Syracuse City Court recently hosted a strange wedding proposal. Nicole Osbourne was in court facing felony assault charges. Her boyfriend, Theodore Murphy, watched from the gallery. Osbourne’s defense attorney informed the judge that she had an usual request. The attorney turned to her client and relayed a request from Murphy that she marry him. Osbourne began crying.
If this proposal seems unromantic, there is an explanation. Besides the assault charges, Osbourne faced a separate domestic violence case, pursuant to which she could have no direct or third-party contact with Murphy. Indeed, it would have violated the court order for the defense attorney to share Murphy’s answer with him. The prosecution moved to amend the order of protection to allow non-criminal contact between Osbourne and Murphy. Osbourne turned to Murphy and accepted.
Everyone was happy. Bail was set at $2,500 for each case, but Murphy apparently couldn’t come up with the money and Osbourne remained in custody.
In a past entry here, I admonished writers to make legal scenes realistic. I’ll admit, if I were reading a story with the above scene in a workshop or from a slush-pile, I would raise my eyebrows. Maybe I need to broaden my sense of the plausible. Weird things happen, even - or perhaps especially - in courts.
However, I note that the weird scene stems from the people, not from any arcane rule of law. The courtroom might provide a stage for people's dramas to unfold, but it is the people driving the scene, not legislation or court rules. It’s a good model for fiction. Perhaps the inevitable divorce proceedings would make a good short story.