Martin’s story

Chapter Two 

It is early November and finally Los Angles weather is consistently getting cooler. I work hard to get this case heard by pushing some judges, my old friends in the court system to get a prompt pretrial hearing. We get a fast-track date for early November, just two months after Julie’s death. It is good to know some people and use some muscle to shift things around in the legal realm. The day is upon us to meet all these doctors and defendant attorneys face to face. Of course, I know what this lab doctor looks like from her web page. I am mostly excited; and a little apprehensive to meet her and crush her. I never get accustomed to courtroom drama, how it makes me nervous, especially in the beginning. Butterflies in my stomach during my opening statements. Although I am not personally involved in this case, my nerves are jittery. In the preliminary hearing, the defense side only has two counsels, Mr. Harris and some young female attorney named Melissa Razi. The hospital always retains respectable liability firms, and today it is Harris and Sidman, LLC. Melissa Razi appears to be Persian, in her mid 30s, fairly attractive attorney with a slight Farsi accent. She will shrivel and cry, an easy target for the guys I hired. My attorneys will deliver sharp remarks and can be ruthless. Karl Harris is another matter. He gained some weight and more gray hair over the years. He is very experienced, skillful and a smart guy we previously encountered with the same hospital a number of years ago. The outcome was really bad for us; we lost the jury trial. The damn Harris group and idiot jurors put us to shame and we are still paying the price for our reputation. We still made a profit from the plaintiff, who had to pay all fees for every hour billed by our firm, as we rarely take on pro bono cases. In the end, we always win by gaining monetary rewards. Today is showtime. Our ten attorneys will crush Harris this time. He is stupid enough to show up with just one additional meek new attorney. Last night our side called Harris with a settlement amount which he should have agreed to pay. He should have accumulated more defense attorneys to at least take our side seriously and show us some respect. We carefully calculate the amount in every detail. If Julie were to live and become a trial attorney like myself, she would have earned so many millions of dollars, minus her education fees. If she were to be just a housewife. minus education fees, her life might be worth a particular amount of lesser dollars. We make sure the figure lies somewhere in the middle to be perceived as realistic. Suddenly, anger hits me. I am sure she would have been a star, wildly successful as a trial attorney, maybe even better than me, as I quickly recalculate her billings, bonuses, plus inflation. I am still not satisfied with the final amount, but I have to be reasonable. What I really want to do is ask for an obnoxious settlement amount that will push our case to a court trial, but my partners persuade me to be reasonable. Their interest, after all, is the money, not a jury trial. Usually, the plaintiff’s side requests pain and suffering be compensated, while the defense side wants their names to be cleared, and their attorneys are ultimately interested in money. This is what the system boils down to in the end.

In this case, plaintiff and attorneys are one, at least from my viewpoint. My partners still do not see it this way and are only interested in money. I am not one of the counsels at the table, for a change. I take a seat behind the players, next to my wife and Jane. June plans to come from Berkeley, probably the last day of deliberation or earlier if she has to testify for some odd reason. I try to protect her from interruptions during her college classes. Jane is somewhat thrilled and anxious, glad to skip her high school classes and witness every action in the courtroom and actually observe the outcome after her sister’s death. None of my daughters have ever seen me in courtroom action. I never take them to my playground where I thrive and play hardball. Too bad I am not a counsel contributing at the courtroom table. I want to impress my daughters and my wife how great I am. It starts. I watch all ten of my attorneys walk in, all in suits. Dark navy blue, gray and black. There are not enough seats for my side. Mr. Harris shakes hands with five of my guys, Jeff Grey the lead, Tony Spiro second in command, and three others. Mr. Harris introduces his partner, Ms. Razi. Next to her is Dr. Sara Choi and Dr. Kline. This is the first time I see Dr. Choi in person. She is tiny maybe five feet, four inches tall, shockingly attractive, Asian and appears very intelligent with her glasses, younger than her age. She looks to be in her mid-thirties, but Dr. Kline told me she is late 40s, almost 50 years old and chair of the department. Dr. Kline spoke very highly of her once when she read my daughter’s liver biopsy. He said she is a top-notch pathologist. There is something about her and why do I feel somewhat intimidated? She seems too smart for me. A coolness about her, perhaps an air of confidence I have never seen in any woman. Her hair is deep brown to black, a little curly and long and she wears it straight down covering her shoulders. Her deep navy pants suit is pristine, perfect with her starched white blouse which is not low cut. No jewelry except a sleek smartphone watch with a classic silver band. Choi’s black shoes have low heels, she’s comfortable but dressy. Indeterminate emotion on her face, probably good in poker games. Dr. Kline is next to her. They talk softly to one another, leaning in close and whispering into each other’s ears. Clearly friendly, they like each other. Well, they have to be one team, working together for this case at least. Inspecting Dr. Kline in his generic dark suit and necktie does not impress me or draw my attention. I do not care how he looks except to say he looks much more nervous than during our casual dinners at each other’s places many years ago. I certainly do not want to penalize him too much. Just answer the question, why did you delay radiation treatment to my daughter? I really am not out here to get his money or his reputation. If I had my wish, we would immediately drop our claim against him after hearing his answer. I am here to get Dr. Choi. I will pull her down so that she cannot practice pathology any longer and confiscate her medical license to prevent this damaging medical care of hers that delays diagnosis and treatment to other patients. This trial is about punitive damages. I am rather happy to have Virginia Chang, Esq. in my group, in case there are sympathetic jurors out there for Dr. Choi, an Asian descendant. Ms. Chang will slay her with one sentence and put her in misery. Chang’s sharp tongue and killer instinct has her disliked by every secretary in our group because of that nasty tongue and prideful attitude. I would hate to face Ms. Chang if she were not on my side. 

When everyone is situated somewhat, we stand to greet the judge. The judge walks in; I am flabbergasted. Elizabeth Wayne, an African American woman in her 60s, the only black judge in our district. What luck! Why do I have to get her! My mouth is wide open, and my eyes roll as I wonder if this is the reason why my partners never told me the judge’s name for this case. I personally requested a jury trial, made a deposit for it and requested judge Andrew Coulter. How could they switch judges at the last minute? My mouth quickly shuts as I get a text. It’s Mavis Hill, one of the attorneys in the front row. “We didn’t know!!! Maybe Coulter sick? Heart attack? Wayne a substitute…We’re in for a ride!” No! I cannot believe what is happening right in front of me. Did this judge even have time to read all the depositions and evidence we provided? Why is this happening to me now when I worked so hard with Judge Coulter and prepared him in advance? Our guys know Coulter disdains medical doctors with their pride. We benefit from Coulter on this case. “Please be seated,” Judge Wayne says. “We are here to begin the pretrial proceedings of Freedman vs. Beverly Hills Hospital and Drs. Sara Choi and Steven Kline. I read all the transcripts, depositions from both doctors and the depositions from experts. The defendant has filed an answer and a motion to dismiss the complaints. “The plaintiff filed a pretrial motion, and I am here to hold a hearing. Based on this case management conference, we can move this case to a jury trial today or set another date for a trial date. We have 90 people here on jury duty, enough to begin the process of jury trial. It is up to you, both, so, please proceed Mr. Grey and Mr. Harris, or have you come to settlement?” Mr. Grey begins, “No, your Honor, we have not agreed to settle. We are proceeding as planned.” With that, attorneys on both sides briefly present their case. Huddles of heads nod and whisper, and shortly after their huddle Judge Wayne proclaims jury selection will begin today. After 15 minutes, about 30 jurors walk in. Twelve of them sit in jury chairs, four are seated in alternate chairs. They’re nervous. The 12 seated in the jury chairs are variable in ages, seven are white, two Latino, two Asian and one African American. Eight are men and four are women. The judge says her welcome speech to all jurors and quickly begins her interviews. One by one, starting from juror number one she asks for name and occupation. The entire process is taking longer than one hour. Attorneys on both sides intently observe each juror and I am able to tell when each attorney formulates their impression of each juror. Most of the jurors have their subtle attitudes, and do not want to be here. Our side has an expert who reads out jurors accurately and I am glad Mrs. Tomoko is here today. She is like a fortune teller in reading out personal characteristics on people very precisely. Tomoko can predict each juror’s verdict by just looking at the person, listening to the voice. Her high salary for this is worth it. We always bring her to the courtroom during jury selection. This is definitely an advantage for us. Mr. Harris and his side do not have such a person. Time after time, I become a believer of Mrs. Tomoko and her ability to pick out the best jurors. Selecting the best jurors and alternates will take most of today and at least a part of tomorrow. I cannot emphasize enough how important this process is and why we need this time to read out each juror to benefit our side. We want no jurors in the medical field, and no health care providers, either themselves or their relatives who are likely sympathetic to their own professions. Next day, attendance in the courtroom is limited to our side and the defendant attorneys handling juror selection. The judge is here to observe and occasionally asks questions to the jurors. Fifteen more jurors are here today, in case we run out of potential jurors. I give body gestures and make eye contact with Ms. Tomoko constantly. Even though I sit in the passenger seat, I am the one who ultimately decides how this courtroom will look like. It is our best interest to also exclude Asians, and female jurors. They might be more sympathetic and empathetic to Dr. Choi. My target is to bring her down. After interviewing those selected jurors from yesterday, we decide to let go of jurors #1 and #7 because they already made up their minds and appear hostile toward our side which is obviously undesirable. Unfortunately, one of the alternates from yesterday is chosen to replace juror #1, a retired male doctor who used to be a pediatrician. My understanding is that we are not to have any health care workers in the jury but the defendant side argues that he is retired, and therefore, it does not fit the category of health care worker per se. The defendant’s side tries extremely hard to keep him. We lose that battle. We have a potential problem with this retired doctor. He’s likely very accustomed to being an influential leader and other jurors may give him that authority. Other jurors may become deferential to him in their thoughts and verdict. Thank goodness this is not a criminal case where everyone has to agree on a verdict. If we can just convince majority of the jurors, we can win the case. Ultimately, we end up with 12 jurors variable in age, ranging from the oldest, 72 and the youngest, 39 years old; eight whites, two Latinos, one Asian and one African American. Seven are men and five are women. It looks good and favorable to us, except for the retired doctor. The four alternate jurors are also chosen in case a juror is unable or disqualified to perform his or her duties at the time he or she is sworn in, especially important for a lengthy trial case like ours. It may extend up to two weeks. The trial will start tomorrow 9:00 a.m. sharp. It’s showtime!

Read the entire novel. 100% of profits from book sales are donated. Incidents in my new novel portray a female pathologist promoted to department chair. She encounters powerful forces of indoctrinated prejudice and in medicine and exposes false assumptions about medical-legal justice. Ultimately, the doctor presents a case to decontaminate the poisons in this world of unforgiveness. FORGIVE TO LIVE at Amazon and at Smashwords eBooks

Special thanks to pexels-vladislav-reshetnyak, and pexels-ekaterina-bolovtsova for their images.