False Convictionsby Tim Green
In bestselling author Tim Green's latest thriller, Casey Jordan returns-seeking justice in a small town riddled with . . . FALSE CONVICTIONS Casey is counting on an open-and-shut case, a sure success for her first effort with the Freedom Project, the renowned charity group dedicated to helping exonerate wrongfully convicted prisoners. Not only is the Freedom Project giving Casey the chance to help innocent people, but its founder, Robert Graham, is offering Casey a one-million-dollar annual pledge to her legal clinic for taking on just two jobs a year. Her first assignment is to revive the case of Dwayne Hubbard, an indigent black man serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of a college student seventeen years ago. Using DNA evidence, Casey expects to easily prove Hubbard's innocence. Yet when she arrives in rural Auburn, New York, she meets immediate and aggressive resistance.
Tormented by death threats and assassination attempts, Casey investigates a prosecution apparently rife with lies. From the judge, the lawyers, the jury, to the police, she traces a web of corruption surrounding the destruction of one young man. But in all the chaos, Casey's hardest challenge may be just staying alive.
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By Green, Tim
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2010 Green, Tim
All right reserved.
Auburn, New York
BEFORE THE STORM passed, the rain had washed clean most of the blood from Dwayne Hubbard’s hand, but the streetlight revealed its red stain on the sleeve of his shirt. The duffel bag over his shoulder contained only dirty socks, underwear, and a T-shirt, so he covered the stain and rubbed at his sleeve as he climbed the hill, searching the shadows of a street-corner tavern named Gilly’s Trackside Pub, wary at the sound of country music pulsing from beneath moldy green shingles and a battered white door. A train whistled and clacked down the nearby tracks, causing him to jump and urging him on so that he might not miss the 10:05 bus to New York City. Instead of crossing the puddle-soaked street to avoid the roadhouse, he doubled his pace, breathing hard now from the long hike and the violence he left in his wake.
When the small fist of men spilled out the door and onto the sidewalk, Dwayne stopped short and they turned to stare.
“Hey, look,” one of them said, staggering forward. “Don’t he look just like that nigger on television? Family Matters? The one with the high pants? Where you headed, Urkel?”
“Catching the bus,” Dwayne mumbled, eyeing the way around them. Dwayne was tall and thin and wore glasses. It wasn’t the first time he’d been called Urkel but the first time he’d been called a nigger at the same time.
“I said, ‘Where you headed, Urkel?’ ” the man repeated, his lips quivering beneath a handlebar mustache. He wore a tank top that read BOOTY HUNTER and a pair of acid-washed jeans with sneakers. “You ever hear of sundown rules?”
Dwayne averted his eyes and stepped off the sidewalk.
“Look at that, Chuck,” said a fat man missing two upper teeth. “He got some blood on his shirt.”
“That’s a mess of blood,” Chuck said, laughing drunkenly and reaching for Dwayne’s sleeve. The man smelled of old onions and urine. “What’s up, homeboy?”
Dwayne snatched his arm free and bolted. The fat man kicked at his shin and sent him tumbling, glasses falling from his face. They were on him as if he’d spit in their faces, punching and kicking, and him fighting to his feet until he could free the blade from the small of his back and swing wildly, cutting until a scream sent them off in flight.
Dwayne ran, too, running in a blurred haze, ditching the knife in a culvert along the way. His lungs burned and his head pounded. He pulled up short beneath a streetlamp adjacent to the bus terminal, straightened his duffel bag, and assessed himself. A compact car came from nowhere and buzzed past him, pulling into the station. He rolled up the sleeve, hiding the stain in its folds, gasping for breath and trying to calm himself. He forced his legs to walk across the street and kept his eyes on the small car that had passed him as he mounted the steps of the bus. The driver took the waterlogged ticket and examined him warily before handing it back.
Dwayne held the man’s gaze and said, “Some mean storm, huh?”
The driver reached over without reply and pulled the lever, closing the door. Dwayne found a seat in the back, refusing to make eye contact with anyone. He slumped in the corner against the window as the bus eased away from the station and swung wide onto the road. They passed the roadhouse and Dwayne breathed in relief at the empty sidewalk and street. His spirit flew as they cruised past a rectangular sign marking the city limits of Auburn and rose to new heights when they passed through the tollbooth and wound their way down the ramp and onto the New York State Thruway.
Somewhere on the other side of Syracuse he fell asleep with the rumbling belly of the bus and woke only briefly during the stop in Albany. At quarter after four in the morning, they rolled up into the Port Authority, easing to a stop amid the throng of buses. Groggy and rubbing his eyes, Dwayne stepped down into the crowd, struck by the smell of cleaning solution and urine, awash in a sea of human flotsam, and pushed his way toward the escalators and the streets of Hell’s Kitchen.
In an instant, hands grabbed either arm and his feet flew out from beneath him. He went face-first onto the floor, smashing his nose so that blood gushed into a pool he choked on.
“Stay down!” someone shouted.
Dwayne felt a hand grip his neck and the cold muzzle of a pistol against his temple. Around him a widening circle of nameless faces gaped and shrieked and the cold edges of handcuffs—something he’d felt before—bit into his wrists.
“We got him! We got the son of a bitch!”
Beneath the overpowering smell of Old Spice, Dwayne’s nose caught the distinct sharp edge of Black Velvet. Tiny red and purple veins webbed Jeremiah Potter’s cauliflower ears and nose, and a dusting of dandruff coated the shoulders and collar of his old blue suit coat. From where he sat, Dwayne could see the lint and spatters of food obscuring the lenses of his lawyer’s thick round glasses. The judge repeated Potter’s name, and Dwayne nudged him with an elbow so that the lawyer let out a snort and jerked upright to life. While his eyes had never closed, Dwayne felt certain the public defender had grown so skillful at his craft that he could sleep through court without ever being accused of it.
Potter stood and examined his notes, flipping back through the pages of doodling while his caterpillar eyebrows convulsed. So far he’d drawn a Viking, two nude mermaids, and a lion smoking a cigarette.
He scowled and stared at the prosecution’s witness for a moment with his own lips trembling before he said, “Detective Billick, isn’t it possible that the blood on my client’s knife came from someone other than the victim?”
The detective pursed his lips, then leaned forward and said, “As I said, since B positive is pretty uncommon, it’s highly unlikely, but I guess it’s possible.”
“Objection, Your Honor!” Potter said.
The judge glanced at the DA, sighed, and said, “Detective Billick, please just answer the counsel’s question.”
“I’m not going to be impeached by him.”
The judge leaned over his bench toward the witness and said, “Work with me here, Dick. No one’s impeaching you. Just answer the questions he asks. No extras.”
“So, it is possible, yes?” Potter asked, tilting his head back and closing one eye to better see the witness through the cleanest spot in his lens.
The detective looked up at the judge, then the jury, then at Potter, and said, “Yes.”
Potter slapped his hand on the corner of the defense table.
“And just because no one has been able to find the person outside Gilly’s Trackside Pub who my client did cut with a knife doesn’t mean that person couldn’t be the one whose blood was on my client’s knife, does it? Yes or no, sir. Yes or no.”
“Yes or no what?” the detective asked.
Potter coiled himself up a like a spring, as if the ill-conceived brown rug on his head might pop right off, his face reddening further as he looked to the judge.
“Just rephrase the question, Mr. Potter,” the judge said patiently, “so the witness can give you your answer.”
“I don’t have time for this,” Potter said, his pale blue eyes igniting as a yellowed forefinger popped up in the air. “I don’t like being played.”
“No one’s playing you, Jeremiah, just ask him again and cut to it, please,” the judge said. “I’m even confused by what you just said.”
Potter closed his eyes and mouth as if in prayer and stayed that way while he asked through pinched lips, “Is it possible the blood on my client’s knife came from a man outside the bar?”
Detective Billick sighed and waited until Potter opened his eyes before he said, “Yes. Possible.”
“Thank you,” Potter said. “I have no further questions.”
Dwayne felt hope glimmer like an unsteady match flame, but the district attorney was as sleek and mean as a battleship in her dark gray skirt and jacket, cruising forward without concern for anything around her. She was big boned, thick, and tall, but not unattractive at all, with short dark hair and bright red lipstick. Her voice was booming and strong, as certain as a concrete wall that steered you in its own direction.
The flame flickered out when the battleship maneuvered toward the bench and asked the judge if she could redirect the witness.
“You did damn good,” Dwayne whispered to Potter as the defense lawyer sat and slouched down low, still fuming. “What’s she doing now, though?”
“Piddling,” Potter said, snatching up his pen and resuming his doodles. Soon the image of the district attorney took shape, but instead of the dark serious suit, she wore a bikini made out of animal skins.
Dwayne rumpled his brow but didn’t ask more because the DA had begun to speak.
“How many knife fights a year in this town?” she asked.
“About three or four,” Billick said.
“Any at Gilly’s Trackside?”
“Not in the eighteen years I’ve been on this force. It’s not that kind of place.”
“Did you go down there, to Gilly’s, and ask questions about a knife fight?” the DA asked.
“Of course. Yes.”
“Anyone know anything?”
“No,” Billick said, shaking his head and trying not to smile. “Just Chuck Willis, who said he saw a black man running past who ditched something in that culvert.”
“Anyone even hear about a possible knife fight? Maybe that same man running past and slashing out at someone?”
“Nope, and no one showed up at the hospital with a knife wound.”
“How about any kind of fight at all that night in or outside of Gilly’s?”
“I have no further questions.”
Excerpted from False Convictions by Green, Tim Copyright © 2010 by Green, Tim. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Tim Green has written twelve previous thrillers and the nonfiction New York Times bestseller The Dark Side of the Game. He played eight years in the NFL and is a member of the New York State Bar. Today he is a featured commentator on NPR and Fox Sports. He lives with his wife and five children in upstate New York. For more information about the author, visit his website www.timgreenbooks.com
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