[previous chapter] [start from the beginning] It hadn’t taken long for Paul Smith to get back to see Jeff in jail. He’d waltzed in at nine o’clock sharp, all neatly pressed and with glasses gleaming.

“Good morning, pro,” Jeff said with a smile that conveyed more sarcasm than pleasure. “Got news for me?”

Paul pretended he hadn’t noticed the tone. “As a matter of fact, yes, I do. It’s not entirely positive, but it’s not entirely negative either. Shall we discuss this?”

“Sure. I’m curious to see what you’ve come up with, but I must warn you that my mind is made up. I know how I’m pleading.”

“I know. But hear me out. It’s not like you have a lot to lose, right?”

Smith took off his gleaming glasses and wiped them again.

“OK, so we did the research, and…”

“We?”

“Well, yeah. My research assistant helped with this project. I told you my firm wanted to make sure we represented you very well, as we see your case as having potential to make waves and possibly even jurisprudence.”

“What’s that?”

“Jurisprudence? Means your case has the potential, maybe, to create a judicial precedent. Legal history, if you like. We don’t know that yet, and that’s not why we’ve decided to represent you, although I’ll be honest and say the potential to have our name on a case that might make the news and possibly legal history certainly counted in our calculations. Hope you won’t mind my honesty.”

“Not at all. I like it, in fact. Here I thought all lawyers were greasy liars and it turns out you’re not lying about your intentions.” Jeff smiled. “Hope you won’t mind my honesty.”

Paul Smith was almost amused. One corner of his mouth was even tempted to rise up for a second there. “No, not really. Although I notice you didn’t say anything about not being greasy. Oh well, I’ll take what I can get, right?”

Jeff chortled something incomprehensible.

“Right, never mind. As I was saying, we did the research and came to the conclusion that pleading self-defense was not your best bet.” He kept looking down at his paper but raised his hand to stop Jeff from springing out of his chair. “I know what you’re going to say; you intend to plead that. Fine. But hear me out. If you plead normal self-defense your case is pretty much doomed and here’s why: Self-defense in the traditional sense of the word implies a threat you were defending yourself against. It means you were either in reasonable fear for your life or physical integrity, or that of someone you were responsible for, or it can also mean you were defending your property and had your back to the wall.”

“See, that’s why I hate lawyers…”

Paul afforded himself a genuinely warm smile. “I know. But we can be useful. If you had been in a situation where your parents were attacking you and you feared for your life or you had good reasons to believe you’ d get seriously injured, self-defense would apply and the question would be, well, did the means you took to defend yourself pass the “reasonableness” test? Was what you did reasonable in the circumstances? Was the force you employed proportional to the threat?”

Paul looked up from his paper. “You’re a big tall guy in his late 40s, and your parents were much older. They also were not attacking you or your property. It would be nearly suicidal, as a legal strategy, to plead self-defense in your case.”

“But, wait, that can’t be! I’ve read cases where people were pushed to do things like what I did after years and years of abuse! That’s what I want to talk about!”

“I’m getting to that. I just want us to understand what it is you’ll be pleading and make sure you do it right so you have the best chance of success. Us greasy liars like to stack the odds as much as we can in our favour. It’s a thing.”

“Yeah, I guess it’s just one big game for you…”

“Whether it is or not, Jeff, is beside the point.”

Jeff snorted.

“No, really. Your only concern is to walk out of here a free man, and I’m in your corner doing everything I can to help you get there. Whether or not I consider this a game is totally beside the point. The other guys are trying to send you to jail for the rest of your life and we’re trying to avoid that. We have a jury that will listen to both sides, and in order to convict you the crown will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you not only killed your parents but that you had the intention of killing them. The crown is the one with the difficult job. All we have to do is introduce a reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury. So in a sense, yeah, it’s kind of like a game, except one with extremely serious consequences for you. At some point you have to decide if you are going to trust me to help you. If you don’t, I’ll have to let someone else do the job.”

Paul Smith did the thing with the glasses again, but this time he meant to give Jeff Toussignant a minute or two to think.

[next chapter]