Thomas F. O'Neill
The Case Of Melvin Spruce
He seemed to go through life the master of his domain. He provided others with an image that he was a man of superior stature. He was a prominent Attorney and through his law practice he discovered that wealth had its rewards. Melvin Spruce, enjoyed the freedom that came with his wealth it was his way of showing others that he was a cut above the rest.
His large house, expensive cars, was also his way of proving that he was of a higher status set apart from the working class. He was not, after all, what you would call, a nine to five man, nor did he live by an hourly wage. But he did however charge his clients five-hundred dollars an hour for his services.
He was also extremely charismatic and effective in the courtroom. “If the jury likes you,” he told a client, “it makes it much easier for them to perceive the world through your eyes.”
He sat down behind his large mahogany desk and continued his conversation with his client, “I will paint the jury into the big picture,” he said as he leaned back in his chair. He looked at his client with that self assuredness, “the outcome will be positive.”
“How can you be so sure?” his client asked, “I killed a man shot him dead cold.”
“How many others have you killed,” Melvin asked him.
“Well none,” his client said.
“The man you shot,” said his attorney, “raped your Daughter. There will be more then one person on the jury that would have done the same thing.”
“The Jury can acquit someone on emotion?” his client asked.
“If we don’t win this case outright,” Melvin said, “I can assure you a hung Jury. There will be members on the Jury that will vote ‘not guilty’ and dig in their heels.”
“Then the case will have to be retried,” his client said.
“If it turns out to be a hung Jury the District Attorney’s Office will most likely retry this case. But I will do my best to get a unanimous ‘not guilty’ verdict,” his attorney told him.
“I will help the jury perceive the reality,” he told his client as he got up from his desk, “the reality that I want them to see.”
He looked over at his client with a deep self confidence that instantly won him over. He then walked over to a large liquor cabinet. “I learned early on as a young Attorney,” he said, “when the jury likes you as a person they become more receptive to the reality that you create for them.”
“How do you get the jury to like you?” his client asked.
“Humor is a powerful ice breaker,” the attorney said as he poured his client a drink, “I simply make the Jury laugh early on in the case. I then paint them into my reality or the reality I create for them.”
He then poured himself a drink while saying, “I do this in order to sway them over to my side. Everyone has a cynical side and that is where I draw the humor from. The average person has preconceived notions on life. I simply draw on that with a bit of jest and humor. I utilize their preconceived notions and their cynicism to my advantage.”
“I heard you are the best defense Attorney,” his client said, “a master of your craft.”
“I do what I am paid to do,” he said, “and I draw on human psychology to aid me in winning cases. Knowing the law is not enough. You have to add the human factor, the psychology, into the equation. It starts with the jury selection. You have to read the jury, their body language, how they answer the questions, and win them over before the trial ever begins. That is why you hired me.”
He then sat back down behind his larger then life desk. He leaned back in his leather chair, “you have nothing to worry about,” he assured his client once again.
He then told his client with a deep sincere voice, “the men and women that will be on the Jury will sympathize with you. They will understand what was going on inside your mind when you shot him. You did what you did out of compassion for your daughter. No one will sympathize with the dead rapist. Believe me before this case is over the Jury will know what the rapist did to your daughter. When this case comes to an end people out there will applaud what you did.”
His client before leaving his office noticed the photographs that covered his walls. They were Photographs of politicians and celebrities that Melvin Spruce posed with. The photos were merely props to solidify that he was no ordinary attorney.
He was in deed highly successful and Melvin Spruce won that case after two hung Juries. He had a knack of turning ordinary cases into media sensations. That is what he lived for. He got a rush from being in the spotlight. The man he represented in that murder case could not afford Melvin’s retainer fee. But Melvin took the case anyway. The case drew on the average citizens’ interest but most of all it had that vigilante appeal.
His client on the other hand looked more like an accountant in a bowtie. He was not the ‘Charles Bronson’ from the movie ‘Death Wish’ type. But Melvin knew how to play the media to his advantage. He went on to win quite a few other high profile cases as well.
There was one draw back to his success though as he became more well known and prominent in his profession. The more self absorbed he became in other aspects of his life.
He lacked, empathy, and the compassion that was needed to truly bond with those less fortunate. He would take on pro-bono cases only if he knew it would draw the media and give him air time.
In his mind, if the less fortunate people, the wage earners, the so called nine to fivers, could not afford the five-hundred an hour for his services they were not worthy of his skill and expertise.
He had what you would call an inflated ego. His ego assisted him well in the courtroom but it inhibited his ability to relax at home with his family. He was married three times over the years and by his forty-sixth birthday he was divorced three times. He spent his time and money on both clients and mistresses. But he rarely found the time to get to know the life of his children.
In the reality he created for himself his mistresses are the side product of his wealth and success. As for his clients they provide him with the fancy houses and cars. It is through his clients that he could enjoy the material things that come with money. Including the fancy gifts he gave his former wives, over the years, and his various mistresses.
The divorce settlements only put a minor dent in his monetary portfolio. He simply moved on with his life living the high life from day to day.
His life though was drastically about to change…….
On a night of a major thunder storm; Melvin Spruce took a short cut to a former client’s home. He did not want to miss the party or the young female regulars that normally attend these special occasions. On a dark back wood road as he headed to the party. He noticed the bolts of lightning lighting the ski followed by loud thunderous booms.
He came across a large tree that obstructed the road. He stepped out of his vehicle to examine the situation. He has no memory of what came next. He cannot remember the paramedics that worked on him and them rushing him to the hospital.
“He’s toast,” said one of the paramedics in route to the hospital, “he must have been struck by lightning,” said the other paramedic.
Melvin was dead as a door nail as the two paramedics wheeled him into the emergency room.
“He’s DOA,” one of the paramedic said to a nurse.
“Dead on arrival,” the nurse said as she slowly saw Melvin’s chest rise.
He began to take small slow breaths but he would lie in a hospital room for the next six months in a comma.
One day Melvin felt something warm moving across his body. It was a warm washcloth. A female orderly was washing him in his hospital bed. The warm cloth felt good on his body and it soothed him. He immediately discovered though that he was unable to see or hear. He could not move any part of his body or speak. What he did have however was a heightened sensation of touch through his skin.
He was immediately overcome with fear from feeling trapped in his own body. Frustration soon followed from his inability to communicate. He was unaware of where he was or what happened to him. His thoughts seemed clear enough but no matter how hard he tried he could not move or speak.
He constantly had an eerie feeling of people being around him but he could not see them or hear them. As time went on his sense of touch through his skin became more and more intense.
He had a heightened sensitivity and he was able to feel the presence of others as they approached his bed. But he had no way of communicating with them. The hospital staff approached him as they would any other comatose patient. To the staff he was simply unconscious totally unaware of his surroundings.
“What happened to me?” he asked himself, “where am I?” as his mind was gripped in fear.
“I can’t see or hear” his mind cried out, “why can’t I move?” his body was simply incapable of complying with is minds commands.
The days turned into weeks as he lay in his dark and silent world. But he began to differentiate night from day by the hospital staff that was caring for his physical and medical needs. He did not know their names or their personal life story but he knew them by how they cared for him.
He knew which staff was simply going through the motions for a pay check. He knew this by how they rushed through the cleaning of his body and the changing of his sheets.
He knew also who genuinely cared for the patients by how they gently maneuver him in bed to relieve the pressure on his bed sores.
He knew it was morning by the sponge bath and which orderly was washing him by the simple motion of the washcloth. One orderly in particular seemed to take her time when washing him. The warm cloth had a soothing effect on his body.
He was constantly thinking about his current condition.
“A stroke? - perhaps, - Brain tumor? - maybe, - maybe an aneurism?” he was constantly speculating on what the physical condition was that afflicted him.
“Is this hell,” he would constantly say to himself as the days progressed.
He knew deep down inside though that he was in a hospital. He did not know the circumstance that led him there but he knew he was a patient. He knew also that those who where cleaning him and adjusting him in bed each day were the paid staff.
“Do they know I am aware?” he would ask himself as he lay there helpless.
“I want them to know I am aware of them being in the room,” he would constantly tell himself with deep frustration.
“What happened to me?” he would ask himself gripped in self pity.
His mind was crystal clear but no matter how hard he tried, he could not speak or move his body. He could not hear a sound or see those who entered his room. He was living a trapped existence. He was trapped within his own body. He was living with the fleeting images of his thoughts and memories.
“If there is a plug to pull?” he would say, “they can pull it now. I don’t want to go on living this way.” But in his nightmarish existence no sounds emanated from his lips.
The words were simply his thoughts that bounced around in his head. The thoughts and memories were proof that something inside was living. He had conciseness but his body refused to acknowledge his mental commands. “My thoughts are my words but I have been entombed in a dead body. My mind is buried alive in a place where I cannot be heard.”
He went on living day after day as an imprisoned mind, locked away, deep within his body. “A punishment perhaps,” he would say, “for what moral crime?” He prayed for death but his prayers went unanswered.
“I still have memories,” he mentally cried out, “to entertain me in this lonely place. This isolated hellish silence of a place. I can yet feel, Ah yes what I feel now is more bed sores. Has this become my purpose? Has the purpose of my existence been reduces to bed sores?”
His memories are in deed with him but not all of his memories are of happy times. He could no longer distract himself away from his failed marriages. The pain the messy divorces caused for his former wives and children, those memories were there with him as well.
His condition forced him to come to grips with the reality of the situation. His greatest fear now is being forced to live with that reality. He was now living and seeing who he truly is not the image of what he wanted others to see. He now had to contend with his own mind. The reality that he is being faced with is that his mind is all he truly has.
He now believes as he lay there feeling the pain from his raw bed sores. That he has been reduced to his memories whether they are of good times or bad. Those memories are of the life he lived.
He found ways to occupy his time by reliving his trial battles almost like in a dreamlike state. His clever victorious trial maneuvers entertained him and distracted him from his nightmarish condition. But when he would fall asleep he would dream about the other life he lived. The self absorbed life that destroyed the personal relationships in his life. Those are the memories that he preferred not to conjure up. All of his legal know how, his brilliant psychological understanding of others can not help him now. He feels as if he has been sentenced in someway by a higher power for some past immoral injustice that he may have inflected on some poor soul.
He never believed in or thought much about heaven or hell. In his mind the current condition he was now being forced to live is a hellish existence in itself.
He began to contemplate on the meaning and the purpose of his existence. “Why am I here?” he would ask, “for what reason?” It was thoughts such as these that began to occupy his waking hours. He knew he was alive because he had the consciousness of being alive. The question he began to ask himself though was why was he conscious? Why was he living at that particular moment in time? He was consumed with his own thoughts of being alive. But he was unable to adequately reach out and connect with those who enter his room each day. The hospital staff was taking care of his physical and medical needs but unaware of Melvin Spruce’s awareness of them being in the room. In the staffs minds he was simply a mindless body lying in the hospital bed.
He also began to live for the contact from the hospital staff. He looked forward to the morning sponge baths. The physical maneuvering of him in bed as the staff cleaned him up and relieved the pressure off of his bed sores. He looked forward to the physical contact. The staffs contact was limited though to his physical and medical needs. But their contact provided him with proof that he was not alone.
In his past he felt he was a cut above the rest a man of high stature. But now he is simply a man limited to his own thoughts. He is trapped in his own mind, incapable of connecting with those around him. “I would gladly give it all up,” he said to himself as he lay in self pity. “I would give up everything I ever accumulated to just simply embrace and feel an emotional connection. All I need is to embrace another human being.”
He began to think more and more about how he lived his life. Morality for Melvin Spruce has always been a human norm a societal standard. Those who go against what society puts in place for our normative behavior will soon need the expertise of a lawyer. After all that is why he had clients. But now he was wondering if there is a higher moral code that he broke and was now being punished for.
He wished he lived his life differently now because it wasn’t his clients that were entering his room. He realized also his former wives and children were not there either to visit him. He did not feel the touch of his various mistresses as he lay helpless in that darkened silence. The people he was having contact with on a daily bases were being paid to do so. “I wish things can be different with my children and former wives,” he would say to himself as he lay with the burden of the life he was now living.
His sensitivity through his skin became increasingly heightened as time progressed. He knew when people entered and exited his room. It was as if he could feel their vibrations in the room. He could also feel their deep thoughts and their emotions at times as they administered to his medical needs. He at times was able to know things about the staff as they touched him. He could pick up tidbits about their character and emotional wellbeing.
He began to hear a loud buzzing sound as the months moved into the next year but it wasn’t an external sound he heard. It was in his head keeping him up all night and throughout the day. It wasn’t a pitch or a tone he heard just a loud buzzing that was driving him to the brink of insanity. He had no way of mentally ignoring it and it would not let up. He tried with every mental fiber of determination to yell out to the outside world but no sounds, thoughts, or words were being delivered through his body. He wanted desperately to communicate to others his emotional needs. It was at that moment that a female orderly noticed a tear roll down his cheek with his lower lip quivering.
“Can you hear me,” the orderly asked but all Melvin could hear was that relentless buzzing. But the gentle touch of her hand instantly calmed him. It was at that moment in time that his soul revealed to him that their two paths were now merging into one.
Days turned into weeks and the buzzing continued its relentless assault on his sanity. Then one day he thought he heard what sounded like a voice but it was being drowned out, silenced, by what seemed like a loud vibration of sound in his head.
What he did not realize is that his auditory nerves were causing that buzzing sensation. The lightening that struck him the year before damaged his entire central nervous system along with his auditory and optic nerves. He also had no sense of smell. He was cut off from all of his senses. There was the exception of his heightened sense of feeling through his skin. But for Melvin he felt as if his brain and mind was cut off from the rest of his body. He was unaware that his body at that very moment was slowly healing his central nerves system.
The healing seemed to be coming in stages. His sense of touch was restored to him early on and now his auditory nerves were slowly being restored. It was only a matter of time that he was able to hear the pitches and tones of voices and the other sounds emanating from the hospital corridor.
The staff was still completely unaware of Melvin’s awareness. When it came to the hospital staff that attended to his needs he was simply a comatose patient in a mindless body. They saw him as simply being unaware of his surroundings.
The hospital staff spoke openly around him. He learned their names and their personal issues from overhearing their conversations. He also learned how he was struck by lightning, pronounced dead, and miraculously bounced back to life.
He continued dealing with his bouts of frustration, “will I be in this state for the rest of my life,” he continuously wondered to himself. He was becoming more aware of his surroundings but still unable to communicate.
He learned that most of the staff that entered his room hated their job and their pay. They felt unappreciated by their employer. He felt their anger and emotional detachment from their job. They went through the motions of getting what they needed to do out of the way.
He simply wanted to die but he had nothing at his disposal to end his life. “If there is a higher power that could free me from this wretched existence,” he mentally cried out, “please do so now.” He was simply tired. He was tired of leaving and wanted his life to end. The days continued to turn into weeks and months and Melvin continued on living with a sense of dread and mental anguish.
“Please free me from this life,” he said once again but this time he was asking his higher power for healing. “If you can do so, I promise, I will change. I will live my life for the serves of others. I will be a much better person.”
A week went by and in Melvin’s mind there was very little change but he began to feel a painful discomfort in his eyes. A female orderly noticed that his eyes were bloodshot and tears were flowing from them. A physician did not see any dilatation of the pupils as he shined a small light in them. Eye drops were added to his medical treatment but the discomfort persisted.
His optical nerves were now beginning to heal and he became more and more hypersensitive to the light in his room. He could not make out any forms or shadows just the light itself which caused him pain.
He also began to feel the tingling of the muscles in his face. But he was still unable to control or move his muscles.
One day the same female orderly saw the twitching of his facial muscles and a physician told her that it was simply involuntary movements. Melvin at that moment tried desperately to communicate in some way but his body refused to cooperate. He was consumed with a deep despair as mental anguish once again welled up within him. He was desperately crying out inside. But his emotions and pain was unable to reach the surface of his being.
Once again he felt the gentle touch of the female orderly as she placed her hand on his arm. At that moment something inside of him knew that she was a special soul.
One morning he heard the jibber gabber of the hospital staff talking away in his room. They were talking, small talk, gossiping about so and so sleeping with so and so. It was at that moment Melvin felt the tip of his nose itch and he would have given everything he once owned to simply scratch his nose and relieve that itch.
The pain in his eyes was becoming more and more intense with each passing day. It was from the light in his room. But at the same time he could not make out any forms or even see for that matter. But the light itself was excruciatingly painful for him. He wanted desperately for his eyes to be covered by a blind fold to block out the light.
He did not understand that his optical nerves were slowly being restored. At the same time the tingling in his facial muscles were becoming more intense because his body was slowly healing itself.
His sense of smell also started coming back to him. He was now able to differentiate the various hospital personnel not just by the sound of their voice and how they touched him but by how they smell.
Weeks later as Melvin awoke from a deep sleep the female orderly saw his mouth move as if he was mouthing out a word or a name. The physician once again told her it was simply an involuntary movement.
A few days later the same female orderly watched a News program about a former comatose patient. The former patient remembered a family member reading his favorite books to him while he was in a comma. The familiar voice helped him come out of the comma.
She then realized that Melvin never had a visitor since she started working at the hospital. She wondered why, “if someone familiar read to him perhaps it would help him come out of his comma.” She mentioned the program she saw to Melvin’s Doctor the following day.
“Melvin is like in a deep sleep his mind is to far buried to hear anything,” the Doctor told her. Melvin over hearing the conversation became angry, very angry, “let her read to me you damn fool.”
She on the other hand had a gut feeling that there is much more going on inside of Melvin then was being revealed on the surface.
At the end of her shift she went into his room and read him some of the get well cards he received from his former clients. The cards were a year old. He was not unaware that the cards were in his room or that his former clients came to see him when he was in his comma.
The female orderly’s kind jester lifted Melvin’s spirit that day and for the first time since his accident. He felt he had connected with another human being.
She continued to talk to him each day and she also took extra time when washing him with a warm washcloth. She told him her name is Allison and that she just started working there. Over time Melvin learned a great deal about her.
The other staff viewed Allison as bit of a flake and that she is way into her job. In their minds, she was taking to much time with the patients and that she needs to speed it up a bit.
He on the other hand enjoyed the extra attention from Allison. She was different from the other staff. She had a youthful and upbeat voice that seemed to genuinely care for him. He also liked how she smelled whenever she entered the room.
One particular afternoon at the end of her shift she read old newspaper clippings to him. The articles described in detail what happened to him and the high profile clients he represented over the years.
“I don’t know whether you can hear me or not,” she told him, “but I thought about becoming a lawyer but my family could not afford to send me to law school. I am working here during the day and hopefully I will be able to go to night school someday.” At that moment Melvin would have given her all he ever owned to fulfill her dream.
He deeply cared for her he did not have a clue what she looked like on the surface but deep inside she was a compassionate and caring person.
The woman in his past were physically attractive that is why he married them. They were simply a status symbol for him, another means of communicating his success. Those women were simply used by him to show his colleagues and clients that he was a cut above the rest.
His past relationships with women were superficial and a bit shallow. It was unfortunate though because there was a point in time when those women actually had feelings for him.
His children became casualties as well through their parents divorce proceedings. In many ways his former wives and his children became emotionally abandoned. He became more and more self absorbed in creating an image of his self importance and superiority as he moved up the social ladder. In all three of his marriages his family in many ways was pushed to the side like much of the other material things in his life. They were there as props to boost the image he created for himself.
On the other hand as an Attorney and as a professional that part of his life was well attended too. There is no doubt; he is an extraordinary lawyer especially in the courtroom. When it comes to a jury he could make ‘white’ appear ‘black’ and ‘black’ appear ‘white.’ He has extraordinary gifts as a sharp lawyer, especially, when it comes to the art of persuasion. He will leave his legal opposition scratching their head, wondering, “What the hell happened to our case?”
Allison was now having a positive affect on Melvin as she began to read to him after each of her shifts. He looked forward to her visits and her washing him each morning. She became a living bridge to the outside world.
One morning as Allison was giving Melvin a sponge bath. He spontaneously almost without thought said, “Thank you.” She heard those words as clear as day. But once again the physician described it as simply an involuntary response perhaps gasses being released through the throat. She heard what she heard though and each day she continued talking to him. If it happened once it could happen again.
The pain in his eyes only worsened and Allison began to notice that he was mouthing out words as if he was saying, “cover my eyes.” She brought the doctor in his room so that he could witness what she was seeing. The Doctor complied and went into the room in order to humor Allison. As he walked up closer to Melvin’s bed, “It is simply involuntary muscle movements.”
Allison once again placed her hand on Melvin’s arm and he once again mouthed out, “Cover my eyes.”
The Doctor then looked at him more closely and shined a small light into both his eyes. His pupils were very large and did not contract when the light was shown on them. The light caused Melvin immense pain and if he was able to. He would have belted that Doctor.
“Can you hear me?” the Doctor asked.
“Yes,” he mouthed out very slowly without the sound of his voice.
The Doctor then looked at him with a stunned look on his face, “did your eyes hurt when I shined the light in them,” he asked.
Melvin slowly mouthed out, “Yes.” But in his mind he said, “of course it hurt you damn fool.”
The Doctor ordered a large pare of sunglasses that completely surrounded Melvin’s eyes to alleviate the pain from the light.
Allison placed her hand on Melvin’s arm and once again he mouthed out, “thank you.”
Over the next six months Melvin’s body continued to heal. Through physical therapy and excruciating determination on Melvin’s part his unused muscles began to slowly cooperate with his brain. But he would become fatigued quickly from the exercises and the pain was excruciating. Allison came to visit him often during his physical therapy and the physical therapist allowed her to work with him on his physical exercises.
The pain was overwhelming for him each time the therapist worked with him. But when Allison was there he drew his strength from her. She encouraged him on with each small mile stone in his recovery. She patiently helped him and talked him through the physical exercises.
His optical nerves continued to heal as well and one day during his physical therapy he began to see Allison for the first time. Through the pain of the physical exercises he slowly began to see Allison’s form come into focus.
“You are beautiful both inside and out,” he told her. He was now able to put a face with her voice and pleasing smell.
He continues to wear his sunglasses though because the light still causes him discomfort.
It would take another three years before he could walk on his own. He must use a Cain due to dizzy spells and for his own security when standing and walking.
“You have come a long way Melvin,” Allison said to him as they slowly walked around the outside of his home.
“My experiences changed me in many ways,” he said, “but in a way I am more appreciative of who I am now because of what I experienced.” He felt comfortable with Allison and he was grateful for her being in his life. She was the first person since being released from the hospital that he truly cared about.
“What you experienced would have changed anyone,” she told him, “you must have an incredibly strong mind.”
“I wanted to die in that hospital,” he said, “but now I am grateful I went on living. I have much more of an appreciation for what I have. In the past I was full of myself and I took everything I have for granted. I overlooked the simple things, like the simple pleasures that life brings our way.”
“Like what?” she asked.
“I overlooked the natural beauty that surrounds us,” he said, “I overlooked the emotional bonds that we humans need to be fully human. I simply overlooked the people in my life. I have a much greater appreciation for people now and the human contact that is needed to be fully alive.”
“It sounds like you gained more then what you lost physically,” she told him.
“Well if it wasn’t for you I would not of comeback as far as I have,” he told her.
“You did all the work,” she said, “I was just a cheerleader on the sideline,” she said with humor in her voice.
“Thank you,” he said to her once again like many times before, “for being there for me.” She was the light in a dark tunnel during his long recovery.
He has come a long way from where he was but his body has never completely recovered. He feels his body is still healing and that he is changed for the better, especially, when it comes to his human psyche.
Since his release from the hospital he tried to heal the damaged relationship with his children and former wives. But the wall of separation was too great. He was not aware though that Allison also spoke to his children and explained to them that their father was a much different person. One afternoon she arranged a meeting and Melvin and his four children met at his home. The open communication started the healing process. Allison was now a moral and holistic companion for him. She kept him grounded towards a more fulfilling life
The lightning that struck him five years ago changed him in deed, it completely changed him. He is not the man he was before that tragic event. He found that he is still hypersensitive to the communication of others. There are times when he can still pick up peoples thoughts and emotions. He can also zero in on a person’s character traits that others can overlook. When people enter a room Melvin at times can still pick up their vibrations.
With a simple touch he found that he can gain extraordinary insights about a person. His heightened awareness can also have its draw backs though because there are times when he must retreat. He does this in order to quite himself away from his day to day activities. When around to many people for long periods of time he becomes emotionally and physically drained,
He returned to the courtroom five years after he was released from the hospital on a pro-bono case. He was representing Allison’s brother who had somewhat of a checkered past. He unlike Allison had a mean streak in him. But Allison knew her brother Greg was not the killer the District Attorney’s office was making him out to be.
Allison’s brother was at a party on the night that someone was found stabbed to death in a bathroom. Greg saw the victim, Spuggs Brandy, lying on the bathroom floor. He leaned down to see if the person was still alive. Unfortunately when he did so his palm print was left at the crime seen and with his criminal record and his past dealings with the victim. The police in a rush to solve the case arrested Greg and charged him with murder. The public defender wanted Greg to plea bargain for a lesser sentence. Allison pleaded with her brother to plead innocent and went to Melvin Spruce for help.
He immediately took the case but wondered in the back of his mind if he is physically and mentally up to defending a man charged with murder. He hasn’t stepped foot in a courtroom in five years and he tires easily. He is not physically the man he used to be five years ago.
He wasted no time though in tracking down everyone that was at that party. He put in more man hours and worked harder then he ever had on any of his previous cases. He had everyone who was at the party subpoenaed.
He instantly knew they were men of low moral character. They all had run inns with the law and each served time behind bars. But with his charm and cunning he gave each of the witnesses the impression that they were being subpoenaed as character witnesses. When they showed up at the courthouse Melvin asked the judge to have those witnesses sequestered. The ten men were separated from each other outside of the courtroom.
The prosecution on seeing the so called list of character witnesses became convinced that the lightning that struck Melvin five years earlier permanently scrambled his brain. They were sure it was a slam dunk case that would be over in a matter of days. But as each witnesses was called up to the stand Melvin said to the Judge, “Your honor I would like to approach this person as a hostel witness.”
For three weeks the Jury learned of the wheeling and dealing of Spuggs Brandy. Each witness started out telling Melvin and the Jury of Greg’s good character. Then slowly Melvin had the witnesses defending their own character as he revealed motives and opportunity for each of the witnesses to personally get rid of Spuggs Brandy.
He showed the prosecution and the Jury how the ten other people at the party had a greater motive and adequate opportunity to kill Spuggs Brandy. With his charismatic flair and sense of humor he threw the prosecution and his hostel witnesses completely off guard.
The prosecution had no recourse but to recall each witness to cross examined them. But with Melvin’s skill the prosecution’s case became weaker and weaker with each passing day. Melvin simply requisitioned the same witnesses after the prosecution crossed examined them and punched wholes in the prosecution’s case. The witnesses, after all, testified under oath to Greg’s good character and how he was incapable of killing Spuggs Brandy.
“As I have shown you here throughout this trial,” Melvin told the Jury in his closing argument, “Spuggs, was not a very nice man and his associates are relieved that he is no longer around.”
Melvin then walked up to the Jury box wearing the sunglasses that completely cover his eyes and as he leaned on his Cain. He said to the Jury in a low but sincere voice, “My client is no choir boy he has a criminal record but you as a Jury can see here that there are ten other individuals that testified throughout this trial. They have stronger motives and they had plenty of opportunity to kill, Spuggs Brandy, - on the night of that party. I ask that you acquit my client of these trumped up charges and find him not guilty by reasonable doubt.”
It turned out that nine out of the twelve Jurors voted to acquit Greg. It was a hung Jury but the case was never retried. The District Attorney’s office later dropped the charges against Greg due to some of the witness testimony that came out during the trial.
If it wasn’t for Allison asking Melvin for his help he would have never stepped foot in the courtroom. When he left the hospital he felt he was no longer fit to be an effective Attorney. Allison believed in his skill though and she knew of his history of being a great Attorney. He took the case pro-bono in order to return the favor for Allison’s kindness towards him.
Melvin is also helping Allison get her law degree. He is paying her college tuition and he put her up in an off campus apartment. That is the least he can do for her because, after all, it was her kind jesters that helped him along in his recovery process at the hospital.
Over the past five years since his accident with that bolt of lightening. He has become more aware of his past mistakes, especially, the mistakes he has made with his former wives and children.
He is still finding ways to reach out to them with the hope that he could develop deeper relationships, especially, with his four children. They are much more receptive to him now because the story of what happened to Melvin and his remarkable recovery has become common knowledge.
Everyone who ever knew Melvin Spruce prior to that tragic event that nearly killed him can now see a very different person. His experiences at the hospital and his long road to recovery have made him more receptive to the needs of others. He is no longer preoccupied with his grandiose opinion of himself and his money. Those same experiences have also humbled him in many ways.
He now realizes that he is not a cut above the rest. Without the compassion and caring warmth of an average human being, like Allison, his recovery process would have been much longer and much more arduous. He is now much more receptive not only to the needs of others but to the important people in his life.
He is also taking on more pro-bono cases to help those he truly believes are innocent. With the hope that after Allison passes her bar-exam. She will work with him on pro-bono cases as well and in assisting him in starting their own law firm.
His mental attitude is much more positive then it was prior to being struck by lightning. There are still however those physical complications that have slowed him down a bit. He finds that he doesn’t have that same energy and vigor he once had. He still has problems with his eyes. He must walk with a Cain. That buzzing sensation from his damaged auditory nerves returns at times as well.
Over all, though he still knows he has been changed for the better. What he has gained in life is a greater appreciation of being alive. There is no doubt that his long road to recovery has humbled him in many ways. It has also made him more effective not only as an attorney but as a human being.
On July 16, 2007 Allison and Melvin exchanged wedding vows. Melvin is now finding a balance between his professional life and his life as a ‘husband.’ Allison who is pregnant with their first child is also studying for her bar-exam. They are a happy couple and Melvin is filled with the hope that he will be a much better ‘father.’
Thomas F. O’Neill
Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found at the links below.
Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.