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Short Story: "Chain of Supposition"

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Leo Kinstler, 24 and reluctantly attentive, leaned towards the jury box railing, cheating his outdated prescription a bit, to sharpen his view of the old TV that had been set up for Andrea Morvic, the prosecutor's slick protege. Lori Meyers' video of the robbery had been shown several times already, but this was probably his last chance to see the hooded figure that had been identified as the man they kept calling, "the accused'.

"...that night, Ms. Meyers was taking advantage of a relatively rare event," Morvic said calmly from beside the TV. "There aren't many blackouts downtown, and she needed pictures of one for her student film."

As the lights in the crowded courtroom dimmed, Leo struggled to adjust to the dark picture on the big tube. He figured that the big flatscreen he'd just bought would have shown the details better, but them's the breaks when you're dealing with the legal system. He grumbled in silence, and squinted at the wide shot of a group of stores, taken from across the street. The pet shop on the right glowed slightly from one of those emergency plug-in flashlights, aimed at the floor behind the counter.

The young attorney stepped forward, carefully dropping her heels in an echoing staccato, and indicated the street scene panning across the screen. "Ms. Meyers was alone on the street that night. She didn't need actors, crew or special equipment, just her handheld camera, in order to take some establishing shots for the short drama she was working on."

Leo was familiar with that part of town, and imagined Meyers standing on the opposite sidewalk, training her lens on the façade of a building a few doors down from the antique shop that had been robbed. The courtroom echoed with the recorded street noise, a background hum of traffic with the occasional car horn or shout.

Morvic raised a finger. "Then she heard this." A sudden crash broke the relative quiet of the recorded scene. The image swayed as the camera turned towards the left. Someone was moving quickly on the sidewalk in front of the antique shop. The image zoomed in, staying on the distant figure, while the camera moved a few dozen feet closer. "As you can see," she continued, "the man identified by forensics as having been inside the shop broke the front window and climbed in over the display case."

The video clip ended, the lights came back up, and the assistant prosecutor segued into a combination of hard and circumstantial evidence, all pointing at the frightened man sitting beside the defense attorney.

Leo settled back in his seat. He had spent part of the trial on each side of the fence, sometimes agreeing with the prosecution, sometimes with the defense. It bothered him that both sides had completed their presentations, yet he was still unsure of what he would say afterwords in the jury room. He'd almost succumbed to the mesmerizing tone of Ms. Morvic's practiced voice, when she abruptly concluded her final pitch to the jury with a clipped phrase punctuated with the perfectly timed clack of a heel.

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Judge Ingram gaveled the observers at the rear of the courtroom to silence. "Mr. Kell, you may now make your closing remarks."

For a lawyer, Horace Kell struck Leo as an especially observant man. Seemingly well-thought-out questions which Ms. Morvic or her boss posed to his client always seemed to spring a few logical leaks here and there. Several times during the case, Leo wondered whether the man visualized legal documents as if they were circuit diagrams or program code.

Kell rose, made eye contact with Leo, and then glanced at one of the other jurors. "The prosecution offers a very compelling case. Unfortunately, they have repeatedly glossed over some critical issues, which I would like to spend a few moments reviewing with the jury."

He crossed to the TV, and rested his palm on its badly scratched cabinet. "The case that has been presented against my client can be broken into two parts, what happened outside the shop, and what happened inside. If you concern yourself only with the evidence presented about his presence inside, you find that it is largely circumstantial. After all, he had shopped there, and in doing so, had undoubtedly left fingerprints on items that he examined. If you were to consider the case solely on this basis, you would have to find him Not Guilty, as no proof is offered as to his presence there on the night in question."

Kell turned to look at the screen briefly. "It is the other part of the case which the prosecution relies on to demonstrate my client's presence there that night. And the evidence which they offer is a video that we are told was recorded that very night on the street near the shop. The video you have just seen shows an unidentified person breaking the store's plate glass window and climbing inside. This, of course, is the only video record, because the power failure had knocked out security cameras which would otherwise have caught the event. And to confirm the identity of the person in the video, the prosecution has offered in evidence a jacket owned by my client which matches that worn by the individual in the video. What the prosecution has failed to do is prove that my client also possessed a mask matching the one worn by the person in the video."

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Leo nodded slightly in subconscious agreement.

"This, too, of course, is circumstantial, which means that to tie it together, the unidentified person in the video must be established as the same person who subsequently entered the shop, and then as my client. Which, of course, would be possible if the video showed the man touching a spot that later turned out to hold fingerprints of my client in the correct location and orientation. Unfortunately, the prosecution have been unable to do so."

"We have also provided evidence bits of glass scattered on the sidewalk that suggests the window had actually been broken from the inside. The prosecution have countered this with a theory in which some of the glass may have scattered backwards, placing fragments on the same side of the glass from which the impact originated, as suggested by the video we have just seen. This is not the first time that such a theory has been offered. Fortunately for you, it is not conclusive."

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Ever since I learned to speak binary on a DIGIAC 3080 training computer, I've been involved with tech in one way or another, but there was always another part of me off exploring ideas and writing about them. Halfway to a BS in Space Technology at (more...)

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