…the names of those involved have been changed to protect the innocent…
March 1, 2001 5:39 p.m. – Nerves, nerves, nerveshow can one letter enclosed inside of an envelope determine so much? Michael Livingston had plenty to lose. Try four years of undergraduate school at Morehouse University, two years of Notre Dame graduate school, and Harvard Law. Yes he had plenty to lose. Walking into the door of his closed-space apartment, he sits down with the letter in plain view. Thump, Thump, Thump! His heart races like greyhounds at a race track. The time is here. The time is now. Michael opens the letter to find his results of the BAR exam he had taken
“Dear Mr. Livingston,
It gives us great pleasure to inform you that you are in the ninetieth percentile upon completion of the Virginia State BAR Examination. Congratulations on your success.”
Experiencing a seventh heaven elation, Michael throws the life-saving letter up in the air, and yells to the top of his lungs. He sits down on the couch with a sudden thrust as if he were lightheaded. He picks up the letter again and reads it a few more times before disregarding it for the last time. As he catches his breath, the tight brown belt from his khaki trousers digs into his stomach making for an even more uncomfortable pose. Pulling his white Geoffrey Beane button-up shirt out of his trousers, Michael then gets up and walks into his room as if he were in a drunken stoop. The excitement he was experiencing tired him more than the 9 to 5 internship at the courthouse. While his heavy head sunk into the pillow, Mike hears a mysterious knock at his apartment door. “Who in the hell?” he says emphatically. Mumbling words that would turn his mother in her grave, Michael looks out the peep hole he normally uses to look a Cynthia’s ass.(Cynthia is the 24 year old film student that lives in front of Michael.) He then notices three gentlemen; all dressed in fine tailored suites with matching hats and coughing handkerchiefs. Michael shouts, “Who is it and what do you want?” “Mr. Livingston,” one gentleman replies. “We are representatives from Sampson, Heath, Jacks, and associates. May we have a word with you Sir?” Michael tells the gentlemen to hold for a moment while he puts on a shirt. He comes back and opens the creaking door. “Good evening fellows, what can I do for you?” he asks. “Well Mr. Livingston, we would like to discuss a matter that we feel would be very beneficial to you,” one gentleman explains. “We recruit young, smart men who are fresh out of law school, and we want you.” Michael stares off into the distance as if he sees something on the wall.” We’ve been notified of your outstanding examination scores, and we’re willing to offer you a deal you can’t refuse. Returning back to the world, Michael looks at the gentlemen with a stern, unyielding glare and says, “Excuse me for asking, but how do you know about my scores being that I just received them today?” “We know all,” one gentleman says boldly. We want to offer you a position in our firm with a set salary of $360,000.00 a year, along with full benefits, and other perks. We’ll consider you a friend of the firm,” he said jokingly. “You’ll be your own boss. You control how far you progress in the firm Michael.” “Give it some more thought; here’s our card. Stop by the office so we can iron out the details.” Michael, stiff and in awe, shakes the gentlemen’s hands, and sees them to the door. “How about I meet with you all tomorrow at 10 a.m.?” Michael says. The gentleman looks at him and with a sharp smirk, touches the brim of his hat and walks away with the other two.
11:11 p.m. – Dazed and hypnotized by the dripping faucet, Michael lies awake in his full-sized bed starring into nothing. Continuous contemplation happens beyond his control. He finds it extremely bizarre that three men who he’s never seen before in his life would show up on his doorstep and offer him a job. “There has to be a catch,” he thought. Given his current financial situation, and his educational debt, $360.00.00 sounds very appealing. But, there has to be a catch “I’m gonna go check it out for the hell of it; and they way things are right now, I just may take it,” he pondered. Tossing, Turning, Tossing, Turning…the bed offered him no comfort throughout the night as he lay restless on the cold, wet sheets. 3 a.m., 5:24 a.m., 8:46 a.m. The time crept by with each sleepless moment for Michael. He suddenly became conscious as the sun grazed his eyes and warmed his body. It was time for him to awaken to a new day; a new career perhaps; in what? He did not know. He got dressed as soon as he could, and ran out the door as only a rookie lawyer could. The card that he had received from the gentlemen gave precise directions to the building. It was a very new building; something that looked like a glass monument just for him. Just as Michael walked up to the door, an extremely hefty man met him almost simultaneously. Michael was nearly startled by the heavily built stature of the man, but he then realized that the man had to accompany him to the “office.” Admiring all of the paintings on the wall on the way to the “office,” Michael nearly collides with the hefty gentleman. Once he gets to the door, the hefty fellow leaves his presence and returns to his outside post. “Here I am,” he says to himself. He slowly pushes the door open, and to his surprise he finds…
10:01 a.m. – A room full of middle-aged white men sitting at a round table. All had on similar suits; mostly black and blue. Michael noticed the gentlemen that stopped by his apartment were in attendance also. Mr. Sampson, one of the founders of the firm, (who also looked like a watered-down version of Stanley Kubrick) stood up and asked Michael to have a seat. “Mr. Livingston, you do know why you’re here don’t you?” he asked. Michael silently nodded. “A few of my colleagues met with you yesterday to discuss future employment here at S.H.J. & A correct?” Michael locked eyes on him and gave a simple “yes.” “We trust that you’ve made a decision regarding this, and we would like to hear it. Michael stood as if someone had trodden his legs and watered is palms. He cleared his throat and said, “Gentlemen, I have reviewed your generous offer, and unfortunately I have decided to decline it. I feel a bit uneasy about doing a job that I have yet to gain information about. Mr. Jacks, another firm founder, looks at Michael with a vengeful, tactless vogue and says, “Mr. Livingston, you don’t have much of a choice!” Michael knew at that point he had made the biggest mistake of his life. He looked at the blank faces on all of the lawyers and rapidly came to the conclusion that everyone of them was in on it. Mr. Sampson walked towards Michael and escorted him to a seat next to the round table. “Now that you are employed here Mr. Livingston, it’s time for us to tell you about your first case, and who you will be defending. Ice water ran through Michael’s veins as he looked at the men with a vacant face. “I would like for you to direct your attention towards the screen,” Sampson said. “Here you see Anderson Heath…a very good man who is not only a founder of this firm; he’s also a victim of a system he so aptly tried to uphold.” Now Michael, for your first case as a defense attorney, you will be defending Mr. Heath on charges of first degree murder. He is accused of murdering this woman…
1:18 p.m. – Michael looks to the screen and without hesitation, begins to cry. The infamous woman is none other than his mother Bernadette. A shrieking “NO!” escapes from his voice, and his body language follows closely behind. First, he turns to look at the door as if he wants to run, but it seems extremely distant to him. He turns back around to see Mr. Sampson while a million thoughts overrun his mind. “Mr. Livingston,” Sampson says. “This is what you will do. You will accept this case in which you will be defending Mr. Heath. You will argue that he did not murder this woman, and furthermore, you will not reveal to the jury that this woman is indeed your mother. Have I made myself clear Mr. Livingston?” Sampson says. Before Michael had the opportunity to stress any syllables, Mr. Sampson adds, “If at any time you decide to go the other way on this case, cinderblocks will be placed on your feet, and you will die a slow agonizing death in the Chesapeake Bay… once again, do you understand these terms that have been presented to you Mr. Livingston?” Michael could hear his heart pounding in his chest. He answers “yes” in a pitiful, weary tone. He then gets up and makes his way to the door. Just before his hand embraces the door knob, Sampson says, “Remember, you’re being watched…don’t lose.” Michael exits the door, and soon after, the building in a heaping, crying mess.
March 4, 2001 8:36 a.m. – “I’ve been lying around for the past couple of days: not eating, not sleeping, not anything. My world has turned upside down, and I don’t know what I am going to do. Those bastards murdered my mother, and now they have me painted into a corner with no way out- I can’t deal with this. I drink this vodka with no remorse, not caring for anything or anyone. Maybe I should go to the police…hell, they won’t do anything. What do I do? I can’t just sit here and do nothing. “Michael,” I tell myself. “Put the vodka down.” So I do. I must come up with a way to get those assholes for what they did. I look up to the sky and say “Momma, they won’t get away with this…I promise.”- Michael Livingston
Michael gets himself out of bed, and wipes the dried tears from his face. He puts on his sweatshirt with the maroon “H” on the front, along with some old Nike sweatpants. After getting himself together emotionally, he jumps into his car and takes a ride to his mother’s old house. Twenty minutes later, he arrives at the old house only to see windows boarded up and the old Pacer his mother used to drive. He sits in the car wanting to cry, but he realizes that this was something he had to do in order to make “the firm” pay for what they did. He walks up to the door with a stoned face and heavy heart. AS he enters the house, memories instantly begin to raid his mind. “My old room,” he thought. He stood in the door frame with the sun warming his back reminiscing over old times…his mother cooking by the stove, he and his friends running in and out of the old, metal screen door, the jar full of lightning bugs” he used to catch. Yes, it all came back to him. Clearing his mind, he begins to look around the house for anything suspicious or unordinary. He goes through all of his mother’s old documents, prescriptions, and Sunday school notes… nothing. As he begins to give up, he looks on the floor near a corner and notices a video tape that had no reason for being there. He goes over, picks it up, and places it inside of the old GE VCR. As soon as he presses the play button, all of the air leaves his body as if someone had gut-punched him. He watches the tape in complete astonishment. He quickly grabs the VCR system and tape, runs to his car, and rapidly peels off.
10:22 p.m. – Michael knew the information on the tape would be exactly what he needed to put those murderers away for along time. He paced back and forth all night attempting to find a way to meet with Judge Emerson in her chambers without the firm knowing. Thinking, Thinking, Thinking… Finally, he did it! He decided to call Judge Emerson at her residence to explain the situation in which he needed her help. “Mr. Livingston, I will do everything I can to assure your safety at the trial tomorrow. However, I cannot help you knowingly, but off the record, if you are able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these men murdered your mother, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” “Thank you Judge,” Michael replied before hanging up the phone. Preparing for the trial tomorrow, Michael stays up making sure everything is set and in order. He worked every angle for what he was trying to do. His plan is to defend Mr. Heath throughout the trial, and when it came time for the closing argument, he would show the jury the tape, and explain to them that Mr. Heath murdered his mother, and that the firm he was an accessory to the murder.
I am ready. I need this. “Be smart Michael,” I tell myself. I work for the very people who took my mother’s life; not by choice, not by choice. If I don’t do this, I die so what do I have to lose? Mom, I hope you’re proud of me. I will seek justice for you. I promise. – Michael Livingston
March 5, 2001 Day of Trial- Michael wore his best suit for what would be a fascinating trial. Just before it was time to go into the courtroom, Michael sees Sampson standing in a corner along side two other men from the firm. Mr. Sampson had been looking at Michael for quite some time, and when he caught his eyes he said silently, “Don’t lose,” and gave him the gunshot-to-the-head hand motion. Michael, unfazed and resilient, walks into the courtroom and takes a seat beside Mr. Heath. Heath looks at him, gives him a smirk and says, “This will be easier than I thought.” Michael looks at him and with the same smirk and says “You have no idea.” “All rise for the Honorable Judge Emerson,” the bailiff says. Michael stands up and soon after, begins his rebuttal. Michael seems to be putting up a good defense argument for Heath while Sampson looks on in approval. Everything sees to be going well for Mr. Heath, or that’s what it appears to be. Now it’s time for the closing argument. Michael hurriedly gets up and takes his place next to the jury.
Good evening everyone. I come to you today in a dilemma of character and of courage. You have been lied to today. Yes lied to. You have been deceived beyond words and I want to clear up this horrible misconception. I am guilty of defending a murderer, yes a murderer. This man, along with other members of S.H.J. & A is guilty of killing the most important woman in my life, Bernadette Livingston. Ms. Livingston was my mother and these men selfishly decided to end her life because of her refusal to pay lawyer fees for a trial she never had a part in. The fees amounted over millions of dollars. I was blackmailed into taking the job and the case. My life was threatened by the gentleman you see in the back, Mr. Sampson. The whole firm is corrupt, and it would be completely unjust if these men were to go free. Please. Do the right thing. Thank you. I also have a videotape I would like for the jury to examine.
– Michael Livingston
The courtroom was completely shocked and appalled. Everyone turned and looked at the gentlemen who represented the firm before watching the tape. The bailiff played the videotape, and on it Mr. Heath verbally admitted killing Bernadette Livingston, and everyone from the firm was in the tape. The men were full of alcohol when the tape was shot so confessions came easily. That was all the jury needed before deliberations started. Michael felt he would win. He knew he would win. The jury came back out with the decision…
We the jury finds the defendant Anderson Heath guilty of the crime of murder. We the jury also finds Sampson, Heath, Jacks, and Associates guilty of conspiracy to murder.
The judge sentenced Mr. Heath to life in prison, and the rest of the firm twenty-five years each. Michael, smiling and joyful, goes over to a handcuffed Sampson and says “I didn’t lose.” He continued his career as a prominent lawyer in Washington D.C.