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For My Daughters
By Barbara Delinsky
Avon BooksCopyright © 2008 Barbara Delinsky
All right reserved.
The News Wasn't Good. Caroline St. Clair read the verdict on the jurors' faces well before it was passed to the judge. None of the twelve could look at her. Her client had been found guilty.
The rational part of her knew it was for the best. The man had kidnapped his ex-wife, held her hostage for three days, and repeatedly raped her. A respected state legislator with an otherwise spotless record, he would serve his term in the relative comfort of a federal prison, receive the psychiatric help he needed, and be paroled while he was still young enough to start again. In some regards an acquittal, which would have tossed him to the media and others bent on exploitation at a time when he was as bruised as his ex-wife, would have been more cruel.
But for Caroline each win was crucial. Wins generated renown, renown generated new cases, and new cases fattened the bottom line that was the obsession of the predominantly male partnership of Holten, Wills, and Duluth. Like so many of its kind, it had spent the better part of two decades in overextension, but while other firms folded, Holten, Wills, and Duluth clung to solvency. The cost was a fixation on cutting dead weight, limiting perks, and streamlining operations -- and apreoccupation with accounts receivable.
Caroline was one of the newer and, even at forty, younger partners. The future of the firm rested on her shoulders, lectured her older colleagues in the same breath that they grilled her on her billable hours. They didn't like sharing the wealth. Worse, they didn't like women. Caroline had to work twice as hard and be twice as good for the same recognition. She had to be more clever in the manipulation of legal theory, more aggressive negotiating with prosecutors, more effective with juries.
She had badly, badly needed this win.
"Tough break," said one of her fellow junior partners from the door of her office. "The press opportunities would have been good, what with your man's political connections. Now you get exposure for a loss."
Caroline shot him a look that might have been more stern had he been anyone else. But she and Doug had joined the firm at the same time, both lateral appointees, and though he had been named partner two years before her, she hadn't held it against him. She couldn't afford to. He was her strongest ally in the firm.
"Thanks," she drawled. "I needed that."
"Sorry. But it is true."
"And you think that that thought didn't keep me awake for more than a minute or two last night?" she asked, tapping the desktop with her forefinger, then her pinkie. "I knew the potential for this case when I took it. I thought we had a shot at winning."
"Proving insanity is tough."
"But aside from this one aberration John Baretta has lived an exemplary life," she argued, as she had more eloquently and in greater depth to the jury. "I thought that would count for something."
"Then you do believe he was temporarily insane?"
Caroline had had to believe it. That was the only way she could present an effective defense. With the trial behind her now, though, what would have been, "Definitely!" became, "Arguably." Her fingers kept up their alternating beat. "The man was crazy about his wife. He couldn't accept it when she left him. But he has no history of violence. He's ashamed and apologetic. He isn't a danger to society. He needs therapy. That's all."
"And you need a cigarette."
She stilled her hand. "You bet, but I won't have one. I'm not going through withdrawal again, and I'm not doing anything that'll make me sick. Just think of what the firm would do to me then." She sputtered out a breath. "My friends don't understand. They think that making partner guarantees something, like if I were to become pregnant tomorrow the firm would throw me a shower. They'd throw me out, is what they'd do. They'd find a way to get around the issue of discrimination and toss me out on my tail." She sighed, feeling suddenly tired. "It's so fragile, this thing we call a partnership, this thing we call a career. Is it worth it in the end?"
"Beats me. But what else can we do?"
"I don't know. But something's wrong, Doug. I'm feeling worse for myself for losing a case than I do for my client, and he's the one who'll be doing the time. My values have gotten messed up. All of ours have."
The words had barely left her mouth when a second face appeared at the door. This one belonged to one of the senior partners. "You allowed too many women on the jury," was his assessment. "They sided with the victim."
Doug slipped away just as Caroline said, "Gender isn't grounds for exclusion."
"You should have found a way to get them off," he answered and continued on down the hall.
She had barely begun to think up a response when another partner appeared. "You shouldn't have let him take the stand. He was looking piteous up to that point. Once he started talking, he sounded slick."
"I thought he sounded sincere."
"The jury didn't," came the chiding reply.
"We can all be brilliant tacticians after the fact," Caroline reasoned, "but the truth is that none of us knows why the jury reached the decision it did."
She was brooding about that moments later when yet another partner stopped by with as much encouragement as she would get. "Put this behind you, Caroline. You need a victory. Take a look at your caseload, pick a good one, and clobber the sucker."
Excerpted from For My Daughters by Barbara Delinsky Copyright © 2008 by Barbara Delinsky. Excerpted by permission.
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