MONDAY – TRIAL DAY 1
Mike Coopland QC hadn’t slept all night. He hadn’t even tried.
Instead he had walked up and down his large, south-facing lounge
rehearsing his opening speech, letting his mind race from one
aspect of the case to another, connecting the dots.
He had made his first cup of coffee half an hour ago. Now he
was on his second. He’d pour the third at 5.30. On trial day the
caffeine barely affected his system; he was too adrenalised for that.
Three strong early morning coffees were simply part of his pre-
trial routine. Just like staying awake all night and prowling the
lounge. Like having a single slice of toast for breakfast instead of
his usual porridge. Like making sure he arrived at court ninety
minutes before the trial was due to start. The pre-trial routine
was an essential part of his success. It meant he was ready before
everyone else. It put him several steps ahead before the race to
battle even started.
Mike stopped pacing, drank a mouthful of coffee, and looked
at the framed photo taken on the day he had been appointed a
Queen’s Counsel; the day he taken silk. His wife, Gemma, was
standing on his right. His two daughters, Sally and Joanne, were
on his left. He was standing there, arms reaching out around them
all, proud as punch, a huge self-satisfied smile on his face.
The photo had been taken twelve years ago. He could remember
it as if it were yesterday. Twelve years of prosecuting and defending
some of the most challenging cases seemed to have gone by in a
flash. But even with twelve year’s experience trial day still made
him tremble with adrenalin, still made his mind race.
Mike found it irresistible. Confidence came with the adrenalin.
Confidence spiced by the memories of his rare defeats – and just
how painful they had been. He was, he knew, part of the best legal
system in the world. Its combative nature brought out the best in
all concerned. No one wanted to lose. For all sorts of reasons.
‘Imagine trying to explain to the world that to be a great silk you
have to be an addict.’ Mike looked at his younger self, still holding
on to the bodybuilder’s physique even though he had stopped
training a few months before the photo was taken. ‘Wouldn’t that
shock and confuse more than a few people?’
He finished his coffee and turned away from the photograph, his
mind switching back to his courtroom narrative. He ran through
the content and the style, the sequencing, the key messages he
needed to share to the jury and the facts he could offer to support
his version of events.
As he taught less experienced barristers, to convince a jury you
not only had to tell the most plausible story, you had to be the
most believable and engaging storyteller. You also had to know
how to turn the jury against your opposition.
When all was said and done, people were influenced by other
people far more than they were by so-called facts.
Mike had known that forever.
Now he was a master at telling a good story whilst making jurors
like him and dislike anyone who tried to tell a different version.
And, no matter how concerned Peter Jones was about Ethan’s
ability to influence or, even, hypnotise people around him, Mike’s
storytelling experience coupled with the way he would ensure
Ethan was presented to the court should make it a slam dunk.
‘And that’s why this particular trial is going to be – ’
‘- Who are you talking to?’
Mike spun round. Joanne was standing in the frame of the
open door. Her long auburn hair was tousled. Sixteen years old.
Precocious. Argumentative. Demanding to be treated as an adult
every time she didn’t get her own way. Still wearing Mickey Mouse
‘I was running through my opening speech, getting myself
ready. What are you doing up so early?’
‘Couldn’t sleep. Came downstairs for a glass of water. Mr
Tomkins says revision and rehearsal the night before a test only
get in the way of a good performance. He says if you’ve prepared
properly the best thing to do is forget about it and make sure you
have a good night’s sleep.’
‘And when, pray, did Mr Tomkins ever try a case in Crown
Joanne shrugged. ‘He’s been in charge of Upper School for
ever, he’s helped thousands of kids do well in their exams. He
must know something. He says last minute revision only affects
the short-term memory, and proper revision means that you get
things fixed in your long-term memory.’
‘Perhaps I should see if I can arrange a lesson with Mr Tomkins?’
‘Don’t see the point.’
‘You’re not the learning type.’ Another shrug. ‘I mean, you must
have been once. You must have been good at it then. But you’re
too fixed now. I think the rut’s too deep for even Mr Tompkins to
get you out of.’
‘Thank you for the vote of confidence.’
‘Just keeping it real.’
‘Real, young lady, is the – ’
‘- Best story, best told. I know. You’ve told us a million times.
That’s my point. I’ve never heard you say anything different.’
‘That’s because it’s true.’
‘You don’t deal only in the truth. You’ve told us that, too. You
said you also have to make people believe you. You’re a good
belief-sharer. And you wouldn’t be so successful at that if the jury
saw you in your dressing gown talking to yourself in the dark.’
‘Once you have created a system that works for you, it makes
sense to keep using it. I’m sure Mr Tompkins must have told you
something about that?’
‘Fair point.’ At least this time he earned the briefest of nods.
‘But a good learner would have worked out how to streamline
their preparation after all these years. They wouldn’t just stick
automatically to the same old thing time after time. That’s more
like superstition than professional practice. Anyway, I’m going
back to bed. Hope you slay ‘em.’
Mike heard her bare feet on the first steps of the staircase. He
realised he was open-mouthed. For the first time ever his pre-
trial routine had been disrupted and demolished. Suddenly, the
adrenalin wasn’t filling him with confidence. He took a large
swallow of his coffee and pulled a face. It was cold.
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