Opening Statement for the Defence
Now it was her defence barrister’s moment in the spotlight. Martha refused to even lock eyes with Barbara Craven, who was now standing face to face with the jury. Her memories of the moment her life changed were still impenetrable. They tangled into an incomprehensible heap, as her lifeblood drained away. It was like she was a puppet and pulled at her own strings to take his life.
She turned to the one man in the jury who seemed to have convicted her from the very start of the trial. Impersonal, he had not smiled once. His pen had never strayed from the pages of his leather-bound writing pad. Martha willed his strength of mind to overpower the other jurors into submission. Just as Thomas clipped her wings – he must clip theirs.
Barbara Craven, who wore her black gown and white wig like a badge of honour, was outlining her opening statement. She spoke of loss of control – like Martha wasn’t to blame for her own actions.
Her life was like a show home, but that didn’t matter. Thomas was dead at her hands. Soon the trial would be over. In a few months nobody would remember the name Martha Whitman. As Barbara Craven spoke, Martha looked to her lap and to the prison sentence she was about to serve.
‘My learned colleague, Richard Blake, has told us of a man; a leading force in his local neighbourhood watch, organising an evening bus service for the elderly.’ Her sarcasm was barely hidden as she deftly continued with her statement. ‘His mistress spoke of a kind and loving man, refusing to leave his wife, concerned only for her welfare and mental state.’
It was how she still saw Thomas, even in her darkest hours.
‘The prosecution has tried to prove to you, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the man shown to the world as a kind, caring husband was just that, but I will call witnesses who will show you that he was no more than a brute, who used his fists to control his defenceless wife.’
‘No,’ Martha whispered. There were two sides to every story. She wasn’t a victim. Blame couldn’t be placed on Thomas’s shoulders alone.
Endless nights, where she would cry herself to sleep, must have disturbed Thomas.
‘I will prove to you that my client isn’t capable of planning and executing a murder. She is just a victim, who had no choice, but to defend her life from a man who would have killed her.’
‘He loved me, I’m the one to blame.’
‘Listen to yourself Martha, stop defending him!’ Lucy jumped up from her chair and tipped over the wooden barrier.
The judge reaffirmed his control. ‘If you continue with this course of action, I will have no choice but to remove you from the court.
‘This court is a joke!’ Lucy said, her voice so loud, it became impossible to ignore.
What was the point of festered disputes? Why did Lucy have to make such a scene? Who asked her to speak out anyway? Martha refused to even acknowledge what was happening.
As each head turned to Lucy’s direction, it seemed to fuel her rage even further. ‘You all look at Martha and judge her for a crime she had no choice but to commit. He was the monster – do you all hear me!’
With a swift nod of the judge’s head, Lucy was ushered out and the courtroom became a subtle exchange of opinions.
Hands firmly in her lap, Martha briefly smiled. That was good, another voice silenced.
‘Members of the jury you will disregard this outburst. It cannot be used in evidence for this case.’
Barbara Craven had a trivial smile on her face. ‘Can you honestly believe that my client is capable of such an abhorrent act?’ She locked eyes with the one juror who could sway the case in the right direction. In turn, he refused to look away; his broad face set as hard as stone.
‘The witnesses I will call have a real knowledge of the alleged victim in this case. More importantly will be able to tell you what my client was genuinely like and how she doesn’t even deserve to be in court today.’
Richard Blake was barely concealing his distain and checked his watch repetitively. It was as if his colleague were a mere fly that could be flicked away from his ointment.
‘I will also call to the stand my own experts, who during their testimony will give you a much better insight of why my client suffered loss of control on that fateful day.’
Even though she didn’t get much sleep the night before, Martha kept her eyes firmly open. The only person who could understand her loss, was Elizabeth. They had both loved Thomas. They had both protected Thomas. His memory was the only thing that mattered now.