The prosecutor stood and addressed the judge. "Your honor, there is only one witness to call for the sentencing portion of these proceedings." The prosecutor turned toward the jury, let her eyes glisten with tears—you could show you were about to cry; you just couldn’t go all the way—and said, "Kaitlin Haldane."
The bailiff intoned her name in a loud voice and summoned her to the stand. With a sigh, Kaitlin composed herself, a small hesitation just to collect her thoughts, but it was long enough for the prosecutor’s head to whip around and scan the courtroom. The sympathy had left District Attorney Marcy Hogan’s face—thank God the jury couldn’t see—and her bright, blue eyes icily sought Kaitlin’s.
Kaitlin stood, hands smoothing the lay of her suit. She had removed all her jewelry. Marcy had wanted her to wear them, all the beautiful gold and silver things Mitch had given her. This morning, when she stood before the mirror, Kaitlin had removed then one by one, placing them in a velvet-lined jewelry box, which she locked and put away in a deep corner of a closet.
Marcy had also told her to wear no make-up so she would appear bereft and weepy. "Gets a jury every time," she said. Kaitlin was bereft all right, but she had no more tears. Her make-up was immaculate.
Calm, with confidence, Kaitlin walked up the aisle, feeling the eyes on her, through the swinging gate, and to the witness stand.
The judge’s eyes were kind when he looked at her. "Ms. Haldane?" She turned to him and looked him full in the face. He started to speak then stopped, taken back by the absolute serenity he saw. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Ms. Haldane, you are not under oath during this proceeding. As you know the defendant has been found guilty of murder in the first degree, and in the Commonwealth of Virginia, it is up to the jury to recommend sentence, either life in prison without parole or death by lethal injection. Before the jury arrives at its recommendation, which, by law, I cannot alter, any and all interested parties may address the court and comment on the sentence they deem appropriate. That is, you may tell us what sentence you would like to see the defendant receive. Do you understand?"
"Yes, of course."
Kaitlin turned to Marcy, though she could still see the faces of the jurors intent upon her, sending her sympathy. During the trial when Kaitlin testified, some had wept.
Kaitlin let her gaze drift to the defendant’s table. The harried public defender scribbled notes, likely planning what he would say in summation instead of listening to the proceedings. Kaitlin continued to stare until the defendant met her eyes. Before he could bring his mask up, she saw he was scared to death. That was the subtle difference between him and his victim. Mitchell had looked him in the eye before the defendant shot him, and Mitchell had had no fear.
Marcy gave a slight clearing of her throat, and Kaitlin looked back to her. "Ms. Haldane," Marcy said. "I know this is difficult for you, but the jury would like to hear what you have to say about Mr. Roosevelt’s sentencing. I’m not going to ask you any questions. I just want you to talk, to tell us what you want."
From the pointed look Marcy gave her, Kaitlin realized Marcy expected her say what they had rehearsed. Kaitlin turned to the jurors, supposedly the defendant’s peers. A quick look told her none of them had grown up in The Berg, Alexandria’s infamous public housing project where the defendant had lived his whole life.
"Some of this you’ve heard before," Kaitlin began. "Now, I want you to remember what’s been lost here. Mitchell Sanders helped people. That was all he ever wanted to do. He was the best human being I’ve ever known, and never before had I been so deeply, truly, and sincerely loved. We had been together for eleven years, but that ended when Mr. Jamal Roosevelt shot him in the face." She paused to let the words sink in, knowing they would remember the crime scene photos Kaitlin couldn’t bear to see. The women jurors and a few of the men dabbed their eyes. "He fell on top of me. I had his blood and brains all over me."
Kaitlin again looked at Roosevelt. He stared at his hands atop the table. "Your honor, I’d like to approach Mr. Roosevelt." The judge’s eyebrows climbed his forehead in surprise, and Marcy took a step toward Kaitlin, stopping only when Kaitlin raised a hand.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish