Chapter 0 - Justitia
Courts are the epitome of the law of the jungle.
Blows are exchanged in the fierce battle atop Lady Justice’s shoulders, and upon commencement of the methodical fight between the defenders of justice and truth, the almighty goddess holds up the hand of the strongest.
Here, strength does not mean material wealth or power.
At times, the well-prepared David can defeat Goliath, who underestimated his opponent.
Attorney Yoonshin Do liked this unconventional aspect of this otherwise solemn place.
“Counsel, please proceed with your closing statement.” The judge who sat facing the criminal court glanced at the defendant’s table. In his dark gray suit and clean dress shirt, Yoonshin stood from his seat on the right of the court and bowed his head respectfully. Then, he stepped out toward the central aisle of the courtroom.
Back straight, Yoonshin’s figure was sleek and neat as he walked to the podium. His prim face gave a docile impression, but his eyes glinted with intellect and sharpness.
His pale and slim face looked around the public gallery briefly, eyes filled with the tenacious determination to grasp the result that he desired in this arena.
“Your Honor, first, I would like to show my appreciation to the Court—thank you, to the prosecutor who invested the last few months in this trial, and to the public who came to witness this hearing. Now, I would like to address the main issue of this case.”
In this case, a famous athlete was assaulted with a weapon by their common-law partner and was brutally murdered. Yoonshin was the defense counsel. The deceased had won numerous gold medals at the Summer Olympics for several years, so he was a national hero. Following that, there was immense interest from the press and average citizens.
When Yoonshin first learned of the case through the news, he thought the motivation would be something relatively common like fidelity or financial issues. After the investigation, there was evidence of minor conflicts and the accused refused to appoint a defense attorney. The suspicions of her guilt started to crystallize.
However, the truth of the matter that Yoonshin coincidentally learned told a different story. Beneath the surface, there were countless mitigating circumstances. For a very long time, the accused suffered severe mental abuse from the complainant to the point that the last remnants of her dignity were obliterated.
From that day onward, Yoonshin visited the woman and persistently attempted to convince her. “I’ll help you. You may be sitting in the deep of night now, but you are not there alone.”
“This case has some unique features. The tragic situation and facts forced the defendant to pick up and swing a blunt weapon after she was unable to withstand the regular, sadistic abuse incurred by her tormenter. Throughout this trial, I presented the vast amount of evidence of the inhumane treatment suffered by the defendant over the past eight years of cohabitation,” Yoonshin carried out his oral argument logically while facing the judge, standing straight. His steady diction and speech were unexpectedly captivating. All ears in the courtroom listened attentively to his words.
While Yoonshin was absorbed in his duties, at the far end of the public gallery, Sehun Kang, a partner at the law firm “Doguk” sat with his legs crossed as he watched Yoonshin intently.
Sehun’s frame, firmly built with regular exercise, was quite dashing, draped in his luxurious suit. His elegant visage that looked as if his creator invested long hours to meticulously sculpt blended harmoniously with the arrogant glint in his eyes.
No hint of empathy was directed toward the defendant nor the plaintiff in Sehun’s cold eyes. His piercing gaze, callous and made of stone, fixed firmly on Yoonshin like an arrow piercing its target. His large hands stroked his smooth chin as he scanned the defense attorney from head to toe.
“Attorney Yoonshin Do…” he mused.
Yoonshin’s trim appearance, tidy attire, composed voice, and sincere attitude were impressive, but above all, what piqued Sehun’s interest was the conviction that Yoonshin had in his statement.
This was not a self-imposed illusion to ease one’s nerves or useless obstinacy preoccupied with victory. Yoonshin was a lawyer who truly believed in his client’s honesty and truthfulness. He knew better than anyone that this was the only way to bring justice to the victim.
Yoonshin’s meek face masked his strong sense of responsibility and professional mindset. Even for Sehun, a scathing critic of other people, Yoonshin surpassed Sehun’s standard of a lawyer.
Nevertheless, if Sehun were asked if he wanted to take Yoonshin under his wing, the answer was a resounding no.
Sehun’s interest was unbeknownst to Yoonshin, who was racing toward the end of his closing statement. Yoonshin’s voice grew more vigorous. “Murder is a crime. It deserves punishment. However, our Constitution provides for basic human rights. I respectfully ask that the Court consider this. For eight years, the defendant was subjected to constant abuse behind closed doors, and her actions cannot be likened to just another crime committed in the heat of the moment. Your Honor, have you read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens?”
The presiding judge, who sat in the middle as he listened intently to the closing, nodded. Yoonshin smiled softly as if he was glad to find a commonality with the judge. “It’s my favorite piece of literature. This passage appeared in the book, and I paraphrase…”
Then, Yoonshin turned his body to look at the gallery.
At that moment, he was suddenly lost for words. He met eyes with Sehun, who had been fixated on Yoonshin. Yoonshin couldn’t count how many times this had happened already.
There was nobody in the profession who didn’t know Sehun Kang of the law firm Doguk.
He had many followers and even more rivals.
Yoonshin couldn’t understand why someone, who was so busy that he needed to schedule time to breathe, came here. His unexpected attendance and his predatory eyes that vied for a moment to rip him to pieces were honestly uncomfortable.
‘I don’t think we would make a good match after all,’ Yoonshin thought to himself.
Yoonshin held the sharp stare that he didn’t know the meaning to for a moment then turned back to the judge and continued, “‘How awful it would be for a man to turn his face up to them as he froze to death, and see no help or pity in all the glittering multitude?’ Your Honor, we cannot allow the defendant to freeze to death, alone, in the barren and bitter outdoors. I hope that you can confirm once again that human rights are alive in our law. Thank you.”
Upon completing his statement, Yoonshin returned to his seat on the side of the defense. The judge then asked the defendant to stand for the last order of events, the defendant’s final statement. Finally, the defendant, whose head was bowed throughout the length of the trial, opened her mouth with difficulty.
While this was happening, Yoonshin gave a look of encouragement to his client before he exchanged a quick glance with another partner from Doguk, Mihee Song.
Sehun, who was watching all of this, leaned down to Mihee and whispered in a low voice. His subdued voice was crisp and clean. “Counsel, do you know that lawyer? It sure looks to be the case.”
“Yoonshin Do? Just a little. He takes mostly labor law cases and works at a small law office. It seems like he’s doing this case free of charge. In any case, what did you think about the trial? Do you think he’s a catch?”
Doguk was a big firm, one of the top five law firms in the Republic of Korea. A talent with a prosecutorial background to lead the litigation group was always direly needed.
Mihee was the head recruitment manager and used this excuse to convince Sehun to accompany her to observe this public trial. She said that she had her eyes on a recruit and wanted him to see him before she recommended him to the director of the firm. Sehun had barely made enough time for this trial, but it was more boring than expected.
“You really want to recruit that prosecutor?” Sehun asked.
“Why, you don’t like him? He seems decent to me.”
“He seems decent to you? Did I hear that right?” Sehun looked to be in disbelief and let out a languid sigh before rubbing his face with his hands. Mihee fell silent, so Sehun added dryly, “Reconsider him. I can’t let a lawyer like him, who loses to one working pro bono, earn six digits annually. Mihee, you’re the one who recruited me to Doguk. Don’t embarrass me.”
“You’re too stingy. Mr. Do was just very well-prepared for this case. Plus, there was a large amount of evidence in his favor,” Mihee retorted.
“Evidence is the foundation of a criminal procedure. I squeezed out all the time that I didn’t have because I expected to watch a talent neutralize the insurmountable flurry of evidence against him and turn the case on its heels. I’d say it would be a bigger gain if you had instead brought the opposing counsel to our firm.”
“Just as I thought, Yoonshin Do is quite talented even in your very particular standards, right?” Mihee asked.
Sehun’s eyes, glaring questioningly at Mihee, were brimming with irritation. Then, as if he understood his co-worker’s intention by inference, he turned his eyes to the defense sitting on the right side of the courtroom. The one who Mihee truly wanted to show him wasn’t the prosecutor but the defense counsel. She must have been aiming for this paradoxical effect.
Capable lawyers can recognize others similar to them. Sehun recognized from first glance that Yoonshin was quite a worthwhile lawyer. However, Yoonshin didn’t look desperate enough for his personal success to grit his teeth and weather through Doguk. Even though the eyes of the media were on him, it was evident that he put the defendant first instead of presenting himself in a veneer of sophistication, which confirmed Sehun’s hunch.
Plus, he was a lawyer willing to defend the weak and powerless. He was not a good fit for Doguk, which prioritized successful outcomes.
“Help or pity to one who was bound to freeze to death…” Sehun ruminated on the passage he had just heard and fixed his gaze on Yoonshin. “Only affluent people like you could extend that kind of helping hand.”
Yoonshin warmly grasped the hand of the defendant, who had just finished her final statement, and as if he felt Sehun’s gaze, he looked around and stared back. Sehun could see the perplexity in the other’s face, wondering why they kept meeting eyes.
Yoonshin’s naïve face was so honest that Sehun felt like it could see through the other party. It strangely made a mess of Sehun’s mind.
Upon acknowledging that, Sehun knit his brows and quietly picked up his blazer jacket. “I’ve seen enough. I’m going ahead.”
“Wait. So how about Yoonshin, then?” Mihee hurriedly asked.
“Of course, this was her goal,” Sehun thought as he got up from his seat. “Seems like you baited me with the prosecutor on purpose because you knew I would throw a wrench in your plans if you showed me the other guy first. I’m even more opposed to that attorney. I loathe people who are smart on top of being just. They’re bound to cause trouble. I’m leaving.”
“Hey, you only just saw him once… Are you going back to the office? Sehun!”
The two who were discussing in quiet susurrations so as not to disturb the trial were completely split in an instant. Sehun left without so much as a reply, and Mihee shook her head, unable to hold him back.
He strode out of the courtroom without hesitation, and soon, he escaped the somber room.