked in surprise, and even Edmund looked a little flustered. He snatched a folder of papers and rifled through it. The judge stared at him. “Mr. Prosecutor, as you know, if they do call a reader than it is not really hearsay, and therefore I would admit that testimony.”

Edmund smiled. “Ah, but your honor, I don’t seem to have the name of their reader on the witness list provided me. Perhaps defense counsel could be more specific?”

“Actually,” Tyr said, “the prosecutor might be aware that the Galactic Rules of Criminal Procedure only require us to disclose expert witnesses to the prosecution. We do not intend to call our reader as an expert witness. If I might make another offer of proof, our reader’s testimony will be limited to an opinion of Catrina as a heroine, rationally based on the reader’s perspective.”

The judge consulted his manual. “Very well, I shall allow the characterization of Catrina as a heroine, if it is presented in the form which you indicated. I shall also allow testimony as to the circumstances of the immediate adventure in issue. However, I will exclude any mention of any other adventures besides that one.”

“Yes, your Honor,” Edmund said, glowering. “We have no further motions at this time.”

It was Tyr’s turn then. “Your honor, we have a motion to suppress a statement made by Catrina regarding the incident in question. Specifically we move to suppress a statement allegedly made by her to Kilkenny Speed, on the grounds that it was made during her unlawful seizure by that individual who was acting on behalf of the Zarminnan Community.”

Edmund scoffed. “How idiotic. Your honor, the defendant was not only not secured on that spaceship, she was armed with that silly weapon she carries.”

“It’s a Sporksaber!” Catrina pointed out, but it didn’t seem anyone was listening to her.

“Her statement,” Edmund went on, “was made completely voluntarily.”

“After she was teleported off the surface of the planet,” Tyr rejoined. “And reduced to a gently wafting consciousness for the entirety of the ship’s voyage from Earth to Zarminna. If teleporting an individual without their consent is not an unlawful seizure, then your honor I submit that nothing is!”

“Did Mr. Speed have a warrant?” the judge inquired at Edmund.

Edmund hesitated. “Your honor, not in so many words, but he had a…ah, commission to seek out the perpetrator of the crime and deliver her to Zarminna; under Zarminnan procedures as stated in ZRCP 7.2 that does meet the galactic standards of-”

Whether or not Edmund’s argument would’ve carried the day, or whether Catrina’s statement would’ve been suppressed, was never known, because at that moment Catrina lost her patience. She hadn’t been trained as an attorney. All throughout the wearying discussion she had been doodling on a legal pad or making faces at Edmund, in a desperate attempt to relieve the boredom. Finally she snapped. She leaped to her feet and slammed her fist down on the table. “All right!” she yelled, “All right, it’s true! I’m not what I appear! None of us is! I’m not the defendant! I’m not a butler! I’m not even German!”

“What?” Tyr, the judge, and Edmund chorused collectively, not being familiar with a certain hilarious episode from Frasier.

“There’s only one way to settle all this,” Catrina said, “en garde!” She grabbed for the nearest weapon to hand; her Sporksaber had been sadly confiscated, but a very large binder happened to be lying nearby. The binder was not, alas, full of women, but it was stuffed near to bursting with papers, cardboard sheets, and laminated illustrations. Catrina seized the binder and hurled herself over the table, charging headlong at her brother. She got exactly three steps before the bailiff, a small yet capable robot shaped like a square trash bin, fired a storm of electric bolts that stunned her into blissful unconsciousness.

The judge coughed. “Ahem. Might I remind defense counsel that attempting to brain the prosecuting attorney with a binder is not an accepted practice in my courtroom. When she regains consciousness, please inform her that any further incidents will result in her removal from the courtroom.”

“Of course, your Honor,” Tyr said, wondering inside why his sister Thrud had gotten him into this. And so the trial continued.

This has been another episode of the Catrina Chronicles. For previous episodes, go here. To read about the adventure they’re arguing about, Catrina in Space, go here. Be sure to come back next Monday, when Tyr and Edmund attempt to select a jury, in this continuing legal thriller! And thanks for reading.

  1. Catrina needs Matt Murdock!

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