that betrayed the glamorized shots of Miami on television and resembled the architecture of the former Soviet Union. Behind those walls, the jury would render its verdict, insulated from the onlookers who jostled with the media for a place to stand on the sidewalk and steps outside the courthouse. The growing buzz of activity was surreal, like armies of angry fire ants making quick work of fallen mangos, which were everywhere this time of year. Theo pulled up as close to the courthouse as the police perimeter would allow. Jack got out at the curb.

“Good luck,” said Theo.

“Thanks,” said Jack.

July in Miami is a veritable sauna, especially west of the interstate, away from the breezes off Biscayne Bay. In a sea of sweaty bodies clad in short pants and sleeveless shirts, a criminal defense lawyer dressed in pinstripes was an easy mark. No single voice in the crowd was discernible, so what Jack heard was more like a collective “There he is!”

Some spectators suddenly rushed toward the courthouse, others toward Jack. Cameramen flanked him on the sidewalk. Television reporters got right in his face, elbowing out their competition, firing off questions that presumed the outcome and that all ran together.

“How worried is your client?”

“Was it a mistake for Sydney not to testify?”

“Who will defend her on appeal?”

Jack answered none of them. Most onlookers were women, many of them red with sunburn, anger, or both. A line of police officers kept the crowd at bay as Jack climbed the courthouse steps. The jeers were nothing he hadn’t heard before, but they seemed louder and angrier than usual.

“Baby killer!”

“Today’s the day, Jack ass!” That and “Jack off” had become the preferred terms of endearment, at least when they weren’t calling him Juani Cochran.

Jack pushed through the crowd, funneled through the revolving door, and headed to the security checkpoint, where armed guards with metal-detecting wands shuffled visitors along. The standard security check took only a minute, but with a mob on the courthouse steps, some with faces pressed to the windows, the process seemed much longer. Jack gathered his belongings, crossed the rotunda, and squeezed into an open elevator. The unwritten rule of crowded elevator etiquette-silence-was broken by one especially persistent reporter, but Jack didn’t respond. No one got off until the elevator reached the sixth floor, an effective express ride, as if nothing else happening in the courthouse mattered. As Jack started toward the courtroom doors, the sound of another elevator chime stopped him.

The metal doors parted. It was the team of prosecutors.

Melinda Crawford and her entourage looked decidedly confident as they approached, just as they had since the first day of trial. Admittedly, Crawford’s three-hour closing argument had been nothing short of brilliant. Jack held the courtroom door for her. She opened the other door for herself, leaving Jack holding his for no one. The team followed her inside.

“You’re welcome,” said Jack.

The prosecutors went to the right, toward the long rectangular table nearer the empty jury box. Jack started toward the defense table, where his cocounsel was already seated.

For Jack, just seeing Hannah Goldsmith triggered memories of his first trial-with Hannah’s father. Neil Goderich had founded the Freedom Institute to handle the overload of “death cases” generated at the hand of Jack’s father, Harry Swyteck, the law-and-order governor who had signed more death warrants than any governor in Florida history. Four years of defending the guilty would prove to be enough for Jack. His resignation didn’t end the friendship, however, so Jack naturally said yes when Neil had come down sick and asked Jack to cover “just one lousy hearing” in a new case. “Not since Theo Knight have I believed so strongly in a client’s innocence,” he’d told Jack. Two years later-a month before trial-Neil was dead. By then, State v. Bennett had become a pop-culture juggernaut. Postponing trial to find new defense counsel wasn’t an option the judge would consider. Jack hadn’t so much as thought about Sydney Bennett since that favor for Neil, but that single hearing two years earlier made him the only living “attorney of record.” Jack wasn’t the first lawyer to get stuck in a criminal trial after making a pretrial appearance-that’s why criminal defense lawyers insist on being paid upfront-but it was the first time it had happened to him. Jack could defend Sydney or go to jail. “No good deed goes unpunished,” Judge Matthews had told him, the perfect TV sound bite to punctuate the court’s denial of Jack’s motion to withdraw. Hannah called Jack that evening and agreed to second-chair the trial.

Somewhere, high above the fracas, Neil undoubtedly found peace in knowing that his last case had turned Jack and Hannah into national pariahs.

“Is Sydney on her way up?” Jack asked.

As if on cue, the side door near their table opened. A pair of deputies escorted the guest of dishonor into the courtroom.

Criminal defendants were not required to be shackled or clothed in prison garb in front of a jury. Sydney was wearing a conservative pink ruffled blouse and beige slacks, her long chestnut hair up in a bun. Of course the lawyers had chosen the outfit for her, as they had for each day of trial. The media had excoriated the defense for that, too, as if Jack were expected to tell his client to show up for court like Michael Jackson, dressed in pajamas and sunglasses.

Sydney appeared tentative at first, a normal reaction to the obvious tension in the courtroom. Her step quickened as she approached her lawyers. Hannah embraced her, but Jack didn’t. “No public display of affection” was a holdover from his days at the Freedom Institute, days of defending the worst that death row had to offer. Jack’s adherence to that rule, however, had done nothing to stem the Freudian babble of pop psychiatrists, so- called expert commentators who spent hour after televised hour dissecting Sydney’s “seductive glances,” “naughty pouts,” and “Bambi-like blinks” at her handsome attorney. The dichotomy of her prior life-loving single mother by day, slutty cocktail waitress by night-was part of the public fascination.

“I can’t stand this waiting,” Sydney whispered.

“Not much longer,” said Jack.

“Do we have anything to appeal if. . you know?”

She was no dummy, managing her defense right up to the moment of truth. “We can talk about that later.”

Sydney took a seat and immediately started to bite her nails. Hannah gently took her hand and whispered to her about the television cameras. The talking heads on the air were surely taking note of her nerves. Sydney lowered her hands into her lap. Jack took a seat beside her, and before he could feel the full weight of all eyes upon them, the door to Judge Matthews’ chambers swung open, and the bailiff called the courtroom to order.

“All rise!”

The packed courtroom fell silent, everyone standing as Judge Matthews ascended to the bench. He instructed all to have a seat and immediately issued a few admonitions-“no in-court reactions to the reading of the verdict” and so forth. Jack was only half listening. The second-guessing had begun.

Should I have worked harder for a plea?

The charges against Sydney included first degree murder. Death by lethal injection was still on the table, so to speak. If Sydney was convicted, the sentencing phase of the trial would begin. The jury would hear additional evidence and recommend death or life imprisonment. Sequestration had immunized the jury from the constant drumbeat of hatred in the media so far, but there was no guarantee that the jury would remain sequestered for the sentencing hearing. Ultimately, the punishment would be in the hands of Judge Belvin Matthews-a former prosecutor whose impressive list of convictions on behalf of the state attorney’s office included the first woman ever to be executed in Florida. Matthews had personally witnessed her death. Since his election to the circuit bench, not a single one of Judge Matthews’ death sentences had been overturned on appeal. A verdict of guilty could well mean that Sydney would be the fourth woman sent to Florida’s death row since January-the most of any given year in the state’s history.

“Bailiff, please bring in the jury,” said the judge.

“All rise!”

Behind Jack, in the packed gallery, the bumps and thuds of the rising crowd sounded like a ragtag army on the march. Jurors in Florida courtrooms were never shown on television, so even as the jury entered, the cameras remained fixed on Jack and his client. Jack had become almost immune to the constant coverage. Sydney had never

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