In Court

by Peter Conrad

© 2005/2022 Peter Conrad

A few words beforehand. In the early 2000s German daytime TV was flooded with court shows. In 2005 I wasn't able to avoid it anymore, I had to write my own court story "Vor Gericht" which was published in a German story forum. Two or three years later, the hype was over and I forgot about the story. Fast forward to 2022: the court TV shows celebrate a comeback, even with the same judges, prosecutors and lawyers - so I decided to translate the old story into English.

All persons and incidents are fictitious, possible similarities to actually existing persons are absolutely coincidental and unintentional.

Some short thoughts about the German court system. Youths up to the age of 18 always are tried under juvenile law in juvenile court, in some cases this is extended to the age of 21 if development deficiencies are discovered. Cases are heard and decided by either a single judge or - depending on the severity of the crime - a presiding judge and two voluntary jurors (who have the same voting rights as the professional judges) (Small Chamber) or in the worst cases a presiding judge assisted by two professional judges and two voluntary jurors (Big Chamber). There is no jury in the sense of the US court system.

Should anyone from the editorial staff of Barbara Salesch, Ruth Herz, Alexander Hold and whatever else they may be called happen to read this: the TV rights are still up for grabs! *g*

And now have fun reading.

What a goddamn mess I had gotten myself into! Never, not even in my worst nightmares, would I have believed that I would be sitting here, in the dock of our city's juvenile court. Nervously, I looked over at my defense attorney, who smiled encouragingly at me, but still didn't give me the feeling that I would get out of here quickly and easily.

Inside the courtroom I saw my parents, my twin brother Dominic waiting outside as a witness. My father gave me a thumbs up - another symbol that didn't reassure me very much. Anja's father was also there, but he looked at me with hatred.

Damn! Jan was also sitting back there, together with his parents! What were these three doing here?

"So, Mr. Marnot, please take a seat here in front."

Shit, here we go. With knees as soft as rubber, I rose, walked to the chair in the middle of the room and sat there at the table.

"Your name is Nicolas Marnot, you were born on 3/13/1988, so you were 16 years old at the time of the crime. Am I still allowed to call you Nicolas?"

I guess I'd better not mess with the presiding judge.

"Yeah, no problem."

"Good, you live here in Bardegen, still with your parents."

Fortunately, at least I had been spared pretrial detention.

"You're a student and you're in the 11th grade at the local Schiller Gymnasium. Is that all correct so far?"


"Good. Mr. Prosecutor, the indictment please."

The guy with the ice-cold eyes with which he had been piercingly eyeing me all along rose from his chair.

"The student Nicolas Marnot is charged with the following. On the evening of December 17, 2004, he invited the victim Anja Schlosser to his home under the pretext of wanting to do homework together."

Yes, indeed I had. Anja had asked if I could help her with an English homework assignment. And stupid me had agreed to it!

"His parents and brother were visiting relatives out of town at the time, so the defendant was all alone in the house with the victim."


"In the course of the evening, the defendant became more and more pushy, but the victim did not want to get involved in more than a little cuddling. However, the defendant was not impressed by this and forced sexual intercourse with the victim. The defendant is therefore charged with rape, crime punishable under Section 177(2) of the Criminal Code."

"You have heard what the prosecution is charging you with, do you wish to comment on it? I assume you have consulted with your lawyer about this?"

Mr. Schober was a nice person and certainly a good lawyer, but he had also reached the end of his rope pretty quickly during the pretrial talks and investigation.

"Yes, I will make a statement."

"Very well. So, what do you have to say about the charge?"

I tried to gather my thoughts and put them in order. Not so easy in such a situation.

"It's true, Anja was with me that night. I wanted to help her with a school assignment, but I realized very quickly that that wasn't what she had planned at all."

"What did she have planned?"

"She got pushy pretty quickly, she said that she had fallen in love with me."

Now that had been a shock!

"And what did you say to that?"

What do you think?

"I told her that although I thought she was nice, I didn't love her."

"And then?"

"Then she literally threw herself at me! She kissed me and ripped my shirt open at the same time."

At that moment I didn't even know what happened to me, I was completely out of it. I had expected everything, but not that she would go that far.

"Please go on, Nicolas."

"I didn't want that, so I pushed her away from me and told her again that I didn't want anything from her, that I didn't love her. Then she slapped me, said I'd see what I got out of it, and stormed off."

"Ha, this is really getting funnier and funnier. Now the perpetrator presents himself as the victim. That's anything but credible, Mr. Marnot!"

I had known it, this prosecutor wanted my scalp. As sardonically as he grinned at me now, I had already been convicted for him long ago and put behind bars.

"But that's how it happened!"

"Calm down, please, there's no shouting in my courtroom."

Yes sure, how should someone remain calm in such a situation.

"Nicolas, how long was Anja at your house?"

It hadn't been particularly long. Though every second was one too much.

"About 10, 15 minutes. She arrived around 7 p.m., and about 7:15 p.m. she already left the house again."

"But that's funny, Mr. Marnot, according to her own testimony she was raped by you after 8:30 p.m. and didn't leave you until after 9 p.m.! This is also in accordance with her mother's statement, who says that Anja did not show up at home until around 9:30 p.m. completely distraught. How do you explain that, Mr. Marnot?"

"How should I know where she has been all this time? She certainly wasn't with me!"

"Do you have any witnesses for this, Mr. Marnot?"

"No, as I said, I was alone at home! But do you have witnesses that it was different?"

It was testimony versus testimony, and wasn't it "in doubt in favor of the defendant"?

Now the presiding judge intervened again.

"I can see we're not getting anywhere here. Nicolas, please take a seat next to your lawyer. We will hear the witness Anja Schlosser next."

Anja came into the room, gave me angry looks and then sat down on the chair where I had just been sitting.

"May I still call by your first name? Thank you. So, your name is Anja Schlosser, you are now 17 years old, at the time of the crime you were 16. You live here in Bardegen with your parents, you go to Schiller Gymnasium and you are not related to the accused. Is that correct?"


"Good. I still have to instruct you, you are here in court as a witness, which means you have to tell the truth. Should you fail to do so, you could be punished for it. Do you understand that?"

"Yes, I do. I will tell the truth."

Ha, I was totally sure about that!

"Well, Anja, we have just questioned Nicolas, who describes the evening quite differently than you did in your statement to the police. He says you were only with him for about a quarter of an hour, and it was you who became pushy. After he turned you down, he says, you ran out of the house in a rage, threatening him with consequences."

"Ha, that damned liar! Sure, he wants to get his head out of the noose now!"

I actually wanted just that, but I hadn't lied.

"Well then, tell us exactly how the evening went from your point of view."

And now it came again, Anja's fantasy story about the alleged romantic evening, at the end of which I would have become intrusive and raped her. Awww how well she could make the tears falling! Almost everyone present now looked reproachfully and full of hate in my direction. My God, this was almost an Oscar-worthy performance! Finally she finished, and my lawyer intervened.

"Ms. Schlosser, when you came home on that December 17, you didn't tell anyone about an alleged rape. In fact, you didn't even go to the police until December 28! Why?"

"What do you think! Because I was ashamed!"

"Oh, it wasn't because it wasn't logically comprehensible until after that delay that there were no signs of the alleged rape?"

"No! I just felt ashamed and dirty! It wasn't until 10 days later that my head was somewhat clear and I knew I couldn't let that pig get away with it!"

"Please no insults in the courtroom!"

Thanks, Madam Chairman.

"I'm not buying it, Ms. Schlosser. I will tell you how I think it went down. You fell in love with my client and tried to seduce him that night. When he turned you down, you got angry, slapped him across the face, and then stormed off. A few days later, however, this was not enough for you, you wanted to take proper revenge for this rejection. That's why you made up the story about the alleged rape, which never really happened!"

Attorney Schober was good, I had to give him that.

"No! He raped me! I was never in love with him, and HE couldn't handle that, so he did that to me!"

Dream on, you stupid cow.

The presiding judge sighed.

"I think we can stop here. Thank you, Anja, you can sit back there. We will next hear the witness Elvira Schlosser, Anja's mother."

Mrs. Schlosser came into the courtroom, and if looks could kill, the trial would have been over at that moment for lack of a defendant.

"Please take your seat, Mrs. Schlosser."

This was followed by the taking of personal details and the usual witness instruction.

"Mrs. Schlosser, we have now heard two completely different stories. Your daughter has reported a rape, the defendant, on the other hand, has testified that nothing happened except for a short argument and that your daughter left his house again after only a few minutes."

The bitch's mother started up.

"Yes, that's just like those rich people! They think they can have everything because of their money! And now he also wanted to have my poor daughter, and when she didn't play along, he just took what he wanted!"

Of course, poor Anja, the innocent good little girl. Maybe someone should tell her mother what kind of person was living under her roof!

"Mrs. Schlosser, I can understand your excitement, but please tone it down a bit."

"I'll try, Madam Chairman."

"Thank you very much. Now please tell us how you experienced the evening of December 17."

"My daughter was going to visit that one over there that night, he was going to help her with some homework. I didn't think much of it, although Anja had told me a few times that the guy always looked at her in a funny way. She thought he was quite nice, she couldn't have guessed what kind of criminal he was!"

"Be careful with such terms, Mrs. Schlosser! My client is not a criminal!"

"Of course he is, a very brutal rapist!"

"Now, everyone, please calm down a bit. After all, we are gathered here to find out whether there has been a crime and whether the defendant is guilty of that crime. So, Mrs. Schlosser, please continue now. What happened that night."

At least the presiding judge didn't seem to have completely convicted me yet.

"Anja came home around half past nine. She was completely distraught and crying and immediately ran to her room."

"You're sure it was around 9:30?"

"Yes, my husband and I had been watching 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire' and when the show was over we zapped around a bit. About 10 minutes later, Anja came home."

"Did your daughter tell you anything about what had happened?"

"No, Mr. Prosecutor, she didn't tell us anything that evening. I wanted to talk to her, but she locked herself in her room."

"When did she tell you about the rape?"

"About the alleged rape, Mr. Colleague!"

"We'll find out how alleged the rape was, Mr. Colleague!"

"Gentlemen, please remain objective! Mrs. Schlosser, please answer the prosecutor's question."

"That was only one day after Christmas. Anja had been very distraught and secretive the whole time, and it took me a very long time to get through to her and get the truth out of her."

The truth? Don't make me laugh. I wasn't sure if Anja could even spell that word correctly.

"What did she tell you?"

And again we got to listen to the tall tale from this little bitch.

"I then managed to convince her that she had to report the matter, so we went to the police together on December 28."

During her mother's testimony, Anja sat in the courtroom with teary eyes, like a heap of misery. What an acting masterstroke - and thus the next nail in my coffin.

The presiding judge dismissed Mrs. Schlosser from the witness stand, and next my brother was called.

"Mr. Marnot, your brother allowed me to still call him by his first name, may I do the same with you?"

"Yeah sure, go ahead."

"Good. So, your name is Dominic Marnot, you're 17 years old, you live here in Bardegen with your parents, you're still a student at the same Gymnasium as the defendant and the witness Anja Schlosser."

"That's right."

"Dominic, the defendant is your brother, so you don't have to testify here. But if you testify, everything you say must be true, otherwise you would be liable to prosecution."

"I want to testify."

"I thought so, after all, your brother's defense attorney named you as a witness. So, what can you tell us about the crime accusation against your brother."

"I can't say anything about the crime itself, I was with our parents visiting relatives in Dorleben. But I can say a few things about Anja!"

Would that help?

"Well, go ahead!"

"Anja had been after my brother for quite a while, she followed him almost everywhere at school."

Cue Dr. Schober.

"Did your brother respond in any way to these advances at any point?"

"Not really. He was somewhat irritated by it, but never encouraged Anja in any way. On the contrary, he kept blocking various attempts by her to do something with him under different pretexts."

Only with this stupid English homework had I forgotten my principles.

"By the way, other classmates of ours can testify to that. Anja was really pushy with Nicolas. But we already knew that about her."

"What do you mean, Mr. Marnot?"

Did the prosecutor really care?

"Anja falls for a new guy every two months, and then she really pursues him. No matter whether he wants something from her or not."

"And my client didn't want anything from her, did I understand that correctly?"

"Absolutely! Nic had no interest in Anja whatsoever!"

"So you also can't imagine that he actually lured her into the empty house under a pretext and then raped her there?"

"Never! Nicolas would never do something like that! No way!"

With a raised eyebrow, I looked at Dom warningly. My brother seemed to get it, but he wasn't too happy about it, I guess.

"Thank you very much, Dominic. Are there any more questions for the witness? No. Then you're dismissed and you can sit back there."

Dominic gave me an encouraging nod, then sat down in the chair furthest away from Anja. Also a kind of statement...

"So in my eyes, that was just a courtesy statement for the brother. Madam Chairman, I would suggest to hear the psychological expert now."

"Yes, that seems to me to be the right time, too."

The expert was called, and shortly thereafter a dolled-up woman in her forties entered the courtroom. Personal details were taken, the instruction was given, and then the questioning continued.

"Doctor Schulze-Rosenthal, you have conducted several interviews with the witness Anja Schlosser on behalf of the court. What did you find out in the process about the witness and about the accusation of rape?"

"Well, in our sessions, Anja turned out to be a young woman who is now quite strong again and who, although she is still having difficulty processing what happened, is well on her way to coming to terms with the matter. I'm sure this trial and the punishment of the perpetrator will also contribute to that."

"So you assume that the accusation of the crime against the defendant is actually true and not - as claimed by the defendant - solely from the imagination of the witness Anja Schlosser?"

Well, a couple had found each other, the prosecutor and the expert seemed to be on exactly the same wavelength.

"Yes, for me there is no doubt at all. All the signs point to a real rape, the initial distraction and reticence, the only gradual trusting of the parents and me, then later the will to get through it all anyway and to bring the perpetrator to justice. All this is absolutely typical for the victim of such a crime, so I see no reason to doubt Anja's statements."

That was it. Mr. Schober still tried to bring some doubt to the double name expert's statement, but that was probably not crowned with success. The presiding judge dismissed the expert, and next it was the turn of the representative of the juvenile court assistance. He painted a very positive picture of me, but that would hardly change the overall impression and my conviction. The prosecutor rose for his plea with relish.

"Madam Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, today's hearing has, in my eyes, clearly proven the accusation of the crime against the defendant. He did indeed lure the victim Anja Schlosser into his house in order to get physically closer to her there. However, when she resisted his advances and made it clear to him that she would not be willing to sleep with him, he simply took what he wanted by force. Fully aware of what he was doing, he raped the victim Schlosser..."


Oh no, anything but that!


All eyes turned to the spectator whose outcry had interrupted the prosecutor.

"Silence in the room! What kind of behavior is this in court! Who are you, and why are you interrupting the prosecutor during his closing argument?"

I guessed what was coming now, and contorted my face painfully.

"I'm Jan Vollmer, a classmate, and I can clear this whole thing up! Nicolas didn't rape Anja!"

I had to try to stop this after all.

"Let it go, Jan! Don't say anything!"

"No, Nic, everything has to come out now! I can't let you go to jail because of all these lies!"

I sighed and looked at the table in front of me.

"Madam Chairman, if the young man really has something to contribute to the case, then we should hear him out. After all, we are dealing with a very serious accusation here."

"I agree with you, Mr. Schober. Do you have any objections, Mr. Borinski?"

Borinski was the prosecutor's name, and he surprisingly had no objections.

"Good, then we will enter into evidence hearing again. Please come forward, Mr. Vollmer, and take your seat."

"Thank you. You can call me by my first name, by the way."

"Fine. So, your name is Jan Vollmer. How old are you?"


"I'm sure you still live with your parents, and you've already said that you're a classmate of Nicolas's, and therefore of Anja's."

"That's right."

"You are now a witness in court, so you must tell the truth, otherwise you would be punished. Since I don't know what you're going to testify here, I'll take the precaution of pointing out that you don't have to say anything that would incriminate yourself. Do you understand that?"

"Yes, I do."

"Good, now please tell us why you are so convinced that Nicolas did not commit the accused rape."

"Quite simply, he was with me at the time!"

"What do you mean?"

"That evening Nic called me at about 7:20 pm. He was quite distraught and asked me to come to him, he had something important to tell me. He didn't say exactly what it was about on the phone, but I sensed that something had happened. We live only a few hundred meters away from each other, so I immediately ran over and was at his place around half past seven. From then on I stayed with him until the next morning - how could he have raped Anja after half past eight?"

"Well, that's interesting. What did my client tell you then, what did he want to see you about so quickly?"

"He told me exactly what he also testified here. Anja tried to make a pass at him, he turned her down, she smacked him and then took off. Two minutes later he called me."

"So you're saying that the defendant is the victim here, that he didn't want anything from the witness Anja Schlosser and she just made it all up to get back at him for rebuffing her?"

"That's exactly it! Nicolas wasn't even remotely interested in the chick!"

"How can you be so sure of that? You know, I think you're lying here and trying to give your friend a false alibi!"

The nice prosecutor again doing his best to get me in trouble.

"I'm not lying! Nicolas wanted nothing from Anja, nothing at all! He's just..."

"Jan, leave it!"

"No, Nic, it has to come out now!"

"Yes everything must come out now! Nicolas, please don't interrupt the witness! Jan, please continue with what you wanted to say!"

"It's simple, Nicolas is gay, I am too, and we've been a couple for half a year!"

Baaaaang! That hit the room like a bomb. Jaws dropped all over the place. I looked to my family. Dominic was grinning to himself, well, he knew it already and had only kept quiet because I had asked him to. Our parents looked a bit puzzled, but then smiles appeared on their faces as well. Phew, that seemed to go well. Okay, I hardly expected anything else, one of my mother's brothers was also gay, and there was never any nasty remark about it, quite the opposite.


Anja had jumped up and screeched across the hall!

"That's why you pushed me away when I wanted to make it a little more romantic for us? You fucking faggot!"

"Anja, do I understand it correctly that you just admitted that there was no rape at all?"

Well, my dear Anja, you have just fallen into the pit you dug for me yourself. She probably only realized this at that moment, and silently fell back into her chair. The presiding judge obviously knew exactly what to make of this outburst.

"I'll take that as a 'yes'. But Jan, please tell me why you are only now coming out with the truth. And why didn't Nicolas say anything about it either! After all, this was about a heavy sentence for him, and the evidence didn't look good for him at all."

What evidence? There only had been lies and wrong accusations based on them.

"Nic wanted to protect me."

"Protect you? Why and from what?"

"Well, we knew that simply saying I was with him during the time in question wouldn't be enough. That's what the prosecutor just said, after all, he accused us of having agreed on a false alibi. So we had to come out of the closet. Nicolas would have done that if it had only been about him. But he refrained because he wanted to protect me. My parents are pretty conservative and don't have a good word for homosexuals, so I didn't want to come out until I was on my own two feet. But I couldn't just watch Nic go to jail now! No matter what happens to me now!"

"Is that true, Nicolas?"

I sighed, now it was all too late anyway, the big secret was out.

"Yes. I wanted Jan to live on in safety. He was so afraid of what would happen if his parents found out."

Jan's father worked in construction, was what is usually called a "real man," and almost always had something to gripe about his son. His mother, on the other hand, was the typical housewife who would never think of deciding anything herself or even speak up against the master of the house. Sadly, both of them were present in the courtroom, and I was just as scared as Jan of what would happen now. And it was already starting. Mr. Vollmer had risen from his chair in the audience area and stormed forward to the witness stand. So quickly that even the bailiff present could not intervene, he grabbed his son.

"Jan, I'm proud of you!"


"I must be a damn bad father if you're so afraid of me! And yet now you've gotten over yourself and told the truth!"

I must have been in the wrong movie. Mr. Vollmer was hugging his son and had tears in his eyes just like Jan!

"You... You... You're not angry at me?"

"No, I'm angry at myself. You I'm proud of! You behaved like a real man!"

"I am very pleased that the fears of the witness Vollmer concerning his family do not seem to come true, but nevertheless we should now see to it that we find an end with the trial. Mr. Vollmer, please take a seat in the back with your son."

Of the chairs for the witnesses, only one was still free, but that didn't bother the giant from the construction site, who was over two meters tall, he sat down and took his clearly smaller son on his lap, who smiled happily at me. And now the time had come, for the first time in weeks I too could look positively into the future, and a smile spread across my face, too.

"Mr. Borinski, you can now continue your closing argument that was interrupted earlier, it should be quite short now."

Harhar, now you look stupid, don't you?

"Yes, Madam Chairman. At the very last moment it turned out that the wrong culprit is sitting in the dock here. Nicolas Marnot - just like most of us - has become the victim of an intrigue by the witness Anja Schlosser. A well thought-out intrigue, until the late appearance of the witness Vollmer, everything actually indicated that the accused had really committed the crime he was accused of."

Only if you thought of me as a rapist and liar from the start.

"It is cases like this which, unfortunately, time and again call into question the credibility of real rape victims, from that point of view the witness Anja Schlosser has done much more damage than 'just' dragging an innocent young man into court. Ms. Schlosser, you can get ready to sit over there on that bench soon, I'll make sure of it!"

And I wouldn't miss this show!

"The defendant is innocent and of course to be acquitted."

Exactly! I had never claimed otherwise.

"Mr. Schober."

"Madam Chairman, Mr. Colleague, I can only endorse the words of the prosecutor. I only hope that we will all learn from this case that the apparently obvious does not always have to be the truth. I move for acquittal of my client."

"Thank you. Nicolas, you have the last word."

Was I really supposed to say anything else? Would I be able to control myself?

"I... Jan... You didn't have to do this, but I'm still very grateful that you did. I love you, and we'll get through what's coming up together. And Anja... Oh, just forget it."

I didn't want to be punished for insulting her.

After my closing words, the chairman or rather chairwoman and the two jurors withdrew for deliberation. As expected, however, they did not take very long to reach a verdict.

"All rise, please."

I pushed back the chair and stood up with everyone else present.

"In the name of the people, the following verdict is rendered: the defendant is acquitted at the expense of the public treasury, which will also pay his own necessary expenses. Please be seated."

The reasons for the verdict followed, which I could only hear with one ear, the rest of me was already with Jan and was waiting to finally take him in my arms.

Then it was time, I thanked my lawyer briefly, then I shot to my darling, who jumped up from his father's lap and fell into my arms. All the tension in us dissolved into nothingness as we lay wordlessly in each other's arms. We didn't even notice how the hall emptied and were completely surprised when suddenly it was just us and our families standing around.

"Ahem... If you two could just let go of each other for a moment... Mrs. Vollmer, Mr. Vollmer, I think there are some things to discuss between us now. What do you think about all of us going to the Italian restaurant around the corner together? After all, there's something to celebrate."

Surprisingly, everyone agreed with my mother's suggestion, even Jan's father grinned to himself. Even with our very clear display of physical closeness, he hadn't even batted an eyelash. Apparently, both Jan and I had misjudged him. Well, that was just fine with me. So we set off, out of the courtroom and into a future that was still quite uncertain, but no longer so ominous...

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