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The Trial of Catrina: Don’t Stop Voir Diring

by on March 11, 2013

Last time, in Episode 63 of the Catrina Chronicles, our heroine was on trial for the murder of an alien blob, and had just thrown a binder at the prosecutor’s head. This was completely understandable, as the prosecutor was both her estranged brother Edmund and the new ruler of Character Hell. Unfortunately, the robot bailiff was not too keen on defendants throwing binders around, and had stunned her unconscious….

“Right,” Catrina said once she was fully awake again, “so where are we now?”

Tyr sighed. “We are about to begin jury selection. There’s a forty-person jury pool, and Edmund and I will ask questions of each one to see if any of them are biased or if there’s some other reason we should exclude them. We can challenge for cause, and maybe the judge will exclude them or maybe he won’t, and if he doesn’t, we have three peremptory challenges we can use to exclude someone automatically. Hopefully we’ll end up with twelve good people for the actual jury.”

Catrina cast a weather eye over the jury pool, milling about in the courtroom. “Isn’t this supposed to be a fair cross-section of the community? I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen these people in my community at all. Certainly not around Shmirmingard Castle.”

Before Tyr could respond, the judge, Clone #547-369B, rapped his gavel on the bench. “Ahem-hem. We will now begin the voir dire of the jury panel. Before we get to specific questions, do any of you in the panel know the defendant in this case?”

A single hand wavered in the back. The judge peered through his spectacles. “Ah. Juror number 37. And how are you acquainted with the defendant?”

Juror number 37 was a pale, nearly transparent woman whose hair was a very light shade of blue. When she spoke, her voice echoed ethereally around the courtroom, and she floated in a ghosty sort of way out of her seat. “I am Moira, an oracle of the Fates. The past and future of all is known to me. I unravel the skeins of their lives, watching the unfolding of their destiny….”

“Oh dear,” the judge said. “So, that includes the defendant, then?”

“Yes,” Moira said, drifting sylphlike around the ceiling. “Her fate is likewise known to me.”

Edmund popped up. “Your honor, I want to challenge this juror. Given her knowledge of destiny and fate and blah blah blah, she obviously knows how this trial will turn out, so she has no reason to listen fairly to our evidence against the defendant.”

The judge dithered. “Well….Miss Moira, despite your knowledge of her ultimate destiny, do you think you can be fair in this case and listen to both sides?”

“Of course,” Moira replied, sounding almost offended. “I would not be an oracle if I were not fair. The future is not settled; it changes constantly. I see all possible futures, all potential destinies. What they will or will not be is not my concern.”

“Right, then,” the judge said, “Mr. Edmund, your challenge is denied.”

Edmund grumbled a bit, and his co-counsel Sludgepipe made a displeased gurgle. The prosecutor could have used one of his three peremptory challenges to strike the oracular juror, but he was reluctant to do this so early in the questioning. His sister hadn’t even asked a question yet.

The judge went on, but no one else was personally acquainted with Catrina or the attorneys. So, having finished the preliminary questions, he allowed the lawyers to step in. Edmund went first. He asked if any of the jurors had found themselves in an alien bar similar to the one at issue in the case, juror number twelve raised her hand. “Yeah,” she said, “name’s Kristelle. I’m a elf.”

An elf,” Edmund corrected pedantically.

“You editin’ me, buster?” Kristelle snapped, her pointed ears going red with fury.

“No, of course not,” Edmund said calmly. “Just mentioning.”

“Well, don’t,” the elf said flatly. “Anyway, yeah, there’s this place me an’ the other elves hang out, Silmarilly’s, and yeah, sometimes there might be a fight breaks out. I hit someone with a pole once.”

“A….”

“A flagpole. The fight had spilled outside, so I wrenched off a flagpole and smacked it over some crazy hobbit’s head. What kinda pole did you think I meant?”

“Moving on,” Edmund said quickly, “so you think you would be able to understand the danger in that sort of environment?”

“Well, yeah. Like I said, fights go on all the time. People get hurt. It happens.”

Edmund swiveled to face the judge, “Your honor, I challenge this defendant for bias. It’s clear she’s already on Catrina’s side, since Catrina is on trial for a bar fight, and since we intend to show that this sort of thing doesn’t just happen, that my sister murdered the victim in cold blood!”

The judge sighed, and duly asked the elf the same question he’d asked Moira: could she could be fair and listen to both sides of the case. Kristelle naturally said she could, and this time Edmund decided that he was going to use his peremptory challenge. The elf was dismissed, though not without protest. Edmund didn’t much care. Being the new leader of Character Hell, he didn’t like elves so much. They were too shiny.

Edmund moved on with his questioning, and over Tyr’s protest he successfully excluded a mermaid and a water sprite. He had to use one of his peremptories on the water sprite, which upset him to no end since he only had one left now. Then it was Tyr’s turn to ask questions. He glanced around the remaining jury pool, and noted a tall shadowed figure sitting alone in a corner, emanating an air of gloom. He checked the binder of forms the jurors had filled out. “Juror number three, just for the record, are you the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?”

The shrouded juror made a slight inclination of its head.

“Well,” Tyr continued, “as it happens, the defendant recently acquired the title of Mrs. Santa Claus. Given your somewhat ominous place in Christmas mythology, can you still listen to our evidence supporting the defendant, and will you promise not to convict her unless you feel she’s guilty beyond all reasonable doubt?”

Again the Ghost inclined its head slightly. Tyr let it go. In truth, he had gambled in calling attention to the juror, hoping that Edmund would be familiar with the story and know that the Ghost wasn’t really bad inside, just sort of gloomy and depressing, and that maybe Edmund would use up his peremptory challenges. But Edmund either didn’t know the story, or was too wily for that, and declined to challenge the Ghost.ย  So Tyr reluctantly moved on to juror number four. The Norse god of justice glanced at the juror, blinked hard, and checked the form. He looked back again. Juror number four made an inarticulate howl, and waved a skeletal hand wrapped in bandages at him. Without even asking a question, he spun towards the judge. “Your honor, I challenge this juror for cause.”

“But,” said the judge querulously, “you haven’t even asked anything yet. What grounds do you have?”

“The grounds that juror number four is a resurrected Egyptian mummy whom I strongly suspect of having horrible designs upon my client. I think he also wants to smite the courtroom with a plague of locusts.”

“Granted,” the judge said quickly. Juror number four howled in rage, but the robot bailiff rapidly escorted him out of the courtroom.

Tyr was about to go on, but then Catrina tugged at his arm, the left one, not the one that had been bitten off by Fenris the wolf. “Er, excuse me, but I need to use the little defendant’s room.”

“Right,” Tyr said, “I imagine you’ll have to be escorted there by the bailiff. You can’t exactly go off on your own, you know.”

The little white bin-shaped robot seemed none too pleased with Catrina’s request, but with an unhappy beep it followed her out of the courtroom, as Tyr went on with the questioning. Catrina wasn’t too thrilled either; she’d almost hoped she would be able to slip out quietly and then come back. She had a sneaking suspicion about juror number four; she didn’t think the mummy would just leave quietly. But she couldn’t exactly hunt him down with the robot bailiff trailing her everywhere. With a huff of frustration she stormed into the courthouse women’s room and slammed the door.

Fortunately the robot bailiff remained outside. Catrina decided that while she was in there she might as well take care of business. She took one step towards a stall, and suddenly felt a cold chill run up her spine, straight to the Newfoundland birthmark on the back of her neck. She whirled around, and there it was, juror number four, crouching like a demented parrot on the paper towel dispenser and howling ancient Egyptian curses at her. Catrina’s hand automatically went to her Sporksaber, but then she gasped. She didn’t have it any more. She had been compelled to leave it behind in Asgard, for rather obvious reasons. The only thing she had with her was an apple she’d been saving as a snack. Catrina’s experience with mummies was somewhat limited. Maybe they liked apples. She tentatively held it out towards the undead creature. “You want an apple?” she asked. “It’s good. Really.” She threw it gently in the creature’s direction.

The mummy caught the apple, glanced at it, and then crushed it with its skeletal hand. Then it turned back towards her. Catrina gulped nervously. She was unarmed, alone, and trapped with a mummy in the bathroom. And she’d lost her snack. This was not, to put it mildly, her best day ever.

 

Will Catrina survive? Will we ever get to the actual trial part of the trial? Be sure to return next Monday to find out, as the Catrina Chronicles continue!ย  For previous episodes, click here. To buy a copy of Catrina’s first novelized adventure on Amazon in print or e-book form, go here. Also, in a crazy random happenstance, today would’ve been Douglas Adams’ 61st birthday. I mention this because Mr. Adams has really been a formative influence on my writing style. So it’s really quite the special occasion. ๐Ÿ™‚

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4 Comments
  1. It suddenly occurred to me that it’s been a while since I saw a post of yours, and THEN i realised that when I switched my blog’s URL over and lost all of my blog roll I was adding back only blogs that I had followed with the GFC thingy, which didn’t include yours or any other wordpress ones, naturally. So it’s taken me until nOW to finally add your blog back! So from here on out I will be stopping by again ๐Ÿ˜›

  2. Will have to make a note of Mr. Adam’s B-Day, I also credit him with some of my inspriration as well on my site. I definitly see his influence on your humor, wish I could write witty fictional stories like his (and yours).

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