This column is a follow-up of my “Amazon Bans Cline” column, in which I emulate Jeff Bezos’s fictional announcement that he is banning all my books from the Amazon sales platform. Now I link the ongoing, all-too-real farce of Brett Kavanaugh’s Judiciary nomination hearing to a fictional inquest in the Cyrus Skeen series, set mostly in San Mateo, California, in 1927. In this story, Inquest, a local assistant district attorney tries to pin a manslaughter charge on Skeen. The similarities between Skeen’s inquest, about whether or not he murdered a criminal, and Kavanaugh’s confirmation circus, are too similar to ignore.
1a : a judicial or official inquiry or examination especially before a jury a coroner’s inquest
b : a body of people (such as a jury) assembled to hold such an inquiry
c : the finding of the jury upon such inquiry or the document recording it
An inquest is a judicial inquiry in common law jurisdictions, particularly one held to determine the cause of a person’s death. Conducted by a judge, jury, or government official, an inquest may or may not require an autopsy carried out by a coroner or medical examiner. Generally, inquests are conducted only when deaths are sudden or unexplained.
The inquest in San Mateo was focused on the deceased Josephus Kringal. The Foreword to my novel reads:
Struggling to make a success of his detective agency, Skeen finds himself the target of an ambitious local assistant district attorney after an inquest is held surrounding the death of a criminal Skeen had tried to subdue and have him arrested; but the criminal resisted and chose to fight, resulting in the criminal’s death.
Skeen may be charged with manslaughter. The inquest is ended, over the medical examiner’s objections, with the assistant district attorney attempting to charge Skeen with manslaughter and demanding that he be arraigned on the charge. It is early February 1927. This is the twenty-seventh Cyrus Skeen detective novel. Skeen reflects on a case from earlier in his detective career, shortly after he had set up shop in San Francisco as a private detective.
It cannot be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that Skeen deliberately had pulled the trigger that killed the criminal, or that the criminal had inadvertently shot himself with the gun as Skeen wrestled to get it away from him. Ford cannot prove the truth of her accusations, which have no substantial, provable evidence
The Kavanaugh nomination hearing is synopsized here:
In July 2018, Christine Blasey Ford sent a letter to Senator Diane Feinstein claiming that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party in 1982. Feinstein held onto the letter as the hearing of Kavanaugh ended, choosing to reveal it and its contents thus delaying a vote on his confirmation to the SCOTUS. Keeping up with the Judicial Committee hearings, it has taken on the tone of an inquest into Kavanaugh’s character and history, in which he has been judged by mere unsubstantiated say-to.
The longer that the Brett Kavanaugh sexual assault allegation scandal continues, the worse it looks for the accuser.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the lawmaker whom Christine Blasey Ford confided in with her accusations, has done a great job at destroying any credibility Ford had going into this. By being informed of her allegations in the form of a letter back in July, and waiting until a week before Kavanaugh’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation vote to release the details, Feinstein has tainted Ford’s claims. Now, many suspect the allegations are too politically timed to be believed. Even some Senate Democrats are displeased by the suspect timing.)
At the beginning of this saga, Ford could have made a real, substantive case about her alleged assault. She could have made the allegations and demanded a full inquiry. Instead, she waited to go public, and, in turn, undermined her own case. Now Ford is refusing to testify before Congress, despite her attorney agreeing that she would just days prior.)
But it gets worse. It turns out that Sen. Feinstein’s office is withholding a key piece of information related to the Kavanaugh investigation: Ford’s unredacted original letter detailing the assault.
Now, if Feinstein really wanted to get to the bottom of what happened between Kavanaugh and Ford, you’d think she would share that letter with the rest of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is investigating the incident currently.
In Inquest, the assistant district attorney attempts to force Skeen to confess that he deliberately shot the criminal. Skeen does not. In the course of questioning, he handily dismisses the notion that he deliberately shot the criminal.
The medical examiner, Hershel Frum, who is on the panel along with the county sheriff who found the criminal’s body, protests the assistant district attorney’s line of questioning. The assistant district attorney declares the inquest concluded:
Lawrence Werner read from a prepared statement:
“The addendum has been called at the request of County Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Werner. Mr. Werner asserts that he noted irregularities in the manner of Mr. Kringal’s demise when Mr. Skeen engaged Mr. Kringal in a desperate struggle for the revolver in Mr. Kringal’s possession, and with which Mr. Kringal had a number of times fired at Mr. Skeen, striking him once in a non-lethal manner. These irregularities, which will soon be discussed, have convinced Mr. Werner that the possibility of a charge of wrongful death against Mr. Skeen may be justified, and also a charge of manslaughter in a suit by the county and by Mr. Kringal’s survivors, if any….”
The medical examiner then read from his autopsy report on the death of the criminal.
Frum sighed and added, “Sheriff Nicoloff is holding the revolver as evidence in his homicide investigation. He has had the weapon test-fired to compare the slugs from this revolver found in Mr. Kringal’s cranium and those from the plaster ceiling of his domicile. Our forensics department attests that they are all indeed were fired from the revolver. The slug which grazed Mr. Skeen’s waist could not be found, as it traveled from Mr. Skeen’s waist through a screen door. Two other slugs from the same weapon struck Mr. Kringal’s vehicle, which was parked outside close to the porch, and while they have been extracted from the vehicle and tentatively identified, the department could not swear they are from the same weapon. They had been too marred and shorn of identifiable markings for having struck hard metal. Possibly the slug that struck Mr. Skeen is one of them….
…“Projectile fired by the revolver at close proximity to the subject entered the under space of the mentum with such force that it not unexpectedly traveled from the undershot jaw or mandible, and the expelled gas from the explosion was such that it left a burn mark on the deceased’s skin in that area. The projectile entered initially into the submaxillary triangle and up through the tongue and soft palate, and passed through the vomer, partially disintegrating the sella turica, thence to the sphenoid sinus, and finally burrowing upward through the brain, coming to rest near the top of the skull, about an inch from the uppermost extremity of the parietal bone….”
Werner made some threats against Skeen. Skeen’s lawyer takes action:
Rouse rose from his seat and asked, “Is Mr. Skeen is being charged with anything?” He paused and went on before Werner could reply. “I otherwise find these proceedings as frivolous and out of order, and lacking in dignity.”
Hershel Frum grinned, seemingly glad that Werner was being opposed.
Werner also grinned. It was a wicked grin. “That remains to be seen, sir. Mr. Frum, please read from Mr. Skeen’s deposition as recorded by Sheriff Nicoloff. Then Mr. Skeen will be orally examined…”
Frum read the dry statement I’d made to Nicoloff, taken by a stenographer and transcribed.
In answer to a question about his identity, Skeen says:
I smiled. “I am Jose Wannatabe, chief shaman of the Loose Goose Tribe of the Western Addition of San Francisco. My rain dances have ended many a drought.”
Several spectators snickered or laughed.
Hershel Frum abruptly rose and shouted at Werner. “I am done with this proceeding! This is a farce! We already know who he is and what he does! I would not blame him for turning this inquest into a greater farce than it is now!”
Werner shot up and faced Frum. “This is my proceeding, Mr. Frum! If you don’t sit down and be quiet I’ll have you escorted from the room!”
Frum jabbed a finger on the lapel of Werner’s jacket. “Pardon me, child, but this is my proceeding, and you are making a mockery of it! I did not understand in the beginning that you intended to railroad Mr. Skeen into a raft of false charges!” He turned, picked up the gavel near his mass of papers, and hammered the table twice. “This inquest is concluded!” He dropped the gavel, scooped up his papers, and left the table. He made to get past Werner, who stood in his way.
Sheriff Nicoloff also rose and his huge frame blocked Frum’s exit. The officer planted a hand on the wall and smiled at Frum.
Frum shouted at him, “Get out of my way, you pathetic oaf!”
I stepped forward and put a hand on Nicoloff’s shoulder. “Get out of his way, Sheriff,” I said softly.
Nicoloff turned to me.
“Or else what, Snoop?” So, we were back to that again. Nicoloff’s expression was an ugly one that dared me to touch him with anything but a hand on his shoulder.
Skeen escorts Frum away from Werner and Sheriff Nicoloff.
Rouse, Frum, and Skeen leave the inquest room. In the courthouse lobby, Skeen speaks with the local newspaper editor, who is covering the inquest, and learns that Lawrence Werner is a graduate of a Progressive law school near Portland, Oregon, the Sequoia Commons Law School, and was a recent hire of Hayden Sanger, the District Attorney, who is on vacation. Skeen investigates the school, which has a shady history.
Sanger dismisses Werner and exonerates Skeen. Skeen investigates the school, which has a shady history.
Werner was a law clerk for a late Oregon Supreme Court justice.
There was no political agenda that Skeen can see behind Werner’s wanting to charge him with a crime. Werner was a Progressive, and charging people with crimes without a smidgen of proof was and still is what Progressives do and have done for decades. Observe the Kavanaugh confirmation circus. That circus is simply the application of Rule 12 from Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.
RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”
Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism
Kavanaugh has been targeted. Who knew? Diane Feinstein is an Alinsky creature and Charles Schumer’s hand-puppet. .
What led to the aborted inquest was that Skeen investigated the murder of a retired Cuban campaign veteran in a nursing home in Redwood City and found the murderer, Josephus Kringal, an aid at the nursing home, in San Bruno. He also learns that Sheriff Nicoloff had stolen the murder victim’s life savings when he investigated the vet’s murder.
Inquest ends with the usual satisfactory duel between good and evil, between Skeen and the chief villain. Justice is delivered with a .38 bullet.