The Trial of Willow Rosenberg
by Sam James
Disclaimer: Buffy, Willow, Warren, Giles, Xander, Lilah Morgan, Wolfram and Hart, Anya, and the general mythos belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and 20th Century Fox. Judge Bone is the creation of David E. Kelley for CBS's Picket Fences.
"All rise," said the bailiff as the Santa Barbara County Judge walked into the room. His dark robes flowed on the cherry desk in front of his seat. "What's our first case?" Judge Bone asked, his voice still firm despite his increasing years.
"People versus Willow Rosenberg," said the bailiff. "Accused of murder, attempted murder, and attempted jailbreak."
The judge peered over his glasses at the defense table. There was only one small red-headed girl, barely 20 from the looks of her. She had a somewhat sad, somewhat scared, deflated appearance covering an air of curiosity and nervousness. "Are you the defendant?" he asked, somewhat surprised. She certainly did not look like a murderer as she stood and nodded. "Do you have an attorney? If you cannot afford one, the state will provide..."
"I will be her attorney pro bono," came a well-cultured female voice. "Lilah Morgan, from Wolfram and Hart." The judge could not help but give a start of amazement. That firm was known to be extraordinarily expensive and not known for its generosity. He wondered what the girl had done to engage their interest.
"Certainly not!" the girl was objecting. "I've already chosen to represent myself."
The judge lifted an eyebrow. "Are you an attorney? Or in law school?"
"No, but I've done some research and know that I have the right to defend myself if I wish which I do..." Willow seemed to cut herself off with a visible effort.
The prosecuting attorney stood up. Judge Bone recognized Carlos Columbia, a young Hispanic attorney with ambitions far beyond Santa Barbara County. The man could barely suppress his eagerness to do a murder case with no opposition, "Your honor, she does have that right."
Judge Bone ignored him and turned to the girl. "You are accused of crimes that could lock you up for life. This not the time to build up a resume for law school. I very strongly suggest you accept Miss Morgan's offer."
"I understand," came the girl's soft words. "But I know what I am doing, really sir." There was an undertone of shattered confidence in her voice.
"Very well," said the judge. "How do you plead?"
"Not guilty," Willow said firmly.
The Judge turned to Columbia. "Do you wish to arrange a plea bargain?" He was not at all surprised when the attorney answered, "Due to the severity of her crimes, and her clear lack of remorse, the state stands by its charges." Carlos just wants an easy win, the Judge thought to himself. That little girl doesn't stand a chance against him.
Jury selection did nothing to reassure the judge that this was a fair fight. Carlos used his questioning to carefully screen the jury, eliminating anyone from the girl's hometown of Sunnydale, older men who might be swayed by her physical attractiveness, and educated men and women who might see through a lawyer's tricks. This left a prosecutor's dream jury, mostly women old enough to be jealous of the defendant's youth and looks without being old enough to be maternal. Willow asked questions mainly about the juror's religious beliefs. She only threw two people out of the juror pool, a staunch Catholic and, after Columbia had used up all his preemptory challenges, a long-time resident of Sunnydale. That last seemed to shake Columbia up. He looked at her strangely. Judge Bone could not figure this out either. Did the girl want to be found guilty? A neighbor would be less likely to convict her than a stranger.
The unevenness of the matchup was even more apparent once the trial started. The prosecution had Carlos Columbia and an assistant, plus several others from the district attorney's office on call including expert medical witnesses. The defense table had just Willow. Alone. The district attorney's opening remarks accused Willow of doing unnatural sexual activities with Tara, desiring revenge against Warren for his murder, and then extending her revenge to Andrew and Jonathan. He stressed that the witnesses he had to Willow's revenge were her own friends, reluctantly testifying in the interests of truth, justice, and Willow's own best interest. Finally, aware that his long speech was boring the jury, Carlos sat down.
Willow stood up and faced the jury. "Um," she said and her face grew red. There was a titter from the audience. She turned to them and said, "I'm sorry" and returned her focus to the jury. "My name is Willow Rosenberg. I am 21 years old and not a lawyer, although I am representing myself," her voice gathered strength as she went along. "I did a bit of research on the Internet and found that the prosecution has to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. That means, and I'm sure the judge will correct me if I'm wrong, that they have to do more than show that I wanted Warren dead. I admit, I did; he murdered my Tara who had never done anything to hurt anyone." She stopped and wiped her eyes. "But the prosecution has to show more than that I wished him dead. They have to show evidence that I took action and explain what I did. Since there is nothing to prove; they cannot. The prosecution's case rests on trickery and taking advantage of fragile individuals. I ask that the jury consider reasonable doubt and when the prosecution makes outlandish claims and piles impossibility upon implausibility, follow their reasonable doubt and declare me not guilty."
The judge struggled to control his facial expressions. The sole benefit of representing oneself in court was the chance to address the jury without being under oath. So Willow's speech made no sense. The girl did not declare herself innocent; instead she laid down the gauntlet for the prosecution to prove that she was not. Still, the girl did not seem crazed. The judge wondered if he could declare her incompetent anyway and demand that she accept a lawyer. He looked around; Lilah Morgan *was* still in the courtroom.
"The prosecution wishes to call Miss Buffy Summers."
The Bailiff rose. "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"
"I do," said the petite blond. Her movements spoke of quiet strength.
"What is your relationship with the defendant, Willow Rosenberg?"
"Willow has been my best friend since tenth grade, nearly seven years. We're like sisters. And, I suppose I'm her landlord, she's been living in my house since shortly after my mother died."
Carlos was a bit surprised, the landlord business hadn't come up in questioning, but he decided it was unimportant. He asked a few more questions about their relationship and then moved into the relationship between Willow and Tara, establishing that they were lesbian lovers. Finally he asked "Had you noticed any behavior changes in the last year or so?"
Buffy gave Willow a guilty look and then said, "Yes, she and Tara were fighting over Willow trying to control her and then when Tara left, Willow started behaving like a junkie."
Carlos leaned over and asked, "Was she using drugs?"
The judge looked at Willow, still seated and silent, and decided to interject, "Miss Rosenberg, you are allowed to object to questions that do not directly refer to matter of the trial."
Willow stood up and said, "I understand, sir, but I do not want to hurt Buffy."
The judge motioned her over to the bench, "Miss Rosenberg, you are on trial for your life. You must think of yourself. If I do not feel you are doing a sufficient job representing yourself, I will be forced to declare you incompetent. And I am very close to doing that right now."
"I understand, but sir, please wait until my cross examination and all will be clear. I know things seem strange right now but believe me. They're going to get a lot stranger."
Judge Bone looked at her eyes. While her words certainly failed to reassure him, the girl seemed nervous but far from crazed. He raised his voice to address the whole court. "The attorney may continue."
Buffy looked at Willow. "Not drugs, there was never any sign of drugs. But she was behaving oddly and at one point she crashed a car that had my sister in it."
Sensing that the Judge's call for Willow to object meant that Bone thought he was going too far afield, Carlos returned to the issue of Warren, getting Buffy's story about how Warren shot her, Willow's confession that Warren had killed Tara and saying she'll kill him for it, and finally the story about how Willow killed Warren. Throughout her testimony, Willow sat still, not objecting or reacting.
"Warren was tied with some vines, standing up. His chest was wounded, there was blood coming out of a small hole. Willow... Willow... She removed his skin from his body, while still alive. I heard her say, 'Bored now' and set him on fire. He burned up instantly." The jurors gasped.
"Like he was drenched in gasoline?" Carlos asked, expecting an objection for leading the witness, and somewhat disappointed when none came. The girl was not even trying and the game was no fun when the opposition did not fight back.
"I don't know," Buffy said. "He went up instantly. I asked, 'Willow, no. What did you do?"
"And her reply?"
"She said, 'One down,' and vanished in the darkness. I knew she was going after Jonathan and Andrew. I eventually caught up with her, we fought and then Andrew and Jonathan escaped. That's all I know."
"No further questions." Carlos sat down pleased with himself. Buffy made an excellent witness. She was a very close friend of the defendant, moreover had been critically wounded by the person the defendant was accused of killing, so had no reason to lie.
On the witness stand Buffy gave a sigh of relief. She had managed to complete her testimony by telling the truth without having to mention magic, slayers, or witches. She stood up to leave but saw Willow standing up.
"Sorry, Buffy, I get to ask a few questions, now," Willow said. "But I'll be quick. Don't worry. All you have to do is tell the whole truth like you promised. Are you okay with that, Buffy?" Willow's tone was sweet and motherly. Not that of a friend addressing a friend, but more closer to the tone she used as a teacher.
"Yes," Buffy answered.
"Now you told Mr. Columbia about how we were friends. Could you tell the jury what you tried doing to me on March 12?"
Buffy blinked in confusion. "I'm not sure I remember."
Willow smiled. "Us all in the basement with Tara."