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The stakes have never been higher: when DNA evidence frees a sadistic killer, defense attorney Mickey Haller and LAPD Detective Harry Bosch must put him behind bars before he strikes again.
Together, Bosch and Haller set off on a case fraught with political and personal danger. Opposing them is Jessup, now out on bail, a defense attorney who excels at manipulating the media, and a runaway eyewitness reluctant to testify after so many years.
With the odds and the evidence against them, Bosch and Haller must nail a sadistic killer once and for all. If Bosch is sure of anything, it is that Jason Jessup plans to kill again.
Table of Contents
A Preview of The Fifth Witness
A Preview of The Crossing
About the Author
Books by Michael Connelly
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—The Perp Walk
Tuesday, February 9, 1:43 P.M.
The last time I'd eaten at the Water Grill I sat across the table from a client who had coldly and calculatedly murdered his wife and her lover, shooting both of them in the face. He had engaged my services to not only defend him at trial but fully exonerate him and restore his good name in the public eye. This time I was sitting with someone with whom I needed to be even more careful. I was dining with Gabriel Williams, the district attorney of Los Angeles County.
It was a crisp afternoon in midwinter. I sat with Williams and his trusted chief of staff—read political advisor—Joe Ridell. The meal had been set for 1:30 P.M., when most courthouse lawyers would be safely back in the CCB, and the DA would not be advertising his dalliance with a member of the dark side. Meaning me, Mickey Haller, defender of the damned.
The Water Grill was a nice place for a downtown lunch. Good food and atmosphere, good separation between tables for private conversation, and a wine list hard to top in all of downtown. It was the kind of place where you kept your suit jacket on and the waiter put a black napkin across your lap so you needn't be bothered with doing it yourself. The prosecution team ordered martinis at the county taxpayers' expense and I stuck with the free water the restaurant was pouring. It took Williams two gulps of gin and one olive before he got to the reason we were hiding in plain sight.
"Mickey, I have a proposition for you."
I nodded. Ridell had already said as much when he had called that morning to set up the lunch. I had agreed to the meet and then had gone to work on the phone myself, trying to gather any inside information I could on what the proposition would be. Not even my first ex-wife, who worked in the district attorney's employ, knew what was up.
"I'm all ears," I said. "It's not every day that the DA himself wants to give you a proposition. I know it can't be in regard to any of my clients—they wouldn't merit much attention from the guy at the top. And at the moment I'm only carrying a few cases anyway. Times are slow."
"Well, you're right," Williams said. "This is not about any of your clients. I have a case I would like you to take on."
I nodded again. I understood now. They all hate the defense attorney until they need the defense attorney. I didn't know if Williams had any children but he would have known through due diligence that I didn't do juvy work. So I was guessing it had to be his wife. Probably a shoplifting grab or a DUI he was trying to keep under wraps.
"Who got popped?" I asked.
Williams looked at Ridell and they shared a smile.
"No, nothing like that," Williams said. "My proposition is this. I would like to hire you, Mickey. I want you to come work at the DA's office."
Of all the ideas that had been rattling around in my head since I had taken Ridell's call, being hired as a prosecutor wasn't one of them. I'd been a card-carrying member of the criminal defense bar for more than twenty years. During that time I'd grown a suspicion and distrust of prosecutors and police that might not have equaled that of the gangbangers down in Nickerson Gardens but was at least at a level that would seem to exclude me from ever joining their ranks. Plain and simple, they wouldn't want me and I wouldn't want them. Except for that ex-wife I mentioned and a half brother who was an LAPD detective, I wouldn't turn my back on any of them. Especially Williams. He was a politician first and a prosecutor second. That made him even more dangerous. Though briefly a prosecutor early in his legal career, he spent two decades as a civil rights attorney before running for the DA post as an outsider and riding into office on a tide of anti-police and -prosecutor sentiment. I was employing full caution at the fancy lunch from the moment the napkin went across my lap.
"Work for you?" I asked. "Doing what exactly?"
"As a special prosecutor. A onetime deal. I want you to handle the Jason Jessup case."
I looked at him for a long moment. First I thought I would laugh out loud. This was some sort of cleverly orchestrated joke. But then I understood that couldn't be the case. They don't take you out to the Water Grill just to make a joke.
"You want me to prosecute Jessup? From what I hear there's nothing to prosecute. That case is a duck without wings. The only thing left to do is shoot it and eat it."
Williams shook his head in a manner that seemed intended to convince himself of something, not me.
"Next Tuesday is the anniversary of the murder," he said. "I'm going to announce that we intend to retry Jessup. And I would like you standing next to me at the press conference."
I leaned back in my seat and looked at them. I've spent a good part of my adult life looking across courtrooms and trying to read juries, judges, witnesses and prosecutors. I think I've gotten pretty good at it. But at that table I couldn't read Williams or his sidekick sitting three feet away from me.
Jason Jessup was a convicted child killer who had spent nearly twenty-four years in prison until a month earlier, when the California Supreme Court reversed his conviction and sent the case back to Los Angeles County for either retrial or a dismissal of the charges. The reversal came after a two-decade-long legal battle staged primarily from Jessup's cell and with his own pen. Authoring appeals, motions, complaints and whatever legal challenges he could research, the self-styled lawyer made no headway with state and federal courts but did finally win the attention of an organization of lawyers known as the Genetic Justice Project. They took over his cause and his case and eventually won an order for genetic testing of semen found on the dress of the child Jessup had been convicted of strangling.
Jessup had been convicted before DNA analysis was used in criminal trials. The analysis performed these many years later determined that the semen found on the dress had not come from Jessup but from another unknown individual. Though the courts had repeatedly upheld Jessup's conviction, this new information tipped the scales in Jessup's favor. The state's supreme court cited the DNA findings and other inconsistencies in the evidence and trial record and reversed the case.
This was pretty much the extent of my knowledge of the Jessup case, and it was largely information gathered from newspaper stories and courthouse scuttlebutt. While I had not read the court's complete order, I had read parts of it in the Los Angeles Times and knew it was a blistering decision that echoed many of Jessup's long-held claims of innocence as well as police and prosecutorial misconduct in the case. As a defense attorney, I can't say I wasn't pleased to see the DA's office raked over the media coals with the ruling. Call it underdog schadenfreude. It didn't really matter that it wasn't my case or that the current regime in the DA's office had nothing to do with the case back in 1986, there are so few victories from the defense side of the bar that there is always a sense of communal joy in the success of others and the defeat of the establishment.
The supreme court's ruling was announced the week before, starting a sixty-day clock during which the DA would have to retry or discharge Jessup. It seemed that not a day had gone by since the ruling that Jessup was not in the news. He gave multiple interviews by phone and in person at San Quentin, proclaiming his innocence and potshotting the police and prosecutors who put him there. In his plight, he had garnered the support of several Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes and had already launched a civil claim against both the city and county, seeking millions of dollars in damages for the many long years during which he was falsely incarcerated. In this day of nonstop media cycles, he had a never-ending forum and was using it to elevate himself to folk hero status. When he finally walked out of prison, he, too, would be a celebrity.
Knowing as little as I did about the case in the details, I was of the impression that he was an innocent man who had been subjected to a quarter century of torture and that he deserved whatever he could get for it. I did, however, know enough about the case to understand that with the DNA evidence cutting Jessup's way, the case was a loser and the idea of retrying Jessup seemed to be an exercise in political masochism unlikely to come from the brain trust of Williams and Ridell.
"What do you know that I don't know?" I asked. "And that the Los Angeles Times doesn't know."
Williams smiled smugly and leaned forward across the table to deliver his answer.
"All Jessup established with the help of the GJP is that his DNA was not on the victim's dress," he said. "As the petitioner, it was not up to him to establish who it did come from."
"So you ran it through the data banks."
"We did. And we got a hit."
He offered nothing else.
"Well, who was it?"
"I'm not going to reveal that to you unless you come aboard on the case. Otherwise, I need to keep it confidential. But I will say that I believe our findings lead to a trial tactic that could neutralize the DNA question, leaving the rest of the case—and the evidence—pretty much intact. DNA was not needed to convict him the first time. We won't need it now. As in nineteen eighty-six, we believe Jessup is guilty of this crime and I would be delinquent in my duties if I did not attempt to prosecute him, no matter the chances of conviction, the potential political fallout and the public perception of the case."
Spoken as if he were looking at the cameras and not at me.
"Then why don't you prosecute him?" I asked. "Why come to me? You have three hundred able lawyers working for you. I can think of one you've got stuck up in the Van Nuys office who would take this case in a heartbeat. Why come to me?"
"Because this prosecution can't come from within the DA's office. I am sure you have read or heard the allegations. There's a taint on this case and it doesn't matter that there isn't one goddamn lawyer working for me who was around back then. I still need to bring in an outsider, an independent to take it to court. Somebody—"
"That's what the attorney general's office is for," I said. "You need an independent counsel, you go to him."
Now I was just poking him in the eye and everybody at the table knew it. There was no way Gabriel Williams was going to ask the state AG to come in on the case. That would cross the razor-wire line of politics. The AG post was an elected office in California and was seen by every political pundit in town as Williams's next stop on his way to the governor's mansion or some other lofty political plateau. The last thing Williams would be willing to do was hand a potential political rival a case that could be used against him, no matter how old it was. In politics, in the courtroom, in life, you don't give your opponent the club with which he can turn around and clobber you.
"We're not going to the AG with this one," Williams said in a matter-of-fact manner. "That's why I want you, Mickey. You're a well-known and respected criminal defense attorney. I think the public will trust you to be independent in this matter and will therefore trust and accept the conviction you'll win in this case."
While I was staring at Williams a waiter came to the table to take our order. Without ever breaking eye contact with me, Williams told him to go away.
"I haven't been paying a lot of attention to this," I said. "Who's Jessup's defense attorney? I would find it difficult to go up against a colleague I know well."
"Right now all he's got is the GJP lawyer and his civil litigator. He hasn't hired defense counsel because quite frankly he's expecting us to drop this whole thing."
I nodded, another hurdle cleared for the moment.
"But he's got a surprise coming," Williams said. "We're going to bring him down here and retry him. He did it, Mickey, and that's all you really need to know. There's a little girl who's still dead, and that's all any prosecutor needs to know. Take the case. Do something for your community and for yourself. Who knows, you might even like it and want to stay on. If so, we'll definitely entertain the possibility."
I dropped my eyes to the linen tablecloth and thought about his last words. For a moment, I involuntarily conjured the image of my daughter sitting in a courtroom and watching me stand for the People instead of the accused. Williams kept talking, unaware that I had already come to a decision.
"Obviously, I can't pay you your rate, but if you take this on, I don't think you'll be doing it for the money anyway. I can give you an office and a secretary. And I can give you whatever science and forensics you need. The very best of every—"
"I don't want an office in the DA's office. I would need to be independent of that. I have to be completely autonomous. No more lunches. We make the announcement and then you leave me alone. I decide how to proceed with the case."
"Fine. Use your own office, just as long as you don't store evidence there. And, of course, you make your own decisions."
"And if I do this, I pick second chair and my own investigator out of the LAPD. People I can trust."
"In or outside my office for your second?"
"I would need someone inside."
"Then I assume we're talking about your ex-wife."
"That's right—if she'll take it. And if somehow we get a conviction out of this thing, you pull her out of Van Nuys and put her downtown in Major Crimes, where she belongs."
"That's easier said than—"
"That's the deal. Take it or leave it."
Williams glanced at Ridell and I saw the supposed sidekick give an almost imperceptible nod of approval.
"All right," Williams said, turning back to me. "Then I guess I'll take it. You win and she's in. We have a deal."
He reached his hand across the table and I shook it. He smiled but I didn't.
"Mickey Haller for the People," he said. "Has a nice ring to it."
For the People. It should have made me feel good. It should have made me feel like I was part of something that was noble and right. But all I had was the bad feeling that I had crossed some sort of line within myself.
"Wonderful," I said.
Friday, February 12, 10:00 A.M.
Harry Bosch stepped up to the front counter of the District Attorney's Office on the eighteenth floor of the Criminal Courts Building. He gave his name and said he had a ten A.M. appointment with District Attorney Gabriel Williams.
"Actually, your meeting is in conference room A," said the receptionist after checking a computer screen in front of her. "You go through the door, turn right and go to the end of the hall. Right again and conference room A is on the left. It's marked on the door. They're expecting you."
The door in the paneled-wood wall behind her buzzed free and Bosch went through, wondering about the fact that they were waiting for him. Since he had received the summons from the DA's secretary the afternoon before, Bosch had been unable to determine what it was about. Secrecy was expected from the DA's Office but usually some information trickled out. He hadn't even known he would be meeting with more than one person until now.
Following the prescribed trail, Bosch came to the door marked CONFERENCE ROOM A, knocked once and heard a female voice say, "Come in."
He entered and saw a woman seated by herself at an eight-chaired table, a spread of documents, files, photos and a laptop computer in front of her. She looked vaguely familiar but he could not place her. She was attractive with dark, curling hair framing her face. She had sharp eyes that followed him as he entered, and a pleasant, almost curious smile. Like she knew something he didn't. She wore the standard female prosecutor's power suit in navy blue. Harry might not have been able to place her but he assumed she was a DDA.
"Come in, have a seat."
Bosch pulled out a chair and sat across from her. On the table he saw a crime scene photograph of a child's body in an open Dumpster. It was a girl and she was wearing a blue dress with long sleeves. Her feet were bare and she was lying on a pile of construction debris and other trash. The white edges of the photo were yellowed. It was an old print.
The woman moved a file over the picture and then offered her hand across the table.
"I don't think we've ever met," she said. "My name is Maggie McPherson."
Bosch recognized the name but he couldn't remember from where or what case.
"I'm a deputy district attorney," she continued, "and I'm going to be second chair on the Jason Jessup prosecution. First chair—"
"Jason Jessup?" Bosch asked. "You're going to take it to trial?"
"Yes, we are. We'll be announcing it next week and I need to ask you to keep it confidential until then. I am sorry that our first chair is late coming to our meet—"
The door opened and Bosch turned. Mickey Haller stepped into the room. Bosch did a double take. Not because he didn't recognize Haller. They were half brothers and he easily knew him on sight. But seeing Haller in the DA's office was one of those images that didn't quite make sense. Haller was a criminal defense attorney. He fit in at the DA's office about as well as a cat did at the dog pound.
"I know," Haller said. "You're thinking, What in the hell is this?"
Smiling, Haller moved to McPherson's side of the table and started pulling out a chair. Then Bosch remembered how he knew McPherson's name.
"You two…," Bosch said. "You were married, right?"
"That's right," Haller said. "Eight wonderful years."
"And what, she's prosecuting Jessup and you're defending him? Isn't that a conflict of interest?"
Haller's smile became a broad grin.
"It would only be a conflict if we were opposing each other, Harry. But we're not. We're prosecuting him. Together. I'm first chair. Maggie's second. And we want you to be our investigator."
Bosch was completely confused.
"Wait a minute. You're not a prosecutor. This doesn't—"
"I'm an appointed independent prosecutor, Harry. It's all legit. I wouldn't be sitting here if it weren't. We're going after Jessup and we want you to help us."
"From what I heard, this case is beyond help. Unless you're telling me Jessup rigged the DNA test."
"No, we're not telling you that," McPherson said. "We did our own testing and matching. His results were correct. It wasn't his DNA on the victim's dress."
"But that doesn't mean we've lost the case," Haller quickly added.
Bosch looked from McPherson to Haller and then back again. He was clearly missing something.
"Then whose DNA was it?" he asked.
McPherson glanced sideways at Haller before answering.
"Her stepfather's," she said. "He's dead now but we believe there is an explanation for why his semen was found on his stepdaughter's dress."
Haller leaned urgently across the table.
"An explanation that still leaves room to reconvict Jessup of the girl's murder."
Bosch thought for a moment and the image of his own daughter flashed in his mind. He knew there were certain kinds of evil in the world that had to be contained, no matter the hardship. A child killer was at the top of that list.
"Okay," he said. "I'm in."
Tuesday, February 16, 1:00 P.M.
The DA's Office had a press conference room that had not been updated since the days they'd used it to hold briefings on the Charles Manson case. Its faded wood-paneled walls and drooping flags in the corner had been the backdrop of a thousand press briefings and they gave all proceedings there a threadbare appearance that belied the true power and might of the office. The state prosecutor was never the underdog in any undertaking, yet it appeared that the office did not have the money for even a fresh coat of paint.
The setting, however, served the announcement on the Jessup decision well. For possibly the first time in these hallowed halls of justice, the prosecution would indeed be the underdog. The decision to retry Jason Jessup was fraught with peril and the realistic likelihood of failure. As I stood at the front of the room next to Gabriel Williams and before a phalanx of video cameras, bright lights and reporters, it finally dawned on me what a terrible mistake I had made. My decision to take on the case in hopes of currying favor with my daughter, ex-wife and myself was going to be met with disastrous consequences. I was going to go down in flames.
It was a rare moment to witness firsthand. The media had gathered to report the end of the story. The DA's Office would assuredly announce that Jason Jessup would not be subjected to a retrial. The DA might not offer an apology but would at the very least say the evidence was not there. That there was no case against this man who had been incarcerated for so long. The case would be closed and in the eyes of the law as well as the public Jessup would finally be a free and innocent man.
The media is rarely fooled in complete numbers and usually doesn't react well when it happens. But there was no doubt that Williams had punked them all. We had moved stealthily in the last week, putting together the team and reviewing the evidence that was still available. Not a word had leaked, which must've been a first in the halls of the CCB. While I could see the first inkling of suspicion creasing the brows of the reporters who recognized me as we entered, it was Williams who delivered the knockout punch when he wasted no time in stepping before a lectern festooned with microphones and digital recorders.
"On a Sunday morning twenty-four years ago today, twelve-year-old Melissa Landy was taken from her yard in Hancock Park and brutally murdered. An investigation quickly led to a suspect named Jason Jessup. He was arrested, convicted at trial and sentenced to life in prison without parole. That conviction was reversed two weeks ago by the state supreme court and remanded to my office. I am here to announce that the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office will retry Jason Jessup in the death of Melissa Landy. The charges of abduction and murder stand. This office intends once again to prosecute Mr. Jessup to the fullest extent of the law."
He paused to add appropriate gravity to the announcement.
"As you know, the supreme court found that irregularities occurred during the first prosecution—which, of course, occurred more than two decades before the current administration. To avoid political conflicts and any future appearance of impropriety on the part of this office, I have appointed an independent special prosecutor to handle the case. Many of you know of the man standing here to my right. Michael Haller has been a defense counselor of some note in Los Angeles for two decades. He is a fair-minded and respected member of the bar. He has accepted the appointment and has assumed responsibility for the case as of today. It has been the policy of this department not to try cases in the media. However, Mr. Haller and I are willing to answer a few questions as long as they don't tread on the specifics and evidence of the case."
There was a booming chorus of voices calling questions out at us. Williams raised his hands for calm in the room.
"One at a time, people. Let's start with you."
He pointed to a woman sitting in the first row. I could not remember her name but I knew she worked for the Times. Williams knew his priorities.
"Kate Salters from the Times," she said helpfully. "Can you tell us how you came to the decision to prosecute Jason Jessup again after DNA evidence cleared him of the crime?"
Before coming into the room, Williams had told me that he would handle the announcement and all questions unless specifically addressed to me. He made it clear that this was going to be his show. But I decided to make it clear from the outset that it was going to be my case.
"I'll answer that," I said as I leaned toward the lectern and the microphones. "The DNA test conducted by the Genetic Justice Project only concluded that the bodily fluid found on the victim's clothing did not come from Jason Jessup. It did not clear him of involvement in the crime. There is a difference. The DNA test only provides additional information for a jury to consider."
I straightened back up and caught Williams giving me a don't-fuck-with-me stare.
"Whose DNA was it?" someone called out.
Williams quickly leaned forward to answer.
"We're not answering questions about evidence at this time."
"Mickey, why are you taking the case?"
The question came from the back of the room, from behind the lights, and I could not see the owner of the voice. I moved back to the microphones, angling my body so Williams had to step back.
"Good question," I said. "It's certainly unusual for me to be on the other side of the aisle, so to speak. But I think this is the case to cross over for. I'm an officer of the court and a proud member of the California bar. We take an oath to seek justice and fairness while upholding the Constitution and laws of this nation and state. One of the duties of a lawyer is to take a just cause without personal consideration to himself. This is such a cause. Someone has to speak for Melissa Landy. I have reviewed the evidence in this case and I think I'm on the right side of this one. The measure is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. I think that such proof exists here."
Williams moved in and put a hand on my arm to gently move me off the microphone stand.
"We do not want to go any further than that in regard to the evidence," he said quickly.
- On Sale
- Aug 30, 2016
- Page Count
- 464 pages
- Grand Central Publishing