Hair

Mr. Lederer: And can you tell us, Captain Miller, about the chain of custody for Exhibit 26?

Captain Miller: Yes, it is a strand of black hair that was found clutched in the decedent’s right fist when she was found on her bedroom floor. It was removed by – eh one minute [witness looking into small notebook] – by Patrolman Herman, Louis, Forensics squad at 2:33 PM on the day the body was found. It was placed in the cellophane sleeve you see there and labeled with black marker. The marking code is still on the side. The envelope was put into the police locker for this case and was removed once, on let’s see, yes March 22 of last year and a partial snippet, one and half inches long, was transferred to the Byington Laboratory for DNA analysis.

Judge Hammer: Byington?

Captain Miller: Yes, your honor. 2955 Lockspur Drive in the City. They do the DNA testing for the Department.

Mr. Lederer: Continue please.

Captain Miller: Ah yes? Well they, the Byington lab, they tested the hair as soon as it arrived according to their report, which I have here.

Mr. Lederer: I offer the notes of Captain Miller as Exhibit 27 and the report of Byington as Exhibit 28. [Prosecutor gives notebook and report folder to the Court; a copy is handed to Mr. Wysocki.]

Judge Hammer: Any problems for the defense, Mr. Wysocki?

Mr. Wysocki: Your honor, no problem with 27. I also will not object to admitting the report provided I am free to question its contents.

Judge Hammer: Fine, admitted. You may continue, Mr. Lederer.

Mr. Lederer: Thank you, your Honor. Now, Captain, I direct your attention to the report itself, and let the record show that the witness is being directed to Exhibit 28. Would you please read to the jury the section, the entire section near the bottom of page two under the heading “Findings”?

Judge Hammer: Defense?

Mr Wysocki: No problem, same reservation to cross.

Judge Hammer: Proceed.

Captain Miller: Let me get out my readers here. Ok, got ‘em. I am reading under the heading “Findings.” It says ‘the sample is a Caucasian woman’s black hair strand, undyed, subject likely between forty and fifty years of age. DNA analysis matched by computer to one Charpentier, Juliet, listed in the index as residing in Newton, Massachusetts. And then it is signed by J. Sciotti, Examiner.

Mr. Lederer: Thank you, Captain. Your witness.

Mr. Wysocki: No questions.

Judge Hammer: Captain Miller you are discharged. Any more witnesses for the State?

Mr. Lederer: No, your Honor. The State rests.

Judge Hammer: Is the defense ready?

Mr. Wysocki: Yes indeed, your Honor. The defense calls Ms. Jacelyn Sciotti to the stand.

• * * *

Juliet ran her fingers through her long hair and was dismayed to see that of the five or six strands that came away with her palm, all of them were gray. She shifted on her bench and propped up her book. She had always been fond of John Irving, although some of his later works seemed to be preoccupied with wrestling and long speculations about moral dilemmas that the story line did not seem to present. She was almost at the end of her second run-through of Irving, although the uneven light in the Framingham House of Correction had just about ruined her close-in eyesight, somewhere around her completing the novels of John Gaulsworthy. Wysocki was dead, the associate attorney from his law office had told her during yesterday’s visit. Wysocki knew the case inside out. Wysocki cared. Eight years into the twenty before parole hearings could start, the sentence stretched in gray tones ahead of her, a life sentence of fine literature. Visits from everyone but her former wife Louisa had become rare and now nonexistent; and Louisa was with Millie now, couldn’t blame her, but every visit felt like another small stab in her stomach.

The associate attorney, he was a funny sort, bookish which she guessed was not bad for a lawyer, but somehow he seemed like the kind of person you would not want to rely upon in a courtroom. Not that Mr. Wysocki’s sarcastic style and passionate closing statement had seemed to move the jurors; they sat as if entertained and then needed only five hours to return their guilty verdict. Nor did Wysocki’s appeal do any good, other than require Juliet to sell the insurance policy on her mother’s life, the last asset she had in the world, in order to pay the additional legal fees.

“We haven’t given up, you know,” the associate had said.

“Thank you,” she had replied while knowing that they had given up a long time ago.

He hesitated. Then, “you know Harry told me, before he died, I should try to help you. He knew you were innocent but did not know how to defend you successfully, given the evidence and all. He could never figure out your case. It tortured him. He considered it his greatest failure.”

There was an uncomfortable pause. Juliet did not know what to say so she said nothing.

“Harry said you loved to read. So do I. But sometimes I write. You know, it is a way to process your – thoughts, your issues. Ya know?”

“Maybe, “she shrugged. I never really wrote anything more than a letter, she thought. There was plenty of paper available in the library, but what was there to write about?

“Well,” the young man said, “I have to be going. Do you mind if I drop by a couple of times a month? Mr.Wysocki said he always did and—well, he said it was good for his soul, it made him appreciate what we defense lawyers are supposed to be doing each day.”

Juliet smiled, to think she was a continuing inspiration as she sat in her cell year after year. “Sure,” she replied, making certain to hold eye contact. “That would be very nice. Tell me again, young man—what is your name?”

• * * *

Juliet’s hand ached. Her pens kept running out of ink. It was amazing how fast she was writing, how much she had written. Juliet had become paranoid about the safety of her biography. Tom, the young associate, had arranged with the prison to take the pages with him after each visit and make a copy to be kept in his office, so Juliet knew that her work was secure. And indeed her worry that she would not be able to catch up to her life, and to thus be able to write as a daily diary rather than as an imperfect memory, was beginning to fade. In the three years since she has started writing each day, she had advanced to a couple of years prior to her arrest. Her incomprehensible arrest, that day in June when she was in her garden weeding the tulip bed, Julia was on the porch in one of the Adirondack chairs reading the Economist and calling out quotes from time to time, and a police car pulled up and Juliet had said cheerily “good morning, officers, and how may I help you this beautiful day” and they asked her to hold out her hands and they placed the cuffs on her and read her legal rights off a dog-eared printed card and then put her in the car and would not answer any of Julia’s anguished questions — that day would be interesting to write about, she almost could not wait to get there in a perverse way, tall blonde Julia with her hawk nose slapping the side of the car as it drove away, Juliet slumped in the back seat without any comprehension of what was happening, her summer bra she always used in the garden soaked and chafing her shoulders, her long black hair a tangle under her hair-band that unfortunately opened her pale and lined face with receding chin to plain view, the end of the Js, the end of Juliet and Julia, everyone’s favorite couple….

• * * *

Tom was back in his condo. It had been a hard day. He had been dressed down by the judge for even suggesting bail was appropriate for his client. He had argued that while his client had indeed held the ax in his hands, he had not actually swung it at his wife; Judge Murphy had expressed thanks to God that that was true before he denied bail and sent Peter back to solitary in Country jail and ordered a psych exam before he could be returned to the general prison population.

His visit to Juliet was, as always and against his original expectations, an inspiration, just as Harry Wysocki had told him five years ago. He did not know if Juliet was innocent or guilty, and the DNA evidence was hard to put aside, and Juliet had once met the dead woman, although the State had been unable to identify a recent motive or to place Juliet at the scene. But it was a reminder, the clammy visiting room and its vague antiseptic smell, that he was doing God’s work, literally God’s work in sorting out the sinners and the saints. Just like Harry had told him.

He poured a Sam Adams, grabbed a bag of pretzels and took his attache case to his small desk in the corner of the living room where he did his work when at home. In pulling out the file on today’s case he also pulled out a stack of handwritten pages and realized he had forgotten to drop off Juliet’s most recent pages at his office. Long ago he had stopped reading every page; they were poorly written, with no identifiable style, and although Juliet had seemingly led a reasonably interesting life, dancing in off-Broadway productions and living with a series of promising writers and directors who left their promise unfulfilled on the front porch of fame and fortune, whatever fire that had driven her early years had not found its way into her autobiography. Perhaps she had lost that fire after more than a decade in prison; who could really know?

But his file was challenging and he did not look forward to the hard work it would engender. For a bit of a delay, he grabbed the yellow pages and casually began perusing the neat, cursive script. We were now about two years before the killing. Nothing had been written about anger towards the deceased. Would that come later? Or was it purposely hidden from view, not written about in her private life story, for fear of its discovery? Or – did it not exist, just as Harry had always maintained?

Juliet had just moved into a small house in Somerville with her new lover, an FBI agent named Julia. They had met at an art opening on Newbury Street in Boston; it seemed like a steamy couple of weeks, although Juliet’s description of that time lacked any sense of passion beyond mere chronology. Then one day it seemed – Tom got up for another beer, stopping first in the small bathroom to return the first beer to the great river of life – one day, he read, Julia mentioned that they both had really long hair and that Julia was planning to have hers cut and donated to charity.

Why would you do that, Juliet asked. Why, for people who have no hair, maybe for some medical reason or cancer therapy; there is a big need for long hair. That week, Juliet signed up at “Hair-Razors,” a non-profit group that promised to send collected locks to another nonprofit to be woven into wigs for women suffering from the effects of chemo after breast cancer surgery.

Not unusual or unexpected, Tom thought. Juliet always did seem to be concerned about other people, and they sometimes would talk about some poor soul who was in the glare of the news by reason of some horrendous loss occasioned by a random twist in their otherwise unremarkable lives. “Well, you never know,” Juliet would always say with vast melancholy, no doubt thinking of her own situation as a painful analogy.

Dinner of pretzels and beer over – it was one way Tom tried to control his waist line, with no one to cook for him it was convenient to have a couple of beers and call it a meal – Tom opened the file on his client who had been placed in solitary confinement that morning. Was there any law about that kind of thing being cruel and unusual punishment, where no physical harm had been inflicted or verbally threatened? With a sigh, Tom opened his computer and began to search for precedents.

It wasn’t until he woke up around 3am next morning, impelled to discharge the last of his beer, that Tom had his epiphany. It jolted him so hard that he forgot to finish what he was doing, spraying reprocessed beer over the bathroom tile in his rush to pull on some clothes and drive to the office and find, somewhere is the vast pile of disorganized old case material that Harry Wysocki had left when his heart gave out, the subfile labeled “Charpentier trial: DNA evidence.”

[Christmas 2017—for Juliet]

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