This is a story of ethics, done in three parts. It’s fiction, which may be a bit odd here, but it might serve as a welcomed diversion from the norm. Hope you like it.
“Your Honor, I object!” said the prosecutor, glaring at Rittenouer.
“Objection sustained,” said the judge. “Council will refrain from referring to those in question as persons. Precedent has determined that those of which council for the defense is speaking to be legally terminable.” He leaned forward and pointed the handle of his gavel at the defense attorney. “You know that.”
“Sorry, your Honor, I will re-state the question,” said Rittenouer as he stood at the witness box. “Dr. Kelb, did the defendant ever say to you that he, in his mind, considered those in question to be actual persons, actual children?”
The prosecution opened his mouth, then closed it again.
“Yes he did,” answered Kelb.
“Did you agree with him?” asked Rittenouer.
“Objection! Your Honor, the defense is trying to subvert the mind of the jury. The law, as your Honor just stated, is settled. The personhood of those that the defendant was supposedly trying to protect is not at issue here. What is at issue is whether or not the defendant committed a cold-blooded act of murder against one of our fine citizens who was on his way to perform his duty, a duty, I might add, that was and is, a lawful, legal service to this community and to our nation.”
“Your Honor,” said Rittenouer, turning to the judge, “I’m simply trying to establish the fact that there are a number of professional people in the country, as well as workers and others, that have deeply held reservations about that particular article of legislation when it come to the lives of what they see as human beings worthy of constitutional protection. The witness is employed in the same unit as–”
“Your Honor,” interrupted the prosecutor, “our legislation isn’t in question here-”
“Mr. Rittenouer,” said the judge banging his gavel, “this court is not interested in the opinion of professional people, state workers, or the witness as to whether or not certain laws are just or whether certain subjects are, or are not, human. But what this court is interested in is the witness’s knowledge of the defendant’s statements or actions on or before the day of the alleged murder. Objection sustained.”
“Your Honor, I . . .” Rittenouer stopped, dropped his head, one hand on the banister and one on his hip. “I think that the humanity or non-humanity of those which my client was seeking to protect is quite relevant to the case, and–”
“I don’t care what you think, councilor,” said the judge. “What you’re trying to do will not be allowed in my courtroom. Now move on, or call your next witness.” The judge waited a moment. “Or stand at rest.”
Rittenouer was quiet for several seconds. He turned back to the witness. “Dr. Kelb,” he asked, “did you have any doubt that the defendant, Mr. Feldt, was sincere?”
“I don’t believe it,” muttered the prosecutor, “objection!” he yelled, standing to his feet. “What has the opinion of the witness with regard to ‘sincerity’ got to do with this case, or anything for that matter.”
“Your Honor, I am trying to demonstrate that my client was not, as the prosecution has tried to suggest, ‘a cold-blooded killer.’ Dr. Kelb and my client have worked together at the same institution for over thirteen years. Dr. Kelb knew my client well, he would know of my client’s state of mind at the time of the shooting, that is indeed something that’s relevant to this case.”
The observers in the courtroom started murmuring to one another, causing a sizzle of voices to ripple through the air.
“Quiet!” cried the judge, slamming his gavel down and the room fell silent. He sighed, then stared at Rittenouer and shook his head. “Objection overruled,” he said.
Rittenouer smiled. “Dr. Kelb,” he said, “would you say that the defendant was sincere?”
“Yes I would.”
“So, speaking not to the law, you would say that the defendant truly believed that he was saving the lives of actual children when he shot the deceased?”
“Yes, I’d say that,” nodded Kelb.
“Mr. Feldt and the deceased knew each other, didn’t they?” asked Rittenouer, then added, “in fact, they knew each other quite well, did they not?
“Yes, they did.”
“Since you knew them both, let me ask you . . . did they get along well?”
“Yes. They had their disagreements, like we all did, but overall, yes, they got along.”
“Did you ever see Mr. Feldt threaten the deceased?”
“Objection,” interrupted the prosecutor. “Your Honor, these anecdotal opinions of the witness have no bearing on this case. The only thing that mat–”
“I’m only trying to show that the defendant and the deceased had a good relationship prior to the alleged crime and Dr. Kelb, being a close colleague of both of them would have intimate personal insight as to the particulars of their relationship.”
The prosecuting attorney stood up. “Your Honor–”
The judge held up his hand. “I’m going to allow it,” he said, then leaned over his bench and pointed down at Rittenouer with the handle of his gavel. “But councilor, you’re on thin ice here. I not going to let you cant this court into a public showcase on a particular political agenda, do you understand me?”
“Yes your Honor, I have no intention of doing that.” Rittenouer turned back to Kelb. “Did you ever see Mr. Feldt threaten the deceased?”
“Did you ever see Mr. Feldt threaten anyone else at the facility?”
“Did you ever see Mr. Feldt show aggressive behavior to anyone, did he . . .” Rittenouer spread his hands, “show any kind of violent tendencies toward anyone, anyone at all?”
“No, he was always very kind to everyone there.”
“So would it be accurate to say that the defendant, Mr. Feldt, was a normal, sane, and–”
“Objection!” The prosecutor sprang to his feet. “The witness is not qualified to assess the defendant’s mental stability.”
“Strike that your Honor,” said Rittenouer with a wave of his hand, then turned back to Kelb. “Was the defendant a well thought of member of the staff?”
“I think that would be fair to say.”
Rittenouer turned and walked away heading toward his desk but half way there he stopped, mid-stride. Spinning back around, he stood there, one arm folded across his midsection, a hand on his elbow, the other at his chin.
“Councilor . . .?” inquired the Judge. “Are you finished with the witness?”
“A moment, if you please your Honor.” Rittenouer held still, saying nothing, making no movement other than tapping his chin with his thumb. “Dr. Kelb,” he said finally as he meandered toward the witness box, his steps slow, his hand still at his chin. When he reached Kelb, he took his hand from his chin and rested it on the banister. “You’ve stated that Mr. Feldt, as far as you know, had no animosity toward the deceased, that he was kind to all those with whom he worked, that he never showed any behavioral aberrations that would cause anyone, as far as you know, to fear him. Correct?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“And that his motives were . . .” Rittenouer turned to the prosecution, articulating his words, “in the defendant’s own mind,” then turned back to Kelb, “born out of the hope of saving the lives of what he, Mr. Feldt, considered his own fellow human beings. He even said that to you in so many words, did he not?”
“Yes, he did,” answered Kelb.
“Tell me, Doctor,” said Rittenour, holding very still for an uncomfortable amount of time as he studied the man staring back at him. “Do you consider them children?”
“OBJECTION!” erupted the prosecutor as he rocketed to his feet.
Part Two next week