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Prior Bad Acts


Fifteen months later

"He slaughtered a mother and two children."

Hennepin County prosecutor Chris Logan was a man of strong opinions
and stronger emotions. Both traits had served him well in the
courtroom with juries, not always so well in judges' chambers. He
was tall, broad shouldered, athletic, with a thick shock of
black-Irish hair now threaded with silver. Forty-five years old,
Logan had spent twenty of those years in the criminal court system.
It was a wonder he hadn't gone entirely white.

"I'm sorry," said the defense attorney, his sarcasm belying the
expression of shock. "Did I miss something? When were we suddenly
transported to the Dark Ages? Aren't the accused in this country
still innocent until proven guilty?"

Logan rolled his eyes. "Oh, for Christ's sake, Scott, could you
spare us the act? We're all adults. We all know each other. We all
know you're full of shit. Could you spare us the

"Mr. Logan . . ."

Judge Carey Moore gave him a level look. She had known Chris Logan
since they had both cut their teeth toiling as public defenders--a
job neither of them had the temperament for. They had moved on to
the county attorney's office as quickly as they could, and both had
made their names in the courtroom, prosecuting everything from
petty theft to rape to murder.

Sitting in the other chair across from her desk was another cog in
the public defender's machine. Kenny Scott had gone in that door
and had never come out, which made him either a saint battling for
justice for the socially disadvantaged or a pathetic excuse for an
attorney, unable to rise out of anonymity and go on to private
practice. Having had him in her courtroom numerous times, Carey
suspected the latter.

He looked at Carey now with the eyes of a mouse in a room full of
cats. Perspiring, nervous, ready to run, scrambling mentally. He
was a small man whose suits never fit--too big in the shoulders,
too long in the sleeves--which somehow emphasized the impression
that he was overwhelmed by his job or by life in general.

By the luck of the draw, he had gotten stuck with the job of
defending the most hated man in Minneapolis, if not the entire
state: a drifter named Karl Dahl, accused of the most heinous
murders Carey had encountered in her career.

The scene had been so gruesome, one of the uniformed officers who
had responded to the original call had suffered a heart attack and
had subsequently retired from the force. The lead homicide
detective had been so affected by the case, he had eventually been
removed from the rotation and put on a desk job, pending the
completion of psychiatric counseling.

"Your Honor, you can't allow Mr. Logan to circumvent the rules of
law," Scott said. "Prior bad acts are inadmissible--"

"Unless they establish a pattern of behavior," Logan argued loudly.
He had the fierce expression of an eagle.

Kenny Scott looked like he wanted nothing more than to bolt from
the office and run for his life, but to his credit, he stayed in
his seat.

"Mr. Dahl's previous offenses have nothing to do with this case,"
he said. "Criminal trespass? That hardly establishes him as a
violent offender."

Logan glared at him. "What about possession of child pornography?
What about breaking and entering? Window peeping? Indecent

"He never killed anyone with his penis," Scott said.

"It's an escalating pattern of behavior," Logan argued. "That's
what these pervs do. They start small and work their way up. First
they get their jollies whacking off while they look at little kids
in their underwear in the JCPenney catalog. When that doesn't do it
for them anymore, they move on to window peeping, then to exposing
themselves. Next they need to have physical contact--"

"And they jump from weenie wagging to evisceration?" Scott said.
"That's absurd."

He turned back toward Carey. "Your Honor, there is nothing violent
in Karl Dahl's record. The information regarding his prior
convictions would be prejudicial and inflammatory. The jury would
be ready to convict him based on Mr. Logan's theory, not fact, not

Logan ticked his facts off on his fingers. "We have his
fingerprints at the scene. We have a complaint filed by one of the
neighbors, reporting him for looking in her windows. We know he
knew the victims, that he'd been hanging around the neighborhood.
He had the victim's necklace in his possession at the time of his

"He was doing odd jobs," Scott said. "He admits to having been in
the Haas home the day of the murders.  Mrs. Haas paid him
thirty-five dollars to install some curtain rods. He stole a cheap
necklace. Big deal. Other than the one neighbor, no one in the
neighborhood had any complaint against him."

Logan rolled his eyes dramatically. "Every one of them said the guy
was strange, that he gave them the creeps--"

"That's not against the law--"

"Good thing for you," Logan muttered.

Carey warned him again. "Mr. Logan . . ."

He gave her a familiar look from under the heavy dark eyebrows. "An
eyewitness puts him at the scene--"

"At least five hours after the murders had been committed," Scott
pointed out.

"Coming back to review his work," Logan said.

"That doesn't make any sense. Coming back that late in the day,
when people would be arriving home from work--"

"So he was back to kill the father and the oldest kid--"

"Just where did you get your crystal ball, Logan?" Scott asked.
"Maybe we can all run out and get one. Maybe the state can buy them
in bulk and distribute them to every law enforcement

Carey arched a brow in disapproval. "Put the sarcasm away, Mr.

Logan jumped in again. "This is a clear exception to the rule, Your
Honor. The man is a serial killer at the front end of his career.
If we don't stop him now--"

Carey held up a hand to stave off any more arguments. Her head
ached as if it had been crushed by a millstone. Through law school
and the years working her way up the ranks, her goal had been to
sit in these chambers, to wear the robes, to be a judge.

At that moment, she wished she had listened to her grandmother and
honed her secretarial skills as a fallback should she not land a
suitable husband.

Presiding over felony proceedings was a responsibility she had
never taken lightly. Because she'd come from a successful career as
a prosecuting attorney, people expected her to be biased toward the
prosecution--an expectation she had worked hard to dispel.

As a prosecutor it had been her job to vigorously pursue the
conviction of defendants. As a judge, her job was to preside
fairly, to take no sides, to keep the scales of justice in balance
so that every verdict was reached based solely on the relevant
facts and evidence presented.

Carey couldn't take sides, no matter what her personal feelings
might be. In this case she had her work cut out. Two children had
been brutalized, tortured, murdered, left hanging by their necks
from the ceiling of a dank basement.

She was a mother herself. The idea of someone harming her daughter
evoked an emotion so strong there were no words adequate to
describe it. She had viewed the crime scene photos and the
videotape. The images haunted her.

The children's foster mother had been raped, sodomized, tortured,
her body sliced open from throat to groin. The coroner had
determined that the woman had died first, though there was no way
of knowing what might have taken place before her very eyes prior
to her death. She might have been made to watch while unspeakable
acts were committed on the children. The children might have been
made to watch while unspeakable acts were committed on her. Either
way, a nightmare from the darkest, most primal, fear-filled corner
of the human mind.

But as a judge, Carey couldn't attach those atrocities to the
defendant on trial before her. Her decision on the matter before
her now couldn't be swayed by her own fears or disgust. She
couldn't worry how people would react to her ruling. A criminal
trial was not a popularity contest.

A fine theory, at least.

She took a breath and sighed, the weight of the matter pressing
down on her. The attorneys watched her. Kenny Scott looked like he
was waiting for her to pronounce sentence on him. Logan's
impatience was palpable. He stared at her as if he believed he
could influence her mind by sheer dint of will.

Carey quelled the sick feeling in her stomach. Move forward. Get
it over with

"I've read your briefs, gentlemen," she said. "And I'm well aware
of the impact my decision will have on this case. I can guarantee
neither of you would want to be sitting in this chair right

Logan would have argued that, she knew. Bias was a way of life for
him. "Right with might" was his motto. If he believed something,
then it was so--no arguments. But he held his tongue, held his
breath, poised to leap out of his chair. Carey met his gaze

"I don't see an exception here," she said.

Logan opened his mouth, ready to rebut.

"You'll allow me to finish, Mr. Logan."

His face was flushed red with anger. He looked at the wall.

"Mr. Dahl's prior acts may point in a particular direction,
suggesting a possible path of future criminal behavior," she said.
"However, he has no history of violent crimes, and this court can't
foresee what Mr. Dahl might do in months or years to come. At any
rate, we aren't allowed to try people for crimes they have yet to

"Your Honor," Logan said, his voice tight from holding back the
need to shout. "Violent criminals are made over time. Mr. Dahl's

"Is inadmissible," Carey said.

If people could have been put away for crimes they had yet to
commit, Chris Logan would have been led away in handcuffs. The fury
in his eyes was murderous.

Kenny Scott barely contained himself from leaping out of his chair
and doing a victory dance. Carey stared at him, and he slouched
back down and swallowed the joy of his victory. He wouldn't think
it was such a good thing after the news hit the press, Carey

People generally demonstrated less loathing for public defenders
than headline defense attorneys. They were, after all, civil
servants toiling away for low wages, devoting their lives to help
the unfortunate. But as soon as her ruling was made public, Kenny
Scott would suddenly become an enemy of the state. Defending the
indigent was one thing. Getting an accused murderer off was quite

"Your Honor," Scott said, ready to strike while the iron was hot.
"In view of your ruling, I don't see that the prosecution has
enough evidence to support the indictment--"

Logan came out of his chair.

Eyes popping, Scott looked at the man looming over him. "I move
that the charges be dismissed," he said, talking as fast as he
could, trying to get all the words out of his mouth before Logan
could grab him by the throat and crush his larynx.

"Motion denied," Carey said with a calm that belied her inner
tension. "Sit down, Mr. Logan, or I'll have you removed."

Logan glared at her, defiant. He didn't sit, but he moved away from
Kenny Scott and went over by the wall, his hands jammed at his
waist, nostrils flaring as he tried to gather himself.

"But Your Honor," Scott argued, "the state has no direct evidence
linking my client to the crimes. No fingerprints on the murder

"He wiped them clean," Logan growled.

"No blood evidence on his clothes--"

"So he ditched the clothes."

"No DNA evidence--"

"He used a condom--"

"Not so much as a hair--"

"The guy doesn't have any," Logan snapped. "He shaves his body
clean so he won't leave any hairs behind. What does that tell

"He does it for hygiene reasons," Scott said. "The guy's a
transient. He doesn't want to pick up lice."

Logan made a rude sound and rolled his eyes dramatically.

Carey turned to him. "Well, Mr. Logan? What do you have on Mr.

"I'm supposed to lay out my entire case in front of him?" Logan
said, incredulous.

"Do you have a case to lay out?"

"He's got conjecture, supposition, and coincidence," Scott

"I've got a grand jury indictment," Logan said.

"And the Cracker Jack box it came in?"

"It's good to know you have so much respect for our criminal
justice system, Mr. Scott," Carey said without humor.

Scott stammered, tripping backward, trying to cover his mistake.
Carey held up a hand to forestall the attempt. She wished the earth
would open and swallow Kenny Scott and Chris Logan and this entire
nightmare case.

"The indictment stands," she said. "A jury can decide if the state
has a case strong enough to convict your client, Mr. Scott."

She gave Logan a look she knew he recognized from their years
together on the same side of the bar. "And if you don't, Mr. Logan
. . . God help you."

She rose behind her desk and nodded toward the door. "Gentlemen . .

Kenny Scott bounced up from his seat. "But Your Honor, shouldn't we
revisit the idea of bail?"


"But my client--"

"Should consider himself damned lucky to have a guarded building
between himself and the public," she said. "Considering the climate
of the community, bail would not be in your client's best

Quit while you're ahead, Mr. Scott."

Scott bobbed and nodded. "Yes, ma'am."

"Don't call me ma'am."

"No. I'm sorry, Your Honor. I meant no disrespect."

"Please leave."

"Yes, ma-- Of course."

He held up his hands as if to concede his stupidity, then fumbled
to grab his briefcase and nearly tripped himself on his way out the

Logan remained for a moment but didn't say a word. He didn't need
to. Carey knew exactly what was going through his mind. Then he
huffed a sigh and walked out like a man with a purpose.

The bottle of scotch in his bottom right-hand desk drawer.

"Have one for me," she muttered.

Excerpted from PRIOR BAD ACTS © Copyright 2011 by Tami
Hoag. Reprinted with permission by Bantam, a division of Random
House, Inc. All rights reserved.

Prior Bad Acts
by by Tami Hoag

  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0553801988
  • ISBN-13: 9780553801989