by Rick Beck

Chapter 11

Preliminary Hearing

Wes Mathews called the district attorney's office for a meeting just before the preliminary hearing. He couldn't say he was unavailable for that. Escorting Vince to a bench in front of the courtroom, he went to meet with this week's prosecutor.

Wes wanted some plea arrangement made. He had no doubt his client wouldn't take a plea, but it meant something to have the prosecutor willing to deal. It was the way it was done in cases like this. What Wes got instead was blindsided. There was no case like this one.

"I won't be handling the case from here on out, Wes. It's going to Ben Green. He's taking the case. I just handed over my files," the latest prosecutor said.

"Ben Green? He handles murder cases. High-powered murders. What's he want with a DUI case? He doesn't do DUI cases.

Wes was angry. He knew better than to lose his temper, but the anger was hung to his words.

"He does now. Murder. Negligence. The girl died, Wes. We're going all the way. We're making a motion to clip your doctor's wings. Ben came up with that idea. We'll have his license before you have your second cocktail at lunch."

"Who's making these decisions? I want to talk to him."

"He doesn't want to talk to you. The decision came from upstairs. Your doctor is going to do prison time. He won't be a doctor for long."

"Upstairs where? Where is it coming from? Who is so eager to put him in prison. I want to know a name. I won't say you told me. I know the politics involved. I won't give you up. Give me his name? Who is so anxious to destroy my doctor's life," Wes said, with a passion that couldn't be manufactured, even for a jury.

"Look Wes, I take orders. The paper work comes across my desk. I don't know where it comes from. No one signed it. It had the district attorney's seal on it. He approves. Ben Green will follow orders because he likes to win. You need to talk to him now."

The court proceedings went no better than the meeting with the district attorney. Ben Green sat at the prosecutor's table and spoke directly to the judge. Vince sat next to Wes, listening to the prosecutor speaking about him in terms that made him sick.

The evidence introduced was a compilation of everything Wes already knew. It made no mention of any question about what had taken place. It sounded good the way it was presented. The prosecutor was on stage, hitting every detail hard to make Vince look bad.

Wes knew the prosecutor's case better than Ben Green knew it. He didn't have to make his defense until trial. No one knew what he had. It was obvious he was looking for a witness. The prosecution would know that most people of value to the defense were unavailable to him. Nothing in the prosecution's presentation required the testimony of any of the missing people. It was up to Wes to find them.

A little over an hour after the preliminary hearing started, the judge called both of the attorneys to come forward. Until that time Wes remained silent. He wasn't about to let prosecution tactics throw him off stride.

"Both attorneys approach the bench," the judge ordered. "Do you know about this, Wes?" the judge asked, tossing a paper with a motion on it made by the prosecution. "If you do, you're losing your touch."

The judge was obviously displeased about something.

"No, I've got a handful of papers he gave me before we started, but I've been a bit busy listening to see if any evidence went with all his supposition," Wes said, glancing at the motion to see what had gotten the judge's goat.

"Mr. Mathews!" the judge said, irritated at the world.

"A motion to pull his license to practice medicine in the state of California?" Wes said, glaring at the prosecutor. "What is this, Green. You can't do this. Who the hell do you think you are?"

"Mr. Mathews," the judge repeated less vehemently.

"Mr. Mathews, if you look at the paper carefully, I've already done it. You need to take a speed reading course, counselor," Ben Green said in a particularly cocky voice.

"I object," Wes almost yelled as the judge hammered his gavel.

"Wes, back off," the judge urged firmly. "I can't do this. This isn't within my purview, Green. You've never prosecuted a doctor before?"

"Sure," Ben Green said, not quite so sure of himself.

"This is a medical license, counselor," he said, holding up the motion. "And we're in a court of law. Until you've convicted him of something you aren't going to get the medical community's attention. They aren't known to go after one of their own without a powerful motivation. Motion denied. I'm done practicing law for you two. Step back. No, step forward," he ordered in a sudden reversal.

"Mr. Green, since I've seen so many names scratched off this case, I'm assuming your office isn't sure who the prosecutor might be. I'll straighten this out for you. We're done playing musical prosecutors. You're it, Mr. Green. They remove you from this case and you'll be in contempt of my court order. Do we understand each other?"

"Yes, sir," Ben Green said submissively.

"I've got another piece of paper from your office on my desk. It's a motion to remove me as the judge. You can tell Mr. District Attorney: Judge Hamilton is on this case until a verdict is rendered by a duly sworn jury. Do you understand that, Mr. Green?"

"Yes, sir," Ben Green said softly.

"I suspect you aren't going to object to either of these decisions, if you are smart, Mr. Mathews?"

"No, I didn't say a thing, Your Honor."

"Step back."

"Motion to restrict or remove Dr. Parson's license to practice medicine in the state of California is denied. Motion to remove me in favor of another judge is likewise denied," Judge Hamilton said, hammering his gavel. "Court's adjourned."

The judge banged his gavel, leaving the courtroom by a door just behind his bench.

"What the hell was that all about?" Vince asked.

"It's about hardball, Vince. They're trying to pull your license to practice medicine."

"They can't do that. I haven't been found guilty of anything."

"Bad publicity. You're guilty of looking bad. They think that allows them to pull crap like this. We've got a few months to trial. Our luck is going to improve. I hear you're working with Father Joe?"

"Yes, sir. I'm helping out. It's a different kind of medicine for me. I've never seen so many sick people. I've got a few nurses that do all the work, I just nod and tell the patient he'll be fine. I look a lot like I know what I'm talking about. Good acting," Vince said, smiling.

"I might add that surprises me, doctor. Admirable, might I add. You let me do what I do, Vince. We're going to beat this thing," Wes said.

"That's a promise?" Vince asked, knowing the answer. "The guy talked like I was Jack the Ripper or worse."

"No promises in this business. That prosecutor, Green?"

"Reminds me of a pit bull I saw once," Vince said. "He didn't like me either."

"He tries murder cases. They're overreaching by about a mile. I try DUI cases routinely. I doubt Ben Green has ever seen a DUI case. When we go to trial, every man and woman on that jury at one time or another has gotten behind the wheel of a car after drinking, not being absolutely sure they were sober enough to drive. Those people will be sympathetic. Ben Green will be trying a murder case. He's good, Vince, but the jury will know what the charges are. He helps us."

"That's good?" Vince said.

"I don't care if they put Superman over there. I'll do my job the best way I know how to do it. I can get the jury to see your side, but I can't make the girl go away. We've got time to find what we need.

"The prosecutor on the case before Green took it said, they intend to prove you're negligent. I want you to think about your answer to this question before you give it to me, Vince. It might make a big difference. Can anything you did for that girl that night fall into the category of negligent?"

"I don't need to think about emergency medicine, Wes. We are taught to respond under pressure. It's my business. The kind of neck fracture, …broken neck, she had, …where it was located, just above the neckline, in most cases interrupts motor functions. She couldn't breathe. What I did for her on that street was the best medical care she could get under those circumstances. I treated her according to the book. The paramedics are invaluable, but they don't have my knowledge or skill. With the hospital four or five minutes away, their best course of treatment was to do nothing, get her in the hands of the ER staff as quick as possible. I treated her to see to it she lived to reach the hospital. Unfortunately, nothing would have done any good. A miracle maybe. I did all I knew how to do, Wes. It wasn't enough."

"Good. I knew that. I wanted to hear you tell me. It's just what you say when I call you to the stand at trial. I'll ask you that question. You answer me exactly… exactly as you just told it to me, that's how you tell it to the jury. You'll be fine. They aren't going to prove negligence. They think they are, but they won't."

"That's good, Wes. I told them I'd be in after the hearing. Do you need me for anything else?" Vince asked.

"No, keep your chin up. We're going to get there."

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