Chapter Fifteen

"We'll hear those at trial. Anything else?"

"Not at this time."

"Now, Mr. Buckley, will the State file any motions?"

"I can't think of any," Buckley answered meekly.

"Good. I want to make sure there are no surprises between now and trial. I will be here one week before trial to hear and decide any pretrial matters. I expect any motions to be filed promptly, so that we can tie up any loose ends well before the twenty-second."

Noose flipped through his file and studied Jake's motion for a change of venue. Jake whispered to Carl Lee, whose presence was not required for the hearing, but he insisted. Gwen and the three boys sat in the first row behind their daddy. Tonya was not in the courtroom.

"Mr. Brigance, your motion appears to be in order. How many witnesses?"

"Three, Your Honor."

"Mr. Buckley, how many will you call?"

"We have twenty-one," Buckley said proudly.

"Twenty-one!" yelled the judge.

Buckley cowered and glanced at Musgrove. "B-but, we probably won't need them all. In fact, I know we won't call all of them."

"Pick your best five, Mr. Buckley. I don't plan to be here all day."

"Yes, Your Honor."

"Mr. Brigance, you've asked for a change of venue. It's your motion. You may proceed."

Jake stood and walked slowly across the courtroom, behind Buckley, to the wooden podium in front of the jury box. "May it please the court, Your Honor, Mr. Hailey has requested that his trial be moved from Ford County. The reason is obvious: the publicity in this case will prevent a fair trial. The good people of this county have prejudged the guilt or innocence of Carl Lee Hailey. He is charged with killing two men, both of whom were born here and left families here. Their lives were not famous, but their deaths certainly have been. Mr. Hailey was known by few outside his community until now. Now everyone in this county knows who he is, knows about his family and his daughter and what happened to her, and knows most of the details of his alleged crimes. It will be impossible to find twelve people in Ford County who have not already prejudged this case. This trial should be held in another part of the state where the people are not so familiar with the facts."

"Where would you suggest?" interrupted the judge.

"I wouldn't recommend a specific county, but it should be as far away as possible. Perhaps the Gulf Coast."


"Obvious reasons, Your Honor. It's four hundred miles away, and I'm sure the people down there do not know as much as the people around here."

"And you think the people in south Mississippi haven't heard about it?"

"I'm sure they have. But they are much further away."

"But they have televisions and newspapers, don't they, Mr. Brigance?"

"I'm sure they do."

"Do you believe you could go to any county in this state and find twelve people who haven't heard the details of this case?"

Jake looked at his legal pad. He could hear the artists sketching on their pads behind him. He could see Buckley

grinning out ot the corner of his eye. "It would be difficult," he said quietly.

"Call your first witness."

Harry Rex Vonner was sworn in and took his seat on the witness stand. The wooden swivel chair popped and creaked under the heavy load. He blew into the microphone and a loud hiss echoed around the courtroom. He smiled at Jake and nodded.

"Would you state your name?"

"Harry Rex Vonner."

"And your address?"

"Eighty-four ninety-three Cedarbrush, Clanton, Mississippi."

"How long have you lived in Clanton?"

"All my life. Forty-six years."

"Your occupation?"

"I'm a lawyer. I've had my license for twenty-two years."

"Have you ever met Carl Lee Hailey?"


"What do you know about him?"

"He supposedly shot two men, Billy Ray Cobb and Pete Willard, and he wounded a deputy, DeWayne Looney."

"Did you Know either of those boys?"

"Not personally. I knew of Billy Ray Cobb."

"How did you learn of the shootings?"

"Well, it happened on a Monday, I believe. I was in the courthouse, on the first floor, checking title on some land in the clerk's office, when I heard the gunshots. I ran out into the hall and bedlam had broken loose. I asked a deputy and he told me that the boys had been killed near the back door of the courthouse. I hung around here for a while, and pretty soon there was a rumor that the killer was the father of the little girl who got raped."

"What was your initial reaction?"

"I was shocked, like most people. But I was shocked when I first heard of the rape too."

"When did you learn that Mr, Hailey had been arrested?"

"Later that night. It was all over the television."

"What did you see on TV?"

"Well, I watched as much of it as I could. There were news reports from the local stations in Memphis and Tupelo. We've got the cable, you know, so I watched the news out of New York, Chicago, and Atlanta. Just about every channel had something about the shootings and the arrest. There was footage from the courthouse and jail. It was a big deal. Biggest thing that ever happened in Clanton, Mississippi."

"How did you react when you learned that the girl's father had supposedly done the shooting?"

"It was no big surprise to me. I mean, we all sort of figured it was him. I admired him. I've got kids, and I sympathize with what he did. I still admire him."

"How much do you know about the rape?"

Buckley leapt to his feet. "Objection! The rape is irrelevant!"

Noose ripped off his glasses again and stared angrily at the D.A. Seconds passed and Buckley glanced at the table. He shifted his weight from one foot to the next, then sat down. Noose leaned forward and glared down from the bench.

"Mr. Buckley, don't yell at me. If you do it again, so help me God, I will hold you in contempt. You may be correct, the rape may be irrelevant. But this is not the trial, is it? This is simply a hearing, isn't it? We don't have a jury in the box, do we? You're overruled and out of order. Now stay in your seat. I know it's hard with this sort of audience, but I instruct you to stay in your seat unless you have something truly worthy to say. At that point, you may stand and politely and quietly tell me what's on your mind."

"Thank you, Your Honor," Jake said as he smiled at Buckley. "Now, Mr. Vonner, as I was saying, how much do you know about the rape?"

"Just what I've heard."

"And what's that?"

Buckley stood and bowed like a Japanese sumo wrestler. "If Your Honor please," he said softly and sweetly, "I would like to object at this point, if it pleases the court. The witness may testify to only what he knows from first-hand knowledge, not from what he's heard from other people."

Noose answered just as sweetly. "Thank you, Mr. Buck-

ley. Your objection is noted, and you are overruled. Please continue, Mr. Brigance."

"Thank you, Your Honor."

"What have you heard about the rape?"

"Cobb and Willard grabbed the little Hailey girl and took her out in the woods somewhere. They were drunk, they tied her to a tree, raped her repeatedly and tried to hang her. They even urinated on her."

"They what!" asked Noose.

"They pissed on her, Judge."

The courtroom buzzed at this revelation. Jake had never heard it, Buckley hadn't heard it, and evidently no one knew it but Harry Rex. Noose shook his head and lightly rapped his gavel.

Jake scribbled something on his legal pad and marveled at his friend's esoteric knowledge. "Where did you learn about the rape?"

"All over town. It's common knowledge. The cops were giving the details the next morning at the Coffee Shop. Everybody knows it."

"Is it common knowledge throughout the county?"

"Yes. I haven't talked to anybody in a month who did not know the details of the rape."

"Tell us what you know about the shootings."

"Well, like I said, it was a Monday, afternoon. The boys were here in this courtroom for a bail hearing, I believe, and when they left the courtroom they were handcuffed and led by the deputies down the back stairs. When they got down the stairs, Mr. Hailey jumped out of a closet with an M-16. They were killed and DeWayne Looney was shot. Part of his leg was amputated."

"Exactly where did this take place?"

"Right below us here, at the rear entrance of the courthouse. Mr. Hailey was hiding in a janitor's closet and just stepped out and opened fire."

"Do you believe this to be true?"

"I know it's true."

"Where did you learn all this?"

"Here and there. Around town. In the newspapers. Everybody knows about it."

"Where have you heard it discussed?"

"Everywhere. In bars, in churches, at the bank, at the cleaners, at the Tea Shoppe, at the cafes around town, at the liquor store. Everywhere."

"Have you talked to anyone who believes Mr. Hailey did not kill Billy Ray Cobb and Pete Willard?"

"No. You won't find a single person in this county who believes he didn't do it."

"Have most folks around here made up their minds about his guilt or innocence?"

"Every single one of them. There are no fence strad-dlers on this one. It's a hot topic, and everyone has an opinion."

"In your opinion, could Mr. Hailey receive a fair trial in Ford County?"

"No, sir. You couldn't find three people in this county of thirty thousand who have not already made up their minds, one way or the other. Mr. Hailey has been judged already. There's just no way to find an impartial jury."

"Thank you, Mr. Vonner. No further questions, Your Honor." Buckley patted his pompadour and ran his fingers over his ears to make sure every hair was in place. He walked purposefully to the podium.

"Mr. Vonner," he, bellowed magnificently, "have you already prejudged Carl Lee Hailey?"

"Damn right I have."

"Your language, please," said Noose.

"And what would your judgment be?"

"Mr. Buckley, let me explain it this way. And I'll do so very carefully and slowly so that even you will understand it. If I was the sheriff, I would not have arrested him. If I was on the grand jury, I would not have indicted him. If I was the judge, I would not try him. If I was the D.A., I would not prosecute him. If I was on the trial jury, I would vote to give him a key to the city, a plaque to hang on his wall, and I would send him home to his family. And, Mr. Buckley, if my daughter is ever raped, I hope I have the guts to do what he did."

"I see. You think people should carry guns and settle their disputes in shootouts?"

"I think children have a right not to be raped, and their parents have the right to protect them. I think little girls are

special, and if mine was tied to a tree and gang raped by two dopeheads I'm sure it would make me crazy. I think good and decent fathers should have a constitutional right to execute any pervert who touches their children. And I think you're a lying coward when you claim you would not want to kill the man who raped your daughter."

"Mr. Vonner, please!" Noose said.

Buckley struggled, but kept his cool. "You obviously feel very strongly about this case, don't you?"

"You're very perceptive."

"And you want to see him acquitted, don't you?"

"I would pay money, if I had any."

"And you think he stands a better chance of acquittal in another county, don't you?"

"I think he's entitled to a jury made up of people who don't know everything about the case before the trial starts."

"You would acquit him, wouldn't you?"

"That's what I said."

"And you've no doubt talked to other people who would acquit him?"

"I have talked to many."

"Are there folks in Ford County who would vote to convict him?"

"Of course. Plenty of them. He's black, isn't he?"

"In all your discussions around the county, have you detected a clear majority one way or the other?"

"Not really."

Buckley looked at his legal pad and made a note. "Mr. Vonner, is Jake Brigance a close friend of yours?"

Harry Rex smiled and rolled his eyes at Noose. "I'm a lawyer, Mr. Buckley, my friends are few and far between. But he is one of them. Yes, sir."

"And he asked you to come testify?"

"No. I just happened to stumble through the courtroom a few moments ago and landed here in this chair. I had no idea you guys were having a hearing this morning."

Buckley threw his legal pad on the table and sat down. Harry Rex was excused.

"Call your next witness," Noose ordered.

"Reverend Ollie Agee," Jake said.

The reverend was led from the witness room and seated

in the witness stand. Jake had met him at his church the day before with a list of questions. He wanted to testify. They did not discuss the NAACP lawyers.

The reverend was an excellent witness. His deep, graveled voice needed no microphone as it carried around the courtroom. Yes, he knew the details of the rape and the shooting. They were members of his church. He had known them for years, they were family almost, and he had held their hands and suffered with them after the rape. Yes, he had talked to countless people since it happened and everyone had an opinion on guilt or innocence. He and twenty-two other black ministers were members of the council and they had all talked about the Hailey case. And, no, there were no unmade minds in Ford County. A fair trial was not possible in Ford County, in his opinion.

Buckley asked one question. "Reverend Agee, have you talked to any black who would vote to convict Carl Lee Hailey?"

"No, suh, I have not."

The reverend was excused. He took a seat in the courtroom between two of his brethren on the council.

"Call your next witness," Noose said.

Jake smiled at the D.A., and announced, "Sheriff Ozzie Walls."

Buckley and Musgrove immediately locked heads and whispered. Ozzie was on their side, the side of law and order, the prosecution's side. It was not his job to help the defense. Proves you can't trust a nigger, thought Buckley. They take up for each other when they know they're guilty.

Jake led Ozzie through a discussion of the rape and the backgrounds of Cobb and Willard. It was boring and repetitious, and Buckley wanted to object. But he'd been embarrassed enough for one day. Jake sensed that Buckley would remain in his seat so he dwelt on the rape and the gory details. Finally, Noose had enough.

"Move on please, Mr. Brigance."

"Yes, Your Honor. Sheriff Walls, did you arrest Carl Lee Hailey?"

"I did."

"Do you believe he killed Billy Ray Cobb and Pete Willard?"

"I do."

"Have you met anybody in this county who believes he did not shoot them?"

"No, sir."

"Is it widely believed in this county that Mr. Hailey killed them?"

"Yes. Everbody believes it. At least everbody I've talked to."

"Sheriff, do you circulate in this county?"

"Yes, sir. It's my job to know what's goin' on."

"And you talk to a lot of people?"

"More than I would like."

"Have you run across anyone who hasn't heard of Carl Lee Hailey?"

Ozzie paused and answered slowly. "A person would have to be deaf, dumb, and blind not to know of Carl Lee Hailey."

"Have you met anyone without an opinion on his guilt or innocence?"

"There's no such person in this county."

"Can he get a fair trial here?"

"I don't know about that. I do know you can't find twelve people who don't know all about the rape and the shootin'."

"No further questions," Jake said to Noose.

"Is he your last witness?"

"Yes, sir."

"Any cross-examination, Mr. Buckley?"

Buckley remained in his seat and shook his head.

"Good," said His Honor. "Let's take a short recess. I would like to see the attorneys in chambers."

The courtroom erupted in conversation as the attorneys followed Noose and Mr. Pate through the door beside the bench. Noose closed the door to his chambers and removed his robe. Mr. Pate brought him a cup of black coffee.

"Gentlemen, I am considering imposing a gag order from now until the trial is over. I am disturbed by the publicity, and I don't want this case tried by the press. Any comments?"

Buckley looked pale and shaken. He opened his mouth, but nothing happened.

"Good idea, Your Honor," Jake said painfully. "1 had considered requesting such an order."

"Yes, I'm sure you have. I've noticed how you run from publicity. What about you, Mr. Buckley?"

"Uh, who would it apply to?"

"You, Mr. Buckley. You, and Mr. Brigance, would be ordered not to discuss any aspect of the case or the trial with the press. It would apply to everyone, at least everyone under the control of this court. The attorneys, the clerks, the court officials, the sheriff."

"But why?" asked Buckley.

"I don't like the idea of the two of you trying this case through the media. I'm not blind. You've both fought for the spotlight, and I can only imagine what the trial will be like. A circus, that's what it will be. Not a trial, but a three-ring circus." Noose walked to the window and mumbled something to himself. He paused for a moment, then continued mumbling. The attorneys looked at each other, then at the awkward frame standing in the window.

"I'm imposing a gag order, effective immediately, from now until the trial is over. Violation of the order will result in contempt of court proceedings. You are not to discuss any aspect of this case with any member of the press. Any questions?"

"No, sir," Jake said quickly.

Buckley looked at Musgrove and shook his head.

"Now, back to this hearing. Mr. Buckley, you said you have over twenty witnesses. How many do you really need?"

"Five or six."

"That's much better. Who are they?"

"Floyd Loyd."

"Who's he?"

"Supervisor, First District, Ford County."

"What's his testimony?"

"He's lived here for fifty years, been in office ten years or so. In his opinion a fair trial is possible in this county."

"I suppose he's never heard of this case?" Noose said sarcastically.

"I'm not sure."

"Who else?"

"Nathan Baker. Justice of the Peace, Third District, Ford County."

"Same testimony?"

"Well, basically, yes."

"Who else?"

"Edgar Lee Baldwin, former supervisor, Ford County."

"He was indicted a few years back, wasn't he?" Jake asked.

Buckley's face turned redder than Jake had ever seen it. His huge mouth dropped open and his eyes glazed over.

"He was not convicted," shot Musgrove.

"I didn't say he was. I simply said he was indicted. FBI, wasn't it?"

"Enough, enough," said Noose. "What will Mr. Baldwin tell us?"

"He's lived here all his life. He knows the people of Ford County, and thinks Mr. Hailey can receive a fair trial here," Musgrove answered. Buckley remained speechless as he stared at Jake.

"Who else?"

"Sheriff Harry Bryant, Tyler County."

"Sheriff Bryant? What'll he say?"

Musgrove was talking for the State now. "Your Honor, we have two theories we are submitting in opposition to the motion for a change of venue. First, we contend a fair trial is possible here in Ford County. Second, if the court is of the opinion that a fair trial is not possible here, the State contends that the immense publicity has reached every prospective juror in this state. The same prejudices and opinions, for and against, which exist in this county exist in every county. Therefore, nothing will be gained by moving the trial. We have witnesses to support this second theory."

"That's a novel concept, Mr. Musgrove. I don't think I've heard it before."

"Neither have I," added Jake.

"Who else do you have?"

"Robert Kelly Williams, district attorney for the Ninth District."


"Southwestern tip of the state."

"He drove all the way up here to testify that everyone in his neck of the woods has already prejudged the case?"

"Yes, sir."

"Who else?"

"Grady Listen, district attorney, Fourteenth District."

"Same testimony?"

"Yes, sir."

"Is that all?"

"Well, Your Honor, we have several more. But their testimony will pretty much follow the other witnesses'."

"Good, then we can limit your proof to these six witnesses?"

"Yes, sir."

"I will hear your proof. I will allow each of you five minutes to conclude your arguments, and I will rule on this motion within two weeks. Any questions?"

It hurt to say no to the reporters. They followed Jake across Washington Street, where he excused himself, offered his no comments, and sought refuge in his office. Undaunted, a photographer from Newsweek pushed his way inside and asked if Jake would pose for a photograph. He wanted one of those important ones with a stern look and thick leather books in the background. Jake straightened his tie and showed the photographer into the conference room, where he posed in court-ordered silence. The photographer thanked him and left.

"May I have a few minutes of your time?" Ethel asked politely as her boss headed for the stairs.


"Why don't you sit down. We need to talk."

She's finally quitting, Jake thought as he took a seat by the front window.

"What's on your mind?"


"You're the highest-paid legal secretary in town. You got a raise three months ago."

"Not my money. Please listen. You don't have enough in the bank to pay this month's bills. June is almost gone, and we've grossed seventeen hundred dollars."

Jake closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead.

"Look at these bills," she said, waving a stack of invoices. "Four thousand dollars worth. How am I supposed to pay these?"

"How much is in the bank?"

"Nineteen hundred dollars, as of Friday. Nothing came in this morning."


"Not a dime."

"What about the settlement on the Liford case? That's three thousand in fees."

Ethel shook her head. "Mr. Brigance, that file has not been closed. Mr. Liford has not signed the release. You were to take it by his house. Three weeks ago, remember?"

"No, I don't remember. What about Buck Britt's retainer? That's a thousand dollars."

"His check bounced. The bank returned it, and it's been on your desk for two weeks."

She paused and took a deep breath. "You've stopped seeing clients. You don't return phone calls, and-"

"Don't lecture me, Ethel!"

"And you're a month behind on everything."

"That's enough."

"Ever since you took the Hailey case. That's all you think about. You're obsessed with it. It's going to break us."

"Us! How many paychecks have you missed, Ethel? How many of those bills are past due? Huh?"


"But no more than usual, right?"

"Yes, but what about next month? The trial is four weeks away."

"Shut up, Ethel. Just shut up. If you can't take the pressure, then quit. If you can't keep your mouth shut, then you're fired."

"You'd like to fire me, wouldn't you?"

"I could care less."

She was a tough, hard woman. Fourteen years with Lu-cien had toughened her skin and hardened her conscience, but she was a woman nonetheless, and at this moment her lip started to quiver, and her eyes watered. She dropped her head.

"I'm sorry," she muttered. "I'm just worried."

"Worried about what?"

"Me and Bud."

"What's wrong with Bud?"

"He's a very sick man."

"I know that."

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