Trial and Tribulations, Part Two

This is the conclusion of Joanne Cordova's story. For part one, see www.

"You used to be a police officer--is that correct?"
Cordova nodded again. She was beginning to feel beaten down; she wanted it to be over. "That is correct."

"And you lost that job?"
"No, I did not," she answered.
"You didn't?"
"No, sir, I did not."
"Weren't you fired when you obtained that first forgery conviction?"

Chambers rolled his eyes. "You weren't fired when you obtained that first forgery conviction?"

"No, sir, I was not fired."
"You were allowed to resign?" Chambers asked.
"No. I chose to resign on August 1, 1985. That's correct."

Chambers took a parting shot: "The Denver Police Department was anxious to have a forger on their force?"

Before Cordova could answer, the judge intervened. "All right," he scowled. "That's argumentative. Please move on."

Chambers dropped that subject and started asking questions about how prostitutes stored drugs.

"Women frequently store their crack cocaine and other valuables in their vaginal cavities, correct?"

"Occasionally." Cordova, who didn't know about the injury to Paley's vagina, didn't understand where this line of questioning was going. Chambers changed topics again. He asked about Riggan wanting sex in the clearing that day. "And you did not want to do that?"

"No, I didn't."
"And you told him you didn't want to do that?"
"That's correct."
"And so he complied with your wishes?"
"He respected that."
"He backed down from his desires and went to the van?"
"Yes, he did."

Later, Riggan had wanted sex again. "So you didn't want to do it right there?" Chambers repeated.

"I didn't want to do it at all or right there."
"And Mr. Riggan honored your wish?"
"He became very angry," Cordova replied.
"He honored your wish?" Chambers repeated.
"Yes, he did."
"Didn't force you to do anything?"
"No, he did not."

Chambers kept hammering at Joanne. But he got so flustered that the judge admonished him for his outbursts, and he soon gave up his cross-examination.

Easter stood to ask a few more questions. "Ms. Cordova, you were asked a number of questions about the type of container that is used in order to hide crack in a woman's vagina?"

Still puzzled about this sudden interest, Cordova nodded.
She was familiar with the habits of the other women, "including Anita Paley, is that right?"

"That's correct."
"Did you ever see Anita Paley save or hide her crack cocaine or anything else, for that matter, inside her vagina?"

"No, I didn't," said Cordova, shaking her head. "It would be highly unlikely, because she didn't have enough money to guard or to save."

"Ms. Cordova, did you show Bob the cabin, or did he show it to you?"
"Oh, he absolutely showed it to me," she said. "It was his favorite place in the whole world."

And suddenly, it was all over.
As Joanne stood to leave, she looked at Riggan. He was staring at her, mouthing something. She couldn't be sure, but she thought he'd said, "I'm sorry."

For a moment, she felt pity for him--he looked as alone as she often felt. She wondered what forces had been at work to make him commit such a horrible act. Better than most, she knew that the seeds of self-destruction are often planted early in life.

But then she remembered Anita. We all make choices and have to live with them.

She had. So would Robert Riggan.

The jury's first vote, taken just minutes after the jurors had been sent to deliberate, was hardly a victory for either side. Two guilty, two innocent and eight undecided on Count One: first-degree murder with deliberation. Three guilty, three innocent and eight undecided on Count Two: felony murder/sexual assault.

They jumped into the deliberations, reviewing the testimony of both sides and comparing notes. Most believed Dr. Galloway, especially his testimony that it was not possible for some broken container to have caused the cut in Paley's vagina. Then there was Dr. Cohen, whose compassion for the victim made a big impact on the jurors. And he had been firm in saying he didn't believe a fall could have caused the vaginal injury to Paley. The jurors didn't know what to think about the coins found under her body.

The prosecution had wrapped up its case with the testimony of a former jailmate, who said Riggan had told him: "The last person I killed, I beat her fucking brains out." But the jurors pretty much dismissed him as just another convict looking for a deal. (They were unaware that another inmate had told authorities that Riggan had confessed to cutting Paley "to the bone" after Paley refused to have sex with him and that he'd hit her with a hammer he later ditched. That inmate refused to cooperate at the trial after fellow prisoners discovered he was a snitch.)

Testifying for the defense, Dr. Chris Sperry, chief medical examiner for the State of Georgia and a forensic pathologist for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, had made a case for the theory that Paley had struck her head on the road. But under cross-examination by Easter, he didn't seem to have a viable explanation for the vaginal wound.

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