"Your honor I object!"
"On what grounds?"
"On the grounds that this testimony is devastating to my case."
--Jim Cary in "Liar! Liar!"


Angels
By Ahmed A. Khan ©2008

Sitting in her brightly lit, sparsely but tastefully decorated room, Rachel Roquefort studied her client's defense brief with a sinking heart.

This case would make or break her and she saw no way of winning this one.

She had lost her previous three cases consecutively.

"Win this one or you are out," her boss, Mr. Fogworth of Hiswell and Fogworth Law Agency, had stated flatly. It seemed to her that Mr. Fogworth had taken a dislike to her and that was why she had been saddled with this tough case.

The sound of her parents' unfettered, unaffected burst of laughter pulled her out of her doldrums. They were probably watching some sit-com.

When I get married, will I be lucky enough to have the easy camaraderie and zest for life that mom and dad have at this age? Rachel thought. Her affectionate thoughts immediately turned to Robert, her fiance. Robert worked in the police force. He was good, so good that she had been on cloud nine when he had proposed to her couple of weeks ago. They were going to be married in two month's time.

The rustle of the file in her hands brought her attention back to the case.

Her client, a young woman called Sarah Breme, would be facing a first degree murder charge in the court the next day. She was being tried for the murder of her husband, Robert Breme. The prosecution had rested their case. It was now all up to Rachel.

Based on her client's file and her various interviews with her client, she was forced to admit that all the facts of the case so far were totally against her client. The prosecution had not even offered her a plea bargain.

Sarah's husband had been stabbed in his sitting room. It was established in the court that she had been the only person present in the room with her husband at the time of his death. Their next door neighbor, a Mr. Hamilton Miller, had heard her scream and had come running to find her standing over her husband's body holding the murder weapon - a bloodied knife - in her hand. Mr. Miller had called the police who had subsequently arrested Sarah for the murder of her husband.

As Rachel reviewed the facts, she found no way to get her client off. And yet, she was certain of her client's innocence. The candor of her denial of the murder may not have convinced anyone else but it had convinced Rachel.

She felt balked. She absently looked out of her window into the night. The window of her room overlooked a fenced and beautifully cultivated lawn which was now illuminated by the street light. The weather outside was pleasant, but it made no impression on Rachel. The case now occupied her mind totally.

Rachel re-read for the umpteenth time the notes she had made of her last interview with Sarah, the day before.

As she read, her mind supplied the background.

When Sarah, in her rumpled and creased prison uniform, was brought into the interview room under police escort, she had looked miserable and confused. Rachel's heart had gone out to her.

"Did you kill your husband?" Rachel asked point blank.

"No." There was no inflection of any sort in Sarah's voice.

"Then why was the murder weapon in your hands?"

"I had heard angry words being exchanged between my husband and our neighbor, Mr Miller, who was visiting us. Then I heard my husband scream. I came in to investigate and saw my husband lying with a knife in his chest. I pulled it out to see if I could do anything to save him." Sarah said. "I am a trained nurse, you know."

"Weren't you afraid that touching the murder weapon would implicate you?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because I never thought that anyone would doubt the truth of my words."

Was Sarah really that naive?

"It has been established that there was no one in the house at the time of murder except you and your husband. Mr. Miller has testified under oath that he entered your house only when he heard your husband's scream. What do you have to say to that?"

"He is lying," Sarah said with utter conviction.

"Why would he do that?"

"Because he killed my husband."

Rachel's heart sank. They were going in circles. Even if Sarah was telling the truth and somehow, against all odds, Rachel believed that she was - there was no way she could prove it before the court. She was going to lose this case and lose her job. More important, she would not be able to save her client.

"Do you have any proof of what you say?" She continued in spite of her sense of futility.

"Except for my word, no."

"Why would he kill your husband? You said angry words were exchanged between them. What were they fighting about?"

"Mr. Miller had tried to seduce me. I told my husband and when Mr. Miller came visiting, my husband confronted him about it. Mr. Miller must have been carrying a knife with him."

"Only your finger prints were found on the knife and not Mr. Millers. Why?"

"Mr. Miller's hands had been disfigured in an accident, so he wears gloves most of the time."

Prisons depressed Rachel. She had left as soon as she could.

Rachel closed the transcript, sat back in her chair and closed her eyes. What was it about the testimony that disturbed her?

Rachel, in her several meetings with Sarah, had found that Sarah was an unusual woman - open, honest, considerate, friendly and calm even as she faced the murder charge. She still could not imagine Sarah hurting anyone, let alone murdering her husband. Rachel wondered at her conviction of Sarah's innocence. What made her so sure? The answer lurked just around the corner of her conscience. If only she could find it.

I never thought that anyone would doubt the truth of my words.

Sarah's words rang in her ears. What a strange statement! She opened her eyes and sat up straight.

Could it be. No! That was not possible. Yes! It was possible. Yes, and that could be her defense. She sat motionless for several minutes, thinking, thinking.

The next morning at half past nine, Rachel parked her blue Honda Accord in its designated place at the parking lot and made her way to the courthouse, carefully avoiding some protestors carrying "Ban Androids" banners.

What did these people have against androids, Rachel wondered. A strange analogy burst upon awareness. Angels were supposed to beings without the capacity for sin. The androids were angels, man-made angels.

I wish people could be more like androids, she thought, totally sane, totally considerate, and operating under Asimov's laws.

She thought of Robert again - always cool, calm and considerate - and smiled. Yes, indeed. She was lucky. Just thinking about him seemed to drain some of her courtroom tension out of her system.

It was a bright summer day and the old stone building of the court house, squat and vast, sprawled in the sunlight like an anachronism amidst the modern utilitarian and high rise architecture laced with sky walks and sky rails.

The courthouse was an anachronism in more than one way. It was one of the very few institutions that carried its business in the cyber age as it had done in the last few centuries.

The courtroom was almost full. The trial seemed to have gained quite a lot of publicity. Ghouls, she thought. She knew that most of the spectators were convinced of Sarah's guilt and were following the case to see if the jury would award her the death penalty. They are in for a surprise, she thought grimly, if I can help it.

Rachel drew several appreciative glances from the male population of the courtroom. She did present a pleasing appearance with her face intelligent and open face, devoid of heavy make-up, was fresh and attractive, with long, velvet, wheat colored hair tied in a ponytail.

At twenty four, Rachel Roquefort was one of the youngest and one of the better known legal counsels in the country. Even while she was an intern two years ago, she had made a name for herself in the famous "Robots" case. Though the major part of the work was done by her senior, Mr. Hiswell, her successful appellate argument played its part in making the testimony of robots and androids admissible in country's judiciary system.

Prosecutor Julian Hemple was at his place, and looked up when Rachel entered. He smiled at her smugly, sure of his victory. Rachel sweetly smiled back at him.

"What's she got to smile about?" whispered young William Bagford, Hemple's assistant.

Julian shrugged.

"You think she's going to pull a rabbit out of her hat?"

"Fat chance," said Hemple. "You are reading too many of those ancient Perry Mason courtroom thrillers."

All the people related to the case were present in the court. Sarah's neighbor Hamilton Miller was there and so was his wife. The police constable who had arrested Sarah was there. But Rachel had eyes only for her client.

The defendant, Sarah Breme, was at her place. She smiled at Rachel as Rachel sat down beside her. Rachel whispered something to her. Her mouth dropped open.

"How did you guess?" she whispered.

It was now Rachel's turn to be stunned. Her wild hunch had turned out to be true. Her mind raced through the steps she must now take. She was still not sure of her success. Her one consolation was that Judge Jonas Mott was an intelligent and reasonable man.

"Why didn't you tell me until now?" Rachel was furious.

"I had promised my husband never to reveal this fact to anyone."

Just then everybody stood up as Judge Mott entered the court and took his seat. He was followed by the traditional twelve jurors, six men and six women from different age groups and different social and professional backgrounds.

"Court is now in session," Judge Mott declared.

Rachel rose from her seat. "Your Honor, if the court please, the defense requests a continuation."

"Objection," snapped Julian.

The judge looked first at Rachel and then at Julian.

"Would both the counsel approach the bench?"

Rachel and Julian approached the bench.

"Why does the defense require extra time?"

"Some new developments have come up, your honor, which make it very imperative for us to have some extra time."

"That's all nonsense, and the defense counsel knows it too," snorted Julian. "This is just an unnecessary delaying tactic on the part of the defense."

"The prosecuting counsel has no right to measure everyone by his own standards," she said, smiling sweetly.

"I do not tolerate personal attacks in my court," Judge Mott's tone was firm. Then he turned to Rachel.

"How much time do you require?"

"Just two hours, Your Honor."

"The court sees no problem in acceding to this request. The court will recess for two hours and will recommence at noon." He gathered his robes and gracefully swept out of the courtroom.

Prosecutor Julian Hemple was forty five, tall and quite distinguished looking, with a receding hairline.

Hemple firmly believed in the guilt of Sarah Breme. He would believe in the guilt of any wife implicated in the murder of her husband. Two years back, Julian Hemple had lost his faith in women. Two years back, his wife had left him for a multi-millionaire businessman. And she had taken their only daughter with her.

This case was particularly important to him because it involved not one but two women: Sarah Breme and her attorney, Rachel Roquefort. By having a guilty verdict brought against Sarah Breme, he would be getting back at two women with one fell swoop.

He could already feel the taste of victory on his tongue. It was an open and shut case. So he waited impatiently.

At noon, the court recommenced. Rachel waived her opening statement.

"As our first and only witness," she declared, "I call Dr. James Merritt to the witness stand."

"Who is this James Merritt and where does he come into the case?" Julian Hemple whispered to William Bagford.

"I don't know."

"Find out fast."

"You think this is the rabbit?"

"Just go." William Bagford left the court.

"Objection," roared Hemple. "This witness has not been disclosed by the counsel."

Rachel calmly flipped a Westlaw printout onto the prosecutor's table. She then approached the bench and handed a copy to the judge.

"Judge," she said, "in the case of Bartell vs McMurty, decided last year, the federal 9th circuit held that in special circumstances defendants can introduced undisclosed witnesses."

The judge skimmed the printout, running a long finger over its words, occasionally nodding.

"Counsel," he said to the prosecutor, "Ms Roquefort appears to be correct on that point. I am going to allow the witness unless you think the cited decision can be distinguished somehow from the facts in this case."

"Your honor, I am aware of the precedent, but it is our position that it does not apply here as there are no special circumstances here."

"Your honor, I undertake to prove the special circumstances through the testimony of this witness."

"Objection overruled. Proceed with your witness."

Dr. Merritt took the stand. In his right hand he carried a small camera-like gadget.

"Dr. Merritt, would you please tell the court about your field of expertise? began Rachel.

"I am a robotics engineer."

"Would you please elaborate on that?"

"I build robots and androids."

"And you are an expert in the field?"

"My peers think so."

"What is that gadget that you have in your hand?"

"This is called an android identifier."

"What do you use it for?"

"Objection, your honor," said Julian Hemple. "This line of questioning is irrelevant to the case."

The Judge looked at Rachel.

"I think the prosecuting counsel is right. Unless you can give some good reason for this line of questioning, I will sustain the objection."

"Your honor, if you please, I will show the relevance within a few minutes."

"Under that stipulation, I will allow you to continue with your questioning."

"Thank you, your honor." She turned to Dr. Merritt. "As I was asking, Dr. Merritt, what do you use your gadget for?"

"I use it to test a person and find out if that person is an android or a normal human being."

"How does it work?"

"As you probably know, all androids have identity microchips embedded in their foreheads. No android can function without these microchips. This gadget detects the presence of the microchips, and records the data found on them."

"What necessitated the designing of such gadgets?"

"No one knows why this is so, but it is a fact that sometimes some androids try to pose as human beings."

"Do all androids have the identify microchip embedded in their foreheads?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"With the development of tissue culture and DNA technology and with its use in robotics, it became possible to design robots that could pass for human beings in any physical or psychological test. These chips were designed so that the androids could be distinguished from human beings."

"Is it possible for an android to remove this microchip in order to avoid identification?"

"No. The androids are designed such that with the removal of the microchip all their bodily functions would cease and they would be dead in effect."

Rachel could have cut her questions short. At this point she was asking questions that would be asked by the prosecutor in his cross examination. She was fully intent not to leave the prosecution any ground for cross examination.

She continued: "Suppose a human being gets this chip embedded in his or her forehead. Can he or she get away posing as an android?"

"Not with this gadget, no." Dr. Merritt patted the machine affectionately. "There is a setting on this gadget that would make an android immobile. I would think it would be very difficult for a human being to fake total immobility for any length of time. Then there are several other considerations, too. How would a person know when to fake immobility if I were to select the immobility settings surreptuously?"

"In short, you as an expert in your field, state that using this gadget you can conclusively and irrefutably identify an android from a human being?"

"Yes. I would stake my reputation on it."

"Did you recently test anyone with that gadget?"

"Yes."

"When was this?"

"An hour ago."

"Who were present at the time of testing beside yourself and the person who was being tested?"

"The chief of police and two constables were present at the time of testing."

"And what did you find?"

"I found that the person I tested was indeed an android posing as a human being."

"Do you see that person in this courtroom?"

"Yes."

"Who is it?"

Dr. Merritt raised his hand and pointed. "It is the defendant, Sarah Breme. She is an android."

Pandemonium. Julian Hemple's face went pale. He knew he was beaten. He thought of putting up a show of cross examination but gave the idea up as futile.

Another person whose face changed color was Hamilton Miller, Sarah's neighbor. If it had been an earlier century, Miller would have tried to bolt but in this age of electronic currency, there was no way he could live without using his credit card or his ID, and the moment he used one of them, he would be traced and arrested. Escape was futile. He accepted the inevitable and waited.

After the dust settled down, the jury returned with a verdict of not guilty for Sarah Breme, mildly admonishing her for her masquerade.

Judge Jonas Mott summed up the case.

"After establishing beyond doubt the fact that the defendant Sarah Breme was actually an android, the court accepts her testimony as the whole truth because it is well known that androids cannot lie. In view of her testimony, she is declared not guilty. On the other hand, the court instructs the Prosecutor's office to have Mr. Hamilton Miller arrested and tried for the murder of Mr. Robert Breme." The judge paused. "And Sarah Breme is instructed never to masquerade as a human being in future." He paused and then added off the record: "What the hell do you get out of it, anyway?"

That night, Rachel had a disturbed sleep. She woke up in the middle of the night with a sneaking suspicion biting her insides. Should she use Dr. Merritt's android identifier on Robert?

x x x

Almost lost this one twice, once when my computer crashed; once when I was so busy during June that I forgot I scheduled it as an Editor's Extra. I hope Ahmed can forgive me because his stories have always been one of anotherealm's greatest treasures. This one's no exception, just exceptional. Tell me you agree on our BBS. -GM



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