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Dan Holden's Creative Writing

The Last Appeal

bars2NOTE: As a reference item, I am posting my short screenplay, “The Last Appeal” here.

Please feel free to comment on it or rate it after you’ve read it through.

This screenplay is currently being considered for production by the Los Angeles Film Collective.

THE LAST APPEAL

©2014 Daniel Holden

Scene: INT. Indirect Daylight.

Older interrogation room in the death row unit of an aging Arkansas state prison. The walls are bare. There is a single table in the room with one chair on the left and two on the right.

We  can hear the echoing sounds of prisoners muttering from their cells.

TWO GUARDS lead CHRIS MARSHALL, a large, heavily SHACKLED and HANDCUFFED man, into the room. They seat him in the chair to the left. They are followed by the WARDEN who carries a FOLDER, followed by TWO well-dressed CIVILIANS, including one woman who carries a SMALL BRIEFCASE.  All three stand to the right.

The WARDEN opens his folder, scans the top pages and says:

WARDEN

Chris Marshall, in 1987 the State of Arkansas found you guilty of murder in the first degree for a July 1985 triple homicide. You were sentenced to death by lethal injection and have sat right here in this death row ever since while nearly all your appeals have been exhausted.

Closes folder and tucks it under his arm.

This here is Barbara Ford, and Daniel Greenberg again. They are here to talk with you about your final appeal which is due to expire in 24 hours. As always, you may talk with them but you may not take your hands off the table and you may not get out of your seat.

Turns to BARBARA FORD and DANIEL GREENBERG

Y’all got about 10 minutes with him, no more. Guards will be right out there.

DANIEL GREENBERG

Thank you…Mr. Warden. We won’t be long.

The Warden exits and the Guards follow. The Guards are stationed at the sides of the cell, leaving the barred front unobstructed. Both lawyers sit.

BARBARA FORD

Clears throat quietly.

Mr. Marshall, as the warden said, this is your final appeal. We are basing it on the constitutionality of the search –

CHRIS MARSHALL

A bullshit argument, don’t you think?

BARBARA FORD

Puts papers back on the table

Mr. Marshall, I know that you feel your alibi is still in play, you have been arguing this all along. But we’re beyond that stage. Your alibi don’t hold up. Nobody ever saw you in Dennard and I don’t expect anybody ever will.

CHRIS MARSHALL

No, not with you for a lawyer.

BARBARA FORD

Mr. Marshall I believe we can wrap this up right now if you’re not serious about taking part in this appeal. I’m bound by law to work in your defense –

CHRIS MARSHALL

I don’t expect you’ll put much effort into it Missy.  In fact I’m kind of disappointed ‘bout you all-in-all.

DANIEL GREENBERG

Mr. Marshall we are working diligently in your defense, as well as many other death row inmates…

CHRIS MARSHALL

Pfft. Where did you go to college Missy?

DANIEL GREENBERG

It’s Miss Ford to you.

CHRIS MARSHALL

No it ain’t.

BARBARA FORD

The University of Arkansas, of course. It’s the only law school in the state …

CHRIS MARSHALL

Of course. And you went to Bentonville High School. But you still disappoint me.

BARBARA FORD

How did you know I went to Bentonville High?

DANIEL GREENBERG

OK, we can end this –

CHRIS MARSHALL

I ain’t ready to call it done. We are discussing my last appeal, am I right?

BARBARA FORD

I don’t know, are we? Y’all seem to be more interested in where I went to high school. Let’s just set my personal life aside and talk about your appeal –

CHRIS MARSHALL

Your mother looks just like you, but I remember her hair being shorter, just off the shoulders.

BARBARA FORD

Excuse me?

CHRIS MARSHALL

Elaina. Elaina Bowman. That was her name at the time.

BARBARA FORD

Wha- How dare you!

DANIEL GREENBERG

Barbara, never mind him, he’s had a lot of idle time to sit around and think up schemes…

CHRIS MARSHALL

Ain’t no scheme, Mr. Greenberg.

Looks at Barbara

I thought I saw the resemblance the minute I laid eyes on you. I remember her right well. She was a fine girl. Sharp, with a sense of humor too. And she had a fire in her eyes…

BARBARA FORD

How dare you speak as if you know her.

CHRIS MARSHALL

Oh I knowd her. And I know you too.

Looks at guard outside the bars.

Boss!

GUARD ONE

Yeah boy?

CHRIS MARSHALL

Takin’ a letter out here.

Takes LETTER out and waves it at the guard, who nods in acknowledgment. He puts it on the table for Barbara Ford.

BARBARA FORD

What’s this?

CHRIS MARSHALL

Come on now, you’re a trial lawyer, you’ve seen those before. It’s the results of a DNA comparison.

BARBARA FORD

Where did you get this? And who is it?

CHRIS MARSHALL

Well one of those is me. And the other is you.

BARBARA FORD

We’re related? How convenient.

CHRIS MARSHALL

Yes we are. I done told you I knew your ma.

DANIEL GREENBERG

You sonofabitch –

CHRIS MARSHALL

You was conceived on the night those three people was murdered. I was at a bar in Bentonville. Your ma came in looking so fine.

She had this boy with her, name of John Ford, but he was already drunk and he wasn’t going to last long. So I took to talkin’ with your ma and then dancing. She had a fire in her eye, she wanted something outta life. I could see that.

And all the time, she was talking about  this John Ford, how he was gonna be a state senator or something, I guessed he had money and his daddy was somebody big.

Me, I didn’t have no direction other than what was in front of me. At the time it was your ma.

We went out back for a cigarette and then to my truck to listen to music and then we just fell in lust. She snapped out of it, ran back into the bar half dressed. I thought she was going to claim a rape or something.

I was about to leave when John Ford comes out and he’s staggering but he’s got a gun in his hand and he’s waving it at me, tellin’ me to get out of my truck.

I started up the truck and put it in gear. John Ford starts shootin’ and your ma is grabbing at him, trying to get the gun away.

He’s stumblin’ and she’s twistin’ and then those three people come out the bar and John Ford gunned ‘em down, all three of them, on accident.

They all fell to the ground, your ma and John Ford too.

I got out to see if your ma was okay. John Ford, he sees me and starts to raise his gun. I just took it from him with both hands, he was shakin’.  That’s when everybody else comes out of the bar, too.

So I just dropped the gun, jumped in the truck and left. They caught me a couple of days later at a gas station.

Nobody never said nothing about your ma and John Ford bein’ there, I suppose because his daddy really was a powerful man, wasn’t he?

BARBARA FORD

He was in the United States Senate, and how dare you to expect me to believe any of this, you sonofabitch!

CHRIS MARSHALL

I don’t. You don’t have to. But the DNA tests is real. You can retake ‘em after I’m dead if you like.

DANIEL GREENBERG

Jesus. He’s trying to make you feel guilty about taking him to his death.

BARBARA FORD

Shut up! This is just too much –

CHRIS MARSHALL

I ain’t trying to make anyone feel guilty. I’m sure your ma’s felt it all her life. You must have sensed that she was carrying a heavy burden, am I right? And your daddy too.

BARBARA FORD

Looks at him, slouching.

CHRIS MARSHALL

She was a fine girl. I couldn’t let her take no blame. Nor that uppity boyfriend either.

BARBARA FORD

Stands up and walks around, wringing hands.

We could appeal… we have evidence now…

CHRIS MARSHALL

Of what? That I’m your daddy? That don’t make me innocent.

Looks at door

Boss? We’re done here.

GUARD ONE

OK Boy you stay seated now.

Moves to open door.

CHRIS MARSHALL

About that last appeal…

BARBARA FORD

Preoccupied

What?

Guard picks CHRIS MARSHALL out of his chair and stands behind him while other guard moves to the door.

CHRIS MARSHALL

I’m appealing to you. To remember me… for doing this one good thing for your ma. And I suppose, for you too. I ain’t askin’ for more.

BARBARA FORD

Pauses while Chris Marshall is walked through the door.

Chris…

He stops.

Daddy?

He turns around.

I won’t disappoint you.

Guard leads CHRIS MARSHALL out the door and down the hall. Sounds of prisoners talking shit at each other echo as Barbara Ford and Daniel Greenberg stand stunned in the holding cell.

SCENE 2: INT., late evening: law office of Barbara Ford. Dark walls illuminated by a TABLE LAMP and muted light from the HALLWAY beyond the open DOOR. 

Ford sits behind her desk, Greenberg is in front with feet on the table, casual end-of-day conversation. Ford begins to get up and gather her things to go home as he speaks.

DANIEL GREENBERG

There has to be another way to present that one. I just don’t think the court will accept the argument that Martinez vs. Alabama should apply.

BARBARA FORD

I don’t know, Dan, I –

Barbara Ford’s partner JOHN MALLOY approaches the door with a LETTER in his hand.

JOHN MALLOY

Interoffice mail, for you.

Greenberg takes it and passes it to Ford, looking at the address as he hands it off.

 

DANIEL GREENBERG

Forensics?

BARBARA FORD

Putting her things down on her chair, she takes the letter and begins to open it.

Ah!

DANIEL GREENBERG

Ah what?

BARBARA FORD

DNA results. On Marshall.

DANIEL GREENBERG

So is he your daddy?

BARBARA GREENBERG

Picking her things up again.

Nope.

DANIEL GREENBERG

Standing up to follow her out.

He was good.

BARBARA FORD

Had me going.

DANIEL GREENBERG

That’s probably all he wanted. That tiny dose of genuine compassion.

BARBARA FORD

As they both walk out the door.

More precious than gold, they say.

DANIEL GREENBERG shuts off the light.

End

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One comment on “The Last Appeal

  1. Ruby Slaughter
    February 27, 2014

    I love the suspense of this, and yes, Chris really had her believing. Very vivid scene, especially since my 35 years in law enforcement allowed me the experience of sitting in on many interrogations and interviews with suspects.

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This entry was posted on February 25, 2014 by in Creative and tagged .
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