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Aside

Unit 1.10 – The Rain Maker

Difficulty: Medium

Time: 6 minutes

 

The following extract is taken from The Rain Maker by John Grisham

 

The Shelby County Justice Center is a twelve-story modern building downtown. The concept is one-stop justice. It has lots of courtrooms and offices for clerks and administrators. It houses the district attorney and the sheriff. It even has a jail.

Criminal Court has ten divisions, ten judges with different dockets in different courtrooms. The middle levels swarm with lawyers and cops and defendants and their families. It’s a forbidding jungle for a novice lawyer, but Deck knows his way around. He’s made a few calls.

He points to the door for Division Four, and says he’ll meet me there in an hour. I enter the double doors and take a seat on the back bench. The floor is carpeted, the furnishings are depressingly modern. Lawyers are as thick as ants in the front of the room. To the right is a holding area where a dozen orange-clad arrestees await their initial appearances before the judge. A prosecutor of some variety handles a stack of files, shuffling through them for the right defendant.

On the second row from the front, I see Cliff Riker. He’s huddled with his lawyer, looking over some paperwork. His wife is not in the courtroom. The judge appears from the back, and everyone rises.

A few cases are disposed of, bonds reduced or forgotten, future dates agreed upon. The lawyers meet in brief huddles, then nod and whisper to His Honor.

Cliff’s name is called, and he swaggers to a podium in front of the bench. His lawyer is beside him with the papers. The prosecutor announces to the court that the charges against Cliff Riker have been dropped for lack of evidence.

‘Where’s the victim?’ the judge interrupts.

‘She chose not to be here,’ the prosecutor answers.

‘Why?’ the judge asks.

Because she’s in a wheelchair, I want to scream.

The prosecutor shrugs as if she doesn’t know, and, furthermore, doesn’t really care. Cliff’s lawyer shrugs as if he’s surprised the little lady is not here to exhibit her wounds.

The prosecutor is a busy person, with dozens of cases to work before noon. She quickly recites a summary of the facts, the arrest, the lack of evidence because the victim will not testify.

‘This is the second time,’ the judge says, glaring at Cliff. ‘Why don’t you divorce her before you kill her?’

‘We’re trying to get some help, Your Honor,’ Cliff says in a pitifully rehearsed voice.

‘Well, get it quick. If I see these charges again, I will not dismiss them. Do you understand?’

‘Yes sir,’ Cliff answers, as if he’s deeply sorry to be such a bother. The paperwork is handed to the bench. The judge signs it while shaking his head. The charges are dismissed.

The voice of the victim once again has not been heard. She’s at home with a broken ankle, but that’s not what kept her away. She’s hiding because she prefers not to be beaten again. I wonder what price she paid for dropping the charges.

Cliff shakes hands with his lawyer, and struts down the aisle, past my bench, out the door, free to do whatever he pleases, immune from prosecution because there’s no one to help her.

 

 

1.         Based on evidence from the passage, the primary goal of the Shelby County Justice Center appears to be:

  •             A         To ensure justice is served at all costs
  •             B         To maintain efficiency in the administration of the justice system
  •             C         To uncover the truth
  •             D        To uphold bureaucratic tradition

 

2.         What is likely meant by ‘Lawyers are as thick as ants in the front of the room.’ (2nd stanza)?

  •             A         The lawyers are tightly bunched together
  •             B         The lawyers are as dumb as insects
  •             C         The lawyers are working together closely
  •             D         The lawyers are stubborn

 

3.         The judge’s response to the prosecutor’s statement suggests that:

  •             A         He knows that Cliff is guilty
  •             B         He is incapable of sentencing Cliff without evidence
  •             C         His highest concern is the victim’s safety
  •             D         He is not interested in sentencing an innocent man

 

 4.         The narrator observes the progress of the Cliff Riker case with

  •             A         bias
  •             B         disbelief
  •             C         incredulity
  •             D         intrigue
  • Q1:B
    The first hint is the concept of one-stop justice. A reference to the old advertising cliche “one stop X-ing, for all your Y needs”. The emphasis, of course, being on efficient fulfillment of your needs. The prosecutor has dozens of cases and ‘quickly’ recites the facts and it is suggested that she doesn’t care. They are clearly all aware that Cliff is guilty but it is too much hassle to convict him without the victim to testify and so they dismiss the case. Uncovering the truth and dealing out justice is not on the agenda.

    Q2:C
    “Thick” on its own will usually mean stupid or closely-knit eg. “Thick as thieves”. Ants are most recognised for their high strength-to-size ratio and, more importantly, their ability to work together in large numbers.

    Q3:A
    “If I see these charges again, I will not dismiss them” suggests a number of things on its own. Firstly, that the judge is entirely capable of sentencing Cliff, and is potentially willing to do so without a formal testimony from the witness. It also indicates that he knows Cliff is guilty: “‘This is the second time,’ the judge says, glaring at Cliff. ‘Why don’t you divorce her before you kill her?’”. He suggests Cliff gets help but he doesn’t go out of his way to try to help the victim.

    Q4: A
    The narrator is annoyed because he believes Cliff is guilty. He is biased against Cliff. He throws in adjectives like ‘pitifully’ to describe Cliff’s actions: “We’re trying to get some help, Your Honor,’ Cliff says in a pitifully rehearsed voice.”
    “Because she’s in a wheelchair, I want to scream.” – the narrator wants to interfere with the case to the detriment of Cliff’s defence. Even if it is justified bias it is still bias.

    Gamsat Sample Questions

    May 21, 2012

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    August 16, 2012

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