Screen Scene: The Best Witness Ever

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The following scene is from a pilot episode I never got around to finishing for a script about a group of twenty-somethings, each with a paranormal ability. Sebastian Archer is one of those twenty-somethings and his paranormal ability is that he can’t be lied to when he asks someone a direct question.

INT. COURTROOM – DAY
In a half full courtroom, SEBASTIAN ARCHER, the prosecuting assistant district attorney, sits at the prosecution table. A trial is in progress. Presiding over the trial is the JUDGE. The Judge shuffles some paperwork. At the defence table sits the DEFENCE COUNSEL and the DEFENDANT deep in quiet discussion.

DEFENCE COUNSEL
It’s not a good idea for you to testify. Sebastian Archer is the best lawyer in the DA’s office. He has a reputation for… (Beat) I don’t know how but he will find some way to trip you up.

DEFENDANT
Just put me on the stand.

The Defendant self-confidently straightens his tie. The Defence Counsel stands reluctantly.

DEFENCE COUNSEL
Your honour, the defence calls John Packard.

The Defendant rises and walks over to the witness stand. The BAILIFF stands in front of him with a Bible.

BAILIFF
Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?

DEFENDANT
I do.

DEFENCE COUNSEL
Your honour, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I just have one question for this witness. Mr Packard, did you or did you not kill Robert Shepherd?

DEFENDANT
I did not kill Robert Shepherd.

DEFENCE COUNSEL
Thank you. No further questions at this time, your honour.

JUDGE
Mr Archer.

SEBASTIAN
Thank you, your honour. (Beat) Mr Packard, did you or did you not kill Robert Shepherd?

DEFENDANT
I did.

The courtroom stops in stunned silence. The Defendant can’t believe he has just said it. It’s almost as if his voice is betraying him.

SEBASTIAN
One more time for the record, you did kill Mr Shepherd?

DEFENDANT
Yes, I did. (Beat) What I meant to say was, yes, I did kill him.

The court is in uproar. The defence counsel jumps up.

DEFENCE COUNSEL
Your honour, I urgently request a recess in order to consult with my client.

Judge
Denied.

SEBASTIAN
How did you kill Robert Shepherd?

DEFENDANT
I shot him in the back of the head, put him in the trunk of my car, drove to the reservoir and threw his body into the water.

SEBASTIAN
Why did you kill Robert Shepherd?

The Defendant looks over at his Defence Counsel as if searching for a lifeline. The Defence Counsel almost imperceptibly shakes his head, silently urging him not to answer the question. But the Defendant can’t seem to stop himself.

DEFENDANT
He owed me two thousand dollars.

SEBASTIAN
How did you think killing him would help you to get it back?

The Defence Counsel jumps up.

DEFENCE COUNSEL
Objection, your honour.

Judge
Sustained.

SEBASTIAN
Mr Packard, if you killed Robert Shepherd, why did you just tell the court that you didn’t?

DEFENDANT
I thought I could lie and get away with it.

Again the Defendant can’t believe he just said that. There is more uproar.

DEFENDANT
Your honour, the prosecutor is making me say things I don’t want to say.

JUDGE
But is it the truth?

SEBASTIAN
Yes, tell us. Is it the truth?

DEFENDANT
Yes, it’s the truth.

The Defendant grabs at his throat, appalled that he can’t seem to stop saying things.

SEBASTIAN
Your honour, I have no further questions.

Sebastian resumes his seat. Everyone in the courtroom is stupefied. The Defence Counsel sighs with a ‘what did I tell you’ look on his face.

 

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