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Authors: Scott Turow

Tags: #Psychological, #Legal, #Fiction

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BOOK: Reversible Errors
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Behind the window was Rommy Gandolph, a brown-skinned wraith with a head of wild hair, swallowed in the loose folds of the yellow jumpsuit worn solely by inmates who'd been sentenced to death. His arms were shackled and thus he was required to reach with both hands for the phone that would allow him to converse with his lawyers. On their side, Arthur picked up the lone handset and held it between Pamela and himself while they introduced themselves.

"You-all the first real lawyers I had," Rommy said. "Rest was state defenders. Think maybe I got a chance now I got real lawyers." Rommy leaned close to the pane to explain his predicament. "I'm the next Yellow Man takin the walk, you know that? Everybody lookin at me already. Like somethin oughta be different cause I'm gone be dead so soon."

Pamela bent at once toward the document passage and spoke encouraging words. They were going to get a stay of execution today, she promised.

"Yeah," said Rommy, "cause I'm innocent, man. I ain kill't nobody. I want that DMA test, man, see if I got any." DNA, always the first thought these days, held no hope for Rommy because the state had never claimed he had left at the scene any identifiable genetic evidence-blood, semen, hair, tissue scrapings, even saliva.

Without warning, Gandolph sighted Pamela down the length of an extended finger.

"You pretty as you sounded on the phone," he told her. "Think me and you oughta get married."

Briefly arising, Pamela's smile suddenly passed into eclipse, as it appeared to grow on her that Rommy was deadly earnest.

"Man gotta get married 'fore he die, right?" Rommy asked. "Ain that a good idea?"

Great, Arthur thought. Competition.

"You'n me get hitched up," Rommy told her, "I can get a conjugal."

Judging from her rigid posture, this was not part of Pamela's vision of valiant representation. Arthur, who'd had no idea how to commence this interview, quickly picked up Judge Gillian Sullivan's judgment and commitment order from 1992 that sentenced Rommy to death, and began reading it out loud.

"Auga-what? Who now?" asked Rommy Gandolph.

"Augustus Leonidis," said Arthur.

"Am I knowin him?" asked Rommy. The lids twitched over his closed eyes as he made an effort to place the name.

"He's one of the three," said Arthur quietly.

"What three?"

"The three the state says you killed." Confessed to killing, Arthur thought. But no need to put too fine a point on it at present.

"Mmm," said Rommy. "Don't think I knowed him." Rommy shook his head, as if he'd missed a social call. Gandolph was nearing forty. He had a yellowish tinge to his eyes, and, by all appearances, the blood of the Americas in his veins. In contemporary parlance, he was 'black,' but there looked to be white and Indian and Hispanic in him as well. His hair was gnarled and uncut, and he was missing several teeth, but he wasn't ugly. Craziness just seemed to have eaten the center out of him. Looking at Rommy's eyes zag about like frenzied bugs near a light, Arthur held little doubt why his prior lawyers had focused on a psychiatric defense. As people commonly used the word 'crazy,' Rommy Gandolph without question was. Yet not crazy enough. So- ciopathic. Borderline personality disorder, maybe even flat-out schizoid. But not thoroughly lost in the wilderness, not so entirely without a compass that he did not know wrong from right, which was what the law required for a defense.

"I'm not the kind to kill no one," Rommy offered, as an afterthought.

"Well, you've been convicted of killing three people-Augustus Leonidis, Paul Judson, and Luisa Remardi. They say you shot them and left them in a food locker." The state also said he'd sodomized Luisa after her death, although Rommy, most likely from shame, ha
d r
efused to acknowledge that part. Judge Sullivan, however, who'd heard the case on her own, without a jury, had found him guilty on that count as well.

"I don't know nothin 'bout that," said Rommy. He looked askance then, as if that remark would close the subject. Arthur, whose sister, Susan, was even crazier than Rommy, tapped the glass to make sure Rommy's gaze came back to him. With people like Rommy, like Susan, you sometimes had to hold their eye to get through.

"Whose handwriting is this?" Arthur asked mildly and pushed Rommy's written confession under the glass. The guard jumped from his chair and demanded to see each page, front and back, to ensure nothing was concealed. Rommy studied the document for quite some time.

"What you think about stocks?" he asked then. "You ever own stock? What's that like anyway?"

After a considerable interval, Pamela started to explain how the exchanges operated.

"No, I mean sayin you own stock. How's that feel and all? Man, I ever get outta here, I wanna buy me some stocks. Then I'm gone get all that stuff on the TV. 'Up a quarter.' 'Down Jones.' I'm gone know what they-all on about."

Pamela continued trying to outline the mechanisms of corporate ownership, and Rommy nodded diligently after every sentence, but was soon visibly astray. Arthur pointed again to the sheet Rommy held.

"The state says you wrote that."

Rommy's inky eyes briefly fell. "Tha's what I was thinkin," he said. "Lookin at it and all, I'd kind of said it was mine."

"Well, that paper says you killed these three people."

Rommy eventually leafed back to the first page.

"This here," he said, "this don't seem to make no sense to me."

"It's not true?"

"Man, that was so long ago. When was it this here happened?" Arthur told him and Rommy sat back. "I been in that long? What-all year has it got to anyway?"

"Did you write this confession for the police?" Arthur asked.

"Knowed I wrote somethin back there in that precinct. Ain nobody told me it was for court." There was, of course, a signed Miranda warning in the file, acknowledging that any statement Rommy made could be used against him in just that way. "And I ain heard nothin 'bout gettin the needle," he said. "Tha's for damn sure. They was a cop tellin me a lot of stuff I wrote down. But I don't recollect writin nothin like all of that. I ain kill't nobody."

"And why did you write down what the cop was saying?" Arthur asked.

"Cause I, like, dirtied myself." One of the more controversial pieces of proof in the case was that Rommy had literally shit in his pants when the detective in charge of the case, Larry Starczek, had started to question him. At trial, the prosecution had been allowed to introduce Rommy's soiled briefs as evidence of a consciousness of guilt. That, in turn, became one of the prominent issues in Rommy's many appeals, which no court had managed to address without a snickering undertone.

Arthur asked if Larry, the detective, had beaten Rommy, denied him food or drink, or an attorney. Though rarely directly responsive, Rommy seemed to be claiming none of that-only that he'd written an elaborate admission of guilt that was completely untrue.

"Do you happen to remember where you were on July 3rd, 1991?" Pamela asked. Rommy's eyes enlarged with hopeless incomprehension, and she explained they were wondering if he was in jail.

"I ain done no serious time 'fore this here," answered Rommy, who clearly thought his character was at issue.

"No," said Arthur. "Could you have been inside when these murders happened?"

"Somebody sayin that?" Rommy hunched forward confidentially, awaiting a cue. As the idea settled, he managed a laugh. "That'cl be a good one." It was all news to him, although he claimed in those days he was regularly rousted by the police, providing some faint support for Pamela.

Rommy really had nothing to offer in his own behalf, yet as they conversed, he denied every element of the state's case. The officers who'd arrested him said they had found a necklace belonging to the female victim, Luisa Remardi, in Gandolph's pocket. That, too, he said, was a lie.

"Them police had that thing already. Ain no way it was on me when I got brought down for this."

Eventually, Arthur handed the phone to Pamela for further questions. Rommy provided his own eccentric version of the sad social history revealed by his file. He was born out of wedlock; his mother, who was fourteen, drank throughout the pregnancy. She could not care for the boy and sent him to his paternal grandparents in DuSable, fundamentalists who somehow found punishment the meaningful part of religion. Rommy was not necessarily defiant, but strange. He was diagnosed as retarded, lagged in school. And began misbehaving. He had stolen from a young age. He had gotten into drugs. He had fallen in with other no-accounts. Rudyard was full of Rommys, white and black and brown.

When they'd been together more than an hour, Arthur rose, promising that Pamela and he would do their best.

"When you-all come back, you bring your wedding dress, okay?" Rommy said to Pamela. "They's a priest here, he'll do a good job."

As Rommy also stood, the guard again snapped to his feet, taking hold of the chain that circled Rommy's waist and ran to both his manacles and leg irons. Through the glass, they could hear Rommy prattling. These was real lawyers. The girl was gone marry him. They was gone get him outta here cause he was innocent. The guard, who appeared to like Rommy, smiled indulgently and nodded when Rommy asked permission to turn back. Gandolph pressed his shackled hands and their pale palms to the glass, saying loudly enough to be heard through the partition, "I 'predate you-all comin down here and everything you doin for me, I really do."

Arthur and Pamela were led out, unspeaking. Back in the free air, Pamela shook her slender shoulders in relief as they walked toward Arthur's car. Her mind predictably remained on Rommy's defense.

"Does he seem like a killer?" she asked. "He's weird. But is that what a killer is like?"

She was good, Arthur thought, a good lawyer. When Pamela had approached him to volunteer for the case, he had assumed she was too new to be of much help. He had accepted because of his reluctance to disappoint anyone, although it had not hurt that she was graceful and unattached. Discovering she was talented had only seemed to sharpen his attraction.

Til tell you one thing I can't see him as," said Arthur: "your husband."

"Wasn't that something?" Pamela asked, laughing. She was pretty enough to be untouched at some level. Men, Arthur recognized, were often silly around her.

They passed a couple of jokes, and still bantering, Pamela said, "I can't seem to meet anyone decent lately, but this"-she threw a hand in the direction of the highway, far off-"is a pretty long trip to make every Saturday night."

She was at the passenger door. The wind frothed her blondish hair, as she laughed lightly again, and Arthur felt his heart knock. Even at thirty-eight, he still believed that somewhere within him was a shadow Arthur, who was taller, leaner, better-looking, a person with a suave voice and a carefree manner who could have parlayed Pamela's remark about her present dry spell with men into a backhanded invitation to lunch or even a more meaningful social occasion. But brought to that petrifying brink where his fantasies adjoined the actual world, Arthur realized that, as usual, he would not step forward. He feared humiliation, of course, but if he were nonchalant enough she could decline, as she was nearly certain to do, in an equally innocuous fashion. What halted him, instead, was the cold thought that any overture would be, in a word, unfair. Pamela was a subordinate, inevitably anxious about her prospects, and he was a partner. There was no changing the unequal footing or his leverage, no way Arthur Raven could depart from the realm of settled decency where he felt his only comfort with himself. And yet even as he accepted his reasoning, he knew that with women some obstacle of one kind or another always emerged, leaving him confined with the pangs of fruitless longing.

He used the gizmo in his pocket to unlatch Pamela's door. While she sank into the sedan, he stood in the bitter dust that had been raised in the parking lot. The death of his hopes, no matter how implausible, was always wrenching. But the prairie wind gusted again, this time clearing the air and carrying the smell of freshly turned earth from the fields outside town, an aroma of spring. Love-the sweet amazing possibility of it-struck in his chest like a note of perfect music. Love! He was somehow exhilarated by the chance he had lost. Love! And at that moment he wondered for the first time about Rommy Gandolph. What if he was innocent? That too was an inspiration almost as sweet as love. What if Rommy was innocent
!

And then he realized again that Rommy wasn't. The weight of Arthur's life fell over him, and the few categories that described him came back to mind. He was a partner. And without love. His father was dead. And Susan was still here. He considered the list, felt again that it added up to far less than he had long hoped for, or, even, was entitled to, then opened the car door to head back to it all.

Chapter
2

july 5, 1991

The Detectiv
e w
hen larry starczek heard about the murder of Gus Leonidis, he was in bed with a prosecutor named Muriel Wynn, who had just told him she was getting serious with somebody else.

"Dan Quayle," she answered, when he demanded to know who. "He fell for my spelling."

Irked, Larry agitated one foot through the clothing on the hotel carpeting in search of his briefs. When his toe brushed his beeper, it was vibrating.

BOOK: Reversible Errors
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