Read Proof Positive (2006) Online

Authors: Phillip - Jaffe 3 Margolin

Proof Positive (2006)

Proof Positive (2006)
Margolin, Phillip - Jaffe 3

Proof Positive

Jaffe 03

Phillip Margolin


DOUG WEAVER HAD EXPERIENCED HIS FAIR SHARE OF BAD days during his legal career, but the day Oregon executed Raymond Hayes was one of the worst. Doug tried to convince himself that watching someone die from a lethal injection wasn't like seeing someone stabbed to death or crushed by a train, but that only helped him deal with what he would see. It didn't ease his guilt. Deep down, he believed that Raymond Hayes was going to die because he had screwed up.

The fact that Doug liked his client made it even more difficult. Bonding wasn't unusual during a death case where the attorney and his client were thrown together for months or years at a time. Sometimes during a visit at the penitentiary, when they were talking about NASCAR races or football games, Doug would almost forget why Ray had needed representation. There were even moments when he thought, There but for the grace of God go I. The slightly overweight attorney with the receding hairline did bear a faint resemblance to his chubby, balding client. Both men were also in their early thirties and they'd grown up in small towns. But that was where the similarities ended. Doug was a lot smarter than the majority of his high school classmates, while Ray had barely graduated. After high school, Doug had gone to college and Ray had stayed home, working the farm for his ailing, widowed mother before selling out and moving with her to the cottage in Portland where she had been brutally murdered.

The last time Doug had made the fifty-mile drive from Portland to the Oregon State Penitentiary it had been to tell Raymond that the justices of the United States Supreme Court had voted against taking up his case.

Does that mean I'm going to die? Ray had asked in that lazy drawl that sometimes made you wonder if he was even slower than his below-average intelligence test scores suggested.

The question had caught Doug off guard. It took a shifting of mental gears to accept the notion that a denial of a writ of certiorari in Ray's case was the legal equivalent of shooting his client between the eyes.

Well, Doug had stammered as he tried to think of a tactful way of answering the question.

Ray had just smiled. He'd been seeing Father McCord a lot, and Jesus was now a big part of his life.

It's okay, Doug, his client had assured him. I'm not afraid to meet my Lord and Savior.

Doug wasn't so sure that there was a place in Heaven for a son who had beaten his seventy-two-year-old mother to death with a hammer so he could steal her diamond wedding ring and forty-three dollars, but he kept the thought to himself. If Ray was convinced that he was straight with the Lord, Doug wasn't going to play devil's advocate.

My life ain't been so great, Ray had said. I hope I'm a better person in Heaven.

You will be, Doug had assured him.

Ray had studied his attorney with a sad, compassionate eye. You still think I killed Mom, don't you?

Doug had never told Ray that he didn't believe his protestations of innocence, but he guessed that somewhere along the way he'd slipped up and revealed his true feelings.

I really don't know, one way or the other, Ray, Doug had hedged.

Ray had just smiled. It's okay, Ray said. I know you think I lied to you. I appreciate how hard you worked for me, even though you thought I done it. But I didn't kill Mom. It's the way I always said it. So I know I'll go to Heaven and stand by the side of Jesus.

Doug had handled other capital cases, but only Ray had been sentenced to death. Very few Oregon inmates had been executed since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1984. Doug hated the fact that he would be one of the few attorneys in the state who could say he'd witnessed the execution of a client.

During the week leading up to the execution, Doug didn't sleep well and felt tired and cranky. Anxiety caused his mind to wander at the office and made it difficult to get any work done. He had been drinking more than usual, too, and that was always a bad sign.

Doug had never questioned Ray's guilt, but his inability to stave off death ate at him. He was constantly second-guessing decisions he'd made, especially the decision to persuade Ray to plead guilty. It wasn't as if his strategy was unreasonable. He'd consulted several lawyers who handled death cases, and most had agreed with his plan. The older, experienced attorneys had convinced him that winning a death case meant keeping your client alive. The evidence against Ray was incredibly strong, and Doug had gambled that Ray's acceptance of guilt and his spotless record would sway the jury in favor of life in the sentencing phase of the trial. He had been horribly, horribly wrong.

Doug worked on the day of the execution, but he didn't accomplish much. Before leaving for the prison, he ate a light dinner; put on his best suit, a clean white shirt, and his nicest tie; and even shined his shoes. He wanted a drink badly, but he limited himself to one glass of scotch. Doug was going to be sober at the execution. He figured he owed Ray that.

The day had been out of sync with Doug's mood and the seriousness of the event he was about to witness. Dark clouds should have blocked the sun. There should have been lightning strikes, heavy rain, and a sky filled with ravens. Instead, spring was in the air, gaily colored flowers were in bloom, and nary a cloud hung over the interstate. Doug found the weather profoundly depressing, and he was grateful when the sunset cast shadows over the landscape.

At nine-thirty p.m., Doug parked in a lot several miles from the prison. The location of the lot had been shrouded in secrecy to keep all but a select group of reporters from finding the witnesses, who were to be shuttled to the penitentiary. Ray and his mother were the last of a small family, so, thankfully, there were no relatives waiting. Doug noticed a group of government officials standing off to one side. Among them were Amaya Lathrop, the assistant attorney general who had persuaded the appellate courts to affirm the sentence of death; and Martin Poe, a career prosecutor in the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office, who had obtained the death sentence at trial. Jake Teeny, the deputy DA who'd second-chaired the case, had moved back East two years ago. Lathrop had always seen the case as a debate about issues of constitutional law far removed from the gore through which Doug and the prosecutors had waded in the courtroom, so Doug wasn't surprised that the AG nodded in his direction, while Poe studiously avoided looking at him.

Marge Cross drove up moments after Doug parked. She was a short, chunky brunette with the courtroom demeanor of a pit bull, who had been single and fresh from a clerkship at the Oregon Supreme Court when she second-chaired Raymond's case. Marge had been dead set against the guilty plea, but she'd never criticized Doug after the verdict of death, and had second-chaired two other cases with him after Hayes. The attorneys had talked about driving to the prison together, but Marge's two-year-old daughter had come down with the flu and Marge had had to stay with her until her husband finished teaching a class at Portland Community College.

I see Poe has come to gloat, she said bitterly.

I don't think he's gloating, Marge. He's not that low.

Marge shrugged. You' re entitled to your opinion. But he and Teeny were snickering all through the trial and I heard they celebrated with some of the other Neanderthals from the office after the sentencing hearing.

Doug didn't bother to argue. Marge was very political. She saw every case as a battle against the forces of fascism. Motherhood had not softened her. Doug oddly, for a lawyer didn't really like conflict. He got along with the DAs, as a rule, and thought of the prosecutors as men and women doing a tough job to the best of their ability.

Hooper's here, Marge said in a tone even more scathing than the one she'd used when she was referring to Poe. Doug spotted Steve Hooper, the lead detective on Ray's case, talking to a state trooper near the van that would take them to the prison. The detective was a linebacker in street clothes, with wide bunched shoulders, a thick neck, and the hint of a gut. His head was covered with a thatch of jet-black hair, and a shaggy mustache drooped over his upper lip. The only thing small about the detective were his close-set eyes and his pug nose, which looked out of place on such a broad face.

Hooper was an aggressive cop who believed that he was never wrong. Marge called him the Fuehrer, and Doug found it hard to disagree. Hooper had certainly used gestapo tactics when he arrested Ray, and Doug was certain that he had lied about certain incriminating statements that Ray was supposed to have made before the detective switched on his tape recorder in the interrogation room. Ray swore he never made the statements, but there was no way to prove that Hooper had falsified his report.

Did you talk to Ray? Marge asked.

By phone just before I left the office.

How's he doing?

He sounded calm. Spoke about going to a better place, standing by the side of the Lord. I'm glad he found religion. It's helping him accept what's going to happen.

Doug licked his lips. He found it hard to talk about the execution.

Listen up, people, shouted Thad Spencer, the community relations representative of the Department of Corrections. We'll be heading out in a minute. Just a reminder. There will be medical people standing by in the viewing room in case any of you need help, and there's no talking permitted after you enter the viewing room. Any questions?

Spencer fielded a few from the reporters, but the attorneys were quiet and somber. After the last question, Spencer herded the witnesses into a van. They took backstreets all the way to the penitentiary. Along the route, they passed police cars at several locations. They were there to deal with the protesters who were chanting outside the prison. Doug noticed that the police officers stopped talking and stared into the van as they drove by.

The van passed Cyclone fencing and razor wire on the way into the penitentiary.

I saw some old newsreels of East Berlin in the 1960s, Marge said. There's an uncanny resemblance. Makes you wonder if we' re still in America.

Doug didn't respond. He wasn't feeling well, and he was thankful that there would be medics in the viewing room. He didn't think he'd throw up or pass out, but he couldn't be sure.

Inside the prison, Doug went through a metal detector and had his hand stamped. Then everyone waited in a comfortable office where coffee and fruit had been provided. Doug didn't touch either. Amaya Lathrop, the assistant AG, walked over and offered that it must be really tough for him to have to see the execution. She was so genuinely sympathetic that Marge loosened up. Soon she and Doug were talking to Martin Poe, who turned out to be as nervous as everyone else. It soon became clear that no one but Steve Hooper was feeling particularly good about what was going to happen. The detective sat by himself, looking relaxed and happy as he snacked, balancing a plate loaded with fruit on his lap. Adding to the general unease was the chanting of the demonstrators on State Street, loud enough to be heard inside the office.

At eleven-thirty, Thad Spencer led the witnesses to the death chamber at the rear of the prison. Each time they were moved to a new location, Doug's tension level skyrocketed, and he regretted his decision to come to the prison sober. As they walked down the silent corridors, he felt light-headed and worried again about fainting. Talking would have helped, but everyone was so uptight that Doug was afraid a single word would sound like the crash of a thousand accidentally dropped dinner plates. He couldn't think of anything to say anyway.

By the time the witnesses were led into the death chamber, it was a little after midnight. The viewing area was claustrophobically small, about eight by twelve. The witnesses stood on a raised platform. In front of them was a window veiled by a curtain. The silence was broken only by the sound the reporters made when their pencils scratched across their notepads.

At twelve-twenty, the curtain lifted. Ray was strapped to a gurney. Intravenous tubes had been inserted in his veins. They were attached to glass tubes that protruded from the wall. The tubes would supply the lethal chemicals that would end Raymond Hayes's life. Behind the wall unseen was the executioner.

From his spot on the platform, Doug could look down on his client. Ray seemed a little nervous but calmer than Doug had expected. The superintendent of the penitentiary was standing next to the gurney. He laid a comforting hand on Ray's shoulder. Ray turned his head, scanned the room, and fixed on Doug. A microphone in the death chamber must have been activated, because Doug could hear Ray clearly when he spoke.

Superintendent Keene told me you ain't allowed to talk, so I understand if you don't answer, his client said. Thanks for coming, Doug. You being here comforts me. You too, Marge.

Doug heard Marge's sharp intake of breath.

Well, these are my last words, so I want to make them good.

He fixed on Martin Poe.

I am innocent, Mr. Poe, but don't worry. I know you think I killed my mom and that you were only doing your job. I forgive you and God will forgive you, so find peace in your heart.

Ray choked up for a second and had to stop. As hard as he was fighting, he could not stop a tear from trickling down his cheek.

Mom knows I didn't do her no harm and she'll be able to tell me so right soon. God bless all of you.

Ray nodded to the superintendent. The superintendent nodded back and left the room. Ray closed his eyes and breathed deeply a few times; then all activity stopped. His right eye was completely closed but, bizarrely, his left lid was slightly open, allowing the institutional light to reflect in his dark pupil. Doug could see that no one was in there anymore. He sighed and fought back tears. Poor Ray, he thought. He'd been put down like a dog.

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