The Last Plea Bargainby Randy Singer
2013 Christy Award finalist!
Plea bargains may grease the rails of justice, but for Jamie Brock, prosecuting criminals is not about cutting deals. In her three years as assistant DA, she’s never plea-bargained a case and vows she never will. But when a powerful defense attorney is indicted for murder and devises a way to bring the entire justice/b>… See more details below
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2013 Christy Award finalist!
Plea bargains may grease the rails of justice, but for Jamie Brock, prosecuting criminals is not about cutting deals. In her three years as assistant DA, she’s never plea-bargained a case and vows she never will. But when a powerful defense attorney is indicted for murder and devises a way to bring the entire justice system to a screeching halt, Jamie finds herself at a crossroads. One by one, prisoners begin rejecting deals. Prosecutors are overwhelmed, and felons start walking free on technicalities. To break the logjam and convict her nemesis, Jamie must violate every principle that has guided her young career. But she has little choice. To convict the devil, sometimes you have to cut a deal with one of his demons.
- Tyndale House Publishers
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Meet the Author
Randy Singer is a critically acclaimed, award-winning author and veteran trial attorney. He was recently a finalist with John Grisham and Michael Connelly for the inaugural Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction sponsored by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal. Randy and his wife, Rhonda, have two grown children and live in Virginia Beach.
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THE LAST PLEA BARGAIN
By RANDY SINGER
TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC.Copyright © 2012 Randy Singer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFOR THE FOURTH STRAIGHT DAY, I walked through the winding corridors of Piedmont Hospital, heels clicking on the tile floor. I had grown accustomed to the smell of antiseptics and the slow, lumbering elevators that carried me to the third floor. Outside my father's room, I squirted some disinfectant on my hands, just as I had done a few minutes earlier when I first entered the hospital. It had become something of a ritual.
There was no nurse in my father's room, no sign of anything that resembled life.
My name is Jamie Brock. Assistant DA for Milton County. Single and hardworking, with no time in my life for males other than my father, my black Lab, and the eighty-three defendants I am trying to put behind bars.
But at that moment, as I pulled a chair to the side of my father's bed and placed a hand on his forearm, I was also Jamie Brock, daddy's girl.
And at the age of twenty-eight, I would soon be an orphan.
My father had not spoken since his second stroke four days ago. The first stroke turned him into a man I did not recognize. The sharp mind and acid wit gave way to a tender and confused man who looked like my father but fumbled with complex ideas. Sometimes he didn't even recognize his family and friends. The second stroke left him comatose. He had been lying here in this same bed, hooked up to these same machines, attended by the same nurses and doctors, for the past four days. His primary physician, a competent Indian doctor named Kumar Guptara, told me that my dad would never recover. Never give me another reassuring hug. His eyes would never open and sparkle at the sight of his only daughter. He would never again tell me that he loved me.
Despite Guptara's pessimism, which was shared by every other doctor we consulted, I half expected my father to someday wake up, unhook the machines, change out of his hospital gown, and walk out of the room even as the nurses called after him to stop. My father was a fighter. It was a trait I had inherited.
My brother wanted to pull the plug. But my dad, like most lawyers, had taken care of his clients' affairs and not his own. Evan after his first stroke, he'd refused to consider his own mortality and sign a living will. Now the doctors were unwilling to cut the umbilical cord to the machines when there was a stalemate among the children. Especially when one of the children was a lawyer.
And so I rubbed his forearm and tried to ignore the fact that he was wasting away in front of me, losing weight even as nutrition was pumped into his body, the hairy arms becoming drier and more brittle every day.
"Hey, Dad, it's Jamie. They say you can't hear me, but who really knows—right?" The room was still, machines pulsating, my father's chest slowly rising and falling.
I lowered my voice. "Four more days, Dad. Can you hang in there for four more days?"
After eleven years of appeals, the experts said that this time the date would stick. Antoine Marshall, the man who broke into our home and killed my mother three months after my sixteenth birthday, was scheduled to get the needle. That same night, he'd shot my father and left him for dead. My dad had lost three pints of blood but lived to testify. How could I let him die now?
"We expect the lab results to be back on Rikki Tate tomorrow," I told my dad. I had been delivering reports on the Tate case every day. Rikki's death had occurred before my father's second stroke, and we both knew there was foul play. "Caleb Tate is already making excuses. Says that he knew Rikki was addicted to narcotics, but he couldn't stop her."
I leaned closer to my dad's ear. "You were right, Dad. He poisoned her. I can feel it in my bones."
Caleb Tate had represented Antoine Marshall at his trial. I would never forget the day he cross-examined my father, the only eyewitness to the crime. Dad was a great lawyer, but it's true what they say about the best lawyers making the worst witnesses. It was painful to watch Tate dissect my father's testimony piece by piece. If it hadn't been for Judge Snowden, the jury might have set Marshall free.
I took one of my father's hands in both of mine. "I'm going to nail Caleb Tate," I promised him. Antoine Marshall and Caleb Tate were responsible for putting my father in this bed. He had survived the shooting but never fully recovered emotionally. They were also the reason I had been working for three years in the district attorney's office and had never plea-bargained a case. Even now, as I looked at my father's pallid face and brushed his gray hair off his forehead, the bitterness ate at my soul like a cancer. My dream was to indict Caleb Tate within thirty days of his former client's execution.
My father would not be around to see his daughter avenge the memory of a woman we both loved. But I would do it to honor my father's memory. And I would swear to it on my mother's grave.
* * *
At home that night, I waited for the latest news report about Antoine Marshall's appeal with a mixture of apprehension and disgust. A friend from the DA's office had alerted me to the story on WDKX. "Shows how desperate he is," my friend had said.
The story had run at six and was scheduled to air again at eleven. An anchor teased the report just before a commercial break, and my palms began to sweat. I braced myself, knowing that Marshall's defense team would stop at nothing.
After the break, the station cut to an interview with Professor Mason James from Southeastern Law School, Antoine Marshall's lead appellate lawyer.
The interview took place in James's cramped law school office. The man looked more like a UFC fighter than a professor. He wore a tight black T-shirt that showed off a bodybuilder's physique—thick neck, trapezius muscles that stood out like cables, huge biceps, and tattoo sleeves covering both arms. He was completely bald with a dark complexion, square chin, and broad nose that had been on the wrong end of too many fists.
He was, I knew, Southeastern's poster-boy faculty member—loved by most students but detested by law-and-order alumni like me. A convicted felon who saved a guard's life during a prison riot and was then granted a pardon by Georgia's Pardons and Paroles Board. One of only three former felons licensed to practice law in Georgia, he now headed Southeastern's Innocence Project, a clinic that filed truckloads of appellate motions for convicted felons.
The camera zoomed to a head-and-shoulders shot of James with a dry-erase board visible in the background. 4 more days was written on it.
"Give me a break," I mumbled.
"You can't be serious," the reporter said. She was referencing James's latest appellate filing.
"Dead serious," James said. "No pun intended. There's a nationwide shortage of sodium thiopental right now—part of the three-drug cocktail used to kill prisoners in Georgia. My sources tell me that the state is getting the drug from some fly-by-night supplier operating out of the back of a driving school in England."
James gave the camera a hard look. "You wouldn't put your dog down with drugs like that," he said. "We're just asking for thirty days to investigate."
I scoffed at the TV. It would be funny if it weren't so heartbreakingly sad. Antoine Marshall had shot my mother in the head without thinking twice, desperate for money to buy meth. And now, twelve years after the shooting, eleven years after his conviction, he was complaining about the pedigree of the drugs they would use to gently end his life.
I couldn't wait for Friday to be over.
Excerpted from THE LAST PLEA BARGAIN by RANDY SINGER Copyright © 2012 by Randy Singer. Excerpted by permission of TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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