TPD pp120-125: Bad lawyers and bad journalists

Right after Marshall’s call to Harmel, Bernice’s phone nearly jumped off the wall. Marshall didn’t ask her, he told her, “Be at the office tonight at 7, we’ve got work to do.”

Marshall hung up with Harmel on page 110. Since then, we’ve seen Hank talk to Edith, Rafar throw a fit, and Sandy muse about the universe. I had to page backwards to remember that it’s Saturday morning (why is Sandy on campus on her day off anyway?), and then I took a moment to wonder whether he meant 7am or 7pm. Apparently it’s 7pm, but it could easily have meant AM, since it was morning when he called. Who calls their employee into work at 7pm on a Saturday? If it’s so urgent, why schedule work for almost 12 hours later, when most other places will be closed?

It is now 7:10, and the pair are digging through archives — couldn’t Marshall have done that himself? He’s picking Bernice’s brain about things he ought to have known, like when Harmel left the job (shortly before it went up for sale?). They spend a moment ridiculing the work of local college students who stepped up to fill the gap in personnel before Marshall came along and, what, fired them all? We’ve not seen any interns working here, despite being short-handed.

We get a little more backstory: the twelve year old girl who claimed Harmel molested her was “a daughter of one of the college regents”, named Adam Jarred. Jarred and Harmel were fishing buddies; when the scandal came to light, “the case went into the judge’s chambers and apparently they struck some kind of deal.” Can you DO that with criminal charges of this magnitude? A lawyer I know says:

if you waive the right to a jury, the judge decides the sentence and passes judgement, but invariably once you’re charged with something the District Attorney is involved and they tend to not want to let child molesters leave town. The District Attorney is charged with protecting the public; […] they usually insist on some form of incarceration, and you’d have to register as a sex offender.

Megan’s law wasn’t passed until 1994, and this book was written in ’86, so that accounts for the sex offender registry, but there still should have been jail time involved.

“Ted wasn’t going to print anything against himself, obviously.”

Shoddy journalism. He’s supposed to print the truth impartially, isn’t he? This seems like big news for such a small town.

Alright, let’s see if I can follow this. A letter was written in to the editor complaining about the “unfair treatment this board of regents has received from the local press”, insisting that the paper was printing “groundless innuendoes [sp]”. This prompts Bernice to remember a series of articles printed about the board of regents. The first one concerns the dean calling for an audit of Whitmore College accounts and investments. The next one concerns the regents accusing the dean of “malicious political hatcheting”. The dean was fired; Harmel had been personally in favor of the dean’s position. So it looks like the board of regents, who are in league with Langstrat and thus the Devil, were also embezzling, racketeering, and who knows what else.

They come across some articles about Bernice’s sister. Apparently she was found naked and dead with her throat cut. They found no further clues and ruled it suicide. Because people regularly slit their own throats. Bernice calls them out on this, and confesses holding her own guilt close to heart: if she could just be more objective, she reasons in that dark place that always insists it’s all your own fault, then she could solve the murder and be at peace. Marshall comforts her in a scene that is fairly touching until this line threw me for a loop:

She was a nice kid, Marshall thought, and as far as he could remember this was the first time he’d ever touched her.

Lolwut? What does that have to do with….? It feels like ham-handedly setting up a rape allegation later or something.

And that’s all for chapter twelve!

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One Response to TPD pp120-125: Bad lawyers and bad journalists

  1. neverstatic says:

    “She was a nice kid, Marshall thought, and as far as he could remember this was the first time he’d ever touched her.”

    Speaking from my own experience growing up fundamentalist evangelical, there’s a lot of focus on this sort of thing in that culture. A lot of things most people would find completely innocent (putting a comforting hand on a crying woman’s shoulder, hugging a friend you haven’t seen in years, a pastor meeting privately with an attractive young parishioner to counsel her, etc) are sexualized.

    There’s also a lot of effort maintained to avoid those things or make sure it’s perfectly clear that they’re not what they seem. So Marshall’s reaction here is probably not a setup for a rape allegation. I read it as Peretti having difficulty putting himself in Marshall’s shoes, where comforting a crying coworker isn’t a sexy situation at all.

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