"Yes, sir. Well, sir, I'm afraid I must ask for a continuance. A conflict has developed in my trial calendar for that Wednesday, and I have a pretrial conference in Federal Court in Memphis that the judge has refused to continue. I regret this. I filed a motion this morning asking for a continuance."
Gardner, the plaintiffs attorney, was furious. "Your Honor, that case has been set prime for two months. It was set for trial in February, and Mr. Lotterhouse had a death in his wife's family. It was set for trial last November, and an uncle died. It was set for trial last August, and there was another funeral. I guess we should be thankful that this time no one has died."
There were pockets of light laughter in the courtroom. Lotterhouse blushed.
"Enough is enough, Your Honor," Gardner continued. "Mr. Lotterhouse would prefer to postpone this trial forever. The case is ripe for trial, and my client is entitled to one. We strenuously oppose any motion for a continuance." . Lotterhouse smiled at the judge and removed his glasses. "Your Honor, if I may respond-"
"No, you may not, Mr. Lotterhouse," interrupted Noose. "No more continuances. The case is set for trial next Wednesday. There will be no more delays."
Hallelujah, thought Jake. Noose was generally soft on the Sullivan firm. Jake smiled at Lotterhouse.
Two of Jake's civil cases were continued to the August term. When Noose finished the civil docket, he dismissed the attorneys, and turned his attention to the pool of prospective jurors. He explained the role of the grand jury, its importance and procedure. He distinguished it from the trial juries, equally important but not as time consuming. He began asking questions, dozens of questions, most of them required by law, all dealing with ability to serve as jurors, physical and moral fitness, exemptions, and age. A few were useless, but nonetheless required by some ancient statute. "Are any of you common gamblers or habitual drunkards?"
There were laughs but no volunteers. Those over sixty-five were automatically excused, at their option. Noose granted the usual exemptions for illnesses, emergencies, and hardships, but he excused only a few of the many who requested pardons for economic reasons. It was amusing to watch the jurors stand, one at a time, and meekly explain to the judge how a few days of jury duty would cause irreparable damage to the farm, or the body shop, or the pulpwood cutting. Noose took a hard line and delivered several lectures on civic responsibility to the flimsier excuses.
From the venire of ninety or so prospects, eighteen would be selected for the grand jury, and the rest would remain available for selection as trial jurors. When Noose completed his questioning, the clerk drew eighteen names from a box and laid them on the bench before His Honor, who began calling names. The jurors, one by one, rose and walked slowly toward the front of the courtroom, through the gate in the railing, and into the cushioned, swivel rocking seats in the jury box. There were fourteen such seats, twelve for the jurors and two for the alternates. When the box was rilled, Noose called four more who joined their colleagues in wooden chairs placed in front of the jury box.
"Stand and take the oath," instructed Noose as the clerk stood before them holding and reading from a little black book that contained all the oaths. "Raise your right hands," she directed. "Do you solemnly swear or affirm that you will faithfully discharge your duties as grand jurors; that you will fairly hear and decide all issues and matters brought before you, so help you God?"
A chorus of assorted "I do's" followed, and the grand jury was seated. Of the five blacks, two were women. Of the thirteen whites, eight were women, and most were rural. Jake recognized seven of the eighteen.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Noose began his usual speech, "you have been selected and duly sworn as grand jurors for Ford County, and you will serve in that capacity until the next grand jury is empaneled in August. I want to stress that your duties will not be time consuming. You will meet every day this week, then several hours each month until September. You have the responsibility of reviewing criminal cases, listening to law enforcement officials and victims, and determining whether or not reasonable grounds exist to believe the accused has committed the crime. If so, you issue an indictment, which is a formal charge placed against the accused. There are eighteen of you, and when at least twelve believe a person should be indicted, the indictment is issued, or returned, as we say. You have considerable power. By law, you can investigate any criminal act, any citizen suspected of wrongdoing, any public official; really anybody or anything that smells bad. You may convene yourself whenever you choose, but normally you meet whenever the district attorney, Mr. Buckley, wants you. You have the power to subpoena witnesses to testify before you, and you may also subpoena their records. Your deliberations are extremely private, with no one being present but yourselves, the D.A. and his staff, and the witnesses. The accused is not allowed to appear before you. You are expressly forbidden to discuss anything that is said or transpires in the grand jury room.
"Mr. Buckley, would you please stand. Thank you. This is Mr. Rufus Buckley, the district attorney. He's from Smith-field, in Polk County. He will sort of act as your supervisor while you deliberate. Thank you, Mr. Buckley. Mr. Mus-grove, will you stand. This is D.R. Musgrove, assistant district attorney, also from Smithfield. He will assist Mr. Buck-ley while you are in session. Thank you, Mr. Musgrove. Now, these gentlemen represent the State of Mississippi, and they will present the cases to the grand jury.
"One final matter: the last grand jury in Ford County was empaneled in February, and the foreman was a white male. Therefore, in keeping with tradition and following the wishes of the Justice Department, I will appoint a black female as foreman of this grand jury. Let's see. Laverne Gos-sett. Where are you, Mrs. Gossett? There you are, good. I believe you are a schoolteacher, correct? Good. I'm sure you'll be able to handle your new duties. Now, it's time for you to get to work. I understand there are over fifty cases waiting on you. I will ask that you follow Mr. Buckley and Mr. Musgrove down the hall to the small courtroom that we use for a grand jury room. Thank you and good luck."
Buckley proudly marched his new grand jury out of the courtroom and down the hall. He waved at reporters and had no comments-for the time being. In the small courtroom they seated themselves around two long, folding tables. A secretary rolled in boxes of files. An ancient half-crippled, half-deaf, long-retired deputy in a faded uniform took his position by the door. The room was secure. Buckley had second thoughts, excused himself, and met with the reporters in the hall. Yes, he said, the Hailey case would be presented that afternoon. In fact, he was calling a press conference for 4:00 P.M. on the front steps of the courthouse, and he would have the indictments at that time.
After lunch, the chief of the Karaway Police Department sat at one end of the long table and shuffled nervously through his files. He avoided looking at the grand jurors, who anxiously awaited their first case.
"State your name!" barked the D.A.
"Chief Nolan Earnhart, Karaway City Police."
"How many cases do you have, Chief?"
"We have five from Karaway."
"Let's hear the first one."
"Okay, let's see, all right," the chief mumbled and stuttered as he flipped through his paperwork. "Okay, the first case is Fedison Bulow, male black, age twenty-five, got caught red-handed in the rear of Griffin's Feed Store in Karaway at two o'clock in the mornin', April 12. Silent alarm went off and we caught him in the store. Cash register had been broken into, and some fertilizer was gone. We found the cash and the goods in a car registered in his name parked behind the store. He gave a three-page confession at the jail, and I've got copies here."
Buckley walked casually around the room smiling at everyone. "And you want this grand jury to indict Fedison Bulow on one count of breaking and entering a commercial building, and one count of grand larceny?" Buckley asked helpfully.
"Yes, sir, that's right."
"Now, members of the grand jury, you have the right to ask any questions. This is your hearing. Any questions?"
"Yes, does he have a record?" asked Mack Loyd Crow-ell, an unemployed truck driver.
"No," replied the chief. "This is his first offense."
"Good question, always ask that question because if they have prior records we may need to indict them as habitual criminals," lectured Buckley. "Any more questions? None? Good. Now at this point, someone needs to make a motion that the grand jury return a true bill of indictment against Fedison Bulow."
Silence. The eighteen stared at the table and waited for someone else to make a motion. Buckley waited. Silence. This is great, he thought. A soft grand jury. A bunch of timid souls afraid to speak. Liberals. Why couldn't he have a bloodthirsty grand jury eager to make motions to indict everybody for everything?
"Mrs. Gossett, would you like to make the first motion, since you're the foreman?"
"I so move," she said.
"Thank you," said Buckley. "Now let's vote. How many vote to indict Fedison Bulow on one count of breaking and entering a commercial building and one count of grand larceny? Raise your hands."
Eighteen hands went up, and Buckley was relieved.
The chief presented the other four cases from Karaway. Each involved defendants equally guilty as Bulow, and each received unanimous true bills. Buckley slowly taught the grand jury how to operate itself. He made them feel important, powerful, and laden with the heavy burden of justice. They became inquisitive:
"Does he have a record?"
"How much time does that carry?"
"When will he get out?"
"How many counts can we give him?"
"When will he be tried?"
"Is he out of jail now?"
With five indictments out of the way, with five true bills and no dissension, with the grand jury eager for the next case, whatever it might be, Buckley decided the mood was ripe. He opened the door and motioned for Ozzie, who was standing in the hall talking quietly with a deputy and watching the reporters.
"Present Hailey first," Buckley whispered as the two met in the door.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is Sheriff Walls. I'm sure most of you know him. He has several cases to present. What's first, Sheriff?"
Ozzie scrambled through his files, lost whatever he was looking for, and finally blurted, "Carl Lee Hailey."
The jurors became quiet again. Buckley watched them closely to gauge their reactions. Most of them stared at the table again. No one spoke while Ozzie reviewed the file, then excused himself to get another briefcase. He had not planned to present the Hailey case first.
Buckley prided himself on reading jurors, of watching their faces and knowing precisely their thoughts. He watched the jury constantly during a trial, always predicting to himself what each was thinking. He would cross-examine a witness and never take his eyes off the jury. He would sometimes stand and face the jury box and interrogate a witness and watch the faces react to the answers. After hundreds of trials he was good at reading jurors, and he knew instantly he was in trouble with Hailey. The five blacks grew tense and arrogant as if they welcomed the case and the inevitable argument. The foreman, Mrs. Gossett, looked particularly pious as Ozzie mumbled to himself and flipped papers. Most of the whites looked noncommittal, but Mack Loyd Crowell, a hard-looking middle-aged rural type, appeared as arrogant as the blacks. Crowell pushed back his chair and walked to the window, which looked over the north side of the courtyard. Buckley could not read him precisely, but he knew Crowell was trouble.
"Sheriff, how many witnesses do you have for the Hailey case?" Buckley asked, somewhat nervously.
Ozzie stopped shuffling paper and said, "Well, uh, just me. We can get another if we need one."
"All right, all right," replied Buckley. "Just tell us about the case."
Ozzie reared back, crossed his legs, and said, "Shoot, Rufus, everbody knows about this case. Been on TV for a week."
"Just give us the evidence."
"The evidence. Okay, one week ago today, Carl Lee Hailey, male black, age thirty-seven, shot and killed one Billy Ray Cobb and one Pete Willard, and he shot a peace officer, one DeWayne Looney, who's still in the hospital with his leg cut off. The weapon was an M-16 machine gun, illegal, which we recovered and matched the fingerprints with those of Mr. Hailey. I have an affidavit signed by Deputy Looney, and he states, under oath, that the man who did the shootin' was Carl Lee Hailey. There was an eyewitness, Murphy, the little crippled man that sweeps the courthouse and stutters real bad. I can get him here if you want."
"Any questions?" interrupted Buckley.
The D.A. nervously watched the jurors, who nervously watched the sheriff. Crowell stood with his back to the others, looking through the window.
"Any questions?" Buckley repeated.
"Yeah," answered Crowell as he turned and glared at the D.A., then at Ozzie. "Those two boys he shot, they raped his little girl, didn't they, Sheriff?"
"We're pretty sure they did," answered Ozzie.
"Well, one confessed, didn't he?"
Crowell walked slowly, boldly, arrogantly across the room, and stood at the other end of the tables. He looked down at Ozzie. "You got kids, Sheriff?"
"You got a little girl?"
"Suppose she got raped and you got your hands on the man who did it. What would you do?"
Ozzie paused and looked anxiously at Buckley, whose neck had turned a deep red.
"I don't have to answer that," Ozzie replied.
"Is that so. You came before this grand jury to testify, didn't you? You're a witness, ain't you? Answer the question."
"I don't know what I'd do."
"Come on, Sheriff. Give us a straight answer. Tell the truth. What would you do?"
Ozzie felt embarrassed, confused, and angry at this stranger. He would like to tell the truth, and explain in detail how he would gladly castrate and mutilate and kill any pervert who touched his little girl. But he couldn't. The grand jury might agree and refuse to indict Carl Lee. Not that he wanted him indicted, but he knew the indictment was necessary. He looked sheepishly at Buckley, who was perspiring and seated now.
Crowell zeroed in on the sheriff with the zeal and fervor of a lawyer who had just caught a witness in an obvious lie.
"Come on, Sheriff," he taunted. "We're all listenin'. Tell the truth. What would you do to the rapist? Tell us. Come on."
Buckley was near panic. The biggest case of his wonderful career was about to be lost, not at trial, but in the grand jury room, in the first round, at the hands of an unemployed truck driver. He stood and struggled for words. "The witness does not have to answer."
Crowell turned and shouted at Buckley, "You sit down and shut up! We don't take orders from you. We can indict you if we want to, can't we?"
Buckley sat and looked blankly at Ozzie. Crowell was a ringer. He was too smart to be on a grand jury. Someone must have paid him. He knew too much. Yes, the grand jury could indict anyone.
Crowell retreated and returned to the window. They watched him until it appeared he was finished.
"Are you absolutely sure he done it, Ozzie?" asked Le-moyne Frady, an illegitimate distant cousin to Gwen Hailey.
"Yes, we're sure," Ozzie answered slowly, with both eyes on Crowell. ,
"And you want us to indict him for what?" asked Mr. Frady, the admiration for the sheriff obvious.
"Two counts of capital murder, and one count of assault on a peace officer."
"How much time you talkin' about?" asked Barney Flaggs, another black.
"Capital murder carries the gas chamber. Assault on a deputy carries life with no parole."
"And that's what you want, Ozzie?" asked Flaggs.
"Yeah, Barney, I say this grand jury should indict Mr. Hailey. I sure do."
"Any more questions?" interrupted Buckley.
"Not so fast," replied Crowell as he turned from the window. "I think you're tryin' to ram this case down our throats, Mr. Buckley, and I resent it. I wanna talk about it some. You sit down and if we need you, we'll ask you."
Buckley glared fiercely and pointed his finger. "I don't have to sit, and I don't have to stay quiet!" he yelled.
"Yes. Yes, you do," Crowell answered coolly with a caustic grin. "Because if you don't, we can make you leave, can't we, Mr. Buckley? We can ask you to leave this room, and if you refuse, we'll go ask the judge. He'll make you leave, won't he, Mr. Buckley?"
Rufus stood motionless, speechless, and stunned. His stomach turned flips and his knees were spongy, but he was frozen in place.
"So, if you would like to hear the rest of our deliberations, sit down and shut up."
Buckley sat next to the bailiff, who was now awake.
"Thank you," said Crowell. "I wanna ask you folks a question. How many of you would do or wanna do what Mr. Hailey did if someone raped your daughter, or maybe your
wife, or what about your motner now many: i cut hands."
Seven or eight hands shot up, and Buckley dropped his head. Crowell smiled and continued, "I admire him for what he did. It took guts. I'd hope I'd have the courage to do what he did, 'cause Lord knows I'd want to. Sometimes a man's just gotta do what he's gotta do. This man deserves a trophy, not an indictment."
Crowell walked slowly around the tables, enjoying the attention. "Before you vote, I want you to do one thing. I want you to think about that poor little girl. I think she's ten. Try to picture her layin' there, hands tied behind her, cryin', beggin' for her daddy. And think of those two outlaws, drunk, doped up, takin' turns rapin' and beatin' and kickin' her. Hell, they even tried to kill her. Think of your own daughter. Put her in the place of the little Hailey girl.
"Now, wouldn't you say they got pretty much what they deserved? We should be thankful they're dead. I feel safer just knowin' those two bastards are no longer here to rape and kill other children. Mr. Hailey has done us a great service. Let's don't indict him. Let's send him home to his family, where he belongs. He's a good man who's done a good thing."
Crowell finished and returned to the window. Buckley watched him fearfully, and when he was certain he was finished, he stood. "Sir, are you finished?" There was no response.
"Good. Ladies and gentlemen of the grand jury. I would like to explain a few things. A grand jury is not supposed to try the case. That's what a trial jury is for. Mr. Hailey will get a fair trial before twelve fair and impartial jurors, and if he's innocent, he'll be acquitted. But his guilt or innocence is not supposed to be determined by the grand jury. You're supposed to decide, after listening to the State's version of the evidence, if there is a strong possibility a crime has been committed. Now, I submit to you that a crime has been committed by Carl Lee Hailey. Three crimes actually. He killed two men, and he wounded another. We have eyewitnesses."
Buckley was warming as he circled the tables. The confidence was back. "The duty of this grand jury is to indict him, and if he has a valid defense, he'll have a chance to present it at trial. If he has a legal reason for doing what he did, let him prove it at trial. That's what trials are for. The State charges him with a crime, and the State must prove at trial he committed the crime. If he has a defense, and if he can convince the trial jury, he will be acquitted, I assure you. Good for him. But it's not the duty of this grand jury to decide today that Mr. Hailey should go free. There'll be another day for that, right, Sheriff?"
Ozzie nodded and said, "That's right. The grand jury is to indict if the evidence is presented. The trial jury will not convict him if the State can't prove its case, or if he puts a good defense. But the grand jury don't worry 'bout things like that."
"Anything further from the grand jury?" Buckley asked anxiously. "Okay, we need a motion."
"I make a motion we don't indict him for anything," yelled Crowell.
"Second," mumbled Barney Flaggs.
Buckley's knees quivered. He tried to speak, but nothing came forth. Ozzie suppressed his joy.
"We have a motion and a second," announced Mrs. Gossett. "All in favor raise your hands."
Five black hands went up, along with Crowell's. Sk votes. The motion failed.
"Whatta we do now?" asked Mrs. Gossett.
Buckley spoke rapidly: "Someone make a motion to indict Mr. Hailey for two counts of capital murder and one count of assault on a peace officer."
"So move," said one of the whites.
"Second," said another.
"All in favor, raise your hands," said Mrs. Gossett. "I count twelve hands. All opposed-I count five plus mine makes six. Twelve to six. What does that mean?"
"That means he's been indicted," Buckley replied proudly. He breathed normally again, and the color returned to his face. He whispered to a secretary, then addressed the grand jury. "Let's take a ten-minute recess. We have about forty more cases to work on, so please don't be gone long. I would like to remind you of something Judge Noose said this morning. These deliberations are extremely confidential.
You are not to discuss any 01 your worK ouisiue room-"
"What he's tryin' to say," interrupted Crowell, "is that we can't tell anybody that he came within one vote of not gettin' the indictments. Ain't that right, Buckley?"
The D.A. quickly left the room and slammed the door.
Surrounded by dozens of cameras and reporters, Buckley stood on the front steps of the courthouse and waved copies of the indictments. He preached, lectured, moralized, praised the grand jury, sermonized against crime and vigilantes, and condemned Carl Lee_Hailey. Bring on the trial. Put the jury in the box. He guaranteed a conviction. He guaranteed a death penalty. He was obnoxious, offensive, arrogant, self-righteous. He was himself. Vintage Buckley. A few of the reporters left, but he labored on. He extolled himself and his trial skills and his ninety, no, ninety-five percent conviction rate. More reporters left. More cameras were turned off. He praised Judge Noose for his wisdom and fairness. He acclaimed the intelligence and good judgment of Ford County jurors.
He outlasted them. They grew weary of him and they all left.
Stump Sisson was the Klan's Imperial Wizard for Mississippi, and he had called the meeting at the small cabin deep in the pine forests of Nettles County, two hundred and thirty miles south of Ford County. There were no robes, rituals, or speeches. The small group of Klansmen discussed the events in Ford County with a Mr. Freddie Cobb, brother of Billy Ray Cobb, deceased. Freddie had called a friend who called Stump to arrange the meeting.
Had they indicted the nigger? Cobb was not sure, but he had heard the trial would be in late summer, or early fall. What concerned him most was all the talk about the nigger pleading insanity and getting off. It wasn't right. The nigger killed his brother in cold blood, planned the shooting. He hid in a closet and waited for his brother. It was coldblooded murder, and now there was talk of the nigger walking free. What could the Klan do about it? The niggers have plenty of protection nowadays-the NAACP, ACLU, a thousand other civil rights groups, plus the courts and the government. Hell, white folks ain't got a chance, except for the Klan. Who else would march and stand up for white people. All the laws favor the niggers, and the liberal nigger-loving politicians keep making more laws against white people. Somebody's got to stand up for them. That's why he called the Klan.
Is the nigger in jail? Yes, and he's treated like a king. Got a nigger sheriff up there, Walls, and he likes this nigger. Gives him special privileges and extra protection. The sheriffs another story. Someone said Hailey might get out of jail this week on bond. Just a rumor. They hoped he got out.
What about your brother? Did he rape her? We're not sure, probably not. Willard, the other guy, confessed to rape, but Billy Ray never confessed. He had plenty of women. Why would he rape a little nigger girl? And if he did, what was the big deal?
Who's the nigger's lawyer? Brigance, a local boy in Clanton. Young, but pretty good. Does a lot of criminal work and has a good reputation, won several minuet told some reporters the nigger would plead insanity and get off.
Who's the judge? Don't know yet. Bullard was the county judge, but someone said he would not hear the case. There's talk of moving the case to another county, so who knows who will be the judge.
Sisson and the Kluxers listened intently to this ignorant redneck. They liked the part about the NAACP and the government and the politicians, but they had also read the papers and watched TV and they knew his brother had received justice. But at the hands of a nigger. It was unthinkable.
The case had real potential. With the trial several months away, there was time to plan a rebellion. They could march during the day around the courthouse in their white robes and pointed, hooded masks. They could make speeches to a captive audience and parade in front of the cameras. The press would love it-hate them, but love the altercations, the disruptions. And at night they could intimidate with burning crosses and threatening phone calls. The targets would be easy and unsuspecting. Violence would be unavoidable. They knew how to provoke it. They fully appreciated what the sight of marching white robes did to crowds of angry niggers.
Ford County could be their playground for hide and seek, search and destroy, and hit and run. They had time to organize and call in comrades from other states. What Kluxer would miss this golden moment? And new recruits? Why, this case could fuel the fires of racism and bring nigger haters out of the woods and onto the streets. Membership was down. Hailey would be their new battle cry, the rallying point.
"Mr. Cobb, can you get us the names and addresses of the nigger, his family, his lawyer, the judge, and the jurors?" asked Sisson.
Cobb pondered this task. "Everbody but the jurors. They ain't been picked yet."
"When will you know them?"
"Damned if I know. I guess at trial. What're y'all thinkin'?"
"We're not sure, but the Klan most likely will get involved. We need to flex our muscle a bit, and this could be a good opportunity."
"Can I help?" Cobb asked eagerly.
"Sure, but you need to be a member."
"We ain't got no Klan up there. It folded a long time ago. My granddaddy used to be a member."
"You mean the grandfather of the victim was a Klansman?"
"Yep," Cobb answered proudly.
"Well, then, we must get involved." The Klansmen shook their heads in disbelief and vowed revenge. They explained to Cobb that if he could get five or six friends of similar thinking and motivation to agree to join, they would have a big, secret ceremony deep in the woods of Ford County with a huge burning cross and all sorts of rituals.-They would be inducted as members, full-fledged members, of the Ku Klux Klan. Ford County Klavern. And they would all join in and make a spectacle of the trial of Carl Lee Hailey. They would raise so much hell in Ford County this summer that no juror with any common sense would consider voting to acquit the nigger. Just recruit half a dozen more, and they would make him the leader of the Ford County Klavern.
Cobb said he had enough cousins to start a klavern. He left the meeting drunk with excitement of being a Klansman, just like his grandfather.
Buckley's timing was a little off. His 4:00 P.M. press show was ignored by the evening news. Jake flipped the channels on a small black and white in his office, and laughed out loud when the networks and then Memphis, then Jackson, then Tupelo signed off with no news of the indictments. He could see the Buckley family in their den glued to the set, turning knobs and searching desperately for their hero while he yelled at them all to be quiet. And then at seven, after the Tupelo weather, the last weather, they backed away and left him alone in his recliner. Maybe at ten, he probably said.
At ten, Jake and Carla laid cross-legged and tangled in the dark on the sofa, waiting on the news. Finally, there he was, on trie iront steps, waving papcis anu u street preacher while the Channel 4 man on the scene explained that this was Rufus Buckley, the D.A. who would prosecute Carl Lee Hailey now that he had been indicted. After an awful glimpse of Buckley, the report panned around the square for a wonderful view of downtown Clanton, and then finally back to the reporter for two sentences about a trial in late summer.
"He's offensive," Carla said. "Why would he call a press conference to announce the indictments?"
"He's a prosecutor. We defense lawyers hate the press."
"I've noticed. My scrapbook is rapidly filling up."
"Be sure and make copies for Mom."
"Will you autograph it for her?"
"Only for a fee. Yours, I will autograph for free."
"Fine. And if you lose, I'll send you a bill for clipping and pasting."
"I remind you, dear, that I have never lost a murder case. Three and oh, as a matter of fact."
Carla punched the remote control and the weatherman remained but his volume disappeared. "You know what I dislike most about your murder trials?" She kicked the cushions from her thin, bronze, almost perfect legs.
"The blood, the carnage, the gruesomeness?"
"No." She unfolded her shoulder-length hair and let it fall around her on the arm of the sofa.
"The loss of life, regardless of how insignificant?"
"No." She was wearing one of his old, starched-out, sixteen-by-thirty-four, pinpoint Oxford button-downs, and she began to play with the buttons.
"The horrible specter of an innocent man facing the gas chamber?"
"No." She was unbuttoning it. The bluish gray rays from the television flashed like a strobe in the dark room as the artchorperson smiled and mouthed good night.
"The fear of a young family as the father walks into the courtroom and faces a jury of his peers?"
"No." It was unbuttoned, and under it a thin, fluorescent band of white silk glittered against the brown skin.
"The latent unfairness of our judicial system?"
"No." She slid an almost perfect bronze leg up, up, up to the back of the sofa where it gently came to rest.
"The unethical and unscrupulous tactics employed by cops and prosecutors to nail innocent defendants?"
"No." She unsnapped the band of silk between the two almost perfect breasts.
"The fervor, the fury, the intensity, the uncontrolled emotions, the struggle of the human spirit, the unbridled passion?"
"Close enough," she said. Shirts and shorts ricocheted off the lamps and coffee tables as the bodies meshed deep under the cushions. The old sofa, a gift from her parents, rocked and squeaked on the ancient hardwood floor. It was sturdy, and accustomed to the rocking and squeaking. Max the mix-breed instinctively ran down the hall to stand guard by Hanna's door.
Harry Rex Vonner was a huge slob of a lawyer who specialized in nasty divorce cases and perpetually kept some jerk in jail for back child support. He was vile and vicious, and his services were in great demand by divorcing parties in Ford County. He could get the children, the house, the farm, the VCR, and microwave, everything. One wealthy farmer kept him on retainer just so the current wife couldn't hire him for the next divorce. Harry Rex sent his criminal cases to Jake, and Jake sent his nasty divorces to Harry Rex. They were friends and disliked the other lawyers, especially the Sullivan firm.
Tuesday morning he barged in and growled at Ethel: "Jake in?" He lumbered toward the stairs, glaring at her and daring her to speak. She nodded, knowing better than to ask if he was expected. He had cursed her before. He had cursed everybody before.
The stairway shook as he thundered upward. He was gasping for air as he entered the big office.
"Morning, Harry Rex. You gonna make it?"
"Why don't you get an office downstairs?" he demanded between breaths.
"You need the exercise. If it weren't for those stairs your weight would be over three hundred."
"Thanks. Say, I just came from the courtroom. Noose wants you in chambers at ten-thirty if possible. Wants to talk about Hailey with you and Buckley. Set up arraignment, trial date, all that crap. He asked me to tell you."
"Good. I'll be there."
"I guess you heard about the grand jury?"
"Sure. I've got a copy of the indictment right here."
Harry Rex smiled. "No. No, I mean the vote on the indictment."
Jake froze and looked at him curiously. Harry Rex moved in silent and dark circles like a cloud over the county. He was an endless source of gossip and rumor, and took great pride in spreading only the truth-most of the time. He was the first to know almost everything. The legend of
Harry Rex began twenty years earlier with his first jury trial. The railroad he had sued for millions refused to offer a dime, and after three days of trial the jury retired to deliberate. The railroad lawyers became concerned when the jury failed to return with a quick verdict in their favor. They offered Harry Rex twenty-five thousand to settle when the deliberations went into the second day. With nerves of steel, he told them to go to hell. His client wanted the money. He told his client to go to hell. Hours later a weary and fatigued jury returned with a verdict for one hundred fifty thousand. Harry Rex shot the bird at the railroad lawyers, snubbed his clients and went to the bar at the Best Western. He bought drinks for everyone, and during the course of the long evening explained in detail exactly how he had wired the jury room and knew exactly what the jury was up to. Word spread, and Murphy found a series of wires running through the heating ducts to the jury room. The State Bar Association snooped around, but found nothing. For twenty years the judges had ordered the bailiffs to inspect the jury room when Harry Rex was in any way connected with a case.
"How do you know the vote?" Jake asked, suspicion hanging on every syllable.
"I got sources."
"Okay, what was the vote?"
"Twelve to six. One fewer vote and you wouldn't be holding that indictment."
"Twelve to six," Jake repeated.
"Buckley near 'bout died. A guy named Crowell, white guy, took charge and almost convinced enough of them not to indict your man."
"Do you know Crowell?"
"I handled his divorce two years ago. He lived in Jackson until his first wife was raped by a nigger. She went crazy and they got a divorce. She took a steak knife and sliced her wrists. Then he moved to Clanton and married some sleazebag out in the county. Lasted about a year. He ate Buckley's lunch. Told him to shut up and sit down. I wish I could've seen it."
"Sounds like you did."
"Naw. Just got a good source."
"Jake, come on."
"You been wiring rooms again?"
"Nope. I just listen. That's a good sign, ain't it?"
"The close vote. Six outta eighteen voted to let him walk. Five niggers and Crowell. That's a good sign. Just get a couple of niggers on the jury and hang it. Right?"
"It's not that easy. If it's tried in this county there's a good chance we'll have an all-white jury. They're common here, and as you know, they're still very constitutional. Plus this guy Crowell sounds like he came outta nowhere."
"That's what Buckley thought. -You should see that ass. He's in the courtroom strutting around ready to sign autographs over his big TV splash last night. No one wants to talk about it, so he manages to work it into every conversation. He's like a kid begging for attention."
"Be sweet. He may be your next governor."
"Not if he loses Hailey. And he's gonna lose Hailey, Jake. We'll pick us a good jury, twelve good and faithful citizens, then we'll buy them."
"I didn't hear that."
"Works every time."
A few minutes after ten-thirty, Jake entered the judge's chamber behind the courtroom and coolly shook hands with Buckley, Musgrove, and Ichabod. They had been waiting on him. Noose waved him toward a seat and sat behind the desk.
"Jake, this will take just a few minutes." He peered down that nose. "I would like to arraign Carl Lee Hailey in the morning at nine. Any problems with that?"
"No. That'll be fine," replied Jake.
"We'll have some other arraignments in the morning, then we start a burglary case at ten. Right, Rufus?"
"Okay. Now let's discuss a trial date for Mr. Hailey. As you know, the next term of court here is in late August- third Monday-and I'm sure the docket will be just as crowded then. Because of the nature of this case and, frankly, because of the publicity, I think it would be best if we had a trial as soon as practical."
"The sooner the better," inserted Buckley.
"Jake, how long will you need to prepare for trial?"
"Sixty days!" Buckley repeated in disbelief. "Why so long?"
Jake ignored him and watched Ichabod adjust his reading glasses and study his calendar. "Would it be safe to anticipate a request for a change of venue?" he asked.
"Won't make any difference," Buckley said. "We'll get a conviction anywhere."
"Save it for the cameras, Rufus," Jake said quietly.
"You shouldn't talk about cameras," Buckley shot back. "You seem to enjoy them yourself."
"Gentlemen, please," Noose said. "What other pretrial motions can we expect from the defense?"
Jake thought for a moment. "There will be others."
"May I inquire about the others?" asked Noose with a hint of irritation.
"Judge, I really don't care to discuss my defense at this time. We just received the indictment and I haven't discussed it with my client. We obviously have some work to do."
"How much time do you need?"
"Are you kidding!" Buckley shouted. "Is this a joke? The State could try it tomorrow, Judge. Sixty days is ridiculous."
Jake began to burn but said nothing. Buckley walked to the window and mumbled to himself in disbelief.
Noose studied his calendar. "Why sixty days?"
"It could be a complicated case."
Buckley laughed and continued shaking his head.
"Then we can expect a defense of insanity?" asked the judge.
"Yes, sir. And it will take time to have Mr. Hailey examined by a psychiatrist. Then the State will of course want him examined by its doctors."
"And we may have other pretnal matters. 11 s a oig case, and I want to make sure we have time to adequately prepare."
"Mr. Buckley?" said the judge.
"Whatever. It makes no difference to the State. We'll be ready. We could try it tomorrow."
Noose scribbled on his calendar and adjusted his reading glasses, which were perched on the tip of that nose and held in place by a tiny wart located perfectly at the foot of the beak. Due to the size of the nose and the odd shape of the head, specially built reading glasses with extra long stems were required for His Honor, who never used them for reading or any other purpose except in a vain effort to distract from the size and shape of the nose. Jake had always suspected this, but lacked the courage to inform His Honor that the ridiculous, orange-tinted hexagonal glasses diverted attention from everything else directly to the nose.
"How long do you anticipate for trial, Jake?" Noose asked.
"Three or four days. But it could take three days to pick the jury."
"Sounds about right. But I don't understand why it takes sixty days to prepare for a three-day trial. I think it should be tried sooner."
"Relax, Rufus," Jake said calmly. "The cameras will be here in sixty days, even ninety days. They won't forget about you. You can give interviews, hold press conferences, preach sermons, everything. The works. But don't worry so much. You'll get your chance."
Buckley's eyes narrowed and his face reddened. He took three steps in Jake's direction. "If I'm not mistaken, Mr. Brigance, you've given more interviews and seen more cameras than I have during the past week."
"I know, and you're jealous, aren't you?"
"No, I'm not jealous! I don't care about the cameras-"
"Gentlemen, please," Noose interrupted. "This promises to be a long, emotional case. I expect my attorneys to act like professionals. Now, my calendar is congested. The only opening I have is the week of July 22. Does that present a problem?"
"We can try it that week," said Musgrove.
Jake smiled at Buckley and flipped through his pocket calendar. "Looks good to me."
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