Murder mystery, civil rights drama and courtroom thriller.
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Diary of an Exploding Judge is about an outspoken woman in a small southern town, battling drug-dealing cops, a corrupt judge and backstabbing lawyers. Star, a young public defender, is charged with murdering the judge presiding over the biggest trial of her career.
The Honorable Owen Otis O'Brien, chief superior court judge of Randleman County, was buried with his black judicial robe today. He had been blown to pieces when his canary yellow Lincoln Town Car exploded on the second day of our trial. The vanity license plate -- Judge O -- survived the blast.
Upon learning of our judge's demise, my client and I laughed out loud in the courtroom. The stenographer turned and stared. So did the clerk, deputies, jurors, Lumbee Defense Committee members, and journalists scribbling quotes for the Randleman Journal and the Fayetteville Times. Luckily TV cameras were banned from the courtroom.
Cops wouldn't know sarcasm if it bit them on the ass. Stupid as it was, I couldn't stop myself. That laugh may have contributed to my being charged with capital murder at 5:47 p.m. today, two days after my courtroom outburst and hours after the judge's funeral. I sit on a metal bench in this tiny holding cell in the catacombs beneath the courthouse unable to make bail.
Everyone calls me Star. I'm short, but not too short (more than attractive enough for government work), with razor cut black hair. That day in court I wore a tan Halston jacket, short skirt and medium heels.
My tall, but not too tall, leathery faced, green-eyed, maroon-haired Lumbee Indian client, Jimmy Ray Oxendine, stood next to me. He wore the navy blue K-Mart polyester suit I paid for. They call Jimmy Ray, the vigilante cop car bomber, the Billy Jack of Randleman. He was on trial for blowing up a deputy's car to avenge the killing of a Lumbee boy by the cops.
I laughed out of a perverse sense of justice only a public defender could understand. We're generally regarded as sickos and antiauthority freaks who easily find humor in death and sorrow. And Judge O'Brien, highest judicial authority in Randleman County and renowned groper of women who work in the courthouse, was dead.
As the designated sex defender in our office -- called upon to zealously defend every indigent rapist, child molester or sodomite, as well as handle a regular caseload -- you'd think I'd be more forgiving of sexual harassment in the workplace. But my clients don't wear black robes or have judicial immunity. Most were abused as kids. Many end up in prison for life, sentenced by hypocrites like Judge O. I stay angry.
Some say wishing won't make it so. But the judge died in much the same way that I had fantasized. Ka-Boom.
Jimmy Ray laughed because, well, how else could a man facing car bombing charges react when told the evil presiding judge blew up before the prosecution put on any evidence? A genie had slipped Jimmy Ray a one wish card - Get Out Of A Legal Jam - and it worked. He had a better chance for freedom with any other judge on the planet.