Castle Roland

Three Finger Cove - Robert
Book II

by Chowhound


Chapter 55

Published: 19 May 16

Three Finger Cove – Robert

Copyright © 2012 - 2016
by Chowhound
All rights reserved

'Dad' Ken and 'son' Robert arrived at the courthouse at 9 AM sharp. Bill asked the two of them to meet him and Stewart there so they could go over the scenario and decide how to 'defeat' DA Morris and Lawyer Stricklunds, at their own game. They reviewed what Bill and Stew said during court yesterday and prepared Robert to potentially answer Judge Rossenburger's questions.

At 10 AM sharp, Judge Steven Rossenburger walked into his courtroom and sat at his bench.

"Bailiff … close and lock the door," ordered the judge.

"Is the defendant's lawyer here and, if so, state your name for the record?" asked the judge.

"Yes your honor, Steven Stricklunds representing Frank and Angela Harrison," the lawyer replied.

"Are the petitioner's lawyers present and, if so, state your name for the record?" requested Judge Rossenburger.

"We are your honor. I am William Jackson, representing the petitioners Guardian Ken Thomas and with me is Stewart Russell representing Robert Arthur Harrison," answered Mr. Jackson.

"'Dad' why is the judge asking them to identify themselves?" whispered Robert, to Mr. Ken.

"I think he wants to make sure none of the lawyers can contest the proceedings and or claim they didn't know what transpired or even claim bias of the judge, when he rules. It is as if he will have them personally put their names into the court record. Now, watch and listen," fully explained Mr. Ken.

"And who else did you bring to this hearing counselor?" asked Judge Rossenburger, of William Jackson and Stewart Russell.

Stewart took the question and told the judge they brought Ms. Judy Turner, the Director of Child Protective Services, and Doctor Douglas Jennings, Robert's Child Psychologist, along with them. The judge nodded to recognize the two people's appearance then went back to what he was doing.

"Is the District Attorney, or his representative present, and if so, state your name for the record?" continued the sitting judge.

Judge Rossenburger waited a full two minutes before he asked his question again. He waited another full minute before asking the same question one last time.

When the judge didn't hear anyone announce they were in the courtroom representing the District Attorney's Office, Judge Rossenburger issuing a bench warrant for District Attorney George Morris and his Assistant John Green. The other lawyer's looked at one another not knowing what was going to happen next.

"I am happy to see that two of the three interested parties are present for this hearing, this morning," began Judge Rossenburger. "Since his lawyers are present, I take it Robert Harrison is present as well."

Robert was nudged to stand up by Mr. Ken and the lad did, so. The judge looked down at the boy and said, "State your name, lad."

"Sir … my … ah … judge, sir, my name ah … is Robert Harrison," Robert stumbled out.

Steven Stricklunds smiled to himself after hearing how Robert replied to the judge. He told himself that if the lad was this scared, now, it would be a pleasure to terrify him, on the stand, in two weeks. Mr. Stricklunds just relaxed in his seat and waited for his turn to justify the need for the Harrison's trial to start at the date it was announced for.

"Robert … I take it this is your first time in a courtroom?" simply asked the judge.

"No, sir," meekly replied Robert.

"Then, can you tell me, son, when was it the last time you were inside a courtroom?" the judge now wanted to know.

Robert first looked to his lawyers and then to his 'dad' to see what he should do. He saw them all indicating he needed to answer the judge's question.

"Your Honor … I was summoned by Judge Terryman to his court. He said he just wanted to talk to me in his private room, sir," answered Robert.

When Judge Rossenburger heard the judge's name used, a name he wasn't prepared to hear, he then became concerned that this might be the boy who is associated with the now disgraced judge, and the reason for Judge Terryman's arrest and downfall. He knew he had to find that out and quick.

"Mr. Jackson and Mr. Russell would you two, please, come to the side of my bench?" calmly requested Judge Rossenburger.

"I object, your Honor," screamed Steven Stricklunds, as he began to stand up, "those two represent the lad, who is requesting this trial be delayed, and I believe I should be included in that Side Bar in order that my clients are fully represented in all decisions, your honor."

"Overruled," banged the judge, as he began to face the far side of his bench, in order to talk to Bill and Stew.

As quietly as possible, the judge asked the two lawyers, "Can you answer me whether or not Robert Harrison is the unnamed boy involved in Judge Terryman's child sex case?"

Bill looked at Stewart who looked back and then they stepped back and away from the judge's bench. They discussed the pros and cons of their answer and then went back to Judge Rossenburger and told the man, "Your Honor, we prefer NOT to answer that question without the advice of Judge Richards who made the initial accusation, and ordered the man's arrest."

"I take it then you two were present, in the courtroom, when all that happened?" quietly asked the judge.

Again, the two lawyers looked to one another and, then, Bill took the lead and responded, "Yes, sir … we were present."

"Thank you, that will be all," said the judge as he dismissed the two lawyers.

"I still object to your Honor's exclusion of my clients interests in that Side Bar," almost yelled Steven Stricklunds.

"Overruled," again gaveled the judge.

"The reason we are here today is to review whether or not justice can still be served if the courts agree to the petitioners request to a delay of the trial he is associated with. Since yesterday was the first time this court was even made aware of the precarious status of the County's star witness, Robert Arthur Harrison, I deemed it prudent, this court ascertain, if there is good reason to grant the petitioner's request," stated Judge Rossenburger.

"I object your Honor," Steve Stricklunds called out, as he began to stand only to have the judge gavel him to keep quiet.

"Mister Stricklunds … this court is going to review all the facts dealing with the initial delays of your client's trials, and the onerous, and potentially, damaging, way the District Attorney was going to treat his star witness," the judge chastised. "We are also here to listen to that same witness's reasonable request to not interfere with his education, at a most critical juncture in his school year, namely his end of year exams. Your objections, to everything and anything, will not be tolerated by this court, so … I ask your indulgence and to sit quietly and make notes and when it is your turn to talk I will be glad to listen. Are WE clear, Mr. Stricklunds?"

"Perfectly, your Honor," came the man's reply.

Judge Rossenburger took care of some procedural requirements before he began the actual hearing. It was during this time that the Bailiff heard some pounding on the courtroom doors and went to investigate. He found District Attorney George Morris and Assistant District Attorney John Green waiting to enter the courtroom. He refused their admittance until the judge motioned for the man to allow them to enter.

"What is the meaning of your LATE arrival to my courtroom, Mr. Morris and Mr. Green? Did I NOT say the hearing would begin at 10 AM, Mr. Green?" the judge angrily questioned the two latecomers. "There are Bench Warrants out, for you two, for your information! Bailiff, since the two are now present, you can have those warrants canceled."

From that moment forward, the judge did not let up on those two representatives of the District Attorney's Office. He told them that since they didn't feel it necessary to be there, on time, that, in no uncertain terms, were they to interfere with the proceedings and if they did he would hold them in contempt.

Judge Rossenburger then began a systematic review of the series of delays the Harrison's lawyer seemed to orchestrate. He began with questioning the Harrison's lawyer as why he wasn't ready for the first trial date. Then, before the lawyer could answer, the judge asked the man to again tell the court why it was necessary for a 'change of venue' that was ultimately denied. Again, the judge didn't let the lawyer respond and asked him about his inability to locate Robert Harrison when the court record shows the lawyer did receive the address of the witness. Steve Stricklunds knew not to respond because Judge Rossenburger had already moved onto asking the lawyer to explain how he could tell the court he already had a trial scheduled when it didn't show up on the court docket, until seven days later.

As lawyer Stricklunds rose to respond to each and every question or potential complaint lodged by the judge, Judge Rossenburger announced that he was going to refer him to the ethics board for his conduct in manipulating the courts, for his conduct in his apparently lying about not knowing where the witness was located, and his bold face lie to the courts about a trial he hadn't even scheduled to obtain a delay for his clients. The judge further stated he would also refer the same questions to the bar association. After hearing what the judge declared he would do, Steve Stricklunds could only sit back down and begin to ponder his future if all, or even any, of the charges were proven to be true.

Judge Rossenburger then questioned the District Attorney directly. He asked DA Morris to explain his reasoning to spend four hours on every school night and all day Saturday preparing his star witness prior to the start of the Harrison's trial. District Attorney Morris categorically denied he was ever going to spend that much time preparing the witness. It was then, Mr. Thomas presented the actual letter signed by DA Morris outlining the DA's overbearing plan to prepare his foster son. District Attorney George Morris had no rebuttal to his letter other than to say an over exuberant staffer must have misinterpreted the outline that he prepared for use with Robert.

The judge then turned his attention to Robert Harrison. He convened that hearing in order to hear from the lad and, ascertain the truth behind the boy's argument, which he could be under a lot of unneeded stress during a time he was required to take the State mandated STAAR tests on top of his own school's final exams. The judge knew he delayed getting to this part, as much as he could, so he called Robert to the witness stand.

After Robert was seated, in the witness box, the judge looked over to him and asked him right out if the lad knew why he was there that morning. After getting an affirmative response, Judge Rossenburger began talking to the preteen.

"Robert … your answers to my questions will have a huge bearing on whether or not your parents' trial will proceed, in two weeks. I will ask you a few questions and I would like your honest answers. I would also ask you to NOT disclose anything that might be used in the upcoming trial.

"So, Robert, my first and obvious question … 'how did you get that shiner?'" smiled the judge.

Robert explained what happened, at school, the previous week, and the judge was satisfied the lad had not been mistreated at his, now, fourth foster home. So, Judge Rossenburger continued.

"Robert, when did you learn that District Attorney Morris was going to begin preparing you for your testimony, in your parents' trial?" directly asked the judge.

"Your Honor, my 'dad' told me last night. He said he knew on Monday but that he didn't want to tell me, until he had, too, because he knew Mr. Bill and Mr. Stewart, oh that's Mr. Jackson and Mr. Russell, were attempting to have the trial postponed. He explained to me that is was because of the overlapping of the trial and my having to take the STAAR test and then to get ready for my school finals," replied Robert Harrison.

DA Morris stood with the intent of asking the preteen a question about his answer when the judge told the man that this was HIS hearing, which was explained the previous day. The judge further told the DA, he would ask HIS questions, to determine his ruling on the request to postpone the trial until after the school term was over. He reminded the DA, since he couldn't be on time, he was there only as an observer and would not have the opportunity to ask any questions.

The judge then focused his attention back, on Robert, and asked, "Okay … how do you see the pending trail interfering with your taking any or all of your tests?"

"Well … your Honor," began Robert, "if I had to spend four hours a night, with Mr. Morris … how would I ever have time to spend studying for all those tests? Sure, the STAAR test tests you on what you were supposed to have learned throughout the school year, but, for my school finals, I've only been there since after the Holidays and I don't know what to expect on my final exams."

"Bobby …," was all the judge got out before Robert interrupted him.

"Robert, I go by Robert, sir. Could you please call me by that name?" Robert sincerely asked the judge.

"Why, yes … yes, young man, I think I could do that and thank you for correcting me," replied Judge Rossenburger.

"Robert... what would you say if someone told you that your parents' right to a fair and speedy trial and their constitutional right to that trail should override your right to an education."

Robert sat there perplexed at what he considered were two questions. He couldn't figure out how he could answer them together, so he asked the Judge, "Sir … can I answer them separately or do I have to answer them as a combined question?"

"Robert … I only asked you one question. Did you not understand the question?" the judge wanted to know.

"Well … I thought you first asked me to say something about my parent's right to a fair and speedy trial. Then … I thought you asked me what I thought about their constitutional right to that fair trial in comparison to my constitutional right to an education. I don't know if I can answer them combined," honestly replied Robert.

The judge had the court reporter read back the last question, he asked the lad. What he found was that when the question was read back, it did seem like he, the judge, did ask two different questions. Judge Rossenburger then apologized, to the lad, for asking such confusing questions and, therefore, the lad could answer the way he wanted.

Robert told the judge he understood the right of every man, woman, and child in America to a fair and speedy trial, and he wouldn't want just anything to delay that. As for the constitutional right of one person overriding the constitutional rights of another, he felt that the two needed to compromise so both felt like they each were treated fairly.

"Lastly, Robert … what would it mean to you, personally, if you could postpone, or delay, your parent's trial, until after school let out?" the judge wanted to know.

Robert wasn't sure what the judge was really asking with the question, but he decided to reply, "Judge … not having to testify, until after school let out, would take a big load off my mind. I'm already stressing out over the STAAR tests and then I have no idea what kind of final exams my teacher is going to give me. I have been dreading having to testify, at my parent's trial, and if I have to do the trial and study I just don't know how I could handle all of them, at the same time.

"I do not want to flunk and have to repeat 7th grade. My parents making me testify right now can only hurt me; it can't help, or be good to me, at all. Being told to testify would be just like what they told me to do which got them to now where they are, now, in jail."

"Thank you, young man, I have to say you have a pretty good head on your shoulders and I am impressed with the way you handled yourself, in my courtroom today. You may step down," concluded Judge Rossenburger.

"Now, Doctor Jennings, from where you are, please tell me, in your professional opinion how you feel that making Robert testify, before the end of school, will affect the young man.?" The judge wanted to know.

"To be honest, your Honor, Robert is presently juggling way too many demons, as he calls them. He's in his fourth foster home in less than fifteen months. He was abused in his last foster home and it has only added to what he is still dealing with, from when he lived with his parents. He struggled, at first, in trying to fit into his new school and whether or not his classmates would find out about who he is. Then, there was the recent incident with Judge Terryman. Need I go on your Honor?" finished Doc Doug.

Judge Rossenburger sat at his bench, for a few minutes, and then looked at the time. He declared it was time for lunch and told the assembled group he would issue his ruling, at 2 o'clock, that afternoon. He banged his gavel and then he left the courtroom.

At lunch, the large group of professional people and one preteen looked out of place at the local restaurant they choose to sit and eat. Everyone was dressed in go to meeting clothes, including the young lad. They all knew not to order anything that was juicy, messy, or could otherwise drip and stain their clothes, so they stuck with either a simple salad, sandwich, or chicken strips. That was everyone but Robert. He asked his 'dad' if he could get the spaghetti and meatballs with garlic toast and when all the adults looked at the lad, as if he was crazy, or something, he smiled back at them and said "Gotcha!" That little bit of craziness helped settle down the group and they all had a nice and relaxing lunch.

"All rise," called out the Bailiff, "this court is convened by the Honorable Judge Steven Rossenburger, presiding." This time everyone, who was supposed to be at the start of court, at 10 AM, that morning made sure they were all present, at 2 PM, for the judge's decision on Robert's request to postpone his parents' trial, until after the end of school in about four weeks.

The judge sat up behind his lofty bench, or elevated desk, presuming to sort through some papers but was actually thinking how he can deliver his ruling, without looking to be biased, against the losing party. He knew he couldn't stall, much longer, as he already took the day well past normal afternoon court starting time. He then sighed and looked over the assembled group and decided to begin.

"Thank you all for being here this afternoon, and on time for a change. This request will make for very interesting case law in the years to come, no matter what decision I render today. What we ultimately have here today is on one hand the constitutional rights of the accused, to have a fair and speedy trial. On the other hand, we have the constitutional right of a witness, a minor child, nonetheless, to receive an education. This court believed it was asked to decide if one constitutional right trumps the other.

"As adults, we all tend to lean towards what is fair for the accused, so there can be no challenge, or appeal, that the law wasn't followed, or someone's constitutional rights were trampled on. But, in the case of a minor child this viewpoint can be and IS very different. The child may still look at things in black and white while, at the same time, he also looks to his adult mentors for guidance and fairness.

"I did some research on whether, or not, one person's rights could supersede another's, and when that is possible. I want you to know I could find very little Case Law that even remotely covers this situation. The question here is, 'Do children have rights?' and if they do, do they have all the rights that adults have? I had to ask myself, if they do NOT have those same rights, as the adults do, how do we ensure that they are, at least, treated in some way that is the morally right way? I was not able to find any State, which has had to deal with this type of question. This has led me to have to think 'outside the box' for my ruling.

"But … in ALL my reading and research, my most prevalent finding showed that adults are required to protect and care for children, at all costs. It didn't matter who the writer was, or their status, they all had the same inherent tenant, that adults protect children, period. … So, again, we come down to the question … whether, or not, one person's 'rights' … are more important than someone else's. I wish there had been other decisions concerning this issue so I wouldn't be looked upon, or, held out as the 'bad' guy, but … ultimately, some of you will go away today sorely disappointed, thinking their argument wasn't good enough, while, the others will go home feeling they were in the 'right' and will adjust their plans, and move forward," stated the judge, without any emotion and then made a motion, as if he was looking for his written ruling.

District Attorney George Morris inwardly smiled, as he heard the last thing the judge just said. He felt the judge made it clear that he will get to continue with the Harrison's trial and, because of this short delay, due to the hearing, the trial would take place at the end of the week, two weeks from today. DA Morris figured, in fourteen days, when the trial began, the trial will place his name in all the households, of the State.

Lawyer Steven Stricklunds also smiled inside, as he too read, into the judge's last words, that his clients will be tried when their son was most vulnerable, to outside and inside forces, and would prove to be a very unreliable witness. He again told himself he couldn't wait to get the child on the witness stand, and tear him apart.

The judge made it appear he found what he was looking for but, in reality, he was stalling while trying to break the tension that was evident in the courtroom, just, then. Now, holding the piece of paper, in both hands, the judge motioned he was about to issue his ruling.

"People, I want you to know this was a very hard and difficult decision, to make," began the judge. … "It is the ruling, of this court, and of the judge, who is to preside over the trial of Frank and Angela Harrison, that no one person's right, to a speedy trial, supersedes those of another's right, to a good education. Since, we as adults are supposed to protect our children the minor child, Robert Arthur Harrison, is granted his petition for postponement."

At hearing Judge Rossenburger's decision, George Morris stood up and began shouting his objections because he had thought he should have won. Joining him were also his Assistant District Attorney, John Green, and the defendant's lawyer, Steven Stricklunds, who added to the confusion going on in the courtroom. The judge had to gavel the courtroom to be quiet, before he could continue.

"The delay for 30 days of this trial does not harm the defendant's right to a fair and speedy trial, as they had already delayed the trial, for over nine months, and so one more month will not matter. But, what does matter is that we adults … we are supposed to take care of our children and look out for their best interests. We have the advantage of experience and thus should always defer to what is 'best for the child.

"The best interest, in the case, of the minor child, Robert Arthur Harrison, is to allow him to finish his school year so, that, he can concentrate on his testimony and not have to worry about his grades, or if he will pass, the school year. As Robert's school dismisses, for the year, on a Thursday, I am moving the trial to begin the Thursday of the following week. This court is now adjourned!" announced Judge Rossenburger, who then proceeded to exit the courtroom.

Ken Thomas grabbed his foster son, Robert, in a big victory hug and spun around with him. The lad smiled big and returned the man's hug. Their lawyers, along with Ms. Judy and Doctor Doug, patted them, on their backs, in a show of support, for the 'winning' side. The group exited the courtroom, very happy, they had prevailed for, the sake of, the minor child, Robert Arthur Harrison.

George Morris, John Green and Steven Stricklunds were all dismayed, at the turn of events. They each thought the judge was going to rule in their favor but they now would have to regroup and get ready for the trial in, what appeared to be, the second week of June. They each walked out of the courtroom, and ultimately the courthouse, dejected, but with the thought they now had more time to prepare.

Mr. Stricklunds was still reeling from the tongue lashing he received from the judge, that morning, and continued to worry about his future. But, he had the duty to inform his clients, of the turn of events, so he decided to head over to the jail, to talk to them.

For District Attorney George Morris, this was not his first defeat, and wouldn't be his last. For now, he told himself, he needed to closely work with Ken Thomas for access to Robert, so he can get the lad ready, for the upcoming trial. The two men had a run in, not too many months ago, and that was still playing on the back of the District Attorney's mind. The man and his then foster son, Collin, defied him over their release of information about the shooting at Three Finger Cove.

DA George Morris had wanted to use the systematic release, of the shootings details, to be made by him, directly, so he would get more and more 'free' camera time, for his future bid for higher office. But, George Morris found himself thwarted by Bill Jackson and Judge Adam Richards who went to the County Commissioners and filed ethics charges against him. He thanked his lucky stars he didn't lose his position and, eventually, he got reelected.

Momma Maria had a special 'winner's' dinner prepared for her 'men' that evening, after hearing the good news. Chief also understood something good had happened and after she pestered Mr. Ken, long enough, he told her what happened. Anyone, there, would have sworn that the Labrador retriever knew exactly what Mr. Ken told her. The dog got a big doggie smile on her snout and then she did a dance of sorts. She then licked the man's face and then rushed to Robert to give him her special 'kisses' to her, special, boy.

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