In the jurisdiction of the Spokane County Superior Court, the choice of which judge might be hearing this trial was a foregone conclusion.
Maximillian Karl was the judge of choice for most cases in the Superior Court arena. Judge Karl was a German born, Black American raised in Colfax, Washington. His father was a black US Infantry non-com from Georgia stationed in Stuttgart who married a German farm girl from Wollenzach in what was then West Germany. Coming back from overseas, the young couple and child settled in the Palouse region south of Spokane.
Being a bi-racial kid in Colfax Elementary school was a unique experience which somehow scrappy little Max survived. Junior High had another set of problems and set in motion the Max’s future. In High school, much to the chagrin and pride of the community, he became an outstanding Interscholastic heavyweight boxer. After graduation, he was recruited and got an athletic scholarship to box for Gonzaga University.
While still an undergraduate, Max Karl launched a meteoric rise as a heavyweight contender in the Amateur Athletic Union and went on to Law School. With his mother’s growth of the soil German farm background he could have quite easily fell into the trap of inheriting the family wheat ranch as a career goal. However, when considering things like climate, seasonal constraints and the damned hard work involved, he didn’t find that inviting. All that together caused him to rethink his choice of career goals.
After passing the bar exam, being unemployed and not wanting to go back to the farm, Max decided to capitalize on his reputation.as a successful boxing competitor and jumped into the political arena. It worked. His first election win was a knockout and the prize was a position on the City Council. His rise in politics matched his ascent in the ring. With the backing of various do-gooder PACs Bro Karl as they liked to call him, soon became the most popular Superior Court Judge in the Tri-County region. Being in a position of influence and able to put a positive spin on issues of race relations helped in all the right circles.
As Judge Karl entered, Bailiff began,
“All rise. The Superior Court of Spokane County, Criminal Division is now in session. The Honorable Judge Maxillian Karl presiding,
“Bailiff what do we have to hear today?”
“Your Honor, today’s case is the State of Washington v. Virgil Fusner.”
Judge Karl says, “Everyone but the jury may be seated.
“Bailiff, Please swear in the jury.”
“Members of the Jury, please stand and raise your right hands.”
After two days of being subjected to the attorney’s attempt to prosecute and defend, the surviving twelve jurors were both relieved, on edge and eager to get started on this high-profile case. They stood quickly,
“Do you solemnly swear to try the issue before this Court and that you will speak to no one except the members of this jury about the facts of this case, nor will you allow anyone to speak to you about the case, except in court and that you will read no news reports regarding this case until you have agreed upon a verdict? Do you so swear?”
In an unrehearsed unison chorus the Jurors all answer,
Without missing a beat the Judge’s instructions to the Jury followed in sequence.
“Members of the jury, having been selected for this case as a citizen of the United States and the State of Washington, you should feel honored for the opportunity. Your duty today will be to determine whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty based only on facts and evidence provided. The prosecution must prove that a crime was committed and that the defendant is the person who committed the crime. It’s your responsibility to listen carefully to all evidence and testimony. The attorneys for the prosecution and defense will try to convince you that their point of view is correct, but it’s your job to be fair and objective in considering all of the facts of the case. However, if you are not satisfied of the defendant’s guilt to that extent, then reasonable doubt exists and the defendant must be found not guilty.”
“You may be seated. Read the charges”
“Virgil Fusner, resident of Spokane is formally charged with the murder of Michael O’Brien, a Marine veteran and employee of the Tribal Casino in Airway Heights. Since O’Brien was member of the Flathead Tribe this charging document is listed as a hate crime in accordance with RCW.9A.36.080 of the Revised Code of Washington State and the Federal statue U.S. Code Title 18 Section 249.”
Having heard the charges read aloud after a superficial scan of the prosecution’s brief, the Judge proceeded with,
“Virgil Fusner, you were read your rights when you were arrested. Do you understand that was done to make sure your legal rights are protected?”
“These cuffs and leg irons ain’t helping.”
“Do you have an attorney?”
“Well you are in luck this morning. We happen to have one that’s always available.
During Fusner’s arraignment, Dibley Jackson’s and his guide dog, Pluto had arrived at the court house in his chauffeured limo, just in time to be appointed as Fusner’s attorney.
“Mr. Jackson, come on up and meet your new client. Maybe Mr.Fusner can give you enough of his story for this case to move forward.”
During a very brief consult with his client, Dibs listened to Fusner’s version of what had happened. Based on his initial legal assessment, he advised Fusner to plead not guilty in order to get things started on a balanced basis for argument.
“Virgil Fusner. How do you plead?”
“Not guilty, your honor.”
“In light of the severity and extenuating circumstances of this case being considered a hate crime, bail is set at ten thousand dollars.”
With bail set at ten thousand dollars, there wasn’t any possible way for Fusner to leave town, let alone get out of the County jail. And charging Fusner with Murder in the first degree demanded premeditation and planning.
“May it please the Court your Honor, Mr. Fusner has neither the means or resources to make bail or leave town. The defense requests a reduction in the amount of bail and that Mr. Fusner be released to his own recognizance.”
“Your Honor, the prosecution believes Mr. Fusner’s rap sheet indicates he is totally untrustworthy and could easily be a threat to himself and the pubic if he is released.”
“Agreed. Take the accused back to his cell.”