The accused sat with his attorney in a small conference room at the
courthouse. An armed guard was stationed just outside the door. Aaron
Sharpton slowly picked at the cold lunch he was served while wearing
handcuffs. Meanwhile, the lawyer thumbed through a newspaper, grunting
when he read something of interest. Both expected to spend their
afternoon together while the jury deliberated.
Once court adjourned, Sharpton, who had been denied bail, would be
remanded back to his prison cell while the sequestered jury headed off
to its secret hotel accommodations. The process could drag on for days.
When it was over, Sharpton and his attorney hoped it would end with a
hung jury or by some miracle, a not-guilty judgment.
Suddenly the guard stuck his head in and told them, “Court reconvenes
in fifteen minutes.”
The two looked at each other, dumbfounded by the speed at which a
decision had been reached. “Ah, shit!” Sharpton exclaimed. “That
ain’t no good.” A verdict reached after only three hours, could only
mean one thing…guilt.
The empty courtroom filled quickly with those eager to hear the result
after ten days of emotionally grueling testimony. Everyone stood as
Judge Hazelton, black robes flowing, entered and took his seat. He was
glad the arduous trial would soon be over.
“Have the members of the jury reached their decision?” The judge
“Yes, we have, Your Honor,” the foreman answered. He handed a folded
piece of paper to the bailiff, who passed it to the judge. Hazelton put
on bifocals, and looked at what was written.
“Will the defendant rise and face the jury,” Hazelton ordered. Next
he instructed the foreman, “Please announce the verdict to the
“On count one, the death of Marshall Dixon, we find the defendant
guilty of murder in the second degree.” The foreman continued. “On
count two, the death of Shakira Williams, we find the defendant guilty
of murder in the second degree. On count three, the death of an unborn
child, we find the defendant guilty of murder in the second degree.”
No sooner did he finish his last pronouncement than a woman sitting in
the courtroom jumped up from her seat and began screaming at Sharpton,
“I hope you burn in hell, you goddamn animal!” Restrained by family
members and friends, Shakira’s despondent mother was helped back down
into her seat.
At the verdict’s reading, Sharpton showed no emotion. The handsome
African-American man with piercing blue eyes stood before the court
wearing a fine tailored suit and tie. Except for his handcuffs and leg
shackles, he looked more like a model from an issue of GQ than a man
just convicted of multiple murders.
Judge Hazelton spoke. “Before we leave, let me take a moment to make a
personal statement.” He paused, took off his bifocals and glared down
at Sharpton. “In all my years serving on the bench, I have never seen
such a wanton act of savage violence as the one, which you, Mr.
Sharpton, have been found guilty of committing. This Commonwealth will
be a safer place with you put away behind bars. Exactly how long civil
society will be spared your presence shall be determined tomorrow.”
Hazelton slammed his gavel down hard then pronounced, “We stand
adjourned until ten a.m. for sentencing.”
Sharpton knew there was no death penalty in Massachusetts, so he
wasn’t going to burn in hell anytime soon, as Shakira’s mother had
implored. He would just be sent away for the next thirty-five to fifty
years, depending on tomorrow’s hearing. As far as what the judge said
to him, the man was correct. He had committed a despicable crime, and
deserved to be punished. Sharpton only wished to God he could somehow
have averted the fit of blind rage that had possessed him which led to
the deaths of Dixon and Shakira. Even more regretful, his violence had
unwittingly taken the life of his own unborn son.
Sharpton’s five-hundred-dollar-an-hour lawyer, one of the top criminal
defense attorneys in Boston, patted his client on the back in
consolation. “Don’t worry. I’ll have your appeal filed before the
sentencing hearing gets started.”
Guards led the prisoner out of the courtroom, shuffling in leg-irons.
Aaron realized he was not going to be a free man for a very long time,
but in prison, might actually end up living longer. His life up until
now had not been conducive to longevity.
Heading down the court hallway to a van that would transport him to
jail, Aaron recalled being shot in a rival gang’s assassination
attempt and lay on the street pavement. He was bleeding from bullet
holes in his chest and abdomen. Looking up, he saw the face of a
paramedic and heard him say, “This gangbanger is a goner,” just
before losing consciousness.
Days later he awoke in a hospital bed, tubes coming out of every
orifice. When the one in his throat was finally removed and Aaron could
speak, he asked his nurse in a raspy voice, “What the hell happened to
“You lost so much blood by the time you hit our emergency room your
heart stopped. They gave you CPR all the way to the operating room,”
“Do you mean I was dead?”
“Well, it took thirty minutes of pumping on your chest until they
brought you back.”
“Damn, I don’t remember seeing no white light or nothin’. I guess
all that afterlife shit is just a big scam like everything else.”
Aaron laughed, then winced with pain. “Shit, my chest hurts like
“Hang on. I’ll get you some pain medicine.”
The nurse left the room, then quickly returned with a syringe containing
morphine. She injected the medication intravenously, and his pain
“That’s pretty good stuff,” he said, slurring his words as the
narcotic took immediate affect. “I’ll take another hit if you
“Not for the next four hours, you won’t. It’s the doctor’s
“He isn’t the one who’s hurting.”
A few weeks later, Aaron was discharged from the hospital, lucky to be
alive but ready to resume his leadership of Boston’s most notorious
gang, the Vice Lords.
Dr. Gabriel Schaeffer was standing in front of the elevator bank on the
fifth floor at Boston General. He had just finished making rounds on the
psych ward and was going over to the ambulatory care building for his
afternoon clinic. Gabe turned his head toward the television in the
visitors waiting area when he heard the newsman say something that
caught his attention.
Verdict was reached today in a trial that has captivated our city’s
interest over the last two weeks. The reputed head of Boston’s most
notorious street gang, Aaron Sharpton, was found guilty in the brutal
slayings of his girlfriend, Shakira Williams, and Marshall Dixon, a
fellow gang member. Because Ms. Williams was pregnant at the time of the
murder, Sharpton was also convicted in the death of her unborn child.
The jury deliberation ended swiftly, and sentencing is expected
tomorrow. Sharpton faces a minimum of thirty-five years behind bars.
Leaving the courthouse, Mr. Sharpton’s well-known criminal attorney,
Randy Specter, promised to immediately file for appeal.
The elevator door suddenly opened, and Gabe stepped in trying not to
spill the cup of coffee in his hand. He had a special interest in
Sharpton’s case. As court-appointed expert, Gabe performed an
extensive psychiatric evaluation on the accused. He had spent hours with
the defendant, locked inside a dingy room at the prison, taking
Sharpton’s life history, then administering the psychometric testing
necessary to reach a conclusion regarding his ability to stand trial.
Inside the elevatorGabe shook his head in dismay, realizing Sharpton
would now end up spending most of his life behind bars. True, Sharpton
was found guilty of committing heinous crimes, but Gabe was convinced
that with proper treatment, he could have prevented them from happening
in the first place.
Schaeffer was a recognized authority on violent behavior. His expert
testimony was often sought in cases where the sheer brutality of a crime
raised questions about the sanity of its perpetrator.
He learned a lot about Sharpton during their pretrial sessions. When
they first met, the prisoner was brought into the interview room in
handcuffs and leg shackles.
“Could you please take those off?” Gabe asked the guard.
“But Doc, this guy has been accused of three murders.”
“I can’t do my evaluation on a man in chains. Please undo them.”
“Well…okay if you insist,” the guard reluctantly agreed. “I’ll
be right outside just in case.”
Once they were alone, Gabe pulled out a file and pen from inside his
briefcase, then began the conversation.
“Aaron, I’m Gabriel Schaeffer, the court-appointed doctor assigned
to your case.”
“Oh, you’re the one who’s supposed to find out whether I’m a
“Well, I might not say it that way, but I do have to determine your
mental fitness to stand trial. Hope you don’t mind if I ask you some
“Sure, fire away. I’ve got nothing better on my schedule today than
looking at the walls of my cell. Go right ahead and ask whatever you
“Why don’t we start by you telling me a little about your
“What’s to tell? I’m just another poor black kid from Roxbury with
a crackhead for a mother, and no father around. I was on the streets
fending for myself from day one.”
“You went to church, didn’t you?”
“How’d you know about that?”
“I reviewed the investigator’s file.”
“Yeah, I went there, but not to pray. Reverend Sykes, our neighborhood
preacher, took a liking to me and used to lend me books. I spent time in
church because it was the only quiet place around to read.”
“Did you like going to school?”
“Well, at least I got a real meal there now and then.” Aaron paused
briefly before continuing. “I imagine if you saw my records, you
probably know I messed up one of my teachers pretty bad.”
“Tell me about that.”
“One day I was talking to a friend at the back of his class. He walked
up to me and says, ‘Sharpton, you’re nothing but ghetto scum.’ The
next thing I know, I whacked him pretty hard on the side of his head
with my textbook. He ended up in the hospital for a few days, and I was
suspended for a month.”
“How did you feel about that?”
“Well, I didn’t really mean to hurt him. I just saw red and
“Would you say that you have a short fuse?”
“I can get hot pretty quick, if that’s what you mean.” Aaron
paused. “Say, if you’re heading toward asking about what happened
with Shakira and Dixon, my lawyer told me not to talk about it.”
“No, you’re absolutely correct, that’s between you, your lawyer,
and the authorities. I’m just looking for some background information.
What about drugs? Do you think they have anything to do with your
“Doc, in my world everybody gets high once in a while, but you can’t
run an operation like I do all fucked-up on drugs or alcohol. The
newspapers call it a gang, but it’s really just a corporate enterprise
with its own set of inner city rules. In my business I don’t worry
about IRS audits, I worry that the people who work for me could get shot
and killed or end up getting arrested if I make a wrong move. Sure, I
buy and distribute drugs, but don’t use them myself.”
The report Gabe submitted to the court concluded Aaron was perfectly
sane and intellectually able to stand trial. However, one aspect of his
assessment still gnawed at him. During his evaluation he found Aaron to
have an exceptionally high IQ of 146. Aaron Sharpton, the accused
murderer, also happened to be a genius. In Gabriel Schaeffer’s mind,
Aaron had more than enough smarts to have become the CEO of a Fortune
500 company, instead of ending up heading Boston’s most notorious
criminal gang. It was unfortunate circumstances of the blighted
neighborhood he grew up in, coupled with a disturbed brain metabolism
and lack of proper intervention that had determined Aaron’s fate.
Gabe wouldn’t soon forget his day spent in the courtroom waiting to
testify at Sharpton’s trial. Dr. Phillip Rhodes, a court-appointed
forensic pathologist, was called to the stand first.
Before his testimony began, the judge requested that the courtroom be
cleared of visitors, then cautioned the jury, “You are about to see
photos taken at the crime scene. Some of you may be disturbed by the
Lights were dimmed, and the first photo came up on the screen. It showed
a man lying in a pool of blood, his head turned at an impossible angle,
his neck severed to the spine. Next, the photo of a female lying on her
back came on. She had her throat slit as well and her eyes were still
open staring blankly upward.
“The cause of death was a single slicing knife wound to the neck,”
Rhodes said. “Her left carotid artery and internal jugular vein were
severed, and she bled to death within minutes. At the time she expired
my autopsy disclosed that Ms. Williams was four months pregnant.”
Viewing the gruesome pictures of the murder scene, one juror vomited at
her seat. Another fainted and had to be revived by smelling salts. The
judge temporarily halted the proceedings.
On reconvening, Rhodes continued with his testimony. The prosecuting
state’s attorney, Blair Fiore, asked the pathologist, “Can you tell
the court what the DNA analysis on the deceased disclosed?”
“We found no traces of Mr. Dixon’s DNA on or in her person.”
“By in, do you mean vaginal samples?”
“Yes, that is correct. Our methodology looks for sperm and Y
chromosome traces in vaginal samples.”
“Did you find any identifiable male DNA?”
“We found sperm remnants and Y chromosome DNA belonging only to one
“And who might that person be?”
“What about the DNA analysis on the fetus?” Fiore asked.
“The profile on the fetus unequivocally indicates that the genetic
father was Mr. Aaron Sharpton.”
The defendant suddenly jumped to his feet, pointed at Rhodes, and
yelled, “You’re a motherfucking liar! That kid was Dixon’s, and
Shakira cheated on me!”
Suddenly Sharpton climbed onto the table in front of him, then jumped
down and ran up to the witness box. He grabbed the startled pathologist
by the throat. The man’s eyes bulged as Aaron’s strong hands
tightened around his neck. Guards rushed up and tried to pull Sharpton
away, but couldn’t get him off. One of them pulled out a Taser and
fired. Aaron fell onto the floor, contorting in spasms while Rhodes
fought to catch his breath. Once Sharpton’s arms and legs were
secured, the guards dragged him out.
Excerpted from "Love Potion: A Medical Thriller" by Allan Zelinger. Copyright © 2014 by Allan Zelinger. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.