For All Nails #51L: Victoria's Secret (Part 12)

by Jonathan Edelstein

Government House
Nairobi, Victoria
8 May 1973

"Well, now we know whether the Conservatives can breathe without Harry pushing the bellows," said Alistair Reid. "They're running away from him all on their own, and I must say they're doing quite an admirable job."

"Like a nigger caught raiding the pantry," chortled Richard Patten. "Remind me to send that Madoka woman a note of appreciation."

"The man's finished," Reid answered. "A man who digs a grave had better dig two, what?"

"I wouldn't open any bottles of champagne just yet," cautioned John Amalfi. "Harry may be finished, but the Conservatives? Their people have been on the stump all day, going on about how Harry betrayed them and how they hate miscegenation more than ever. What do you want to bet they'll make it stick? This time week, they'll be saying that Harry was brought down by the great nigger conspiracy and how they're the only party to stop it."

"I suppose he was, at that," Patten said. "Madoka and this Letitia Ntimana together are enough to make a conspiracy, aren't they? But I take your meaning, John -- we don't have our majority yet." The Prime Minister shook his head in resignation; the Victoria United Party was only two seats short of an outright majority in the current Parliament, and three months ago he'd been sure of winning one in the general election. But that was before that damned Madoka case had changed everything; now, Patten would be happy not to lose seats, and not to lose ground to the Conservatives within his coalition. He'd thought that Keller's fall might make that easier, but now he wasn't sure; as Amalfi had said, the man was not the party.

"A nigger daughter, though," he said, resignation dissolving into laughter. "Isn't that just like the bloody bastard?"

"That prancing traitor Jefferson played around in the slave quarters as well, I believe," Amalfi answered. FN1 "The righteous ones always have secrets, don't they? At any rate, I also have some good news -- some other good news, that is."


"That's right," the Foreign Secretary said. "He's spoken to his government, and the answer is quite reasonable. I think we'll be able to make that announcement we talked about, at least after a fashion..."

Magistrates' Court
Nairobi, Victoria
8 May 1973

"I think we should begin by taking a vote," said Max Klein.

He looked around the table and surveyed the other eleven jurors. It was past three o'clock on Tuesday, and the trial was finally over. The defendant had called two more witnesses, whose testimony was anticlimactic after her own. To nobody's great surprise, Hodges had once again taken over the prosecution, and both his cross-examinations and his closing statement had been almost perfunctory. Lunch had followed summations, and the court's charge had followed lunch, and the jury -- now duly instructed -- was left to its deliberations.

"Should we do it by show of hands, or by ballot?"

A consensus was reached, and a sheet of paper was torn into twelve pieces; these were passed around the table and returned a moment later.

"Six to six," said Klein. "It looks like we'll be here a while."

They were. The battle lines in the jury room were clearly drawn, and as intractable as those outside; half the jurors thought that Victoria Madoka was a dangerous revolutionary, and the other half believed her guilty of no more than speaking her mind. Max himself, for whom the trial had been an education in Victorian politics, was of the latter opinion. According to the letter of the law, Madoka was clearly guilty as hell -- but of what? He'd been impressed with her plain-spoken sincerity on the witness stand -- far more so than he'd been with her theatrics during cross-examination -- and he'd come off thinking that Victoria would be better off with more like her. There were others, though, who didn't share that opinion, and who were far more persuaded by the prosecutor's words than hers.

The jury deliberated, if that was the right word; jurors argued and shouted, but no minds were changed. The shouting continued even when dinner was brought to them, and went on after the paper plates were cleared away.

María Marques listened to the argument with growing despair. She was not a strong-minded woman, nor did she have the stomach for debate; how was she supposed to convince the other jurors to convict? A hung jury seemed certain, and it seemed equally certain that her husband would blame her...

Maybe I should tell them about my idea. She'd been too shy to suggest it before, and she wasn't certain her husband would approve. She still wasn't sure -- but he had told her to do anything she could to make sure Madoka was convicted. If he really meant that, then he couldn't object, could he?

"Maybe..." she began. She hesitated when she saw the other jurors looking at her, but found the strength to continue.

"Maybe we can compromise..."

Magistrates' Court
Nairobi, Victoria
9 May 1973

"The foreman says that the jury has reached a verdict, your Honor," said the bailiff.

"Very well, then," said Magistrate Ian Douglas. "Please bring them in."

"Criminal cause for trial, State of Victoria against Victoria Madoka," the bailiff announced as the jurors were led into the courtroom. "Will the defendant please rise?"

Victoria Madoka stood and faced the jury.

"Mr. Klein, do you have a verdict?" asked the judge.

"We do, your Honor. We have a verdict, and we also have a declaration."

"A declaration?" repeated Hodges. "This is highly irregular, your Honor..."

To the prosecutor's surprise, it was the foreman rather than the judge who answered. "As the judge has said on many occasions, this is an irregular trial. We're the judges of the facts -- at least, that's what Magistrate Douglas said in his instructions -- and we feel that there are some facts about this case that the court should know."

"That's quite a cogent proposition, Mr. Klein," said the magistrate. "And one more reason why this is an irregular trial -- I certainly can't recall ever hearing legal argument from a juror before. I'll listen to your findings of fact, Mr. Klein, although I hope you realize that only the verdict itself is binding on me."

"We realize that, your Honor." He put his reading glasses on and withdrew a note from his pocket. "In any event, taking the Sedition Act as you read it to us, we think there can be no question that the defendant violated the law. However, the jury finds that she acted as a citizen of Victoria, exercising her right to speak on political matters, and that nothing she said posed a threat to the state. We do not feel that a prison sentence is in any way called for, and we recommend that Your Honor exercise leniency."

"Very well, Mr. Klein," Magistrate Douglas said. "I see you managed to get through all that without saying the word 'guilty' once, but I will take it as a verdict of conviction. As for the other things you said, I will take them under advisement. Thank you for your conscientious service; you are dismissed."

"Your Honor..." began Hodges.

"When I said I would take the jurors' statement under advisement, Mr. Hodges, I meant exactly that. I'm fully aware that I don't have to abide by it, but I'm also aware that I can if I wish. You have your conviction, Mr. Hodges; you have nothing to complain about. I will see all parties here for sentencing on May eighteenth..."

"Excuse me, your Honor," the prosecutor interrupted. "The law requires sentencing to be held within seven days after the verdict, absent cause."

"So it does," said the judge. That section of the criminal procedure code was routinely ignored due to the crowded dockets of the Victorian courts, but it was still on the books -- and following it meant that the sentencing would take place the day before the election. And, no doubt, that all the Conservative dailies will make it their election day headline if Victoria escapes gaol.

"Very well, then. May sixteenth, promptly at nine."

Forward to FAN #51M (10 May 1973): Victoria's Secret (Part 13).

Return to For All Nails.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.