11-22-2012, 01:12 PM
The case of State of Nevada v.Hiram Block was scheduled for November 12, 2009. It was declared a "closed session" to avoid a media circus, not to mention a potential riot; all reporters, cameras, and outsiders were banned from the courtroom. Only those who had been legally summoned, or were on the jury, were permitted inside. The trial was not mentioned in the newspapers, or anywhere else for that matter, for fear of creating a mob scene outside the courthouse. From the outside, the Clark County District Court appeared to be business as usual.
Inside, however, a covert operation took place with all the secrecy of a CIA mission. Criss Angel had to be practically smuggled into the courthouse through the back so as not to be spotted by paparazzi or overeager fans. Hiram Block was escorted to his trial under heavy guard, more for his protection than for prevention of escaping. The members of the jury had sworn under solemn oath not to reveal any detail of the trial before and during the proceedings. The only hint of the trial was the simple white lettered sign in its chrome frame standing outside the door of Courtroom B-132: COURT IN SESSION.
Insde the courtroom, there was none of the usual chitchat when people gather for whatever reason they are there, but a tense, almost nervous silence. The jury had assembled in the jury box adjacent to the witness stand, pens and pads of paper at the ready to take notes. A few were idly doodling while wating for the trial to begin.
Juror Number Five, Courtney Sollis, sat next to the duly appointed foreperson of the jury, a portly middleaged matron who had served on a jury two years prior, and so was more familiar witht the system than her fellow jurors. She smelled strongly of Ivory soap and Jergens lotion, reminding her of her late grandmother who had lived in Iowa for so many years. It was comforting in a way, but she wished she was anywhere but in that jury box at that moment. She still recalled the look of agonized disappointment on Hayley's face when she told her she could not attend the trial with her friend, Crystal. Her little sister had stormed out of the kitchen in a huff when Courtney refused to promise to at least get a picture or a photograph of him. "This is a trial, not a concert or something!" Courtney had snapped. It's serious business!"
Her thoughts were interrupted by the bailiff intoning, "All rise. This court is now in session, the Honorable William Brocke presiding."
Everyone rose respectfully. Judge Brocke ascended the bench. "You may be seated," he told all assembled with grave courtesy. He sat down and peered at the docket before him through the lower half of his bifocals.
"The State of Nevada versus Hiram Block," he read. "Mr. Block, you have been charged with two attempts of murder and one count of bail bond violation. How do you plead?"
The counsel for the defense rose to his feet. "My client pleads not guilty, Your Honor," he said, and sat down again.
"The prosecution will make its opening statement."
All ears turned to the prosecutor summarize Block's crimes: his initial attack on Criss Angel during the Luxor demonstration, his second attack in the hotel lobby, halted by Cole Shoope, and his resulting bail violation because of the latter. His accusations against Criss Angel were quoted verbatim, and his past history of disorderly conduct revealed.
In the back, Cole Shoope nodded silently in agreement. That was enough for conviction right there in his opinion. Dad would have enjoyed this, he thought.
The prosecutor finished his statement; now it was the counsel for the defense's turn to make its opening statement. The defense made a heroic effort to get the jury to see that Mr. Block had been indoctrinated by the "cult" of which he had been a member, and was too old and feeble to be sent to a maximum security prison, and so on and so on. But Cole wasn't buying it. The old man's guilty as sin, he thought. Send him up the river already!
After the opening statements were made, the questioning began:
From the sworn testamony of Hiram Block, retired, on November 12, 2009.:
Q: Mr. Block, can you tell us in your own words what you were doing on the day in question?
A: I don't remember too good.
Q: Do you remember being at the Luxor Hotel and Casino?
A: Casino? I don't gamble!
Q: Mr. Block, there are photographs of you being outside the hotel on the day in question, taken by video surveillance. If you saw them, would they help jog your memory?
(Shows photos to defendant).
A: Yeah, that's me all right. I saw that devil-man sitting right over there. (Points to Criss Angel).
A: That man's the Devil himself! Doing all his black magic and turning people away from the Lord. He's the one who should be on trial, not me.
Q: Were you carrying a gun with you at the time.
A: I carry a gun with me all the time. It's my constitutional right. If I see the Anti-Christ, I'm gonna shoot him.
Q: Do you believe Criss Angel is the Anti-Christ?
A: He is the Anti-Christ. He's done all the things in Revelations to prove it.
Q: Such as?
A: He blasphemed the Lord's miracles. He walked on water like Jesus did. He turned people away from God to worship him.
Q: And that led you to try to kill him, right?
A: I couldn't kill him. His devilish powers shielded him.
Q: But you did try to kill him, did you not?
A: I see the Anti-Christ, I'm gonna kill him.
Q: Mr. Block, did you or did you not shoot Criss Angel with this gun? (Holds up Exhibit A).
A: That's my gun.
Q: And did you or did you not shoot Criss Angel with it? Yes or no, Mr. Block.
A: I done told you, I see the Anti-Christ, I'm gonna kill him.
From the sworn testamony of Cole Shoope, student, November 12, 2009:
Q: Where were you on the day in question?
A: You mean the shooting or the attack in the atrium?
Q: The shooting.
A: Oh, okay. I was at the Luxor to see Criss Angel perform his demonstration out front.
Q: And where were you standing, precisely?
A: I was standing on a concrete block so I could see better. I was standing by the right of the stage from where I was.
Q: So that would be stage left.
A: (Pause) Yeah, it would.
Q: Did you see Mr. Block shoot Criss Angel?
A: I heard a shot, a really loud bang, then Criss was like "Aaaaguh" and he went down. Then all hell broke loose, with everyone screaming and crying and all that. But I didn't know it was Hiram Block at the time. I found out on the news who it was later.
Q: And then Mr. Block attacked Mr. Angel again, right?
A: Yeah, right in the atrium. I saw him coming up the back hallway. I even saw the big knife he had in his hand.
Q: You mean this one? (Holds up Exhibit C)
A: Yeah, that's the one.
Q: And you attacked Mr. Block yourself, did you not?
A: Yeah, I did. But I tried to warn Criss first. I yelled 'Criss, look out, it's Block, he's got a knife," or something like that. I don't remember exactly, but I did try to warn him first.
Q: Did you see Mr. Block attack Mr. Angel before you attacked him?
A: Yeah, he had that knife held way up high. He yelled, 'Anti-Christ is finished!', and that's when I...well, I stabbed him.
Q: Are you proud that you stabbed him?
Counsel: Objection, Your Honor! The witness is not the one on trial here. His case had already been settled by juvenile court.
Court: Objection sustained.
A: I will say I am proud to have saved Criss Angel's life. I know that killing people is wrong. Someone should have told Mr. Block that in the first place.
From the sworn testamony of Criss Angel, professional magician, November 12, 2008:
Q: Is Criss Angel your legal name?
A: It is my legal name, yes.
Q: Can you tell the court in your own words what happened on the day in question?
A: I was in front of the Luxor Hotel, about to perform a demonstration of levitating twenty members of the audience, and had just stepped on stage when I felt this stabbing pain in my chest, right here (points to chest), with this huge bang. I fell down, and my brothers, JD and Costa came up to me. JD took off my jacket, but whatever was in my chest was suddenly ripped out of me when he did. They bandaged me up and took me to the hospital.
Q: Did you see the gunman?
A: No, he was too far away. And, anyway, I was too busy screaming back at the Loyals.
Q: The "Loyals"?
A: You could call them my fans, but I call them the Loyal, or Loyals if you will.
Q: I see. To continue, you had been wounded with a .38 caliber pistol. Judging from the distance from where Mr. Block was allegedly standing, it could have been fatal. How can you explain that?
A: Well, I had received a small Bible from someone from the Gideons--you ever hear of them?
Q: Yes. Go on.
A: Well, he was passing out these little green Bibles on the street, and he gave me one, and I stuck it in my jacket pocket, and when Hiram took a shot at me, it deflected the bullet enough to keep it from entering my heart. Here, I'll show it to you.
(Hands book to counselor)
Court: I'd like to see that for myself, if you don't mind.
(Bailiff takes book from counselor and gives it to judge)
Court: Extraordinary. I've heard stories of men whose lives were saved by having a Bible or some other book in their pockets to shield them from bullets. But I've never seen one until now. Thank you, Counselor.
(Returns book to counsel)
Court: You are a very lucky man, Mr. Angel. We know you have a reputation for cheating death, but this in my opinion tops them all. You may proceed, Counselor.
Q: Mr. Angel, can you tell the court in your own words what happened after you were discharged from the hospital?
A: It was chaos. Hundreds of Loyals were there to welcome me back to the Luxor. Then I had to deal with the press inside the lobby. After they left, that's when I heard Cole over there yelling about Hiram trying to attack me. And sure enough there he was, with this huge knife over his head, yelling 'Anti-Christ is finished!' or something like that, and that's when Cole got him.
Q: Had you received any threats from the Perfecting Church prior to these two incidents?
A: None whatsoever. They just happened.
Q: Have you had any similar incidents? Any death threats?
A: There are websites denouncing me as a fraud, or as a Satanist, or even, as Mr. Block says, the Anti-Christ. People are debunking me all the time. It comes with the territory.
Q: Does this bother you at all?
A: Me? No. It bothers me if they attack my family, though. I love and care about my family, especially my mother, and would never want them to come to any harm. They can attack me all they want, but leave my family alone.
The trial wore on, with more questioning and answering, for the better part of the day, with only a forty-five minute recess around one PM. Courtney was getting bored with it all. The only distraction was the video surveillance of the attack in the atrium and the video coverage of the shooting. She had glanced at the photos and passed them on to the other jurors with indifference. God! How she wanted to go home!
After the long, dreary closing statements from both sides, the jury was excused to deliberate the verdict. In a closed room with a dusty ceiling fan valiently circulating the air above their heads, Courtney and the others sat around the table with all the evidence before them.
"All right," the foreperson said, calling for attention. "I know we all want to get out of here and get on with our lives, but just remember, a man's life is in the balance here. We have a sworn duty to provide a fair verdict. As you may well be aware, the law states that the verdict must be unanimous. So, let's begin, shall we? We'll start with you." She pointed to a chubby lady in a pink suit.
"Hello," she said nervously. "My name is Maryanne, and, well, after seeing the movies and all, well, pictures don't lie, do they? I don't think he's a bad man, really, just misguided."
"Come on, lady!" Courtney snapped. "You vote guilty or not?"
"Well, as I said, pictures don't lie, so I'm gonna have to say he's guilty, I'm afraid. I just don't like the idea of sending someone to prison, that's all."
"Why not?" asked a balding corporate type next to Maryanne. "You do the crime, you do the time. Me, I vote guilty. The guy's a bona fide nut job."
"All right," said the foreperson. "We have two votes for guilty. Next?"
The next eight votes were for guilty, each insisting that the video evidence was more than sufficient proof. At last, they came to Courtney.
"Well, you're the last one," the foreperson said. "Everyone else voted guilty, so what's your verdict?"
"He's guilty already," Courtney said irritably. "It's an open and shut case, so let's go."
"So, it's unanimous," the foreperson announced officiously. "Hiram Block is guilty on all counts. Agreed?"
Mumbles of assent. The foreperson knocked on the door and let the bailiff know the jury was ready to reconvene.
"The defendant will please rise for the verdict."
Hiram stood up, supporting himself by leaning against the table. The judge turned to the jury.
"You've reached a verdict?" he asked formally.
The foreperson stood up. "We have, Your Honor," she said, handing the slip of paper to the bailiff, who passed it on to the judge.
"Does the defendant have anything to say before the verdict is read?"
"Only that I am a true servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I submit to His will alone," Block said defiantly.
"Hiram Block, you have been found guilty by a jury of your peers on two counts of attempted murder and violation of your bond. Sentencing will take place in this courtroom one week from today."
Yes! It was all Cole could do from jumping up and down in triumph. We won! Block's going to jail! Loyals two, psychos zip!
"You claim to be a religious man, Mr. Block," the judge continued. "Yet you chose to ignore one of the Ten Commandments, which clearly states, and I quote, Thou shalt not kill. Your fanaticism led to your downfall, Mr. Block. You accused an innocent man of Satanism because of the illusions he performed simply for the sake of entertainment, backing it up with Holy Writ. It's said that the Devil can quote Scripture to suit his purpose, and from what I heard, you do it very well. Case dismissed."
A final bang of the gavel, and everyone got up to leave. Cole dashed up to Criss and gave him a congratualtory hug. "We won!" Cole crowed. "We did it! You really kicked ass up there, Criss!"
"We may have won the battle," Criss said to him, "but we haven't won the war. We gotta face Brother Bob Talbot yet."