-Chapter 23: Popular Verdict-

"Both sides have been heard from," Judge Adams addressed the viewers. "Now it is up to you the viewing audience to decide what will be the ultimate fate of our young defendant on tonight's "In Your Court"!"

An advertisement for Zlin's latest products played on the Network 66 screens while the tabulators counted the votes for the verdict.

Bryce stood alone, with his attorney in dull shock. Alison's testimony had been refused as irrelevant with the excuse that if it were presented the show would run over. He hoped that the embarrassing footage of his rape that night would be enough to swing the vote to his side.

He wondered where Network 66 had gotten the footage that the prosecution had shown. Thinking on it, he recalled the flash on his vu-phone that had made him stop slashing Parker. Could someone have called him from there? No. Who would? And why? Grossberg knew he wasn't interested in working at Network 66 now that his spat with Cheviot was resolved. So there was no reason for him to call. And he didn't know anyone else there. Except Jenny. But why would she betray him that way? Why would she set him up to die?

The commercial block ended and the show's fanfare sounded.

"Welcome back to "In Your Court" Judge Adams said to the viewing audience. "We've tallied your votes and now is the time you've all been waiting for. Ladies and gentlemen, you've watched the evidence. You've heard the testimony. And your verdict is..."

Edison gripped his camera tightly. Murray was whispering a prayer under his breath, and Theora was watching Bryce with anxious eyes.

Bryce himself looked like he was about to have an anxiety attack. This single moment would decide his fate. Decide whether he would live or die. They'd seen what he'd done to Parker. But they had also seen what Parker had done to him.


"WHAT?!" Edison screamed.

"It was a clear case of self-defense!" Theora shouted.

Murray walked over to the vu-phone on the wall and punched in the number for Grossberg's office. "Your Network courts are about to condemn an innocent person to death. Any suggestions?"

Grossberg pondered for a second. "The sentencing won't happen right away. "In Your Court" is a two-part per case weekly series . We show the trial on Saturday and carry out the sentence on Sunday. If you believe the votes have been tampered with or that the judge is lying about the verdict for some reason, you have twenty-four hours to prove it. Return to me within that time with the evidence and Bryce will be spared."

On the platform, Bryce had collapsed in a sobbing heap as Miss Jackson put he arm around him. How could this have happened? The entire world knew that Parker had raped him. How could they convict him when he had clearly been defending himself.

Two men approached Bryce. One cuffed his hands behind his back, then they led him to a small room off to the side to await sentencing.

"I want a readout of the verdict votes," Miss Jackson demanded.

"Of course," Judge Adams agreed. "You will have it on your desk at four PM tomorrow. But it will do no good. Sentencing phase is tomorrow at six PM."

"If he's going to be condemned to die, can't he at least say goodbye to his friends?"

"I'm afraid not, Miss Jackson. This court has explicit instruction not to let anyone see him."

"I see," Miss Jackson said, wondering who had given that order and why. "Thank you."

Miss Jackson left the platform and approached Edison's team.

"This is a serious miscarriage of justice," she told them. "The judge just basically admitted to me that someone else is involved in this trial. Whoever it is told them not to let you see Bryce before his sentencing."

"Afraid we'll run off with him, I'll bet," Murray suggested.

"Most likely," Theora agreed. "Poor Bryce."

Murray looked at Miss Jackson. "Can't you do anything?"

"I've demanded a read out of the votes. But that won't be in until late tomorrow. Around two hours before the sentence is carried out."

"That doesn't give us much time to work with the results," Edison remarked.

"It's the best I can do," Miss Jackson apologized.

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