[previous chapter] [start from the beginning] Ruth Lieberman was making tea for her daughter on Sunday afternoon. Rosie had not slept all that well since Friday, and was looking much the worse for it.

“I just wish I’d handled these questions better. I figured the lawyer would go after my evidence, and I was ready for that. I never expected to talk about my religious views in such a public forum.”

“I was so upset when he started asking you about that! I wanted to claw his face…”

Rosie smiled. Ah, so Paul Smith had managed to get Mama Bear to come out. “You know, Mom, that wouldn’t have been helpful…”

“Oh, I know, honey. I wasn’t going to do anything, you understand. I just felt like it. Argh! The arrogance of these people!”

You could tell it was still bothering her immensely. To say that she was protective of her daughter would have been a severe understatement. She hadn’t been crazy about the idea of Rosie becoming a police officer. The culture of law enforcement was not one favourable to women, she thought, and especially not if the woman in question was pretty. And Jewish. And smart.

“Mom,” Rosie kept telling her, “I would never claim life as a cop is perfect, but honestly you’re watching too many TV shows. It’s not that bad. Yeah, so some of the guys make sexist jokes. But so what? They’re good guys, Mom. People you’d want in your corner any day. They just have a weird sense of humour.”

“Well, I don’t know that ‘weird’ is the word I’d choose,” her mother would invariably huff. “But it’s your life, I can’t stop you.”

Ruth had slowly gotten used to her daughter’s work environment, even though she insisted on retaining a healthy dose of skepticism. But what had happened Friday afternoon in court was something else altogether.

“I still can’t believe the judge allowed that lawyer to ask you such personal questions.”

“I know. I was surprised, too. But I think I understand what he’s doing. See, to convict his client the crown has to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he not only committed the crimes but that he had the intention of committing the crime. That’s the very hard part to prove. Smith didn’t really try to poke holes in my investigation, because that part of the evidence is very solid.”

Ruth beamed at that. “Of course it is! You’re my daughter and I helped you – the evidence is practically flawless!”

“Yes, practically. Certainly it’s hard for his lawyer to make the jury doubt that Toussignant ordered the deaths of his parents, given the evidence we have. But where he has room to introduce some doubt is when it comes to his intention to murder them. If he can get the jurors to doubt whether what was in Toussignant’s heart was murderous intentions – say, if he can get them to wonder whether he acted out of pity or something – then the first-degree murder conviction is that much harder to get.”

“What a crazy justice system we have, where a guy can get away with murder like that!”

“Mom, please,” Rosie said, sipping her tea. “I know you believe Toussignant is guilty. I believe so, too. But our opinion doesn’t count. What matters is what the jury decides. And yes, because murder is such a serious crime, the level of proof required to convict someone of it is a great deal higher than what you need to convict someone of break-and-enter, or bank robbery. Toussignant is risking life in prison without possibility of parole for 25 years; you can’t throw away a man’s life like that without very solid proof.”

“But what about his parents? He threw away their lives, and he didn’t stop to wonder whether he had any doubts about it, did he!”

“Well, Mom, actually we don’t know that. He may have hesitated a great deal. But whether he did or not, it doesn’t change the way the justice system works, especially in serious criminal cases like murder. It’s set up so that it’s easier for a guilty person to be acquitted than it is to convict someone who isn’t. And if you think about it for a minute, you realize that a world in which it’s very difficult to get convicted of serious crimes is better than one where they throw you in jail – or worse, execute you – on a flimsy pretext.”

It was pretty well argued, Rosie thought, but all it earned her was a pat on the knee. “Well, that’s nice, dear. But this dinner isn’t going to make itself…”

[next chapter]