Friday, January 31, 2014

Part Eighty-Two, Chapter Five - The Verdict of the Trial of Soltan Gris

Headlines continue to scream the sordid tales of the Apparatus, crimes that of course went unsolved until now, because sloppy, shabby drunkards are great at confounding forensic investigators.

The book speculates that the Domestic Police is too busy putting down the daily riots raging "throughout the Confederacy" to start arresting Apparatus officers, or is possibly intimidated since there's a comparable number of Apparatus troops being left in reserve despite the imminent invasion of Earth.  Which means... let's see, only four million Apparatus troops total... Google says there were 680,000 law enforcement officers in just the US as of 2006... well that doesn't make much sense.  Either the Apparatus is sacrificing a quarter of its already undermanned invasion force to keep order on the capital planet, or the Domestic Police is abnormally small.  Or maybe Voltar's just better than Earth and doesn't have as much crime.

Madison's still trying to cope, but he remains confident that this'll all work out for him in the end, just you wait and see.

Once again he reworked his schedules of release but this time marked the dates plus one, plus two, plus three and so on.  It was "plus" to the day they sentenced Gris.  The way this was dragging out, he had no real idea when that would come.  Usually it was good PR to drag a trial out, on and on.  In fact, the thirst for press by judges and government was one of the reasons for long trials on Earth.

Didn't you know?  The government's practically a bunch of PRs themselves, always wanting attention.  Another string connection to make on the Mission Earth Conspiracy Wall.

Even though Madison admits that the situation is now "kind of desperate," the public "out of control," he's sure that once the trial is over everyone will be open to his next exciting story, something so sensational that our interest must build for another two chapters before the author reveals it to us.

And then it all ends "rather abruptly."  On the sixth day of covering the new evidence, Gris' lawyers stack their 2,094 remaining cases in a pile for interested parties to examine, promising that "Many are far WORSE than those already evidenced to this court."  In Mission Earth, you see, it can always get worse.

The lawyers reveal that the Apparatus recruits from prisons, which we've known since Book One and come to think of it ought to be a hard fact to cover up, especially since the records show that over 30,000 convicts ended up as Apparatus officers.  But the 30,000 the lawyers are interested in are special: they were married before going into jail, and after getting new identities and working in the Apparatus, they married again.  All the rape and murder was one thing, but bigamy too?!

"Hah!" snarled Lord Turn, "just because you have found 30,201 bigamist Apparatus officers does NOT get THAT filthy beast off in THIS court!"  And he pointed to Gris.

Gris sat there.  The skateboard scar which gave him a perpetual scowl was at variance with the terror in his eyes.  The judge had not heretofore referred to him as a beast.  He was certain now that he would be convicted and he made a feeble "why try?" movement toward his attorneys.

I mean, sure the judge shouted at him, and insulted him, and flew into rages in the courtroom, but up until now things could've gone either way, right?

The eldest attorney actually smiled at Turn and at the cameras and crowd.  "Oh, we admit quite freely that our client is a beast."

There was an instant roar of approval from the mob in the courtroom.  It was probably echoed by every crowd in front of Homeview sets across Voltar and would be echoed throughout the Confederacy when the signal finally got there.

It's almost enough to make you feel sympathy for Gris, had the author not made him utterly unsympathetic.  At this point I'm expecting Prahd's cellology to wear off and Gris' dangly bits to shrink back to microscopic size, so someone can pull his pants off on Homeview and further humiliate him before the whole Confederacy.

Gris' awfulness aside, his attorneys insist that he's only "a beast in a herd of beasts and maybe even a lesser beast at that!"  For instance,

"I," shouted the Gris attorney, "have not told you the worst!"  He picked up the last four folders.  "THESE contain the names of 6,086 Apparatus officers who have been remarried as many as eighteen times!"

It was like a shock wave.  There is no divorce in the Confederacy


and bigamy is death,


so what he was saying was that 6,086 Apparatus officers had each one, since they were already married before joining the Apparatus, incurred the death penalty up to eighteen times.

Just so I can calibrate my moral compass: how many razed villages equals one duplicitous marriage?  Does it count as rape if the state forced you into the marriage in the first place?

Only some of these tens of thousands of wives were murdered by their husbands, the rest were simply ditched while the Apparatus officers went on to remarry as part of the agency's plan of "familial infiltration," or the strategic bagging of a widow or daughter - for example, Gris going after Tayl for that hospital on her property.  'cause really, why would you ever bother to build your own infrastructure if you could just get one of your ex-con employees to gain the trust of someone so his "friends from work" could use that launch pad in the back yard or whatever?

Once again, nobody noticed this - no women figured out they'd all married the same man, no sloppy agent ever blew his cover while drunk with his "wife," no daughter accidentally uncovered top secret files in daddy's office - until Gris' stash were nabbed.  Because I guess he felt the need to document his entire agency's grand strategy in case he needed to blackmail the Apparatus itself?

All this to say, Team Gris is ready to make their closing statement.  They - oh, wait, uh... is this it?  Anyway, the defense team declares that they've now proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Apparatus is a bunch of criminals, criminals who commit terrible crimes like bigamy, crimes that were ordered by their bosses.  And,

"As you yourself stated in this very court last week, Your Lordship, and according to all law and regulations, a man cannot be punished for doing his duty.  Jettero Heller was doing his duty.  Soltan Gris was only doing his duty.

Oh boy...

"Therefore, we solemnly and courteously request that you find Apparatus Officer Soltan Gris personally innocent of his crimes by reason of extenuating circumstances.  He was only doing his duty."

Well, um.  This doesn't necessarily mean that the author agrees with this sentiment.  Obviously Voltar has never had anything like the Nuremberg Trials.  And obviously these aliens define "duty" as "what my superior told me to do, not what my organization is supposed to be doing, or what is even morally right."

This argument goes over badly with the crowd, and Lord Turn can only curse and sit for three minutes, rubbing his temples while he ponders.  Madison, briefly recognizing the reality of the situation, tries not to throw up at the prospect of Gris being declared innocent.  Eventually the judge stirs.

"It is not given to me to set precedents.

I thought that's what judges did?  They refer to previous judge's cases, and future judges may refer to their own rulings?  Who does set the precedents, then?  PR?  Psychology?

Unfortunately, there are a thousand court cases that hold a man cannot be punished for doing his ordered duty.  If such were not the law and regulation, a man could find himself killed by his superiors if he did not do something for which he could be killed by the law. 

Yeah, I mean, if your sergeant orders you to massacre a village, and threatens to kill you if you don't, it's every soldier's duty to save his hide and murder innocents, y'know?

Unfortunately also, in a nation often at war, a superior cannot be punished for issuing an order which involves a capital offense if executed.

This at least explains why the Confederacy is able to invade planet after planet without any moral dissonance: no war crimes.

Some day the Grand Council or an Emperor may resolve this, though I doubt it, for it is dangerous ground.  The best guarantee of integrity is to ensure that only decent men, men like Royal Officer Jettero Heller, have authority."

You don't need confusing laws that restrict people's behavior, just recognize the inherent superiority of those like the magnificent Royal Officer Jettero Heller and let them do what they know is best.

This is all actually irrelevant, though.   See, rather than agreeing with Gris' lawyers' argument that he's Not Guilty on grounds of "I was only following orders," Turn does something else, first complimenting Gris' attorneys...

"You were undoubtedly very competent judges in the Domestic Police and you, sir, were undoubtedly a highly competent Lord's executioner.  You have bamboozled me into listening to you day after day.  Fortunately, we at the Royal Courts and Prison are answerable only to the Emperor.  That does not put us above the common law.  To keep the Emperor from making any mistakes, we have to be versed in the nicest legal points anyone ever heard of."

And he suddenly pulls a three-thousand-year-old legal precedent out of his Royal Judge ass.  Don't misunderstand, he's not above the common law, he merely has access to more laws than anyone else, legal precedents that he only brings out in certain situations, to get the outcome he wants.  They're all on the books upstairs, in the exclusive Royal prison nobody's allowed to visit.  Take his word for it.

Anyway, Manda v. Boont, a property battle that brought up questions of an heir's legitimacy, established "that registry of conception was a legal substitute for marriage."  The Former Widow Tayl's three-month-old son was conceived before Gris went to Earth, she did the paperwork, so that counts as a marriage, so the ceremony in the prison a week or two ago was redundant, so Gris is declared "innocent of the charge of bigamy in this prison."

Or in other words, Gris is still Not Guilty, but in a way that makes the entire trial a waste of time.  Thanks, Hubbard!

The shock of it was such that there was hardly a breath drawn for half a minute.


The angry mob nearly tears Gris apart despite the security force's best efforts, but then Lord Turn adds that he's keeping Gris in his custody, until Royal Officer Jettero Heller's Royal Officer status is clarified, and because Royal Officer Jettero Heller may have additional crimes to try Gris for.  "It is quite probable that Soltan Gris will not escape severe punishment or even execution yet."

Even though it looks like "I was just following orders" is a valid defense, so what could they possibly get him with, if the capital crime of bigamy doesn't stick?

A catatonic Gris gets dragged back to his cell, the angry mob starts chanting "Death to the Apparatus!" and Madison realizes that Teenie might not be happy that he didn't get Gris delivered like he promised.

Madison, watching Gris go, was in a turmoil of his own.  He was scared stiff at what Teenie might be thinking or planning now.  He had NOT gotten her the custody of Gris.

Yeah, we... we just read that, Hubbard, thanks. 

But wait, was there a loophole open?  He wondered and then shuddered.

He was suddenly aware that he didn't have much time.  Public reaction might boil over.  Lombar might be upset by all this.  Teenie would be screaming.

Then suddenly he began to smile. 

Please stop suddenly doing things.

He still had power.  He would bring this off to glory yet and bring it off with a BANG!

Heller on a burro with a sombrero!  The crowds love it!

So that was Gris' trial.  We learned a lot about Voltar's legal system, and how it sucks, and these aliens' morality, which is questionable if not horrifying.  Gris remains in limbo, though his unique brand of half-assed villainy just doomed his entire organization, and Madison has broken with tradition by wrecking his employers with his PR schemes instead of his "client."  Heller's outlaw status is just as confused as his Royal Officer status, but not to worry, that's not going to cause any obstacles or anything, since public opinion doesn't really matter.

'cause sure, everyone hates the Apparatus now, and everyone knows how ridiculously evil they are.  But the plot can't progress until Heller gets involved.

Back to Chapter Four

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