restricted access 12 “An altered state of consciousness”
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182 chapter twelve “An altered state of consciousness” “Brain damage is fairly common.” —Dr. John Mullen an Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery and Neurology I After the defense rested, Norman Kinne lined up witnesses who had dealings with Belachheb and were ready to testify that he was perfectly sane. Oh, he was odd, and in their minds maybe a little crazy, but he was certainly someone who had enough mental capacity to know the difference between right and wrong. The first of the witnesses was Beth.1 She was a secretary for a law firm and the person who had introduced Abdelkrim Belachheb to Joanie. She described Belachheb as a selfish schemer who readily admitted that he needed to marry a woman who had money—an American who could help him secure permanent residency in the United States. According to Beth, he seemed to have found what he wanted in Joanie, who spent large sums of her limited income on his expensive tastes. He had nice clothes, memberships in clubs, and drank to excess in plush bars and restaurants (not to mention his custom wig). Beth even testified that Belachheb shamelessly admitted to using Joanie’s money to hunt rich women. “AN ALTERED STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS” • 183 According to Beth’s sworn testimony, Joanie had told her that Charlie beat her up so badly that he put her in the hospital. On December 31, 1983, during a New Year’s Eve party, Beth asked Belachheb if that was true. “Yeah, I sure did. Bitch deserved it!” he answered. Beth’s testimony struck hard at the notion that Belachheb ever had any feelings of love or tenderness for Joanie, which went a long way towards discrediting Joanie’s testimony characterizing Belachheb as sympathetic or sick. Beth was also the first in a line of witnesses to state categorically that during the time she knew him he was quite capable of controlling himself—and did. During cross-examination, Frank Jackson brought out the point that throughout his interviews with Beth she never related her “bitch deserved it” conversation with Belachheb to him. He also reminded her that in the hallway, that very day, she had told him that she was “more convinced than ever” that Belachheb was crazy. The rest of her testimony consisted of discussions of what she meant by “crazy” and “irrational,” with Kinne and Jackson arguing over context. Kinne’s next witness was an Ianni’s customer named Stan,* a salesman for a sporting goods store.2 He testified that on June 29 he and friends went to Ianni’s for dinner following a golf game. While there, he had a nice chat with Linda Lowe, a friend of his for the past two years. While seated at one of the small round tables near a corner of the barroom, he observed Belachheb visiting up and down the bar at different spots. He noticed nothing unusual until the shooting started. After the shooting began, Stan described Belachheb’s face as very calm. He testified that, while hiding behind furniture, he actually saw Belachheb put the gun to the victims ’ heads and shoot. “Take that, bitch!” he quoted Belachheb as saying, as the pistol fired missiles into the helpless victims. After the first round of shooting, Stan went to the victims and saw that he could do nothing for them. When Belachheb returned and started to shoot again, Stan ran out of the back door. Stan’s testimony was important because it illustrated that Belachheb’s 184 • CHAPTER TWELVE motive was revenge for a perceived wrong, which of course, required conscious thought. Jackson’s cross examination was rather odd in that he started by asking Stan if he had ever been a bookie or into drug dealing. Stan answered, “no” even after Jackson reminded him that lying under oath was perjury. But that line of inquiry did not last long as Jackson turned to questions about how Stan could quote Belachheb, who had a thick accent, and how he could characterize Belachheb’s facial expression as angry, when he had never met or seen Belachheb until that night. The next witness, Nick, Linda Lowe’s boyfriend and the owner of a car dealership that had been considering hiring Belachheb to sell its expensive foreign imports, was particularly effective in establishing Belachheb’s ability to think rationally.3 Nick described how he came to know Belachheb while the latter worked for Walker Limousine Service and how that had led him to...