Monday 15 August 2011

JURY RIGGED (a short story)


Juries – twelve good men and true, except these days the female sex are added to the mix.
Juries are never wrong – right? Even if they are wrong they are right.
Tell that to the likes of Timothy Evans or Derek Bentley. Or Ruth Ellis, the last woman to hang, who fed up with domestic abuse killed her abuser and Sally Clark who, after serving four years of her sentence, was found to have not killed any of her children. Winning an appeal did not mend the wound and as a victim of depression she committed suicide.
Tell that to the victims of the rapists, the paedophiles and drug dealers given their freedom.
Give juries their due though. Sometimes it comes down to the prosecution’s witnesses – sure, they swear on the good book to tell the truth but, believe me, it is their version of the truth; the truth as they see it. And, yes, the same goes for the defence. So an impasse and the decision goes to the one who makes the best case.
Jenny Summers was seventeen years old.
Her battered, bruised, naked body was found lying on the rotten remains of a cardboard box at the back of a disused railway station. Nobody cared – not really. She was just another junkie prostitute who had picked up the wrong punter. Forensics did their thing. Detectives sort of detected and made some notes.
Jenny Summers was a nobody – a loser.
At the age of fifteen Jenny had got herself pregnant and gave birth to a little girl. As she was under age the Child Protection team got involved. She found herself surrounded by professionals who heard what she said – but they had already made their minds up. The Social Worker said that Jenny was violent and used that as grounds to remove the child. Truth was that Jenny was guilty of arguing her case. The court believed the Social Worker and the child was removed.
The pain hurt.
Heroin dulled the pain.
Prostitution paid for the pain relief.
The man who was her pimp and the supplier of her drugs was Sam Elder.
Jenny Summers is one of many.
Sam Elder, too, is one of many.
Sam Elder does not see himself as a killer. He sees himself as a kind of Samaritan – and a businessman. Where there is demand he has the supply.
What good is prison to the likes of Sam Elder? Take away his assets – but he has that covered. From prison he can still make deals and profit from his trade.

Well, the jury found Sam Elder not guilty of drug dealing and he walked free.
He stood outside the court with a cocky attitude, a thick cigar between his stubby, gold ringed fingers being congratulated by friends and family. Only when the cops appeared did he take a pause to look at the two head bowed men. Sam Elder laughed at their discomfort.

However, British justice is not always what it seems.
Sam Elder knew he was going to walk free.
He knew because everybody has something to hide.
There are those who have debts. Others who have a bit on the side. Cash that they would rather their partner knew nothing about. Out of a jury of twelve there is the potential for twelve little secrets.
That’s my job. Find their secrets and put the pressure on – just enough to ensure that my ‘client’ walks free.
It’s a living. I enjoy my work – I wouldn’t do it otherwise - doesn’t mean that I like my clients. Fact is I don’t like people full stop.
So there you go I fixed the jury so that Sam Elder walked free.
No regrets. No remorse.
Job done.
My mobile bleeps. I check my messages – it’s confirmation that the balance of my fee has been paid. I walk over to Sam Elder. He grins as I slap him on the arm. My hand stays there as we exchange words of congratulations. He’s not sure who I am – we have never met face to face – but he’s convinced I’m a friend.
I hate his kind.
These anonymous killers.
Sam Elder collapsed just minutes later. He was dead by the time he reached hospital. Diagnosis – he had died of an overdose of tainted heroin. The same drug that had been sold to and killed Jenny Summers.
An autopsy report will show that a puncture wound has been found in his upper arm.
A police officer strolls over to me. He can’t believe what has happened.
I tell him that it looks like justice was done. What I don’t tell him is that Sam Elder wasn’t the first nor would he be the last.
He grins – back to the station, Sarge?
I nod.

The above was written for the local writer's group that I have just joined.

Friday 12 August 2011


My daughter is a single parent with two children.
The pictures show the buildings on fire at the junction of London Road, Croydon with St.James Road and Sumner Road. The whole terrace of shops and flats were gutted in the riots.
At first, we were not aware of the problems along London Road as the news footage concentrated on the blaze of the furniture store at Reeves Corner. The store had been trading there for 150 years and, I suppose, a symbol of Croydon with a tram stop being named for it.
For a moment there was a snippet of another building on fire. It looked like the jewellers on the corner of our daughter's road. In fact, it was just that because a few minutes later our granddaughter was on the phone to tell us that everything was on fire. There were people running down the road but they could not see any police.
Despite the fires raging in London Road there was no attempt to evacuate the residential houses that backed on to it. In fact, the residents were told to stay in their homes.
Knowing how vulnerable my daughter was (she has tourettes and her daughter is autistic) my son attempted to go and get her away to safety but was turned back by the police.
The following day he did manage to slip through the cordon and get my daughter and her children to safety.
Luckily, the fires did not reach them and their home is ok. But the psychological scars still remain - it was an experience that they don't want to go through again.

Some time back - I think it may have been on James Reasoner's blog about the movie 'Harry Brown' - I said that the events at the end of the film hadn't yet happened but the time was very close. Seems, in some ways, to be prophetic words as last Sunday those rioting scenes became reality. For a while the streets of Croydon and the rest of London became no-go areas where rioters were allowed to loot.

As my kids say Croydon is not the same anymore.


I found this poster on a visit to Woodbridge, Suffolk. Needless to say I didn't get to visit the show. But it was good to see the advert on, of all days, Wild West Monday.

Back in 1915 W.Somerset Maugham published a novel called 'Of Human Bondage'. In Chapter 2 the young hero, Philip Carey, was in a drawing room where he had taken three large cushions from the sofa and one each from the armchairs with which he had built a cave where he was hiding from the Red Indians lurking behind the curtains. By placing his ear against the floor he could feel the thunder of buffalo hooves pounding across the prairie.
Within a couple of short paragraphs it reminded me just how far back children played at cowboys and indians.