Richard G. Epstein

 

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CLIMATIC COURTROOM SCENE

FROM THE BEN WATTLUCK SPECIAL:

"The Trial of

Randy Samuels"

---

Who in America has not heard about the smash television series, Ben Wattluck? Wattluck is the first television criminal defense attorney who loses every case. A New York Times TV critic described Wattluck in this way: "He's the same as Perry Mason, just the opposite." By now the formula is familiar. Wattluck takes on the defense of someone who is obviously innocent, but at precisely 8 minutes before the end of the hour, the district attorney proves that Ben's client is a twisted psychopath. What makes it especially entertaining is that all of our attention is focused on how Ben intends to prove his client's innocence. Ben's theories always seem plausible right up to the very end.

The writers of Wattluck decided to do a special two hour episode based upon the case of the killer robot. It was entitled "The Trial of Randy Samuels". The producer of the show started the first writers' meeting with the idea that this dramatization would be a fictionalized version of the truth, using the real characters. A new writer on the staff asked, "Well, just how faithful to the truth do we have to be?" His answer was a long, pregnant silence which was followed by raucous laughter all around. "Welcome to the entertainment business, young man," the producer roared as tears rolled down his cheeks.

What follows is part of the script for "The Trial of Randy Samuels". This is the final scene of the program, which always takes place in the same courtroom with the same state seal behind the same judge who is sitting between the same flags. We have removed almost all of the stage directions from the script in order to make it easier to read. "The Trial of Randy Samuels" begins with the killer robot incident and the indictment of Randy Samuels. Randy hires the notorious and fictitious attorney, Ben Wattluck. There is no mention of Alex Allendale, Randy's actual attorney. Except for this, the program follows historical truth for the first twenty minutes, but then it deviates more and more from actual events. Ben Wattluck builds a defense that assumes that Robbie CX30 was programmed to recognize and kill Bart Matthews. Ben is certain that Mrs. Matthews programmed the robot to kill her husband. The script portrays Mrs. Matthews as an employee at Eyeball AI Techniques, the company that developed the visual software for the Robbie CX30 robot. Ben's defense of his client is based upon the idea that Mrs. Matthews programmed the robot to kill her husband as an act of revenge for his numerous love affairs with other women.

During the second hour of the program a second degree murder charge is brought against Randy Samuels by prosecuting attorney Jane McMurdock. Such a charge was never made against Mr. Samuels in fact. The prosecution's theory is that Randy Samuels plotted the murder of Bart Matthews as an act of revenge against Silicon Techchronics because Silicon Techchronics intended to terminate the robotics division.

As this courtroom scene begins, Ben is ready to prove that Mrs. Matthews had the means and the motive to kill her husband.

--

Ben Wattluck: The defense calls Sally Matthews, your honor.

[Sally Matthews is sworn in.]

Ben Wattluck: Ms. Matthews, you are the wife of Bart Matthews the unfortunate victim in this case?

Sally Matthews: Yes.

Ben Wattluck: Where do you live?

Sally Matthews: I live at the Pentium Condominiums.

Ben Wattluck: Pretty upscale, isn't it?

Sally Matthews: What of it?

Ben Wattluck: I mean, pretty good for a family living on a robot operator's income.

Sally Matthews: I make much more than my husband ever did!

Ben Wattluck: What do you do, Mrs. Matthews?

Sally Matthews: I am a systems analyst and programmer.

Ben Wattluck: Where do you work?

Sally Matthews: At a computer company.

Ben Wattluck: Would you please tell the ladies and gentlemen of the jury which company.

Jane McMurdock (prosecuting attorney): Objection, your honor! Relevance? Mr. Samuels is on trial here, not the witness!

Judge McCall: Mr. Wattluck, I hope this is leading somewhere.

Ben Wattluck: It is, your honor. Please bear with me.

Judge McCall: Please answer the question, Mrs. Matthews.

Sally Matthews: I work at Eyeball AI Techniques.

[consternation in courtroom]

Ben Wattluck: That's a really good company! Only really bright people work there. You don't have to respond to that. Now, Eyeball AI Techniques is the company that produced the software that allowed the robot to recognize your husband, isn't it?

Sally Matthews: No, it isn't.

Ben Wattluck: It isn't? Please bear in mind that you are under oath. Didn't Eyeball AI Techniques develop the software that allowed the robot to recognize your husband so that the robot could be used to commit murder?

Sally Matthews: No!

Ben Wattluck: Mrs. Matthews, why do you insist upon being so evasive?

Jane McMurdock: Objection, your honor! The witness is not being evasive.

Judge McCall: Sustained!

Ben Wattluck: Where was the software that enabled the robot to recognize your husband developed?

Sally Matthews: At Silicon Techchronics. We only developed the VAT, the visual analysis tool kit.

Ben Wattluck: For the ladies and gentlemen on the jury, your company gave Silicon Techchronics a tool kit for building that software? It's as if you gave them hammers and saws and nails and planks so that they could build a gallows on which to hang your deceased husband!

Jane McMurdock: Objection, your honor!

Ben Wattluck: I'm trying to establish what a tool kit is.

Judge McCall: Then, explain it. Please strike Mr. Wattluck's last comment. The jury is instructed to ignore the implications of that last statement.

Ben Wattluck: Which statement are we striking?

Judge McCall: Would the court reporter please read the statement that has been struck.

Ben Wattluck: Loud, please. I'm a bit hard of hearing.

Reporter: It's as if you gave them hammers and saws and nails and planks so that they could build a gallows on to hang your deceased husband.

Ben Wattluck: Thank you. Now, Mrs. Matthews, is it true that your company provided a tool kit for developing the software in question?

Sally Matthews: Yes, I already said that.

Ben Wattluck: You must be really knowledgeable about all this stuff. I mean, you must know about that tool kit inside and out? That's a question, Mrs. Matthews. Yes or no?

Sally Matthews: I am damn good at what I do, so certainly I understood the code in the tool kit, but what does that have to do with the fact that your client intentionally sabotaged the robot because he found out that his job would be terminated?

Ben Wattluck: You are on the witness stand, Mrs. Matthews, not me or my client. My only role here is to protect my client, who is innocent, as you well know.

Sally Matthews: How would I know that?

Ben Wattluck: This is defense exhibit A. Do you recognize it?

Sally Matthews: I should! It's a picture of my home office.

Ben Wattluck: And what is this?

Sally Matthews: That's a computer. Why are you asking such dumb questions?

Judge McCall: Please answer the questions, Mrs. Matthews, and let the court decide if Mr. Wattluck's questions are dumb.

Ben Wattluck: And what's this teeny little thing over here? Can you see it? I'm pointing to it.

Sally Matthews: It's a modem.

Ben Wattluck: What's that for?

Sally Matthews: It allows you to dial up other computers.

Ben Wattluck: It's for getting into cyberspace, isn't it? Surfing the net? Cruising the information superhighway? Warping through Web-space?

Sally Matthews: If you say so.

Ben Wattluck: Do you use your modem a lot?

Sally Matthews: Not recently.

Ben Wattluck: But what about in the period immediately preceding your husband's death? Did you use your modem a lot back then?

Jane McMurdock: Your honor, how much more of this are we going to have to take?

Ben Wattluck: Your honor, we are getting to the heart of this case, which is the innocence of my client!

Judge McCall: I think this line of questioning is reasonable. Proceed.

Ben Wattluck: In the months before your husband's death, were you using your modem a lot?

Sally Matthews: No, not particularly.

Ben Wattluck: Your honor, this is defense exhibit B. May I show it to the jury?

Judge McCall: Yes.

Ben Wattluck: Do you recognize this? This is a copy of what the jury is looking at.

Sally Matthews: It looks like a phone bill.

Ben Wattluck: Whose phone bill?

Sally Matthews: Mine. Well, actually that was for the period before my husband died, so I guess it would be our phone bill.

Ben Wattluck: This is a big phone bill!

Sally Matthews: We could afford it. Who gave you the right to pry into my telephone records?

Ben Wattluck: And what's this number here? It's a local call and you called it two or three times a day, almost always at night, or on weekends.

Sally Matthews: I don't remember.

Ben Wattluck: Really, Mrs. Matthews. Someone as bright as you cannot remember? It's a number at Silicon Techchronics, isn't it?

Sally Matthews: I don't remember.

Ben Wattluck: Well, it is, and we can get testimony to that effect. It is the number of Mr. Waterson's secret computer system, the one with the big holes. The one that Miasma got into.

Sally Matthews: If you know whose number it is, why are you asking me?

Judge McCall: Answer the question, Mrs. Matthews.

Sally Matthews: Yes, it is a dial-up number for Mr. Waterson's personal computer system.

Ben Wattluck: So you could get in and just about get to any computer account in the whole company?

Sally Matthews: I wouldn't do something like that. That would be breaking the law.

Ben Wattluck: What programming languages do you know really well, Mrs. Matthews?

Sally Matthews: C, C++, CLOS.

Ben Wattluck: Would you call yourself an expert in these languages?

Sally Matthews: I certainly would.

Ben Wattluck: What languages were used to program Robbie CX30, Mrs. Matthews?

Sally Matthews: C and C++. Now, that's just a conjecture. You're trying to trip me up, but it's not going to work. I'm the aggrieved party here!

Ben Wattluck: Why don't you let the court decide who the aggrieved party is in this case?

Sally Matthews: What is that supposed to mean?

Ben Wattluck: Just answer the question: What languages were used to program the robot, Mrs. Matthews?

Sally Matthews: I would guess that they used C and C++. C for the mechanics of the robot and C++ for the visual system. I remember reading in the papers that Silicon Techchronics decided on C.

Ben Wattluck (whispering): You have a good memory, Mrs. Matthews.

Sally Matthews: What did you say?

Ben Wattluck: I SAID YOU HAVE A GOOD MEMORY, MRS. MATTHEWS. Now, according to these telephone transcripts, you were hooked up to the Silicon Techchronics computer for many, many hours, over many months. From about May of the year before your husband died until just a brief period before he died. What were you doing?

Sally Matthews: I can't remember.

Ben Wattluck. You can't remember? A woman with such a good memory cannot remember? If I had been doing something for so many hours, I would remember and I think the ladies and gentlemen on the jury would remember.

Judge McCall: I think we got the point, Mr. Wattluck.

Ben Wattluck: Now, you have sued my client for a lot of money and you've sued Silicon Techchronics for a lot of money. I mean a WHOLE lot of money. Why do you need so much money?

Jane McMurdock: Objection, your honor. Relevance?

Judge McCall: Overruled. There might be some relevance.

Ben Wattluck: I'll withdraw the question anyway, your honor.  Your husband, the late Bart Matthews, would you call him a loving husband, a good husband for you and a good father for your three beautiful children?

Sally Matthews: I loved my husband.

Ben Wattluck: Loved, but do you still love him?

Sally Matthews (mocking): I still love him.

Ben Wattluck: Even after what he did to you and your sweet little girl, your sweet, little darling?

Sally Matthews: He didn't do anything to my little girl or to me. I don't know what you are talking about. We were a happy family.

Ben Wattluck: Did you ever catch your husband with other women?

Sally Matthews: Never!

Ben Wattluck: Did you leave the Angry Ostrich in a huff almost a year before your husband died? There are witnesses who saw you turn over some bar stools.

Sally Matthews: I don't remember any incident of that nature.

Ben Wattluck: Frank Zemmel, owner of the Angry Ostrich, is willing to testify that your husband was with another woman one evening when you came in after work. You were enraged, and stormed out. He is also willing to testify that it was not unusual for your husband to pick up women at the Angry Ostrich.

Sally Matthews: He - . Once in a while he had to let off some steam.

Ben Wattluck: How much steam are we talking about? One woman, two women, a dozen women, men and women? Tell us, Mrs. Matthews, how much steam did your husband have to let off?

Sally Matthews: Lots of steam! Lots!!! He had enormous sexual appetites. He was totally irresponsible, but I loved him.

Ben Wattluck: What were you doing two years ago on May 3rd at 10:22 AM? That's precisely one year before your husband's death.

Jane McMurdock: Your honor, no one has shown that the exact time of death is relevant in this case. Both sides agree that the robot was programmed to kill Bart Matthews and I think we agree that the time of death is not significant.

Ben Wattluck: The defense begs to differ, your honor. We are prepared to show that the exact time of the incident, 10:22 AM on May 3rd, is highly significant in the life of this witness. This is central to our entire case.

Sally Matthews: That's nonsense!

Judge McCall: Mrs. Matthews. It is my job to decide what is nonsense and what is not. Proceed, Mr. Wattluck.

Ben Wattluck: Let me repeat my question. What were you doing two years ago on May 3rd at 10:22 AM? That's precisely one year to the minute before your husband's death.

Sally Matthews: How should I know? Do YOU know where you were at that time?

Ben Wattluck: Now, I would like to remind the court and the witness that the Robbie CX30 robot was programmed to recognize and kill Bart Matthews. I contend that the time of death is also relevant. It was as if the robot were programmed to commemorate some event.

Weren't you at your doctor's office on that May 3rd at 10:22 AM?

Sally Matthews: I told you I don't know where I was at that time. If it was during the week, I was probably at work.

Ben Wattluck: Your doctor's appointment book, a copy of which is defense exhibit C, shows that you were in her office from 10:15 to 10:45 AM or thereabouts on that May 3rd. Please be assured that she did not tell us anything about that visit on the grounds of doctor-patient confidentiality.

Sally Matthews: I'm sure she wouldn't. She's a competent professional.

Ben Wattluck: So, weren't you at the doctor's office on May 3rd the year before your husband died?

Sally Matthews: If you say so.

Ben Wattluck: But, actually, Mrs. Matthews, you remember clearly because she gave you some terrible news at precisely 10:22 that morning, it must have been just at 10:22, she gave you some terrible news, didn't she?

Sally Matthews: She most certainly did not give me any terrible news at that time. If she had, I would remember it.

Ben Wattluck: Now, you know where I am heading with this so don't make this harder than it has to be.

Sally Matthews: I remember now. I needed to have a boil lanced. Is that terrible news?

Ben Wattluck: Now, Mrs. Matthews, it's my obligation to defend my client. Do you understand?

Sally Matthews: Is that what this is all about? A boil that needed lancing?

Ben Wattluck: Well, you see hardly any of us have any secrets any more. Your health insurance company sold its blood test database to a life insurance company which sold it to MediData Associates, and MediData Associates provides medical data to government and law enforcement agencies, to health care providers, to attorneys, to whomever is willing to pay for some good data. The MediData Associates database is called MediData Central. Have you heard about it?

Sally Matthews: As a matter of fact, I have.

Ben Wattluck: It has data from all, all over the country. It's amazing. Now, according to the MediData Central database, on May 3rd of the year in question your health record had a new and terrible diagnosis.

Sally Matthews: The database is wrong. I'm in perfect health.

Ben Wattluck: Four months later, in that same database, there is an entry for your newborn daughter, Erin, with the same terrible diagnosis.

Sally Matthews: My daughter is in perfect health. You were playing with her in the hallway before I pulled her away from you.

Ben Wattluck: Is it not true that your husband gave you and your daughter the HIV virus and that to avenge your inevitable death and your daughter's inevitable death you arranged for the robot to kill your husband on the precise date and hour that you received your death sentence?

Sally Matthews: No.

Wattluck: No? Is that all you have to say?

Sally Matthews: None of what you are saying is true. My husband led an irresponsible life, but my husband and I did not have sexual relations for many years. He was a pig and I found that out within a month of our getting married. I wouldn't let a man like that father my children. My children are all the result of artificial insemination. Bart Matthews was not Erin's father. Erin's father is a world class expert in complexity theory.

Ben Wattluck: Mrs. Matthews, what is your social security number?

Sally Matthews: 999-99-9999. Why?

Ben Wattluck: I am willing to bring Harvey Little of MediData Associates to the stand to testify that you are indeed HIV positive.

Sally Matthews: Why don't you do that? You'll just make a fool of yourself.

Ben Wattluck: Your honor, I would like to call Mr. Harvey Little to the stand but I would like to reserve the right to continue the examination of this witness.

Jane McMurdock: I reserve the right to cross examine this witness at a later time. I am also anxious to hear from Mr. Little.

Judge McCall: Please step down, Mrs. Matthews. Please be prepared to resume your testimony. Call Mr. Little.

Ben Wattluck: Defense calls Mr. Harvey Little.

[Mr. Little is sworn in.]

Ben Wattluck: Mr. Little, what do you do for a living?

Harvey Little: I am data base administrator for MediData Central, the world's largest repository of medical information.

Ben Wattluck: Who uses the database?

Harvey Little: We have many clients, ranging from law enforcement to insurance companies to government agencies at all levels and health care providers. Business is increasing exponentially, it seems. Did you see the article about us in US News?

Ben Wattluck: Do you recognize this? Defense exhibit E, your honor.

Harvey Little: It's a print out of information from our database. There's a query someone entered and here are the results.

Ben Wattluck: The person who wrote the query was my associate. Now what does this say here?

Harvey Little: A person with social security number 999-99-9999 was diagnosed with HIV infection on May 3rd two years ago. That means that the blood test results came back on May 3rd.

Ben Wattluck: I would like to remind the jury that 999-99-9999 is Mrs. Matthews' social security number. Mrs. Matthews' name does not appear on your listing, why not?

Harvey Little: MediData Central is mostly intended for industry and government planning purposes. For example, the federal government can use the database to estimate future Medicare expenditures. It's not really a database about people, but about data, about facts. But, we need to use a key, like the social security number, to combine our data with new data that comes in. You see the social security number has become a universal identification code.

Ben Wattluck: So you use the numbers to match things. For example, what does this sheet show?

Harvey Little: The third child of the person whose social security number is 999-99-9999 also has HIV infection.

Ben Wattluck: Erin is the third child of Sally Matthews. When was she born?

Harvey Little: If you would just flip over this sheet, over in the middle, here it says that she was born on September 10th, two years ago.

Ben Wattluck: Thank you, Mr. Little. Any questions?

Jane McMurdock: You look like a person who is pretty sure of himself. I mean if it's in your database, it must be true.

Harvey Little: We'd be out of business if people ever thought otherwise.

Jane McMurdock: Do you know what this is, Mr. Little? I am showing him people's exhibit E.

Harvey Little: It's a birth certificate.

Jane McMurdock: Who is it for?

Harvey Little: Baby Girl Erin May Matthews.

Jane McMurdock: Do you think it's really her birth certificate?

Harvey Little: Well, it has a baby's footprint on it! Each baby has its own unique footprint. So, it would be easy to match Erin's footprint against the print on the certificate.

Jane McMurdock: So, you are pretty confident that it is really her birth certificate.

Harvey Little: I have no reason to doubt that.

Jane McMurdock: What is the date of birth on the certificate, Mr. Little?

Harvey Little: August 29, two years ago.

Jane McMurdock: Would you state that again?

Ben Wattluck: Objection, your honor! I'm not sure where there is leading.

Judge McCall: I think you know damn well where this is leading. That's why you're objecting. Overruled. Please repeat the date.

Harvey Little: August 29, two years ago.

Jane McMurdock: And what was the date on defense exhibit E, which you were examining a few moments ago?

Harvey Little: It had a different date. The database said September 10th. Maybe someone made a clerical error somewhere.

Jane McMurdock: Who developed the software for MediData Central?

Harvey Little: A big software developer.

Jane McMurdock: Which software developer?

Harvey Little: Mrs. McMurdock, if I answer that it could be bad publicity for my company.

Jane McMurdock: Your honor.

Judge McCall: The witness will answer the question.

Harvey Little: Silicon Techchronics.

[laughter in court room]

Judge McCall: Order in the court! I will clear the courtroom of spectators if we have another outburst like that.

Jane McMurdock: Here's another document I would like you to look at. Do you know what it is? People's exhibit F, your honor.

Harvey Little: It's a lab report, the result of a blood test.

Jane McMurdock: Tell the court whose blood test it is and when the results were recorded.

Harvey Little: It's for Sally Matthews and the date is Thursday last week, and it gives a negative result for HIV.

Jane McMurdock: So this says that Sally Matthews is HIV negative. In the rear of the court is Mrs. Matthews' physician, Dr. Ann Compton, and she will verify that this is indeed the case.

Now, Mr. Little, how do you account for the fact that your database shows Mrs. Matthews as being HIV positive, but this lab result shows her as being HIV negative?

Harvey Little: I guess there must have been some kind of clerical error.

Jane McMurdock: Now, Mr. Little, is there anyone else in America with the social security number 999-99-9999?

Harvey Little: I don't think so, it's supposed to be a unique identifier.

Jane McMurdock: However, in fact, historically, up to 500 people have been given the same social security number by accident, is that not so?

Harvey Little: I remember reading about that somewhere.

Jane McMurdock: When you build your database, you use matching fields, but if you do not use unique identifiers, incorrect data can be generated.

Harvey Little. Yes.

Jane McMurdock: For example, if you had ten pieces of data about three people named Sally Matthews and combined all the data using the name as the match key, you would get a lot of incorrect matches. If one Sally Matthews had HIV, then we would wind up with all people with her name having HIV.

Harvey Little: Yes.

Jane McMurdock: So, the kind of database construction that you do, buying databases and building new databases from them, really must be done with great care.

Harvey Little: Yes.

Jane McMurdock: The kind of care that we have come to associate with Silicon Techchronics?

[laughter in the court]

Judge McCall (trying to restrain herself): Even I thought that was a funny, but please restrain yourselves in the future.

Jane McMurdock: Are there any security holes in your database?

Harvey Little: Security holes?

Jane McMurdock: I mean could a hacker like Miasma get into your database and change the data?

Harvey Little: Absolutely not. That's preposterous!

Jane McMurdock: Do you know who Miasma is?

Harvey Little: Of course.

Jane McMurdock: This is people's exhibit G, a communication via e-mail from Miasma saying that he has cracked the MediData Central database.

Harvey Little: That's preposterous! Anyone could have written that. No one knows who Miasma is.

Jane McMurdock: Mr. Little, here is a card with two words written on them. Do you recognize them? This is people's exhibit H.

Harvey Little: Yes.

Jane McMurdock: Do you want to tell the jury what these words are.

Harvey Little: Not really.

Judge McCall: Mr. Little, answer the question.

Harvey Little: One's my user id and the other one's my password.

Jane McMurdock: Do you know who sent these to us?

Harvey Little: I can guess.

Jane McMurdock: Miasma, would that be your guess?

Harvey Little: Yes.

Jane McMurdock: Because you knew all along that he's been into your database.

Ben Wattluck: Your honor! I think Mr. Little should be informed of the danger he is in.

Judge McCall: Mr. Little, are you aware of the penalties for committing perjury in this state?

Harvey Little: Yes, your honor.

Judge McCall: Are you aware of the fact, put forward by the Prosecutor, that this character named Miasma has been in your database and that the integrity of the database has been violated?

Harvey Little: Yes and yes.

Jane McMurdock: Mr. Little, how much credence would you give to the idea that Mrs. Matthews and her daughter, Erin, are infected with the AIDS virus.

Harvey Little: None

Jane McMurdock: I'm finished with this witness, your honor.

Judge McCall: Mr. Wattluck?

Ben Wattluck: No more questions, your honor. I request a recess so that I can consult with my client.

 

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