Page 28 of Detective


"You're suggesting that juvenile records shouldn't be sealed at all?"

"Damn right I am! Every crime should go on record, stay there, and be available to investigators from that point on. If parents and the ACLU don't like it, screw 'em! You break the law, it goes on your record. That's the price to be paid that should be paid no matter what your age."

"There's been talk in the Department about petitioning state government along those lines," Newbold said. "Send me a memo with the details about Doil, plus your opinions, and I'll pass it on. Then, if there's a public hearing, I'll recommend you as a witness, and you can sound off all you want."

"I'll write the memo," Ainslie said. "But I doubt they'd want me to appear."

Newbold said sharply, "Don't write that off, or yourself, either." His eyes met Ainslie's directly. "My influence isn't as great as that of some other people we know. But I have friends, upstairs and upstate, who listen to me."

So, Ainslie thought, Newbold knew about Cynthia Ernst blocking his promotion, and had probably guessed the rest. None of it surprised Ainslie. The Police Department could be a small place, where rumors and gossip ran rampant, leaping departmental barriers and every rank.

"So what do you plan next?" Newbold asked. "You'll seek an order to have Doil's record opened, I presume."

"I'm working on that now. I've phoned Curzon Knowles; he's drafting the affidavit. I'll take it to Judge Powell. We don't want this talked about yet, and he won't ask too many questions."

"Your buddy Phelan Powell?" Newbold smiled. "As I recall, His Honor has obliged you often. If I asked what you've got on him, you wouldn't tell me, of course."

"I'm his illegitimate son," Ainslie deadpanned.

Newbold laughed. "That would mean he knocked up your mother when he was what? Twelve? So it's something else, but never mind. In this game we all accumulate our debits and credits."

On that score, of course, Newbold was right.

* * *

Many years before, when Detective Ainslie was new on plainclothes duty, he and his partner, Ian Deane, drove into an alley one night and saw a light blue Cadillac ahead. As they drew closer, a partially naked white male emerged from the driver's side, hurriedly pulling on trousers, and from the other side appeared a scantily dressed young black girl. The detectives recognized both. The girl was a prostitute named Wanda, the man a circuit court judge, Phelan Powell, before whom both detectives had appeared as witnesses on numerous occasions. Powell was tall and athletically built and normally had a commanding personality. This moment was an exception.

He and Wanda shielded their eyes from the headlights, trying desperately to recognize the figures emerging from the car behind them.

As Ainslie and Deane moved closer, momentarily blocking the lights, Wanda emitted a resigned, "Oh luck!'' The judge, in contrast, looked dazed. Then, slowly, the reality of his predicament crystallized.

"Oh my God! Detectives." His voice was desperate and strained. "I beg of you please, please overlook this! I've been an idiot. . . gave in to sudden temptation. This isn't my way, but if you report it, I'll be disgraced, finished!"

He paused and the three men exchanged awkward glances. "Officers, if you'll just let this pass, this one time, please! . . . I'll never forget . . . And whatever I can do for you, I will."

Fleetingly, Ainslie wondered how the judge would have responded to his own plea.

In fact, if an arrest had been made by Ainslie and Deane, or a citation issued, the charges against Powell would have been "soliciting a prostitute" and "loitering and prowling." Both were misdemeanors, for which, assuming this was a first offense, the penalty at most would be a fine; the charge might even be dismissed. But the judge's judicial career would be over.

Ainslie, who was the senior officer, hesitated. He knew the principle of law: justice should be blind, never drawing distinctions. On the other hand . . .

Without analyzing, or consciously debating a decision, Ainslie said to Deane, "I think I heard a radio call. We should get back to the car."

And so, the detectives left.

Over the years that followed, nothing was ever said, by Ainslie or Judge Powell, about that incident. Ainslie told no one, and Detective Ian Deane was killed soon afterward in a shootout during an Overtown drug raid.

But the judge kept his promise. Whenever Ainslie appeared before him as arresting officer or witness, he was treated with utmost courtesy and consideration. There were also times when Ainslie had gone to Judge Powell, seeking quick judicial action in a matter of investigative importance, and he invariably received it as he hoped to do now.

Before leaving Homicide, Ainslie phoned the judge's office. Across the years, Phelan Powell had advanced in the judiciary and was now a member of the Third District Court of Appeals. Ainslie explained the situation to a secretary and after a short wait was told, "The judge is about to begin a hearing. But if you come to the court he'll call a recess and see you in chambers."

* * *

On the way, Ainslie stopped at the state attorney's office, where Curzon Knowles had prepared the required form. When signed by Judge Powell, it would unseal the juvenile record of Elroy Doil. The whole procedure was complicated and time-consuming another reason why it seldom happened.

* * *

A bailiff in the Third District courtroom had obviously been given orders, and the moment Ainslie appeared he was escorted to a front-row seat. Judge Powell looked up, nodded, and almost at once announced, "Let us take a fifteen-minute recess. An urgent matter has come up that requires my attention."

Everyone in court then rose, the judge retired through a door behind him, and the same bailiff escorted Ainslie to the judge's chambers.

Judge Powell, already at his desk, looked up, smiling. "Come in; it's good to see you, Sergeant." He motioned Ainslie to a chair. "Let me guess Miami Homicide is still in business."

"For all eternity the way it looks, Your Honor." Seated, facing Phelan Powell, Ainslie described his mission. The judge was still an imposing figure, though over the years he had put on weight and his hair was almost white. Along with the signs of age were symptoms of strain; Ainslie supposed it went with the job. Appeal courts nowadays were heavily burdened, and even high rankers like Powell could be reversed by another appeal level above them supporting the view, some said, that little had changed since Dickens wrote, "The law is a ass."

At the end of Ainslie's spiel, Powell nodded. "Okay, Sergeant, happy to help you out. Just to make everything regular, I should ask why you want this juvenile record unsealed."

"The record was sealed twelve years ago, Your Honor. Mr. Doil is now a suspect in a serious crime, and we believe some earlier details will help our investigation."

"So be it. Let's break that seal. I see you've brought the papers."

Ainslie passed them across.

In front of any other judge, he knew, the answer he had given to the single question would be dismissed as inadequate. And there would be other questions, more intense, perhaps even combative. Judges loved their prerogatives; many insisted on a verbal fencing match before approving anything. But what Ainslie wanted was a minimal number of people to know that Elroy Doil was now a prime suspect in the serial killings. The fact that Ainslie had not had to explain more details meant there was less chance that the opening of Doil's record would be talked about, or that Doil himself would find out he was under suspicion.

"All this looks in order," Judge Powell said. "Now the ritual is, I have to swear you in, but since we've known each other so long, let's take that for granted. You know the terms of the oath, and I've sworn you in. Okay?"

"I'm duly sworn, Your Honor."

A fast signing by Powell and it was done.

"I'd like to stay longer and talk," the judge said, "but they're waiting for me out there, and the lawyers are on metered time. You know how it is."

"Yes, Judge. And thank you."

They shook hands. At the doorway Powell turned back. "Any other time you need my help, don't hesitate to come. You know I mean that any time."

As the judge disappeared through his private doorway to the bench, Ainslie heard the bailiff's call: "All rise!"

* * *

Criminal Records was in the Metro-Dade Police Department Building, west of Miami International Airport. There, after more form filling and signing, the juvenile file of Elroy Doil was produced and opened in Ainslie's presence. He was free to study the file in a private room down the hall. He could make whatever copies he needed, but not take any part of the file away.

The file was bulkier than he'd expected. When he examined the papers, it became evident that Doil's skirmishes with the law were far greater than even Ainslie had believed.

He counted thirty-two apprehensions by police (with juveniles the word "arrest" was not used), resulting in twenty misdemeanor convictions, undoubtedly a mere sampling of the total number of offenses Doil had committed in his young life.

The record began when Elroy was ten years old a charge of shoplifting a Timex watch. At eleven he was panhandling on a street corner, begging for money at his mother's instigation, and was taken home by police. At twelve he assaulted a woman teacher, inflicting bruises and a cut lip that required stitches. After questioning by the police, Elroy was released to his mother, Beulah Doil a pattern that continued for years and was common with juvenile offenders. A few months later, Elroy was involved with a street gang specializing in purse snatching; and again he was apprehended, then "released to mother." An other purse snatching at thirteen was accompanied by an assault on an elderly woman with the same outcome.

What the Doil file demonstrated, Ainslie thought, was that most juvenile crime was simply not taken seriously, either by police or the courts. He knew from his own experience that a police of fleer could "apprehend" a juvenile at 9:00 A.M. and before the officer went off duty at 3:00 P.M. the same offender would be back on the streets. In the meantime the parents would have been called to Police Headquarters, where the juvenile was released to their custody incident closed.

Even when a juvenile was taken to court, penalties were minor usually a few days' detention at Youth Hall, a notunpleasant place where the kids stayed in fairly comfortable rooms played video games, and watched TV.

Many believed the overall system, or lack of it, spawned lifelong criminals who became convinced, as minors, that crime was incredibly easy to get away with. Even the counselors of juveniles shared that belief and confirmed it in reports.

Counselors were assigned to juvenile offenders after two apprehensions. These were underpaid, overworked individuals with little or no special training, and of whom a college degree was not required. Each counselor, burdened with an impossibly large caseload, was expected to give advice to juveniles and parents advice that was largely ignored.

Elroy Doil apparently had the same counselor, one Herbert Elders, throughout his juvenile crime career. The file contained several single-page sheets headed TNFORMATION REPORT ONLY, all written by Elders, who seemed to have done his best in difficult circumstances. One report, written when Doil was "thirteen, but big for his age and very strong," warned of "a probability of long-term violence."

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