T2C: Verdict

August 05, 2017:

The finale to Malice Aforethought. The jury returns its verdict in the trial of James Buchanan Barnes.

United States District Courthouse, Eastern District of New York

A historic federal courthouse on Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn.

Characters

NPCs: Reporters, experts, the USA, oh my.

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

“WHIH News, Christine Everhart reporting live today outside the United States District Courthouse in Brooklyn New York, where James Buchanan Barnes has been declared not guilty of all charges in the trial that has widely been referred to as ‘The Trial of Two Centuries.’

The blonde reporter turns and gestures to the courthouse behind her, which is jam-packed with other reporters, spectators, and others just waiting for the doors to open, waiting for just about anyone connected with the trial to spill out and provide their take on the tale. This isn’t much different from the general atmosphere of the courthouse for weeks, of course, but today there is a huge buzz of anticipation and excitement unmatched even on days when the testimony had been particularly interesting or contentious.

“After an intense 3 days of deliberations the jury returned a ‘not guilty’ verdict at 2:25 PM this afternoon, clearing Barnes of multiple counts of treason, kidnapping, and murder.”

The doors open to admit David Lee Archer, who strides down with a grim look on his face, adjusting his tie. Rather than shy away from reporters he seems to single Christine out, walking right up to her microphone.

“Mr. Archer, this trial has been the biggest loss of your prosecutorial career. Do you have any comment for the viewers about this shocking outcome?”

For a moment, Archer simply looks at her, his face mostly unreadable. At last he says, “My comment is this, Christine. I believe in the American justice system. Sergeant Barnes came and ran through a gauntlet that was designed to function in a certain way, almost independent of the players in the drama. A jury of this man’s peers has declared him not guilty, so have nothing more to say on the matter. Case closed— it’s over.”

More questions, from other reporters.

“Will you be forced to resign?”

“What’s next for you?”

“Mr. Archer? Mr. Archer!”

Mr. Archer walks on, finally pushes his way to the parking lot, finds his car, and refuses to say another word.

Archer is quickly followed by the defendant, Jane, and his lawyers. Matt stays close to Barnes, one arm on his client’s back as he navigates the stairs with a walking stick whose sweeping motions double exceptionally well as a crowd control device. Still, when Christine asks him for a comment, he’ll pause.

“Justice was done, Christine,” the blind lawyer says with ironclad conviction. “Twelve men and women kept America from compounding the tragedy of what happened to Sergeant Barnes. Today, the system worked.” And that, apparently, is all he has to say.

Not that Christine and the other reporters certainly didn’t try to get more out of him.

“Mr. Murdock! What’s next for Nelson and Murdock?”

“Mr. Barnes? Sgt. Barnes, any comment? Dr. Foster? Dr. Foster, can you comment?”

Four dozen more questions, all aimed at the party in a sweeping wave, but ultimately to no avail. Neither Barnes nor Foster have any interest in commenting, and their lawyers do a good job of getting out of there quickly.

A brief cut to the studio. Anchor Harvey Patron speaks. "Well, Christine, as we wait for more of the participants to arrive we've got a few guests here to discuss the implications of the verdict itself. We've got Trent Rath, Senior Partner at the Delkov Law Group and Marcie Mialle, the Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law at Columbia Law School with us here in the studio today. Thanks for joining us, Trent and Marcy."

"Thanks for having us," Trent says, while Marcy nods agreement.

"This case has basically changed the way the mens rea and coercion defenses will be used in the future, is that correct?"

Rath chimes in first. “Oh, absolutely,” he says. “There’s no doubt you’re going to see more defendants pleading mind control, brainwashing, whatever. How many ‘Zebediah Kilgrave’ defenses are going to come out of Jessica Jones’ testimony alone? And it’s when juries start deciding against defendants and the appellate courts take it up when things get really interesting.”

Professor Mialle is next. “I don’t think it’s fair to say that the case law around duress or mens rea will significantly change, at least not yet,” she offers more cautiously. “This case turned on a particular set of facts. Few trials where brainwashing or mind control are invoked provide the accused with so much factual underpinning for their defense. The medical records, the recovered documents, the testimony of the former HYDRA operative — it was all compelling, and all masterfully used by Nelson and Murdock." A beat, and then the twee professor says in aside, "You know, they were both in my mock trial class!"

Christine cuts back in. “Harvey, we have a couple more of the trial participants coming out right now.”

They cut back to the live feed.

Peggy remains dressed in her neatly pressed SSR uniform that looks like it stepped out of a vintage picture. Calm and collected, her statement is short, but to the point when asked by the press. “I am sure it comes as no surprise that I agree with the decision of the jury. Sergeant Barnes was put through nothing short of torture, and to punish him further would have been unjust.”

Private Eye Jessica Jones comes stomping down the steps next. Cameras and courtroom artists had captured her wearing a pinstriped, tailored designer dress on the day of her testimony, which had largely gone well despite some serious hot button issues which wound up touching not only on her steadfast defense of Barnes' action vs. a certain Hydra agent in defense of one Jane Foster in Ozone Park, but also on her painful past with a certain mind-controlling meta. She had described times when she spotted Barnes fighting his conditioning. Archer had tried to discredit her as a delusional alcoholic without so much as a college degree to her name, someone who had no business weighing in on psychiatric issues.

She'd… more or less… kept her cool. She wasn't always likable, occasionally developing a palpable edge to her voice, dropping a cuss word, or slipping a snarky rejoinder in there in spite of herself, but neither did she break down or lose her mind.

Murdock was able to masterfully reframe the entire narrative on cross, weaving a far more compelling tale that cast Jones as an experiential expert on mental coercion. She ultimately came across as quite sane, though really blunt and perhaps refreshingly honest.

Now she is just sort of back in her day clothes: blue t-shirt, leather jacket in spite of the heat, sunglasses, jeans. She walks out grinning from ear-to-ear despite some lingering worry deepening the lines in her pale face. At least…until she sees the reporters. Then her face shuts right down. She'd fled them on the day of her testimony, all but diving into someone's car to get away from them, but today she stops and crosses her arms, letting Christine stick a microphone in her face. Finally, she can just say it. It won't hurt Bucky one way or another for them to hear what she has to say now, will it?

"My comment is this…those (bleep!) were wrong to charge Sgt. Barnes with any (bleep)ing thing in the first place, and I'm glad that we got twelve people with some actual brains and compassion there in the jury box, not to mention the help of the best (bleep) lawyers in New York City. Him and his loved ones have been put through (bleep) so I hope everyone else finds their (bleep)ing empathy, (bleep)s off, and leaves him alone now. Excuse me. I got places to be. (Bleep bleep)! I said excuse me! (Bleep!) Oh… screw this."

With that final, sour-faced explosion of temper, the PI simply leaps six stories up, grabs the edge of the nearest building, and pulls herself up and over right on camera.

But the big event is the appearance of Captain America, flanked by several Agents of SHIELD in suits and dark sunglasses. They keep the crowd at a distance, but allow Christine herself to come forward. The Man with the Star Spangled Plan has a statement to make.

"The trial went well and I think both sides worked to ensure that that the process was fair and honoring of the American Legal System. Archer is a good man and presented a good case and Murdock is a true credit to his profession. My only concern moving forward is that people are able to accept this decision and move forward. But I have faith in the American people as well as the world at large to allow this hero to go back to defending the freedoms and rights of others as he has in the past and will continue to do in the future."

Christine turns back to the camera. “And there you have it— James Barnes is now free to live his life, his status as a hero of the people restored and vindicated by the American justice system. This will no doubt continue to be an exciting and chaotic day as more witnesses and legal experts weigh in on what is surely a day for the history books. Harvey…back to you…”

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