TRIAL AND ERROR
Don Alejandro had just entered the courtroom after attending a meeting
with the family’s business agent in San Pedro to renegotiate cattle
hides’ prices. He was able to obtain a much higher sales price
“thanks to the excellent quality of the de la Vegas’ product.“
Diego’s father smiled slightly to himself and thought, In the name
of the Holy Trinity, I trust that the trial went well as my business
trip did! As he turned his horse, Salamanca, onto the
main street in Los Angeles, he both saw and heard a mob of people
milling about the Posada, which was serving as a temporary
“SANTIAGO!” Don Alejandro shouted as he dismounted from his horse.
“Let me through!” He yelled as he attempted to push his way through
the maddened throng of bystanders. “I AM DON ALEJANDRO DE LA VEGA!”
Somehow, the white haired don made it inside the Posada door.
Pandemonium reigned in the courtroom. People were pushing each other and
shouting both insults and praises at Don Diego and Doña Moneta.
“SANTA MARIA! IS THIS IS A COURTROOM OF LAW OR THE FISH MARKET IN SAN
PEDRO!” Don Alejandro exclaimed angrily.
“Look,” said one of the marketplace vendors, Señor Marcos Pico.
“There is Don Alejandro, father of Don Diego! “De la Vega! Are the
rumors true!” Señor Pico did not have time to finish his question nor
did Don Alejandro have a chance to answer his query because Private Lugo
rushed past them with a squad of heavily armed soldiers.
A newly arrived lancer helped push away a raving mad Ricardo del‘Amo
from a bewildered but determined Sergeant Garcia. The angry caballero
tried to confront Moneta de la Vega but he could not force his
way past Sergeant Garcia.
“No, Don Ricardo! I told you a couple of weeks ago that you will no
longer bother Doña Moneta!” Sergeant Garcia said as he enveloped
del’Amo in a bone-crushing hug. Ricardo yelled as he pointed to Moneta
and then to Diego, “you are responsible for all of my troubles! Lying
about the paternity of your child! Why, of course the baby is Diego’s!
That is why he had to marry you to protect HIS honor!“
Never one to shirk his duty, Don Alejandro joined Benito and a couple of
his men to protect Moneta from the rest of the courtroom crowd. The
spectators had heard del'Amo remarks and quickly parroted his lies.
“What took him so long to marry her?” a woman said who was standing
next to Doña Luisa and Elena.
“SILENCIO! You are not even fit to wash her clothes!” Elena angrily
said as she stepped between Doña Moneta and Señorita Avalon.
Moneta refused to cry and confronted some of the spectators. “My
husband is blameless in this matter! It is Señor del’Amo who has lied
The crowd swelled again toward Sergeant Garcia who momentarily lost his
balance in the crush of people. Somehow Ricardo wriggled free and lunged
after Diego. His fist grazed Diego's shoulder just as Don Alejandro,
Benito and his men arrived to fetch Doña Moneta. Diego shoved his
former friend away from Moneta directly into Sergeant Garcia’s bear
like grasp. Garcia then dragged Don Ricardo back to his seat.
Judge Vasca was fuming - he had always had maintained absolute control in
his courtroom! BY ALL THE SANTOS, he thought, Señor
del'Amo started this unfortunate incident, but I'm going to finish it!
The judge motioned to his personal adjutant, Lt. Gonzales, to bring
Ricardo del'Amo, Don Diego de la Vega, together with their respective
attorneys, into his chambers for a private discussion.
“Moneta,’ Don Alejandro said anxiously, are you uninjured?”
“Sí! I-I am just fatigued. All of this noise!”
"How dare you interrupt my court proceedings! " said Judge
Vasca to Ricardo del'Amo after all the parties involved in the lawsuit,
including Señorita Colon, Sergeant Garcia and two lancers filed into
the Posada’s private room in the rear. “This time, my impetuous caballero,
you will be spending the entire Christmas season in the cuartel.”
Diego whispered to Don Alejandro “Sorry to welcome you home in this
manner, father.” Don Diego said as he poured Moneta some water.
Ricardo's face turned purple with rage. “Can you not see, Your Honor,
that Sergeant Garcia will say whatever the de la Vegas want him to say!
“Bribery of a witness is a most serious accusation!” said Judge Vasca.
“Corporal Reyes, and Lancer Lugo, I order you to stand behind Señor
del’Amo at all times while he is in my courtroom! If you do not
conduct yourself in the proper manner befitting a young hidalgo,
I will use more forceful and painful methods to control you Señor! Now
Señor de Sevilla bowed to Judge Vasca. “Con permiso, Your Excellency,
I would like to hear more regarding Señorita Colon’s earlier
“Of course. But I again warn anyone, whether it be hidalgo or
peon, who even whimpers out of turn will regret ever entering my
“Sí!” everyone present chorused.
“Bueno. Now I shall reconvene the trial back in the courtroom
Lieutenant Gonzales announced. “The trial in Judge Luis Vasca’s
courtroom is now in session!”
“Sergeant Garcia please continue your testimony,” ordered the judge.
“Sí, Your Honor! Señorita Colon did indeed steal money from the de la
Vega household. I myself, together with Dons Diego and Alejandro, saw
her do it! I therefore arrested her and wanted to place her in the
cuartel, but Don Diego graciously suggested that she remain in their
custody at his father’s hacienda.”
The Judge looked at the defendant. “Is the Sergeant’s statement true,
Young de la Vega nodded in agreement. “Sí, Mariana needed money to
feed her brother’s three orphaned children. She only stole to help her
family Judge Vasca!”
“So, young lady, is that the same reason why you accepted money from
Don Juan del’Amo?”
Mariana sighed miserably. “Excellency, my brother, he is.. no good. He
takes the money, which I earned from working for the de la Vegas, well,
he spends it all and wants me to get even more. Since I must feed and
clothe his children .. Your Excellency, I took Don Juan’s money.. I am
Judge Vasca’s voice softened somewhat. “I will dispose of your case
tomorrow; for now I shall return you to the custody of the de la Vegas!
As for YOU TWO, especially you, Don Juan, when I am finished with both
of you, you will be fortunate to be permitted to--”
“Excellency, your pardon, but what about my client’s reputation? We
are prepared to show beyond all doubt that Diego de la
Vega is innocent!” said Señor Posedar.
Don Ricardo’s attorney spoke up. “Judge Vasca I was assured by both
of my clients that they could prove their accusations against Diego de
The Judge held up his hands. “I have heard enough! I sincerely doubt
that you can prove anything this point, counsel for the plaintiff. “
Judge Luis Vasca grimly surveyed the courtroom. “The very next person
who dares to create a scene in my presence shall become personally
familiar with the whipping post! For now, the matter of Señorita Colon
is temporarily closed! Please continue with your presentation of your
case, Señor Posedar!“
“Your Honor” said Señor Posedar. “I call Diego de la Vega to
testify on his own behalf.”
Don Diego took the witness stand, rigidly holding his long, lean and
muscular six foot three frame erect. His purposely cast his gaze towards
Ricardo del’Amo and enjoyed watching that shallow and pitiful excuse
of a man squirm from the fury searing in Diego’s hazel eyes.
“Señor Diego de la Vega y de la Cruz. I have one question for you at
this time. “Did you write these avisos and then
post them in the Pueblo of Los Angeles during the past several weeks?”
His attorney nodded. “Bueno. I have nothing further at this time!”
Judge Vasca was puzzled. “That was your entire case, counselor?”
“Oh, no, Your Honor. I would like to offer my worthy opponent the right
to cross-examine Señor de la Vega now. Then I can rebut Señor de
“Due to the rather unusual nature of this case, I shall allow it.
Commence, counsel for plaintiff.”
“Don Diego, is it not true that you and Señor del'Amo, were and still
are rivals in love?”
“Objection, Judge Vasca! Irrelevant!”
The Judge stroked his beard before replying “Overruled. The witness
will answer the query.”
Diego stared straight into de Sevilla’s eyes. “Sí, I WAS a former
suitor, as was he, for the hand of Señorita Verdugo.”
“Only was, Señor de la Vega? Do you not still harbor
some.... amorous feelings towards her?”
“Allow me to make myself perfectly clear. I am now very happily married
to the former Señorita Moneta Esperon!”
De Sevilla scowled at Don Diego. “Come now, Señor! Was not jealousy
your motive in writing those lies about Don Ricardo? Are you not
convinced that he is the father of her baby? And, when he
came to your wedding to offer his congratulations, you assaulted him
“Señor de Sevilla. I emphatically did not write those posters nor am I
jealous that Ricardo del’Amo is now Anna Maria Verdugo’s husband.
For the record, he came to my –our” Diego looked past del’Amo’s
attorney to find Moneta’s smiling face—“wedding and made vulgar
remarks regarding my wife’s reputation! Yes, I threatened the
plaintiff with bodily harm if he ever returned to my hacienda again!“
Diego’s passionate answers to de Sevilla’s barbed questions drew
applause from several of the courtroom spectators.
“ORDER! I WILL HAVE ORDER!” Judge Vasca repeatedly banged his gold
plated gavel on his desk. “Counsel for the plaintiff, is this the
conclusion of your case?”
“Not quite. I request that my client come forward while Señor de le
Vega remains under oath.”
“Make it so, counsel.”
“Señor del’Amo would you tell the Court what Don Diego told you at
Señor Posedar started to object but the judge waved him back down.
“Don Diego was furious that I was to finally have Anna Maria as my
bride and not he. He threatened to ruin my reputation in any way
possible if I married the Señorita. And Don Diego referred to Dona
Moneta’s baby as his! I have a witness who heard him!” Ricardo said.
Anna Maria sat up straight in her courtroom seat. Strange, that
Ricardo never mentioned that to me. His rivalry with Diego is so intense
that he would always tell me when he even suspected Diego was
insulting him! she thought as she bit her lip in confusion.
“Thank you, Don Ricardo. Counsel for the plaintiff rests our case.”
“Redirect, Señor Posedar?” Judge Vasca asked.
“Gracias. Don Diego, did you publicly admit to being the father of the
child in question?”
“Sí,” he calmly replied as everyone in the courtroom began to loudly
Ricardo laughed uproariously. “I finally have you, Diego, right where I
want you!” he told his attorney.
“Hold your tongue, Señor Del’Amo!” the judge warned him again.
“I admitted that the baby was mine for adoption purposes. As you well
know under Spanish law, I can choose whether or not to declare the
child, if it is a male, as my rightful heir. I have brought with me a
copy of my will with the appropriate revisions. You will note therein
that I adopted the unborn child, regardless of its sex, on October
13, 1821, the day we announced our formal betrothal. Therefore,
the ‘child in question’ is legally mine. And for the
record, Honorable Judge Vasca, I am not the blood father of ‘the
“Excellente. One other query, Don Diego is this your handwriting?”
asked Señor Posedar.
His client looked at the poster carefully. “Most certainly not!”
“Oh, Señor de la Vega, would you please, in the presence of Judge
Vasca, write out the message on the first poster as I dictate it to
you?“ Diego wrote down what his lawyer said.
“Your Honor, I can now prove that Don Diego is not the author of any of
the three notices. I beg Your Honor to inspect all of the posters and
then compare them with my client’s handwriting. Señor Posedar grinned
after he examined Diego’s handwriting before he gave the sample to the
Judge Vasca’s face flushed burgundy as peered over the top of his
spectacles. “Most interesting, counsel for defense. “Don Diego, you
are excused from your oath.”
“Ladies and gentlemen of Los Angeles I am ready to render my verdict.
Please rise, Señor de le Vega.” He paused as he watched Doña Moneta
move beside her husband. Shouting, screaming and all other sorts of
mischief were certain to erupt when he announced his decision.
“A reputation is an intangible thing. However, it is far more precious
than any of our other possessions except for our divine souls. Even when
a person’s integrity is slightly faulted, that individual may never
recover from the harm done to him or her regardless of the apparent
innocence of the remark.” Judge Vasca smiled warmly at the defendant.
“The handwriting on these exhibits is definitely not that of Don
Diego. Therefore, I dismiss all charges against said defendant!”
“Bravo,” Señor and Señora Diego de la Vega,” Benito yelled.
“ORDER, ORDER! Everyone please sit down!” shouted Judge Vasca. “I
have one short but important announcement to make, now return to your
Lieutenant Gonzales and his lancers rapidly restored order.
“Bueno. Señor and Señora de la Vega, this Court wishes to apologize
to you for the inconvenience and humiliation you endured as a result of
this frivolous lawsuit. On a more personal note, I wish to commend you,
Don Diego for having the courage to adopt Doña Moneta‘s child,
despite the potential and real damage to your family‘s honor. You are
a true caballero and a wonderful credit to the hidalgo
Judge Vasca sighed wearily. “Lieutenant Gonzales, dismiss the
spectators. And now, plaintiffs, defendant and their counsel, meet me in
my chambers, pronto!”