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The prosecution’s first witness, County Sheriff Art Moran, sits in the witnesses’ podium. Prosecutor Alvin Hook begins to question the sheriff about the discovery of the deceased, Carl Heine, on September 16.
The setting shifts to White Sand Bay where Carl’s fishing boat, the Susan Marie, has been reported adrift. Sheriff Moran, a nervous man uncomfortable with his position, boards Carl’s boat with his deputy Abel Martinson. They find all the lights on the boat on, though it is after 9:30 am. Suspecting the worse, the hesitantly look the boat over, speculating as to Carl’s last actions.
Sheriff Moran reflects on Carl and his family. Carl’s grandfather and father had farmed 30 acres of strawberry fields. Then Etta, Carl’s mother, sold the land while Carl served in World War II. Carl returned from the war and began living a fisherman’s life. Married with children, Carl was quiet and courteous, though not friendly, but well liked in the community.
Finally, Sheriff Moran and Deputy Martinson pull in the net. Eyes and mouth open, Carl’s face emerges in the folds of the net. After laying the body on the afterdeck, Abel notices Carl’s skull has been fractured over his left ear.
Sheriff Moran stands as a fitting symbol, though perhaps reluctantly, of the law. Sheriff Moran may represent the letter of the law: factual, unassuming, maybe even objective. At this time, his investigation of the circumstances of Carl’s death is like the law in that there is a presumption of innocence manifested by his treatment of Carl’s death as an accident, like so many other stories he has heard. Art gives no thought to the need to find a place to lay guilt, the law’s other half.