Page 73 of Detective



Something else: In front of grand juries, prosecutors presented as much or as little evidence as they chose, usually disclosing the least amount they had to. They also used devices as Montesino was clearly doing to speed things along when they were confident of getting an indictment anyway.


Ainslie, who had testified before other grand juries, increasingly disliked the experience and knew that many more police officers felt the same way, believing the grand jury system was one-sided and contrary to evenhanded justice.

* * *

As a scholar with wide interests, Ainslie knew the system's history that grand juries originated in medieval England around the year 1200, when such juries accused those suspected of crimes and then tried them. During succeeding years the two functions were separated, and grand juries became "inquisitorial and accusatorial" only. Britain, after more than seven centuries, abolished grand juries in 1933, believing them incongruous in modern law. The United States retained them, though criticisms made it likely that eventually perhaps in the century soon to come the British example would be followed.

A problem with American grand juries was their secrecy, which permitted inconsistencies and barred even local supervision to a point where one legal critic described a grand jury as "a body of semi-informed laymen exempt from technical rules."

Some states had largely eliminated grand juries Pennsylvania and Oklahoma were examples; a few states nowadays allowed defendants and defense attorneys to be present. Only thirteen states required a grand jury indictment for all felony prosecutions; thirty-five did not. Several states advised jurors against accepting hearsay evidence; two examples were New York and Mississippi. Others allowed it, including Florida, which permitted hearsay evidence if given by an investigator. The list of inconsistencies and inevitable injustices was complex and long.

Some United States lawyers felt that grand jury procedures were still disconcertingly close to the Salem witch trials of 1692 though usually not prosecutors.

* * *

Even with Adele Montesino's shortcuts, a succession of witnesses and questioning continued for two hours. Malcolm Ainslie, after nearly an hour on the stand, had been dismissed and sent from the room, though instructed to stand by because his testimony would be needed again. He was not allowed to hear other witnesses; no one other than jurors or court of ficials ever attended a full grand jury performance.

For the principal murder-one accusation, the subject of motive Cynthia's lifelong hatred of her parents was addressed by Detective Ruby Bowe, who, smartly attired in a beige suit, was responsive to questions, and articulate.

Bowe described her discovery of Eleanor Ernst's secret diaries, though Adele Montesino's questioning stopped before reaching Cynthia's pregnancy. Instead, at the prompting of Montesino, who had clearly familiarized herself with the diaries' clarified version, Bowe jumped ahead, reading aloud the diary entry that began, I've caught Cynthia looking at us sometimes. I believe a fierce hatred for us both is there, and concluded, Sometimes I think she's planning something for us, some kind of revenge, and I'm afraid. Cynthia is very clever, more clever than us both.

Bowe had expected the questioning would return to Cynthia's pregnancy and childbearing, but Montesino concluded, "Thank you, Detective. That is all."

Afterward, when Ruby Bowe discussed the omission with Ainslie, he said wryly, "Bringing out the pregnancy by her father might have created too much sympathy for Cynthia. If you're a prosecutor you can't let that happen.''

Setting the stage for the tape recording, the state attorney called as a witness Julio Verona, the Police Department's ID chief. After establishing his qualifications, Montesino proceeded. "I believe that the recording this grand jury is about to hear was subjected to tests to establish that the voices on it are indeed those of Cynthia Ernst and Patrick Jensen. Is that correct?"

"Yes, it is."

"Please describe the tests and your conclusion."

"In our own police records we already had recordings of Commissioner Ernst when she was a police officer, and of Mr. Jensen, who was once questioned in connection with another case. Those were compared with the recording you have just referred to." Verona described the technical tests on specialized acoustic equipment, then concluded, "The two voices are identical on both recordings."

"And now we'll play the recording that is part of the evidence in this case," Montesino told the grand jury. "Please listen carefully, though if there's anything you miss and want to hear again, we can play it as many times as you wish."

Julio Verona stayed to operate the tape, using highquality sound equipment. As the voices of Patrick Jensen and Cynthia Ernst were heard at first ordering their meal, then in lowered tones discussing the Colombian, Virgilio every grand juror was visibly concentrating, anxious not to miss a word. When Cynthia was heard protesting after Jensen told her Virgilio was the wheelchair murderer Shut up! Don't tell me that! I don't want to know a male Hispanic juror proclaimed, "Pues ya lo sabe." To which a young, blond Caucasian woman added, "But the bitch kept it to herself!"

Other jurors shushed the pair, and another voice asked, "May we hear that over again, please?"

"Certainly." The state attorney nodded to Verona, who stopped the tape, rewound it slightly, and recommenced playing.

Then, as the recorded voices continued two payments of two hundred thousand Dollars, one for the Colombian, the same for Patrick; Cynthia suggesting "odd features" to make the deaths appear to be serial killings. Murmurs, then exclamations of disgust, anger, and resolve surfaced among the jurors, one man declaring as the recording stopped, "Guilty as hell, an' I don't need to hear no more!"

"I understand what you're saying, sir, and I respect your feelings," Adele Montesino responded. "But there are two more indictments being sought here, and I must ask your patience for a little longer. By the way, I don't know if anyone's noticed, but we seem to have some air conditioning again."

There was scattered applause and some sighs, this time of relief.

Fairly quickly, a few gaps were filled. An IRS inspector produced Cynthia Ernst's subpoenaed tax records, showing she had declared and paid taxes on interest earned in a Cayman Islands bank account, the interest having resulted from deposits stated to be a series of gifts and therefore not taxable exceeding five million Dollars. "I point out to you," the inspector said at the end, removing his bifocals, "that Ms. Ernst's taxes are entirely in order."

"But the existence of the account," Montesino advised the grand jury, "supports the statement you heard on tape about Ms. Ernst's intention to pay four hundred thousand Dollars for the murders of her parents." Montesino did not mention the irony that Cynthia's compliance with U.S. tax laws had created evidence that otherwise would have remained concealed in the Caymans and been off limits to any U.S. court.

Malcolm Ainslie was recalled. He described the opening of Jensen's safe-deposit box, which included the tape recording the grand jury had heard, as well as other items. One of those was an airline ticket counterfoil showing a round-trip Miami~rand Cayman journey, by Jensen, aboard Cayman Airways.

"What is the significance of that flight?" Montesino asked.

"Two days ago, in the presence of his attorney," Ainslie replied, "Mr. Jensen told me that he and Cynthia Ernst spent three days together in the Caymans, during which they planned the Ernst murders; also that they travelled there separately Miss Ernst on American Airlines from Miami, using the name Hilda Shawl"

"And did you verify that second statement?"

"Yes. I went to American Airlines headquarters in Miami, and, using their computer records, they confirmed there was a passenger with the name Hilda Shaw on their flight 1029 to Grand Cayman that same day."

It was all hearsay evidence, Ainslie realized, which would have been thrown out of a regular court, but was usable in this sometimes zany proceeding.

Related to the second indictment Cynthia's concealment of the two murders by Jensen Ainslie produced the box of damning evidence against Jensen, put together and hidden by Cynthia Ernst. Then, prompted by Montesino, he showed and described the contents one by one.

Julio Verona was recalled next. He testified that fingerprints found on plastic bags in the evidence box were those of Cynthia Ernst, and that handwriting on several labels had been examined and certified as hers also.

"Concerning the third indictment," Montesino told the grand jury, "I will not call any witness to confirm that Cynthia Ernst learned the name of the guilty party in what has become known as the Wheelchair Murder, and subsequently failed to report that information to police, as required by law. That is because you the grand jurors are, in effect, witnesses yourselves, having heard exactly what happened during the recording that was played."

Again, murmurs and nods acknowledged her words.

* * *

Montesino was brief with her finale.

"This has been a long and painful session, and I will not prolong it, except with this reminder. Your task now is not to decide the innocence or guilt of Cynthia Ernst. That will be a trial jury's responsibility if you decide that the evidence presented is sufficient to take these matters onward through the courts. I do believe, most strongly, that it isfar more than sufficient, and that justice will be served by your issuance of three true bills indictments. Thank you."

Moments later, after the state attorney and other staff departed, the grand jurors were left alone.

But not for long. Barely fifteen minutes later the judge and the state attorney were summoned, after which the judge received the grand jurors' decisions and read them aloud. In each case an indictment called for the arrest of Cynthia Ernst.

4

"You guys will have to move fast," Curzon Knowles warned Ainslie as he handed him a plastic cover containing two signed copies of the three indictments. "Once those jurors get out of here, secrecy oath or not, someone will talk, and word about Commissioner Ernst will spread like a brush fire and surely get to her."

They were in a hallway outside the courtroom. As Knowles walked with him toward an elevator, Ainslie asked, "Can you keep everyone here for a while? You have more cases with this jury?"

"One. We planned it that way, but don't count on more than an hour. After that, you take your chances."

Knowles continued, "They already know about the indictments at the Police Department; Montesino called the chief. And, oh yes, I've been told to tell you that as soon as you arrive, you should go directly to the office of Assistant Chief Serrano." He glanced at Ainslie curiously. "Pretty unusual for the brass to be directly involved in a homicide."

"Not when it's a city commissioner. The mayor and commissioners are a special breed, and treated very warily."

As a state officer dealing with many towns and cities statewide, Curzon Knowles was not tuned in to local politics as, in Miami, even a detective-sergeant was.

Ostensibly, Ainslie knew, the Police Department was independent of city politics, but in reality it was not. The city commission controlled the Police Department budget through the city manager, who also appointed the chief of police and had the power to remove one; there was an occasion when he had done so. Commission members possessed inside knowledge about senior police officers who were in line for promotion. And some commissioners had friends on the force, so quiet influence on their behalf could be, and sometimes was, applied.

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