<h3>Excerpt</h3> <div><div> <h2>CHAPTER 1</h2> <p>"Mr. Swyteck, I'm calling from Judge Matthews' chambers."</p> <p>Jack gripped his smart phone a little tighter. The judge's assistant was on the line. Jack was on verdict watch at his Coconut Grove law office, eating lunch with his best friend, Theo Knight.</p> <p>"Is there a verdict?"</p> <p>"Yes, sir. There is a verdict."</p> <p>The words hit him like a 5-iron. This is it.</p> <p>Criminal Case No. 2010-48-CF, State of Florida v. Sydney Louise Bennett, had spanned twenty-nine court days, plus two weeks of jury selection. Fifty-nine witnesses over eighteen days for the prosecution. Another forty-seven witnesses for the defense. The jury had been drawn from a pool in the Vero Beach area, a hundred miles away from the Miami Justice Building, after three years of intense pretrial publicity. The twelve selected to serve had been sequestered since day one, the week before Memorial Day. Deliberations had started on the Fourth of July, despite the holiday. The jury had been out for ten hours. Six hours longer than the jury in the O. J. Simpson trial - the trial of the other century.</p> <p>"The verdict will be announced at two fifteen p.m.," the assistant said.</p> <p>Jack thanked her and hung up. He wanted to speak to his client, but she was in the detention center across the street - lucky Thirteenth Street, as it was known - from the courtroom where Jack had last seen her, where Judge Matthews had released the jury at nine a.m. to begin day two of deliberations. Jack wondered if Sydney had been biting her nails again. It was a nervous habit she'd started before the trial, sometime after her twenty-fourth birthday, the third she'd spent behind bars without bail.</p> <p>Her chestnut hair was two feet longer than when they'd first met, her prison pallor a few shades whiter.</p> <p>"Showtime?" asked Theo.</p> <p>Jack didn't have to say anything; the news was all over his face. He speed dialed his co-counsel, but she'd already seen the "breaking development" on Twitter. Jack had assiduously avoided the social media during trial, but like everyone else under the age of thirty, Hannah Goldsmith was addicted to all electronic forms of information overload. Fortunately, she was as facile on her feet in a courtroom as she was with her thumbs on a keypad. They agreed to meet at the courthouse.</p> <p>The moment Jack's call ended, Theo asked the proverbial $64,000 question - one that only the jurors could answer.</p> <p>"Is ten hours a good sign or a bad sign?"</p> <p>Jack paused. Conventional wisdom among prosecutors and many defense lawyers is that quick verdicts mean a conviction. But most homicide cases in which the state seeks the death penalty aren't based entirely on circumstantial evidence. And there was that well- known outlier - the Simpson case. Sydney was no celebrity, but comparisons in the media between the two high profile murder trials were relentless. "Juani Cochran" they called her lawyer, the Latino version of Johnnie Cochran, even though Jack was only half Hispanic and had been raised a complete gringo, his Cuban American mother having died in childbirth.</p> <p>It was intended as an insult, triggered by a broken English interview, his abuela had given on talk radio in defense of a grandson who, even in her view, was on the wrong side of the case.</p> <p>"I think it's a good sign," Jack said.</p> <p>Theo glanced up from his iPhone, where the news was streaming in real time. "Talking heads are all saying guilty."</p> <p>As if that mattered. More than six hundred press passes had been issued for media coverage, and every major broadcast network had at least one reporter at the trial. HLN and MSNBC had built two story air-conditioned structures across from the courthouse for reporters and crews. People had daily in court coverage, splashing the case on its magazine cover in the midst of trial. Legal analysis on Breaking News Network extended from early morning through prime time. BNN's regular nightly segments competed with network specials like "Inside the Trial of Sydney Bennett" on Dateline NBC and "Only Sydney Knows" on 48 Hours Mystery at CBS. Courtroom 3 had become another Miami tourist destination, like South Beach and the Seaquarium, with spectators coming from as far away as Japan to vie for the fifty seats available to the public. Verbal altercations were common, at least one having escalated to an all out fistfight that required police intervention. Critics said it was the defense who courted the media. They neglected to mention that, unlike the prosecution, Jack had avoided all interviews and had issued not a single press release. Never in his fifteen years as a lawyer had he done television ads, billboards, or anything of the sort. Sydney Bennett was definitely not someone he had gone out looking to represent.</p> <p>The case had found him.</p> <p>Jack glanced at the flat screen television on the wall. The anchor at BNN studios in New York - the ringmaster of "Sydney Watch Central" - was on the air. The excitement in her eyes made the banner at the bottom of the screen superfluous: jury has reached a verdict.</p> <p>Jack left his uneaten lunch on his desk, grabbed his briefcase, and hurried out to the car. Picketers had been marching outside his law office since the start of jury deliberations, but they were too busy scrambling to their vehicles, posters tucked under their arms, to pester Jack any longer. They'd already gotten word of the BNN news flash and knew the wait was over. Theo drove, so gravel flew when they pulled out of the parking lot. The picketers followed.</p> <p>"You never asked me if Sydney did it," Jack said.</p> <p>Theo's gaze remained fixed on the road. Theo Knight was Jack's best friend, bartender, therapist, confidant, and sometime investigator. He was also a former client, a one time gang banger who easily could have ended up dead on the streets of Overtown or Liberty City. Today he was Jack's self-appointed bodyguard, having insisted on driving Jack back to his office after closing arguments - after Jack's second anonymous death threat, one that seemed a bit too credible.</p> <p>"None of my business, dude," said Theo.</p> <p>That struck Jack as funny.</p> <p>"Why you laugh?" asked Theo.</p> <p>Sydney's guilt or innocence had become the entire country's business.</p> <p>Everyone professed to "know" she was the worst kind of killer.</p> <p>"No reason," said Jack.</p> <p>They rode in silence, the afternoon sun glaring on the windshield. Jack thought of Emma. Almost three years old at the time of her death. Two years, nine months, and twenty four days, if you believed the defense and placed the date of death on April 28. If you sided with the prosecution, there was no way to know how long Emma had lived. She was two years and ... something. The state had never proved a time of death. Or a cause of death. Even the alleged manner of death – homicide - was a matter of opinion. So many things, unproven. There was no disputing, however, that the badly decomposed remains of Sydney's daughter had been found in a plastic garbage bag near the Florida Everglades. Emma would be almost six years old now, a beautiful little girl fresh out of kindergarten, full of personality, ready to crack the books, meet Junie B. Jones, and conquer the first grade. Jack wondered what she might be doing on this hot summer day with her mother or grandmother if things had not gone so wrong, if this nightmare had never happened. But it had happened. Nothing could change that. Across the nation, people who had never met Emma or Sydney, many who had never felt compelled to follow a courtroom trial in their life, were demanding justice.</p> <p>"Justice for Emma."</p> <p>Throngs of spectators waited outside the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building. Choppers from local television news stations circled overhead. Traffic around the courthouse was shut down. News of the impending two p.m. announcement had spread across the country. Jack's gaze drifted up to the top floor of an unremarkable building that betrayed the glamorized shots of Miami on television and resembled the architecture of the former Soviet Union. Behind those walls, the jury would render its verdict, insulated from the onlookers who jostled with the media for a place to stand on the sidewalk and steps outside the courthouse. The growing buzz of activity was surreal, like armies of angry fire ants making quick work of fallen mangoes, which were everywhere this time of year. Theo pulled up as close to the courthouse as the police perimeter would allow. Jack got out at the curb.</p> <p>"Good luck," said Theo.</p> <p>"Thanks," said Jack.</p> <p>July in Miami is a veritable sauna, especially west of the interstate, away from the breezes off Biscayne Bay. In a sea of sweaty bodies clad in short pants and sleeveless shirts, a criminal defense lawyer dressed in pinstripes was an easy mark. No single voice in the crowd was discernible, so what Jack heard was more like a collective "There he is!"</p> <p>Some spectators suddenly rushed toward the courthouse, others toward Jack. Cameramen flanked him on the sidewalk. Television reporters got right in his face, elbowing out their competition, firing off questions that presumed the outcome and that all ran together.</p> <p>"How worried is your client?"</p> <p>"Was it a mistake for Sydney not to testify?"</p> <p>"Who will defend her on appeal?"</p> <p>Jack answered none of them. Most onlookers were women, many of them red with sunburn, anger, or both. A line of police officers kept the crowd at bay as Jack climbed the courthouse steps. The jeers were nothing he hadn't heard before, but they seemed louder and angrier than usual.</p> <p>"Baby killer!"</p> <p>"Today's the day, Jack ass!" That and "Jack off" had become the preferred terms of endearment, at least when they weren't calling him Juani Cochran.</p> <p>Jack pushed through the crowd, funneled through the revolving door, and headed to the security checkpoint, where armed guards with metal- detecting wands shuffled visitors along. The standard security check took only a minute, but with a mob on the courthouse steps, some with faces pressed to the windows, the process seemed much longer. Jack gathered his belongings, crossed the rotunda, and squeezed into an open elevator. The unwritten rule of crowded elevator etiquette – silence - was broken by one especially persistent reporter, but Jack didn't respond. No one got off until the elevator reached the sixth floor, an effective express ride, as if nothing else happening in the courthouse mattered.</p> <p>As Jack started toward the courtroom doors, the sound of another elevator chime stopped him.</p> <p>The metal doors parted. It was the team of prosecutors. Melinda Crawford and her entourage looked decidedly confident as they approached, just as they had since the first day of trial. Admittedly, Crawford's three hour closing argument had been nothing short of brilliant. Jack held the courtroom door for her. She opened the other door for herself, leaving Jack holding his for no one. The team followed her inside.</p> <p>"You're welcome," said Jack.</p> <p>The prosecutors went to the right, toward the long rectangular table nearer the empty jury box. Jack started toward the defense table, where his co-counsel was already seated.</p> <p>For Jack, just seeing Hannah Goldsmith triggered memories of his first trial - with Hannah's father. Neil Goderich had founded the Freedom Institute to handle the overload of "death cases" generated at the hand of Jack's father, Harry Swyteck, the law-and-order governor who had signed more death warrants than any governor in Florida history. Four years of defending the guilty would prove to be enough for Jack. His resignation didn't end the friendship, however, so Jack naturally said yes when Neil had come down sick and asked Jack to cover "just one lousy hearing" in a new case. "Not since Thea Knight have I believed so strongly in a client's innocence," he'd told Jack. Two years later - a month before trial - Neil was dead. By then, State v. Bennett had become a pop culture juggernaut. Postponing trial to find new defense counsel wasn't an option the judge would consider. Jack hadn't so much as thought about Sydney Bennett since that favor for Neil, but that single hearing two years earlier made him the only living "attorney of record." Jack wasn't the first lawyer to get stuck in a criminal trial after making a pretrial appearance - that's why criminal defense lawyers insist on being paid upfront - but it was the first time it had happened to him. Jack could defend Sydney or go to jail. "No good deed goes unpunished," Judge Matthews had told him, the perfect TV sound bite to punctuate the court's denial of Jack's motion to withdraw. Hannah called Jack that evening and agreed to second-chair the trial.</p> <p>Somewhere, high above the fracas, Neil undoubtedly found peace in knowing that his last case had turned Jack and Hannah into national pariahs.</p> <p>"Is Sydney on her way up?" Jack asked.</p> <p>As if on cue, the side door near their table opened. A pair of deputies escorted the guest of dishonor into the courtroom. Criminal defendants were not required to be shackled or clothed in prison garb in front of a jury. Sydney was wearing a conservative pink ruffled blouse and beige slacks, her long chestnut hair up in a bun. Of course the lawyers had chosen the outfit for her, as they had for each day of trial. The media had excoriated the defense for that, too, as if Jack were expected to tell his client to show up for court like Michael Jackson, dressed in pajamas and sunglasses.</p> <p>Sydney appeared tentative at first, a normal reaction to the obvious tension in the courtroom. Her step quickened as she approached her lawyers. Hannah embraced her, but Jack didn't. "No public display of affection" was a holdover from his days at the Freedom Institute, days of defending the worst that death row had to offer. Jack's adherence to that rule, however, had done nothing to stem the Freudian babble of pop psychiatrists, so called expert commentators who spent hour after televised hour dissecting Sydney's "seductive glances," "naughty pouts," and "Bambi-like blinks" at her handsome attorney. The dichotomy of her prior life - loving single mother by day, slutty cocktail waitress by night - was part of the public fascination.</p> <p>"I can't stand this waiting," Sydney whispered.</p> <p>"Not much longer," said Jack. </div></div><br/> <i>(Continues...)</i> <!-- Copyright Notice --> <div><blockquote><hr noshade size="1"><font size="-2">Excerpted from <b>Blood Money</b> by <b>James Grippando</b>. Copyright © 2013 by James Grippando. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.<br/>All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br/>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.</font><hr noshade size="1"></blockquote></div>