For All Nails #51K: Victoria's Secret (Part 11)

by Jonathan Edelstein

Magistrate's Court
Nairobi, Victoria
6 May 1973

The cross-examination was brutal. Harry Keller had been at it for most of the day, and he seemed determined to leave no stone unturned. Victoria had been prepared for a thorough raking-over, but even she was surprised by how minutely Keller intended to explore her life. In the past seven hours, it seemed as if he'd cross-examined her about every public statement she'd ever made, every client she'd represented, every half-remembered connection to the underground. He'd quizzed her about her association with black radicals all the way back to secondary school, and no doubt would have asked about the VNC sympathizer she'd shared a cradle with if he'd only known.

She wondered if he thought he was repairing the damage done by her two days of personal conversation with the jury. She wondered if he was repairing the damage.

We won't know that until the verdict, will we? The more immediate concern was what Keller had saved for last; it was getting on for four thirty, and she was sure he had a grand finale planned for the end of the day. She'd studied his courtroom style, and he believed that it was always best to leave the jury with something to remember.

She agreed with him about very few things, but that was one of them.

"So, Victoria," he said. "Let's return to your summation in the Nzibo case, shall we? It was one of your more celebrated cases, I believe?"

"That often happens when I win." She looked around at the jurors conspiratorially, and counted at least four clandestine smiles. I suppose I haven't lost them yet.

"Move to strike as nonresponsive," Keller replied. "The witness is making speeches."

"I've been letting you do that most of the day," said Magistrate Ian Douglas. "Ask your next question, and don't push your luck."

"At any rate, Victoria," continued Keller, "I was referring to the comment you made at page 1228 of the trial transcript. What was it you said? 'The defendant fought, but he fought for what was right?'"

"Well, I don't have page 1228 in front of me right now, but that sounds about right."

"Of course that sounds right, Victoria -- hasn't it been painted on ten thousand walls?"

"I couldn't say yes or no to that, Mr. Keller. I never kept count."

"Hasn't it been chanted at thousands of Victoria National Congress meetings?"

"As I said before, Mr. Keller, I'm not a member of the VNC, so I'm hardly privy to what goes on at their meetings. I do know some of them have adopted it, yes, although they must be hard up for slogans if they've taken that as one."

"But haven't they adopted it - your words, Victoria -- because it was an espousal of everything they stand for? Weren't you saying that it's all right to shoot farmers and rape farmers' daughters, as long as it was all done in a good cause? Wasn't that statement a repudiation of everything you've been saying to the jury these last two days?"

"Well, Mr. Keller, there are two answers to that. I could say that it was rhetoric on behalf of a client, much like the rhetoric you're using now. But that would be too easy -- unlike you, I take responsibility for what I say. That summation had nothing to do with shooting farmers or raping farmers' daughters, and everything to do with how Michael Nzibo could be falsely accused of such things because he had fought for peaceful change. There's more than one way to fight, Mr. Keller. I believe Mr. Nzibo chose the right way -- and evidently the jury believed that too."

"Quite a facile response, Victoria. No doubt it's good at swaying juries. But do you deny that the VNC has used your words to praise murderers? 'They fought for what's right?'"

"Once I say something, Mr. Keller, I have no control over who borrows it. You should know that, shouldn't you? I believe it was you who first used the phrase 'one law for one Victoria,' but I've used it myself on quite a few occasions. It comes in handy for summations -- I believe you might find it on page 1230 of the Nzibo trial, in fact."

"How convenient for you," said Keller, almost spluttering. "You defend the VNC when it suits you, and disavow them when it suits you. Rather hypocritical, isn't it?"

I won't get a better straight line than that if I wait all day. "No more so, certainly," Victoria answered, "than your building a political career out of denying civil rights to your daughter."

"To my what?" Keller's polished courtroom manner, already frayed from the last ten minutes' exchange, vanished entirely. "What kind of nonsense is this?"

Victoria looked at him evenly for a long moment, and smiled. "Well, you did ask," she said. "And since it's your own question, you can hardly object to me answering." Keller, recovering from his shock, looked ready to do just that, but she didn't give him time.

"I have in my possession the affidavit of Letitia Ntimana," she continued, withdrawing a sheet of paper from her purse. "Mrs. Ntimana, you might remember, worked as a maid in your house several years ago. This is the same Letitia Ntimana, I might add, who was the subject of an article in this morning's Guardian, and who has been subjected to torture at Nyeri prison camp on your authority. In any event, it is Mrs. Ntimana's sworn testimony that, while she was employed in your household, she bore a daughter Dorothy, and that you were the only man that had access to her -- if that is the right word -- during that time. I've checked your tax records, and they corroborate Mrs. Ntimana's employment in your home during the relevant time -- but that's hardly necessary in view of the family resemblance, is it?" She let her gaze drift out to where Dorothy Ntimana sat next to her parents, inviting the jury and the audience to see what was obvious.

"I object, your Honor!" cried Keller, belatedly coming to himself. "I object to this trial being turned into a circus, and I move to strike..."

"As the defendant said, Mr. Keller," replied the judge, "you did ask the question."

"May it please the court, this is not a forum for making speeches..."

"Oh, that wasn't a speech, Mr. Keller," interrupted Madoka. "That was testimony. If I wanted to make a speech, I might say that my desire is to see Victoria become a country where your daughter has civil rights, and that this was what I meant when I made the statement for which I am now charged with sedition. That, Mr. Keller, would be a speech."

The judge looked at Victoria, and then at the Public Prosecutor. "If you have no further questions of this witness," he said, "I suggest you dismiss her and let the jury go home." He waited, but Keller responded with neither assent nor another question. "In that case, I will dismiss the witness myself. You may step down, Mrs. Madoka. The jury is reminded to be here tomorrow at nine."

Victoria watched the jury file out, and listened as the audience's silence erupted into a babble of voices. Something for the jury to remember, Mr. Keller? I think they'll remember this...

Forward to FAN #51L (8 May 1973): Victoria's Secret (Part 12).

Return to For All Nails.

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