The first was titled "The 3D Dead" the account of how the discovery was made and "Right to Die" an anecdote about how a dead man found himself tormented by his new station in the world as a ghost and his family's inability to let him go. The following is another story about what happens when our cherished civic institutions finally had to decide how society would face a new world where the dead are never really gone.....
Mobs of reporters and demonstrators converged on the courthouse. They were held back by a ring of riot police. The different protest groups merged into a single mass of people brandishing homemade signs with the hashtag that best represented their position on the matter. #deadlivesmatter and let #deadisbetter were the most common.
Reporters accompanied by a caravan of satellite dish mounted news vans alongside spectators armed with smartphones streamed the event to hundreds of millions of people around the globe. The digital conciseness was focusing its attention on a case involving two people who under any circumstances probably would have lived their lives relatively unnoticed.
Almost a year prior a woman named Stephanie Kaplin was pulled out of a lake. Somehow this catalyzed a chain of events the climax of which was the first murder trial ever where the victim would be able to testify on her own behalf.
The Lazarus was a device that illuminated the molecular presence of the dead. The machine's millions of pinpoint lights colored in the otherwise invisible deceased that exist all around us. For a price death, anyone could now conquer death, or at least mitigate its consequences. The families with deceased loved ones were relieved they could be brought back, and the dead were ecstatic to be able to escape the maddening and eternal isolation of the afterlife.
Ryan Lewis. A middle manager at prominent technology company based in the city. Ryan stood accused of Stephanie's gristly murder. It wasn't any eye witness account or piece of physical evidence that landed Ryan in front of a judge fighting for his freedom but the account of Stephanie herself.
Jay Trauman a young defense attorney enjoying the heights of a meteoric rise in the legal profession and Helen Healy a veteran of the courts in pursuit of high political ambitions each found themselves presented with an opportunity to make history, or at the very least be a prominent footnote. The end of death was changing the world, and now it had to be decided how the dead would fit back into society as a whole. The decision to allow Ms. Kaplin to testify was a landmark decision, but would the dead be able to hang onto this critical gain in civic recognition?
When Mrs. Heely called Stephanie to the stand, the courtroom room erupted. The judge furiously banged his gavel until the spectators were silenced. The prosecution saved her for the grand finale, the final act in the whole spectacle and she was sure not to disappoint.
After a few moments, the technicians were able to set up the Laserus. The ghost of Stephanie was summoned to the stand and the court waited for her to appear. Half of the glowing aberration suddenly appeared and the shocked murmurs began again.
“Order! Order in the court!” The judge punctuated his commands with the strike of his gavel.
“Can someone fix this please?” He requested in a frustrated tone.
A technician rushed over like a stage hand that just noticed a broken prop. The tech fiddled with the machine and after a few moments the rest of the figure filled in and Stephanie visible in her entirety. The courtroom let out a collective gasp. She was still in the same condition her killer left her in. Her face was puffy and swollen, her dark blonde hair was matted with blood, and large dark bruises were permanently pressed into her twisted neck.
Mrs. Heely let court take in the ghastly sight. She's slowly approached the bench. Her usually furrowed brow and dark oval eyes arranged themselves into a sympathetic mask.
“Ms. Kaplan on behalf of the state of Wisconsin I want to express my infinite gratitude for your bravery. None of us could begin to imagine how hard it must be for you to be here. What you're doing here today is truly a victory for justice.”
“Alright let's get on with it.” The judge grumbled.
“Miss Kaplan can you please tell the court how you came to be involved with Mr. Lewis.”
Stephanie nodded. “First off thank you for your kind words. I met Ryan about a year and a half ago at the restaurant I work at. I was tending bar, and he came in for a few drinks. It was slow that day, and we really got a chance to talk and just ended up hitting it off.”
“How did you hit it off?” Asked Mrs. Heely.
“Well, we just had a lot in common. He was very interested in microbrews just like I was and when I found out he worked for AirWare I was a little star struck. I was putting myself through school in Madison to be a programmer, and I've always been a huge fan of theirs. It's actually where I wanted to work once I graduated.”
“Did Mr. Lewis seem like a decent enough guy?” Asked Healy.
“He did.” Replied Stephanie. “I was used to making small talk with customers just to be courteous, but we had a lot in common, and I have to admit I was attracted to him.”
“Can you tell the court what happened later Miss Kaplan?”
“Yes, he invited me to meet him at another lounge when my shift was over and...” Stephanie sighed. “I accepted his offer.”
“And at this point did Mr. Lewis mention he was married?” Asked Healy.
“No he never mentioned he had a wife.” said Stephanie.
“Please, believe me, Miss Kaplan, I hate publicly prying into the life of an independent young woman such as yourself, but I'm afraid circumstances demand I ask, what happened between you and Mr. Lewis that evening?”
Stephanie was hesitant. “Ryan and I had sex that night,” she finally said.
“And now at this point did he happen to mention he was married?” Asked Heely as she paced up and down the court.
“No, no he did not,” Stephanie reiterated.
“That's very interesting.” Healy stopped in her tracks and gazed at the jury.
“So when did you find out Mr. Lewis was having an affair?”
“Almost a month later,” said Stephanie.
“And tell me what did you do when you found out?”
“I broke it off with him and gave him an ultimatum. Either he could tell his wife what he was doing or I would.” Stephanie said definitely.
“Why Miss Kaplan why would you think about telling a man's wife you an affair with her husband.”
Stephanie sighed again “Because I knew I couldn't have been the first one and I damn sure wasn't going to be the last one.” She proclaimed.
The prosecutor put her hands behind her back and slowly strutted over to the jury. “So there it is. Say what you will. Maybe Miss Kaplan was a bit naive but isn't that just part of being young? She didn't have the chance to accrue all the experiences and learn all the lessons life has to offer because Mr. Lewis took it upon himself to teach her he will stop at nothing to protect his image. To him, Stephanie Kaplan life was well worth sacrificing to make sure his wife didn't find out about his indiscretions. Stephanie only wanted, to tell the truth for the sake of somebody else and that cost her, her life!” Snapped Healy.
She took an audible breath and locked eyes with the jury. “It took a miracle to give Stephanie even a chance to seek justice for what was done to her. Mr. Lewis took everything from her. Do you think for one second he thought about Stephanie's future or of the heartbroken family he took her from when was leaving her to rot dirt? Clearly, this is a man who thinks only of himself. Please do what's right not just for Stephanie and her family but for everyone who has to live in fear of people like Mr. Ryan.”
Healy let the silence reign a moment and stood in front of the courtroom and accepted the quiet applause.
“No further questions your honor,” she said before exiting the stage.
Defense counsel Trauman got up from his chair. He squared his shoulders and buttoned his jacket. He had a performer's instincts that were every bit as keen has his opponent's but his act was more subtle. His character was the fresh-faced kid who saw the law as “an opportunity to be an everyday hero.” The larger issues referenced and inferred by the prosecution were of little interest to him. As far as the jury was concerned he was interested in the facts in just one case, the case he was working on. He was deceptively simple.
“Now that the prosecution is done with that lame character assassination Maybe now we can focus on the facts at hand,” Trauman smugly suggested.
“Objection!” Shouted Healy.
“Sorry, your honor,” Truman said humbly.
“Miss Kaplan when you were in school you were majoring in computer science correct?”
“Yes, that's correct,” answered Stephanie.
“That's a tough subject. I actually thought about going into it myself, but when I couldn't connect my email account to my phone, I decided I might be better suited to be an attorney.” The court giggled and the charming lad's knock at himself.
“In the testimony, you just gave you mentioned it was your goal to work at AirWare after you graduated.” Said Trauman.
“Yes, I wanted to work there since I was in high school.” Said Stephanie.
“Programing can be a pretty competitive field. Tell do you know how many applicants actually get jobs with AirWare?” Trauman asked.
“I believe it was something like every one in two hundred and seventy-five applicants,” Stephanie replied.
“You believed it was something like every one in two hundred and seventy-five applicants," Trauman repeated.
“Yes,” nodded Stephanie.
“So you were pretty ambitious weren't you?” Trauman said skeptically.
“Is there anything wrong with that?” Stephanie replied defensively.
“No nothing is wrong that in it of itself,” Trauman conceded “but against those kinds of odds it raises the question just how far would you go to get what you want?”
“Objection your honor!” Healy snapped to her feet.
“Overruled,” grumbled the judge.
“Correct me if I'm wrong but you gotta be pretty good at math to be a programmer, and I'm guessing you paid close attention in statistics you know what those odds meant for you, and you would have done anything you could to beat them. Including having an affair with a potential employer!”
“That's just a lie.” Said Stephanie in a shaky voice.
“You took a gamble on this affair and when you saw it wasn't going to work out you resorted to more drastic measures you were willing to hold this man's reputation hostage so you could get what you want. Isn't that true Stephanie?” Trauman locked eyes with the ghost, and she backed down. Sensing her weakness he struck again. “You lost your chance to work at AirWare, but now you have worldwide exposure, tv interviews, book deals, I've even heard a movie deal is in the works,” declared a disgusted Trauman.
“Are you saying I murdered myself for attention??” Stephanie shrieked.
“Sounds like a guilty conscious,” Muttered Trauman.
“Objection your honor!” Howled Healy.
“Sustained!" Barked the Judge
After the case was concluded Healy and Trauman were asked time and time again why Stephanie Kaplan? Neither one had any better answer to give than that's just the way it worked out. Predictably life went on as it does. Trauman enjoyed a lengthy and highly profitable career in law; Mrs. Heely ran for office and Stephanie was largely forgotten. Eventually, the donations stopped, and her family had to say goodbye to her one more time before sending her back to the lonely existence of the invisible dead.