By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
"We're not talking about a traffic ticket — he was arrested," Honowitz said, spraying crumbs across the table.
The tension was building, so I changed the subject.
"We've been consumed down here lately by the Sean Taylor murder," I said. "I'm a big football fan, so it almost chokes me up when I think too much about it."
"It's a horrible case," said Honowitz. "Everybody's watched it unfold. The shooter, being 17, he will be waived from juvenile court right into adult court. And really what I see happening, you already hear people will start cooperating. You will hear some of these guys start to flip."
"Let me say regarding the premeditated murder issue, I think you have a problem," Judge Mathis said. "The sheriff announced first that it was not premeditated. Now they are coming back with first-degree murder. And I don't believe they are going to be successful."
"Yes they will," Honowitz snapped.
"Instead it should be felony murder," Judge Mathis replied.
"That's what it is, first-degree murder," Honowitz said.
"There's a difference between premeditated murder and felony murder, lawyer," said Mathis, now clearly rankled. "And so, as I was saying, they will be able to charge him with felony murder, not premeditated murder. And so the case has been compromised already."
"Listen, first of all, I don't think the case has been compromised," said Honowitz. "Everybody knew from the get-go that this was a home invasion that turned bad."
As she spoke, Judge Mathis simmered.
"Let's get back to you not knowing the difference between premeditated murder and felony murder," he suggested.
"Hold on a second! Hold on a second! I do know the difference, okay? You don't have to ... wait a second! Wait a second!"
"You interrupted me," said Mathis.
"Listen, you don't have to criticize me," she said. "I understand the difference between the two."
"You should practice the law more if you don't know the difference," Judge Mathis said. "Go ahead, Mark, tell her the difference."
"This is really a distinction without a difference here, number one," said Geragos, perplexing us all. "Number two, the sheriff's got to make up with the prosecutor, because the prosecutor is not going to be happy the sheriff is out there making statements."
For a moment I thought Honowitz was going to lunge at Mathis and clamp her teeth onto his rather sizable neck, but Gerago's brilliantly inane comment seemed to defuse the situation.
"Stacey, it must be really hard to talk about cases on national television that you can't know much about," I said. "Like during the Michael Jackson molestation trial, you all but promised a conviction. And you defended prosecutor Mike Nifong in the Duke rape case until the bitter end, implying the lacrosse players were guilty even after they were basically cleared by DNA tests."
"We go to trial on murders where there's no body found," said Honowitz, now cleaning her teeth with a rather sizable steak knife. "What if the person didn't ejaculate? That's the first thing, they didn't ejaculate, number one. Number two, what if there's not enough scrapings? How do you explain the tears in the genitalia? And Mark, you don't know all the facts of this case; I know what you are going to say."
Suddenly they were debating the case of the drunken lacrosse players all over again. Old habits.
"Stacey, I don't know all the facts of the case," Geragos said.
"You don't," Honowitz said smugly.
"There hasn't been anything to substantiate the idea there was a sexual assault," the defense attorney continued calmly. "That hasn't stopped people from convicting these guys before they've heard any evidence."
"Mark, I'm not convicting anybody," said Honowitz.
Wait a minute. Hadn't this all been decided already? Now the knife was stuck between her incisor and canine, jutting out as she spoke.
"Mark, talk to the neighbors," she continued. "They'll tell you what's going on in that house. They don't know if a sexual assault took place, but certainly they can tell you the reputation of these guys."
"It is a college, and these guys are on a sports team," Geragos said. "And you mean they might be drinking and they might be staying up late."
"That's not an excuse, Mark."
"And the neighbors don't like them, so therefore that means they're rapists? So what? What does that have to do with the charge? If you want to just slander them, Stacey, you go for it."
"I'm not being slanderous; you are."
"Just figure it out, Stacey," Geragos told her decisively. "Nifong created the situation, and that's the problem."
"Mark, he didn't create this situation!" said Honowitz, rising ominously from her chair, knife still wedged in her teeth. "He did not create this situation!"
"He created the situation," Geragos repeated.
"Something happened in his town, a high-profile case involving the lacrosse team!" yelled Honowitz.
"You can keep screaming it," said Geragos, "but there's no evidence — none. It certainly hasn't stopped you from convicting these guys, has it?"