Chapter Nineteen

"There's a little cafe around the corner where the specialty is grease and fried corn meal. My system needs a shot of grease."

"Sounds delicious."

They walked around the square to Claude's, where the crowd was thin for a Saturday afternoon. There were no other whites in the place. Claude was absent and the silence was deafening. Jake ordered a cheeseburger, onion rings, and three headache powders.

"Got a headache?" Ellen asked.




"Hangover? I thought you were a teetotaler."

"And where'd you hear that?"

"Newsweek. The article said you were a clean-cut family man, workaholic, devout Presbyterian who drank nothing and smoked cheap cigars. Remember? How could you forget, right?"

"You believe everything you read?"


"Good, because last night I got plastered, and I've puked all morning."

The law clerk was amused. "What do you drink?"

"I don't-remember. At least I didn't until last night.

_ i, ano i nope it's my last. I'd forgotten how terrible these things are."

"Why do lawyers drink so much?"

"They learn how in law school. Does your dad drink?"

"Are you kidding? We're Catholic. He's careful, though."

"Do you drink?"

"Sure, all the time," she said proudly.

"Then you'll make a great lawyer."

Jake carefully mixed the three powders in a glass of ice water and slugged it down. He grimaced and wiped his mouth. She watched intently with an amused smile.

"What'd your wife say?"

"About what?"

"The hangover, from such a devout and religious family man."

"She doesn't know about it. She left me early yesterday morning."

"I'm sorry."

"She went to stay with her parents until the trial is over. We've had anonymous phone calls and death threats for two months now, and early yesterday morning they planted dynamite outside our bedroom window. The cops found it in time and they caught the men, probably the Klan. Enough dynamite to level the house and kill all of us. That was a good excuse to get drunk."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"The job you've just taken could be very dangerous. You should know that at this point."

"I've been threatened before. Last summer in Dothan, Alabama, we defended two black teenagers who had sodomized and strangled an eighty-year-old woman. No lawyer in the state would take the case so they called the Defense League. We rode into town on black horses and the mere sight of us would cause lynch mobs to form instantly on street corners. I've never felt so hated in my life. We hid in a motel in another town and felt safe, until one night two men cornered me in the motel lounge and tried to abduct me."

"What happened?"

"I carry a snub-nosed .38 in my purse and I convinced them I knew how to use it."

"A snub-nosed .38?"

"My father gave it to me for my fifteenth birthday. I have a license."

"He must be a hell of a guy."

"He's been shot at several times. He takes very controversial cases, the kind you read about in the papers where the public is outraged and demanding that the defendant be hanged without a trial or a lawyer. Those are the cases he likes best. He has a full-time bodyguard."

"Big deal. So do I. His name is Deputy Nesbit, and he couldn't hit the side of a barn with a shotgun. He was assigned to me yesterday."

The food arrived. She removed the onions and tomatoes from her Claudeburger, and offered him the french fries. She cut it in half and nibbled around the edges like a bird. Hot grease dripped to her plate. With each small bite, she carefully wiped her mouth.

Her face was gentle and pleasant with an easy smile that belied the ACLU, ERA, burn-the-bra, I-can-outcuss-you bitchiness Jake knew was lurking somewhere near the surface. There was not a trace of makeup anywhere on the face. None was needed. She was not beautiful, not cute, and evidently determined not to be so. She had the pale skin of a redhead, but it was healthy skin with seven or eight freckles splattered about the small, pointed nose. With each frequent smile, her lips spread wonderfully and folded her cheeks into neat, transient, hollow dimples. The smiles were confident, challenging, and mysterious. The metallic green eyes radiated a soft fury and were fixed and unblinking when she talked.

It was an intelligent face, attractive as hell.

Jake chewed on his burger and tried to nonchalantly ignore her eyes. The heavy food settled his stomach, and for the first time in ten hours he began to think he might live.

"Seriously, why'd you choose Ole Miss?" he asked.

"It's a good law school."

"It's my school. But we don't normally attract the brightest students from the Northeast. That's Ivy League country. We send our smartest kids up there."

"My father hates every lawyer with an Ivy League degree. He was dirt poor and scratched his way through law

_--. -. .,.6,*i. ,*v o cuuuicu me snuos from rich, well-educated, and incompetent lawyers all his life. Now he laughs at them. He told me I could go to law school anywhere in the country, but if I chose an Ivy League school he would not pay for it. Then there's my mother. I was raised on these enchanting stories of life in the Deep South, and I had to see for myself. Plus, the Southern states seemed determined to practice the death penalty, so I think I'll end up here."

"Why are you so opposed to the death penalty?"

"And you're not?"

"No, I'm very much in favor of it."

"That's incredible! Coming from a criminal defense lawyer."

"I'd like to go back to public hangings on the courthouse lawn."

"You're kidding, aren't you? I hope. Tell me you are."

"I am not."

She stopped chewing and smiling. The eyes glowed fiercely and watched him for a signal of weakness. "You are serious."

"I am very serious. The problem with the death penalty is that we don't use it enough."

"Have you explained that to Mr. Hailey?"

"Mr. Hailey does not deserve the death penalty. But the two men who raped his daughter certainly did."

"I see. How do you determine who gets it and who doesn't?"

"That's very simple. You look at the crime and you look at the criminal. If it's a dope dealer who guns down an undercover narcotics officer, then he gets the gas. If it's a drifter who rapes a three-year-old girl, drowns her by holding her little head in a mudhole, then throws her body off a bridge, then you take his life and thank God he's gone. If it's an escaped convict who breaks into a farmhouse late at night and beats and tortures an elderly couple before burning them with their house, then you strap him in a chair, hook up a few wires, pray for his soul, and pull the switch. And if it's two dopeheads who gang-rape a ten-year-old girl and kick her with pointed-toe cowboy boots until her jaws break, then you happily, merrily, thankfully, gleefully lock them in a gas chamber and listen to them squeal. It's very simple."

"It's barbaric."

"Their crimes were barbaric. Death is too good for them, much too good."

"And if Mr. Hailey is convicted and sentenced to die?"

"If that happens, I'm sure I'll spend the next ten years cranking out appeals and fighting furiously to save his life. And if they ever strap him in the chair, I'm sure I'll be outside the prison with you and the Jesuits and a hundred other kindly souls marching and holding candles and singing hymns. And then stand beside his grave behind his church with his widow and children and wish I'd never met him."

"Have you ever witnessed an execution?"

"Not that I recall."

"I've watched two. You'd change your mind if you saw one."

"Good. I won't see one."

"It's a horrible thing to watch."

"Were the victims' families there?"

"Yes, in both instances."

"Were they horrified? Were their minds changed? Of course not. Their nightmares were over."

"I'm surprised at you."

"And I'm bewildered by people like you. How can you be so zealous and dedicated in trying to save people who have begged for the death penalty and according to the law should get it?"

"Whose law? It's not the law in Massachusetts."

"You don't say. What do you expect from the only state McGovern carried in 1972? You folks have always been tuned in with the rest of the country."

The Claudeburgers were being ignored and their voices had grown too loud. Jake glanced around and caught a few stares. Ellen smiled again, and took one of his onion rings.

"What do you think of the ACLU?" she asked, crunching.

"I suppose you've got a membership card in your purse."

"I do."

"Then you're fired."

"I joined when I was sixteen."

"Why so late? You must have been the last one in your Girl Scout troop to join."

"Do you have any respect for the Bill of Rights?"

"I adore the Bill of Rights. I despise the judges who interpret them. Eat."

They finished the burgers in silence, watching each other carefully. Jake ordered coffee and two more headache powders.

"So how do we plan to win this case?" she asked.


"I still have the job, don't I?"

"Yes. Just remember that I'm the boss and you're the clerk."

"Sure, boss. What's your strategy?"

"How would you handle it?"

"Well, from what I gather, our client carefully planned the killings and shot them in cold blood, six days after the rape. It sounds exactly like he knew what he was doing."

"He did."

"So we have no defense and I think you should plead him guilty for a life sentence and avoid the gas chamber."

"You're a real fighter."

"Just kidding. Insanity is our only defense. And it sounds impossible to prove."

"You're familiar with the M'Naghten Rule?" Jake asked.

"Yes. Do we have a psychiatrist?"

"Sort of. He'll say anything we want him to say; that is, if he's sober at trial. One of your more difficult tasks as my new law clerk will be to make sure he is sober at trial. It won't be easy, believe me."

"I live for new challenges in the courtroom."

"All right Row Ark, take a pen. Here's a napkin. Your boss is about to give you instructions."

She began making notes on a paper napkin.

"I want a brief on the M'Naghten decisions rendered by the Mississippi Supreme Court in the past fifty years. There's probably a hundred. There's a big case from 1976, State vs. Hill, where the court was bitterly divided five to four, with the dissenters opting for a more liberal definition of insanity. Keep the brief short, less than twenty pages. Can you type?"

"Ninety words a minute."

"I should've known. I'd like it by Wednesday."

"You'll have it."

"There are some evidentiary points I need researched. You saw those gruesome pictures of the two bodies. Noose normally allows the jury to see the blood and gore, but I'd like to keep them away from the jury. See if there's a way."

"It won't be easy."

"The rape is crucial to his defense. I want the jury to know details. This needs to be researched thoroughly. I've got two or three cases you can start from, and I think we can prove to Noose that the rape is very relevant."

"Okay. What else?"

"I don't know. When my brain is alive again I'll think of more, but that will do it for now."

"Do I report Monday morning?"

"Yes, but no sooner than nine. I like my quiet time."

"What's the dress code?"

"You look fine."

"Jeans and no socks?"

"I have one other employee, a secretary by the name of Ethel. She's sixty-four, top heavy, and thankfully she wears a bra. It wouldn't be a bad idea for you."

"I'll think about it."

"I don't need the distraction."

Monday, July 15. One week until trial. Over the weekend word spread quickly that the trial would be in Clanton, and the small town braced for the spectacle. The phones rang steadily at the three motels as the journalists and their crews confirmed reservations. The cafes buzzed with anticipation. A county maintenance crew swarmed around the courthouse after breakfast and began painting and polishing. Ozzie sent the yardboys from the jail with their mowers and weed-eaters. The old men under the Vietnam monument whittled cautiously and watched all this activity. The trusty who supervised the yard work asked them to spit their Red Man in the grass, not on the sidewalk. He was told to go to hell. The thick, dark Bermuda was given an extra layer of fertilizer, and a dozen lawn sprinklers were hissing and splashing by 9:00 A.M.

By 10:00 A.M. the temperature was ninety-two. The merchants in the small shops around the square opened their doors to the humidity and ran their ceiling fans. They called Memphis and Jackson and Chicago for inventory to be sold at special prices next week.

Noose had called Jean Gillespie, the Circuit Court clerk, late Friday and informed her that the trial would be in her courtroom. He instructed her to summon one hundred and fifty prospective jurors. The defense had requested an enlarged panel from which to select the twelve, and Noose agreed. Jean and two deputy clerks spent Saturday combing the voter registration books randomly selecting potential jurors. Following Noose's specific instructions, they culled those over sixty-five. One thousand names were chosen, and each name along with its address was written on a small index card and thrown into a cardboard box. The two deputy clerks then took turns drawing cards at random from the box. One clerk was white, one black. Each would pull a card blindly from the box and arrange it neatly on a folding table with the other cards. When the count reached one hundred and fifty, the drawing ceased and a master list was typed. These were the jurors for State vs. Hailey. Each step of their

selection had been carefully dictated by the Honorable Omar Noose, who knew exactly what he was doing. If there was an all-white jury, and a conviction, and a death sentence, every single elementary step of the jury selection procedure would be attacked on appeal. He had been through it before, and had been reversed. But not this time.

From the master list, the name and address of each juror was typed on a separate jury summons. The stack of summonses was. kept in Jean's office under lock until eight Monday morning when Sheriff Ozzie Walls arrived. He drank coffee with Jean and received his instructions.

"Judge Noose wants these served between four P.M. and midnight tonight," she said.


"The jurors are to report to the courtroom promptly by nine next Monday."


"The summons does not indicate the name or nature of the trial, and the jurors are not to be told anything."

"I reckon they'll know."

"Probably so, but Noose was very specific. Your men are to say nothing about the case when the summonses are served. The names of the jurors are very confidential, at least until Wednesday. Don't ask why-Noose's orders."

Ozzie flipped through the stack. "How many do we have here?"

"One fifty."

"A hundred and fifty! Why so many?"

"It's a big case. Noose's orders."

"It'll take ever man I've got to serve these papers."

"I'm sorry."

"Oh well. If that's what His Honor wants."

Ozzie left, and within seconds Jake was standing at the counter flirting with the secretaries and smiling at Jean Gil-lespie. He followed her back to her office. He closed the door. She retreated behind her desk and pointed at him. He kept smiling.

"I know why you're here," she said sternly, "and you can't have it."

"Give me the list, Jean."

"Not until Wednesday. Noose's orders."

Wednesday? Why Wednesday?"

"I don't know. But Omar was very specific."

"Give me the list, Jean."

"Jake, I can't. Do you want me to get in trouble?"

"You won't get in trouble because no one will know it. You know how well I can keep a secret." He was not smiling now. "Jean, give me the damned list."

"Jake, I just can't."

"I need it, and I need it now. I can't wait until Wednesday. I've got work to do."

"It wouldn't be fair to Buckley," she said weakly.

"To hell with Buckley. Do you think he plays fair? He's a snake and you dislike him as much as I do."

"Probably more."

"Give me the list, Jean."

"Look, Jake, we've always been close. I think more of you than any lawyer I know. When my son got in trouble I called you, right? I trust you and I want you to win this case. But I can't defy a judge's orders."

"Who helped you get elected last time, me or Buck-ley?"

"Come on, Jake."

"Who kept your son out of jail, me or Buckley?"


"Who tried to put your son in jail, me or Buckley?"

"That's not fair, Jake."

"Who stood up for your husband when everybody, and I mean everybody, in the church wanted him gone when the books didn't balance?"

"It's not a question.of loyalty, Jake. I love you and Carla and Hanna, but I just can't do it."

Jake slammed the door and stormed out of the office. Jean sat at her desk and wiped tears from her cheeks.

At 10:00 A.M. Harry Rex barged into Jake's office and threw a copy of the jury list on his desk. "Don't ask," he said. Beside each name he had made notes, such as "Don't know" or "Former client-hates niggers" or "Works at the shoe factory, might be sympathetic."

Jake read each name slowly, trying to place it with a

face or a reputation. There was nothing but names. No addresses, ages, occupations. Nothing but names. His fourth-grade schoolteacher from Karaway. One of his mother's friends from the Garden Club. A former client, shoplifting, he thought. A name from church. A regular at the Coffee Shop. A prominent farmer. Most of the names sounded white. There was a Willie Mae Jones, Leroy Washington, Roosevelt Tucker, Bessie Lou Bean, and a few other black names. But the list looked awfully pale. He recognized thirty names at most.

"Whatta you think?" asked Harry Rex.

"Hard to tell. Mostly white, but that's to be expected. Where'd you get this?"

"Don't ask. I made notes by twenty-six names. That's the best I can do. The rest I don't know."

"You're a true friend, Harry Rex."

"I'm a prince. Are you ready for trial?"

"Not yet. But I've found a secret weapon."


"You'll meet her later."


"Yeah. You busy Wednesday night?"

"I don't think so. Why?"

"Good. Meet here at eight. Lucien will be here. Maybe one or two others. I want to take a couple of hours and talk about the jury. Who do we want? Let's get a profile of the model juror, and go from there. We'll cover each name and hopefully identify most of these people."

"Sounds like fun. I'll be here. What's your model juror?"

"I'm not sure. I think the vigilante would appeal to rednecks. Guns, violence, protection of women. The rednecks would eat it up. But my man is black, and a bunch of rednecks would fry him. He killed two of their own."

"I agree. I'd stay away from women. They would have no sympathy for the rapists, but they place a higher value on life. Taking an M-16 and blowing their heads off is something women just don't understand. You and I understand it because we're fathers. It appeals to us. The violence and blood doesn't bother us. We admire him. You've got to pick

oumc aumirers on tnat jury. Young fathers with some education."

"That's interesting. Lucien said he would stick with women because they're more sympathetic."

"I don't think so. I know some women who'd cut your throat if you crossed them."

"Some of your clients?"

"Yeah, and one is on that list. Frances Burdeen. Pick her, and I'll tell her how to vote."

"You serious?"

"Yep. She'll do anything I tell her."

"Can you be in court Monday? I want you to watch the jury during the selection process, then help me decide on the twelve."

"I wouldn't miss it."

Jake heard voices downstairs and pressed his finger to his lips. He listened, then smiled and motioned for Harry Rex to follow him. They tiptoed to the top of the stairs and listened to the commotion around Ethel's desk.

"You most certainly do not work here," Ethel insisted.

"I most certainly do. I was hired Saturday by Jake Bri-gance, who I believe is your boss."

"Hired for what?" Ethel demanded.

"As a law clerk."

"Well, he didn't discuss it with me."

"He discussed it with me, and gave me the job."

"How much is he paying you?"

"A hundred bucks an hour."

"Oh my God! I'll have to speak with him first."

"I've already spoken with him, Ethel."

"It's Mrs. Twitty to you." Ethel studied her carefully from head to toe. Acid-washed jeans, penny loafers, no socks, an oversized white cotton button-down with, evidently, nothing on underneath. "You're not dressed appropriately for this office. You're, you're indecent."

Harry Rex raised his eyebrows and smiled at Jake. They watched the stairs and listened.

"My boss, who happens to be your boss, said I could dress like this."

"But you forgot something, didn't you?"

"Jake said I could forget it. He told me you hadn't worn

a bra in twenty years. He said most of the women in Clanton go braless, so I left mine at home."

"He what?" Ethel screamed with arms crossed over her chest.

"Is he upstairs?" Ellen asked coolly.

"Yes, I'll call him."

"Don't bother."

Jake and Harry Rex retreated into the big office and waited for the law clerk. She entered carrying a large briefcase.

"Good morning, Row Ark," Jake said. "I want you to meet a good friend, Harry Rex Vonner."

Harry Rex shook her hand and stared at her shirt. "Nice to meet you. What was your first name?"


"Just call her Row Ark," Jake said. "She'll clerk here until Hailey's over."

"That's nice," said Harry Rex, still staring.

"Harry Rex is a local lawyer, Row Ark, and one of the many you cannot trust."

"What'd you hire a female law clerk for, Jake?" he asked bluntly.

"Row Ark's a genius in criminal law, like most third-year law students. And she works very cheap."

"You have something against females, sir?" Ellen asked.

"No ma'am. I love females. I've married four of them."

"Harry Rex is the meanest divorce lawyer in Ford County," Jake explained. "In fact, he's the meanest lawyer, period. Come to think of it, he's the meanest man I know."

"Thanks," said Harry Rex. He had stopped staring at her.

She looked at his huge, dirty, scuffed, worn wirigtips, his ribbed nylon socks that had drooped into thick wads around his ankles, his soiled and battered khaki pants, his frayed navy blazer, his brilliant pink wool tie that fell eight inches above his belt, and she said, "I think he's cute."

"I might make you wife number five," Harry Rex said.

"The attraction is purely physical," she said.

"Watch it," Jake said. "There's been no sex in this office since Lucien left."

said Harry Rex.

"Who's Lucien?"

Jake and Harry Rex looked at each other. "You'll meet him soon enough," Jake explained.

"Your secretary is very sweet," Ellen said.

"I knew y'all would hit it off. She's really a doll once you get to know her."

"How long does that take?"

"I've known her for twenty years," said Harry Rex, "and I'm still waiting."

"How's the research coming?" Jake asked.

"Slow. There are dozens of M'Naghten cases, and they are all very long. I'm about half through. I planned to work on it all day here; that is, if that pit bull downstairs doesn't attack me."

"I'll take care of her," Jake said.

Harry Rex headed for the door. "Nice meetin' you, Row Ark. I'll see you around."

"Thanks, Harry Rex," said Jake. "See you Wednesday night."

The dirt and gravel parking lot of Tank's Tonk was full when Jake finally found it after dark. There had been no reason to visit Tank's before, and he was not thrilled about seeing the place now. It was well hidden off a dirt road, six miles out of Clanton. He parked far away from the small cinderblock building and toyed with the idea of leaving the engine running in case Tank was not there and a quick escape became necessary. But he quickly dismissed the stupid idea because he liked his car, and theft was not only likely but highly probable. He locked it, then double-checked it, almost certain that all or part of it would be missing when he returned.

The juke box blasted from the open windows, and he thought he heard a bottle crash on the floor, or across a table or someone's head. He hesitated beside his car and decided to leave. No, it was important. He sucked in his stomach, held his breath, and opened the ragged wooden door.

Forty sets of black eyes immediately focused on this poor lost white boy with a coat and tie who was squinting

and trying to focus inside the vast blackness of their tonk. He stood there awkwardly, desperately searching for a friend. There were none. Michael Jackson conveniently finished his song on the juke box, and for an eternity the tonk was silent. Jake stayed close to the door. He nodded and smiled and tried to act like one of the gang. There were no other smiles.

Suddenly, there was movement at the bar and Jake's knees began vibrating. "Jake! Jake!" someone shouted. It was the sweetest two words he had ever heard. From behind the bar he saw his friend Tank removing his apron and heading for him. They shook hands warmly.

"What brings you here?"

"I need to talk to you for a minute. Can we step outside?"

"Sure. What's up?"

"Just business."

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