#35 – The California Problem

August 15th, 2012


  • Duncan Marshall was arrested and accused of the murder of  fashion designer Claudio Breza in California.
  • Anita Breza, Breza’s wife, showed up in Emerald Heights pregnant.
  • Elizabeth Marshall travelled to California to serve as her brother’s defence attorney.
  • Chief of Police John Godspeed left Emerald Heights for California to help with Duncan‘s defence.

“Well, that was a God damned nightmare,” Elizabeth Marshall exclaimed as she threw her briefcase across the room.  As it bounced off the hideous hotel room chair in the corner the magnetic latch came free and papers flew in all directions from it.  “Mother fu…” she exclaimed though she caught herself and instead slammed her hand on the table in front of her.

John Godspeed spoke softly as his gruff voice would allow, “the only day that matters is the last one.”   He was sitting at the small table in the room that provided the only good surface on which to work.  His feet were resting on the opposite chair and he was slightly reclined.

Elizabeth huffed as she wheeled on him, “what a stupid cop thing to say.”  She held up her left hand and rubbed the bridge of her nose with her right, “sorry, John,” she said.  “It’s just hard feeling like I’m losing this case… and it’s killing me.  Duncan‘s my brother; the stakes are pretty high here.”

“You knew the prosecution’s argument was gonna to be strong,” Godspeed replied.  He righted his posture as he reached for another document from the stack laid out on the table.

“I just didn’t think it was going to look so grim from the very beginning,” she looked up from a paper she’d picked up from the scattered pile, “where do you suppose they found that stewardess?”

Godspeed shook his head and shrugged, “I dunno.  I’m just thankful that Cassandra wasn’t in the court room.”

“No kidding, thank God – and airline scheduling – for that,” Elizabeth said, “by the end of this thing she might be the only glimmer of light that makes it into the record.”  She slumped down onto the couch and kicked her shoes off one at a time, “I can’t believe he overruled every one of my objections.”

Godspeed nodded from behind an evidentiary report he’d been glancing over, “you did well on cross, especially with the young cop and Breza’s shoe man.”

“It didn’t feel like it.”  She pulled her left foot up and began to give it a rub.  “Duncan looked good today, didn’t you think?”

“Not bad,” the chief replied and Elizabeth suspected that he continued ‘for a man on trial for murder‘ in his head.  “Better than he has been,” Godspeed added.

A buzzing sound interrupted their conversation and John Godspeed’s attention at the crime scene report in front of him. He picked up his phone before looking up at Elizabeth Marshall, “Cassandra’s plane has landed.”

She stood in front of the luggage carousel as she watched the pair make their way across the terminal.  The whole time she’d been back in Emerald Heights she had hoped each night that she would wake up the next morning to find Duncan in bed beside her and the whole business with Claudio Breza’s murder vanished like a bad dream.  But that hadn’t happened.  And one by one the mornings passed until finally it was the day that she was due to return to California.

“Cassandra,” Elizabeth Marshall said by way of greeting as she approached and the two embraced.  Cassandra smiled ably as she could as they separated.  She regarded the other woman, her husband’s lawyer and her sister in law – although that latter relationship now seemed like an afterthought – with a mixture of relief and dread: theirs had not always been the smoothest relationship.

“How was your flight?”  Elizabeth asked after the moment of silence between the three could not long be ignored even for the hustle and bustle of the terminal.

She shook her head and chuckled a bit, “so I guess we’re just going to pretend that this was a normal cross-country flight for a little while, then?”  She shrugged; it seemed to her that this was perhaps the Marshall way.  Duncan, too, could easily be counted on to ignore the hard realities of a difficult situation in favour of polite conversation.  That had been two years of their marriage at one point.  She sighed, “it was fine, Liz. Now, fill me in.”

John Godspeed nodded his head curtly, “you haven’t missed much,” he began, and she noticed that the pair shared a moment of eye contact. “Just like you’d think,” he continued, “the prosecution’s case is pretty damning.”

“We knew that,” Cassandra said simply, “how long does that go on before we start to get to tell our side of the story?”

“Too long I’m afraid,” Elizabeth Marshall replied only half under her breath.

“In the course of your investigation, detective,” the young, hawkish looking prosecutor said, leaning slightly across the counsel table, “what lead you to suspect the defendant as the likely perpetrator of the murder of Mr. Breza and his housemaid?”

The courtroom was packed.  The murder of Claudio Breza, a rich man and a famous fashion designer whose outfits were worn by stars worldwide, had drawn attention.  From cable news anchors to what looked like some of Breza’s old clients to plain old John Q. Public, all manner of folk crammed themselves into the gallery.  And it occurred to Elizabeth Marshall that the ADA was keenly aware of that fact.  As fiery as courtroom drama in Emerald Heights could get she’d never known it to take on the made-for-TV flair of California law.

Elizabeth Marshall watched Kevin Burgess.  As he had before, while answering a number of previous questions, he took a moment to make eye contact with the jury before he spoke, “Mr. Marshall had been staying with the Breza’s until the night of the murder and phone records between him and Ms. Breza lead me to believe that he was connected to the murder.”

“Is that all?”

“No,” Burgess stated, “though he was scheduled to fly out that night he never checked in at the airport; and Mr. Marshall and Ms. Breza had been conducting a long-standing affair that resulted in a pregnancy that Mr. Breza had become aware of.”

“Objection,” Elizabeth called out as she rose from her seat, “that’s unfounded conjecture.”

The ADA turned to regard her and smiled slightly, “the affair has been well documented, your honour.”

Elizabeth gritted her teeth, “but the pregnancy… only came to light in the aftermath of Mr. Breza’s death.  It cannot be reliably stated that he had knowledge of the pregnancy beforehand; for that matter it’s not even clear whether Duncan Marshall is the father of the child.”

“Very well,” the judge stated, “the jury will disregard the witness’ testimony with regard to Ms. Breza’s pregnancy.”

Elizabeth worked hard to swallow a grimace as she slipped back into her seat.  On the list of things that complicated her brother’s case was Anita Breza’s pregnancy, and clearly the ADA knew that as well.

“Mr. Burgess,” Elizabeth Marshall said, “when did you first have suspicions about the defendant’s involvement in the murder of Claudio Breza and his housemaid Inez Romaro?”

“When we discovered his fingerprints at the Breza estate,” Kevin Burgess replied.

“And this was… at what point in the investigation?”

“As I said previously, this was around the third day of the investigation, while processing trace evidence.”

“The third day,” she quirked an eyebrow as she gazed at the jury, “and how long was it before you called Mr. Marshall in to make a statement on his behalf?”

“Mr. Marshall had fled the state, and the course of the investigation took anoth…”

“Mr. Marshall lives in Massachusetts, Mr. Burgess, you mean to tell this court that returning to one’s home state with no knowledge that a crime had been committed and under the presumption of innocence is fleeing?  What you really mean to say, Mr. Burgess, is that you didn’t call him in to make a statement at all, isn’t that correct?” She asked, turning back to look at the man.  She continued, “not until you travelled from Los Angeles to his home in Emerald Heights to personally confront him?”

“I didn’t confront him,” Burgess replied.

“You didn’t?” Elizabeth replied, “how did your first meeting with Mr. Marshall go?  Didn’t you approach him in a bar and ask him questions about Claudio Breza and his wife without ever telling him that he was a suspect in the investigation?”

“That’s not… at that point I was just gathering evidence.”

Elizabeth nodded, “without the benefit of caution, Mr. Burgess?  And with no record of the conversation outside of your own memory?”  She turned to look at the jury for a brief moment, “And what about your next meeting with Mr. Marshall, did that include a formal caution or a record of the statements made by the defendant?”

“It was… a casual meeting… on the street,” Burgess replied, looking quickly toward the ADA.

Elizabeth smiled, “and how did that casual meeting end, Mr. Burgess?”  She caught John Godspeed’s eye before continuing, the man nodded at her and she continued, “didn’t it end with Mr. Marshall hitting you after you provoked him?”

“I didn’t need to provoke him,” Burgess said pointedly, “he’s a violent man.”

“So you called the Emerald Heights PD and had him arrested for assault?”

Burgess’ eyes narrowed, “no.”

“Oh, but there was a report made to the Emerald Heights PD,” she said holding up a piece of paper, “and someone met with Chief Godspeed.  Wasn’t that you?”

“Yes,” Kevin Burgess replied coolly.  Elizabeth smiled.

“Oh yes, I see it here.”  She said glancing at the paper, “you met with Chief Godspeed alone to answer questions about Mr. Marshall hitting you.  But you opted not to press charges?  In fact, the chief offered to charge Mr. Marshall and you waved him off, isn’t that true?”

Burgess remained silent for a moment so Elizabeth Marshall continued, “isn’t it also true that it was, in fact, Duncan Marshall who called the Emerald Heights PD himself and told them that he’d had a run in with you that ended with him hitting you?  How violent can he be, Mr. Burgess, if Mr. Marshall felt remorseful enough to call the Emerald Heights PD after his run in with you…  after you provoked him…  he still felt guilty about his actions and called the police?”

“Objection,” the ADA said, although with less force than he ought to have, Elizabeth thought.  “Mrs. Marshall isn’t letting the witness answer her questions.”

Elizabeth nodded, “fair enough,” she said turning to face Kevin Burgess, “Mr. Burgess, would you please answer my questions?”

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