A Certain Justiceby John Lescroart
Set in San Francisco, A Certain Justice is about justice denied in a most violent fashion, and the ultimately heroic actions of a so-called common man, Kevin Shea, who becomes involved with the law to the extent that he is hunted, hounded and nearly destroyed for an act he never committed. With him is a young woman, Melanie Sinclair, who also seems at first flush to… See more details below
Set in San Francisco, A Certain Justice is about justice denied in a most violent fashion, and the ultimately heroic actions of a so-called common man, Kevin Shea, who becomes involved with the law to the extent that he is hunted, hounded and nearly destroyed for an act he never committed. With him is a young woman, Melanie Sinclair, who also seems at first flush to be almost superficial, ordinary and predictable, but who becomes something much deeper as she joins forces with Kevin Shea in an urban and contemporary version, on one level, of a Thelma and Louise/Bonnie and Clyde, except that this couple is absolutely innocent. Leading the hunt for the fugitive pair is Abe Glitsky, Dismas Hardy's close friend, now chief of homicide, whose job it is to bring them in dead or alive. Compounding his troubles - and threatening the innocence not only of the accused but of those who would bring them to justice - is the overpowering presence of a key U.S. senator who demands a quick resolution to the matter, and whose ambitions extend beyond the mere fight for truth and justice...
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At about eight-ten on an unusually hot and sultry evening a couple of weeks before the Fourth of July, Michael Mullen, a thirty-nine-year-old white accountant with a wife and three children all under eight, stopped his new black Honda Prelude at the corner of 19th and Dolores in the outer Noe Valley District of San Francisco. Dolores is a divided street with a wide grassy area occasionally pocked with trees between the north and south lanes.
According to witnesses, a young black male was walking in this divider strip when Mullen pulled up to the stop sign at 19th. The driver immediately behind Mullen, a kid named Josh Cane, noticed that, with the heat, Mullen had his driver's window open, his elbow sticking out resting on it.
The young man in the divider strip, who'd been walking north, the same direction both Mullen and Cane had been driving, closed the remaining feet between himself and Mullen in a couple of athletic bounds, "like he was jumping over some mud or something." (Rayanne Jonas, fifty-six, an African-American day-care provider, walking home from the center on Army, where she worked.)
"I saw he was already holding something, which then, I mean at that time, I thought was a pipe, and then I realized..."
It turned out it was a gun, which the man stuck into Mullen's temple. He pulled the trigger. The report was loud enough that Cane--in his car with his windows up and his air conditioner blasting--heard it "like a crack of thunder."
The only witness with the wherewithal to move in the following seconds, to try to do anything at all, was a fifteen-year-old Hispanic youth named Luis Santillo, who was on his way home from his afterschool jobat the fast food place down the street on 16th and Guerrero. He, too, saw the athletic man take the leaps, aim the gun, and fire.
"Hey!" he yelled. "What the hell..." He started running toward Mullen's car.
Meanwhile, ignoring Luis and everything else, the assailant pulled the door of the car, reached in, grabbed, and with one hand pulled Mullen out, lifted his wallet, and dumped his body on the street.
Luis, twenty feet in front of the car and still coming, still yelling, froze as the vehicle accelerated, the driver's door swinging half-open. The car fishtailed slightly on the pavement, corrected, then jumped forward through the intersection, its left bumper hitting Luis, bouncing him first off the hood and windshield, and then throwing him seventy-six feet into a juniper bush in the divider strip, which saved his life, although the pins in his hip would probably prevent him from ever jumping athletically like the shooter.
The car, gaining speed, "went off like a rocket, just going and going 'til it was out of sight" (Riley Willson, a car mechanic at his own shop, Riley's Garage, on the northeast corner of 19th and Dolores.)
On June 20, the car--or what was left of it--was recovered. Its doors were gone, as were the tires. The body had been tagged by what must have been every kid with a can of spray paint in the neighborhood. The car had been abandoned on Moscow Street hard by the Crocker-Amazon Playground, a common dump spot south of the 280 Freeway, almost to the city limits.
Besides the traces of cocaine, marijuana seeds and roaches, beer cans and other debris, the car yielded such a beautiful fingerprint--in blood--on the back side of the steering wheel, that Shawanda Mboto, the San Francisco Police Department specialist in these matters, let out a war whoop from her perch by her microscope.
It took less than a day to verify that the blood was in fact Michael Mullen's. The fingerprint belonged to an African-American career criminal named Jerohm.
Jerohm Reese was twenty years old. He had first visited the Youth Guidance Center at the age of fourteen when, without a regular domicile, he was convicted in juvenile court of stealing a pair of Air Jordan tennis shoes from Ronda Predeaux after he had beaten him up.
His "accomplice" in that crime--the boy who had held Ronda down by kneeling on his upper arms and pounding away at his face while his shoes were stripped off--was another youth, Wesley Ames, better known as Tooth because he had only one left on the top, right upfront.
Over the next four years Jerohm Reese acquired a juvenile rap sheet, mostly stealing and, when he needed to, doing some minor violence, often with his fists although once he used a metal pipe and once a rock.
He spent his eighteenth birthday in a courtroom. Though Jerohm had not yet turned eighteen when he robbed the Portola Liquor Store on Ocean, this time he had had a gun in his possession, which on his arrest he said had been a toy. (Jerohm's toy--never located--had given a concussion to Meyer Goldsmith, the owner.)
Jerohm's public defender, Gina Roake, had prevailed with her argument for leniency, on the grounds that technically this was Jerohm's first offense (as an adult). Whether persuaded by this argument or exhausted at the end of another long day at the bench, Municipal Court Judge Thomas Langan had sent Jerohm upstairs to the county jail for a year, of which, due to the over-population of the jail, he served five months and twenty-one days.
Between the ages of eighteen-and-a-half, when he got out of jail on the Portola robbery, and twenty, when his bloody fingerprint was identified on Michael Mullen's steering wheel, Jerohm kept a low profile, and though he was brought to the Hall and questioned several times, he was charged with no new crimes.
Although Jerohm lived and hung mostly in the Bay View district between Hunter's Point and Candlestick Park--one of the coldest and most inhospitable environments in the state--at about midnight on June 21-22, he was arrested by an African-American inspector sergeant of homicide named Ridley Banks as he exited the Kit Kat Klub just north of Laguna, a long walk from Candlestick, after his presence had been reported by that establishment's owner, Mo-Mo House, who had some sort of arrangement with Sergeant Banks. Accustomed to the drill, Jerohm offered no resistance.
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