ChesterNewMatterFall2017 - 24

CCBA Feature
By Justice James Marchiano (Ret.)

In prior accounts Judge Carlton encountered difficult
civil and criminal cases. Now he confronts an
incomprehensible murder.

DIKĒ: Murder Will Out


he grim faced court reporter in Department 47 read
back selected testimony to Judge Raymond Carlton as
he stiffened in his chair and carefully reviewed his trial
notes in preparation for the jury instruction conference with
counsel before final argument. Judge Carlton double-checked
his notes against the reporter's real time transcript to help
resolve some contested instructions. In his many years on
the bench, a dismayed Carlton had never presided over first
degree murder allegations that presented such cold-hearted
evidence, as if the perpetrators were devoid of any moral
conscience and had lost their connection to humanity. The
eight day trial caused the judge to conclude palpable evil exists,
and vividly brought to life the concepts of malice aforethought
and malignant heart. Case law defined a malignant heart as a
"callous disregard for human life."
The Greeks called her "Dikē." The Romans, "Justitia." From
his classics education, Judge Carlton knew this goddess of
justice uncovered concealed wrongdoing, brought to light dark
dealings, and often dispensed justice in unexpected ways so
that unforgivable acts received due recompense. As he looked
at his trial notes, Judge Carlton realized Dikē might have been
working relentlessly, like a pursuing bloodhound, to rectify
treachery. He could sense traces of her fingerprints on the case.
The court reporter's notes revealed the following.
Martinez is a quiet, middle-class town of 35,000, with a
number of inexpensive rentals downtown, near tree-lined

24 | New Matter

Berrellesa Street. Bobby Joe Harrington, Will Johnson, and
Phil Cotter were roommates in a small, two bedroom unit.
Harrington and Johnson, friends from high school, were
19 years-old, and Cotter was an 18-year-old high school
dropout. A somewhat overweight, hulking figure, Bobby Joe
Harrington was accustomed to bullying others. He and Will
Johnson were inseparable, with Johnson usually following
Harrington's lead. When the two of them had a difficult time
meeting their monthly rent, they brought in Phil Cotter, a
small-framed introvert whom they met at the Rack-Up Pool
Hall. Cotter worked part time at menial jobs, needed a place
to live, and agreed to pay one-third of the rent and cable
television bill in return for the smaller bedroom.
The relationship went awry within three months. Cotter was
often short on his share of the rent. He kept his room slovenly,
infrequently washed his clothes, bathed once a week, was
often up late at night with his loud rap music, and left his food
dishes unwashed, attracting ants. Harrington and Johnson
argued daily with him about his repulsive living habits. The
arguments grew louder and more contentious. Cotter refused
to move out, even after he lost his last job and stopped paying
any expenses. Harrington and Johnson were consumed with
hatred for him, with a fury that had no bounds.
To solve their dilemma, Harrington and Johnson decided
upon an easy solution: kill Cotter to put him out of their lives
forever. Their twisted minds crept into a dark recess and


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