A Cross Examination
Sonia Torres was literally shaking as she took the oath. The jurors had a clear view of that. She tried to sit comfortably, hands on her lap, her face staring into the prosecutor’s eyes. She was unwilling to acknowledge the alleged rapist at the defendant’s table.
It was the defendant’s attorney’s dream watching Torres collapsing from fear. She would be unable to answer, unable to tell the court anything about the rape. All he needed to do was create doubt. She sat there looking confused and somewhat disoriented. He had to play on that if he was going to get an acquittal.
After all the court formalities were completed the defense attorney stood in front of Torres. He took his time asking questions. It was deliberate and effective. He took her through the foundation questions and back to that night on Railroad Avenue.
“You let him in around 11:30 pm, yes?”
“Yes,” she answered softly.
“Miss Torres,” the defense attorney started soothingly. “Try to keep your voice up so the ladies and gentlemen of the jury can hear you.”
“So you let him into your apartment?” he continued. “A friend?”
“I thought he was my cousin.”
“Yes or no!” shouted the defense attorney.
“Yes,” she replied; her voice cracking and was just a little more than a whisper.
“Can you tell the ladies and gentlemen of the jury approximately what time it was when you realized that he wasn’t your cousin?”
She looked confused.
“I don’t know…”
“Can you point him out?”
Sonia Torres’s eyes broke from the defense attorney for a quick second, just long enough to follow her right hand in the direction of the accused.
“Him,” she said quietly, her eyes quickly moved back to the defense attorney.
“Tell us what happened that night.”
She started to tell the court what happened and it all began before she was falling off to sleep. She told the court of the knock on her door, and how the defendant came in and immediately took advantage of her. Her story was close to monosyllabic and the judge reminded her once again to speak into the microphone.
She was crying, it was just enough for it to show, but not enough for the defense attorney to stop. He continued trying to confuse her while the prosecutor objected.
Several weeks passed and the defense attorney had worked all the corners using harsh tactics to rattle her story, and during the closing arguments he tried to nail home that the girl was mistaken, and that his client could not have raped her. He worked on her so hard prolonging her agony but doing little to change the essentials of her story.
The jury came back with a quick verdict. The defense attorney was surprised when the jurors came back in as quickly as they departed. The foreman stood and faced the judge.
“What say you?”
The defense attorney’s face was drained of color when the verdict hit him. He thought he did everything possible to prove doubt. He thought the jury would see the girl rattling and changing her story often was a clear indication of doubt. He was wrong.
Sonia Torres was crying and laughing in the same breath as the guilty verdict sunk in.
The judge looked at Sonia Torres for a moment. “Remember Miss Torres, the quiet embrace of truth is a powerful force.”
The defendant stared at Torres and there was a long silence that no one in that courtroom tried to fill.
Sonia Torres sat quietly thinking about what had happened that night. She remembered running down the hallway naked, heart pounding and her lungs burning. She was screaming rape at the top of her lungs.
She happened to be staring out of her second floor window while the accused was in bed watching her. She looked at him and smiled.
“What’s on your mind Sonia?”
“I was just picturing us living on Spring Street with two kids, a white house, flowers…”
“Us, our future,” she added.
“Sonia, this was a one night stand, I just met you.”
“I have no intentions of making this a relationship,” he said. “I thought you understood that. I told you I was moving to Philadelphia.”
“I thought I was going with you.”
Sonia Torres took on an aggrieved wounded look, and she removed her night gown and started for the door. She screamed into the hallway crying rape. A neighbor opened his door and saw terror and vulnerability in her eyes. She continued screaming rape at the top of her lungs…
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© 2013 Frank Atanacio