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A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance 1) John Grisham 2022/8/8 14:24:18

The phone rang and Jake spent ten minutes with the editor, owner, and only reporter of The Clanton Chronicle. It rang again, and Jake talked with a reporter with the Memphis morning paper. He hung up and called Lester ana Gwen, then the foreman at the paper mill.

At eleven-fifteen it rang again, and Jake received his first death threat, anonymous of course. He was called a nigger-loving son of a bitch, one who would not live if the nigger walked.

Dell Perkins served more coffee and grits than usual Tuesday morning after the killings. All the regulars and some extras had gathered early to read the papers and talk about the killings, which had taken place less than three hundred feet from the front door of the Coffee Shop. Claude's and the Tea Shoppe were also crowded earlier than usual. Jake's picture made the front page of the Tupelo paper, and the Memphis and Jackson papers had front-page photos of Cobb and Willard, both before the shootings and afterward as the bodies were loaded into the ambulance. There were no pictures of Carl Lee. All three papers ran detailed accounts of the past six days in Clanton.

It was widely accepted around town that Carl Lee had done the killing, but rumors of additional gunmen surfaced and flourished until one table at the Tea Shoppe had a whole band of wild niggers in on the attack. However, the deputies in the Coffee Shop, though not talkative, throttled the gossip and kept it pretty much under control. Deputy Looney was a regular, and there was concern for his wounds, which appeared to be more serious than originally reported. He remained in the hospital, and he had identified the gunman as Lester Hailey's brother.

Jake entered at six and sat near the front with some farmers. He nodded at Prather and the other deputy, but they pretended not to see him. They'll be okay once Looney is released, he thought. There were some remarks about the front-page picture, but no one questioned Jake about his new client or the killings. He detected a certain coolness among some of the regulars. He ate quickly and left.

At nine Ethel called Jake. Bullard was holding.

"Hello, Judge. How are you?"

"Terrible. You represent Carl Lee Hailey?"

"When do you want the preliminary?"

"Why are you asking me, Judge?"

"Good question. Look, the funerals are tomorrow

morning sometime, and I think it would be best to wait till they bury those bastards, don't you?"

"Yeah, Judge, good idea."

"How 'bout tomorrow afternoon at two?"

Bullard hesitated. "Jake, would you consider waiving the preliminary and letting me send the case straight to the grand jury?"

"Judge, I never waive a preliminary, you know that."

"Yeah, I know. Just thought I'd ask a favor. I won't hear this trial, and I have no desire to get near it. See you tomorrow."

An hour later Ethel squawked through the intercom again: "Mr. Brigance, there are some reporters here to see you."

Jake was ecstatic. "From where?"

"Memphis and Jackson, I believe."

"Seat them in the conference room. I'll be down in a minute."

He straightened his tie and brushed his hair, and checked the street below for television vans. He decided to make them wait, and after a couple of meaningless phone calls he walked down the stairs, ignored Ethel, and entered the conference room. They asked him to sit at one end of the long table, because of the lighting. He declined, told himself he would control things, and sat at one side with his back to the rows of thick, expensive law books.

The microphones were placed before him and the camera lights adjusted, and finally an attractive lady from Memphis with streaks of bright orange across her forehead and under her eyes cleared her throat and asserted herself. "Mr. Brigance, you represent Carl Lee Hailey?"

"And he's been charged with the murders of Billy Ray Cobb and Pete Willard?"

"And Cobb and Willard were charged with raping Mr. Hailey's daughter?"

"Yes, that's correct."

"Does Mr. Hailey deny killing Cobb and Willard?"

"He will plead not guilty to the charges."

"Will he be charged for the shooting of the deputy, Mr. Looney?"

"Yes. We anticipate a third charge of aggravated assault against the officer."

"Do you anticipate a defense of insanity?"

"I'm not willing to discuss the defense at this time because he has not been indicted."

"Are you saying there's a chance he may not be indicted?"

A fat pitch, one Jake was hoping for. The grand jury would either indict him or not, and the grand jurors would not be selected until Circuit Court convened on Monday, May 27. So the future members of the grand jury were walking the streets of Clanton, tending their shops, working in the factories, cleaning house, reading newspapers, watching TV, and discussing whether or not he should be indicted.

"Yes, I think there's a chance he may not be indicted. It's up to the grand jury, or will be after the preliminary hearing."

"When's the preliminary hearing?"

"You're assuming Judge Bullard will bind him over to the grand jury?"

"That's a pretty safe assumption," replied Jake, knowing Bullard would be thrilled with the answer.

"When will the grand jury meet?"

"A new grand jury will be sworn in Monday morning. It could look at the case by Monday afternoon."

"When do you anticipate a trial?"

"Assuming he's indicted, the case could be tried in late summer or early fall."

"Circuit Court of Ford County."

"Who would be the judge?"

"Honorable Omar Noose."

"Chester, Mississippi. Van Buren County."

"You mean the case will be tried here in Clanton?"

"Yes, unless venue is changed."

"Will you request a change of venue?"

"Very good question, and one I'm not prepared to answer at this time. It's a bit premature to talk defense strat-

"Why would you want a change of venue?"

To find a blacker county, Jake thought. He answered thoughtfully, "The usual reasons. Pretrial publicity, etc."

"Who makes the decision to change venue?"

"Judge Noose. The decision is within his sole discretion."

"No, and it probably won't be until after the indictments come down. He's entitled to a reasonable bond now, but as a matter of practice in this county bonds are not set in capital murder cases until after the indictment and arraignment in Circuit Court. At that point the bond will be set by Judge Noose."

"What can you tell us about Mr. Hailey?"

Jake relaxed and reflected a minute while the cameras continued. Another fat pitch, with a golden chance to plant some seeds. "He's thirty-seven years old. Married to the same woman for twenty years. Four kids-three boys and a girl. Nice guy with a clean record. Never been in trouble before. Decorated in Vietnam. Works fifty hours a week at the paper mill in Coleman. Pays his bills and owns a little land, does to church every Sunday with his family. Minds his own business and expects to be left alone."

"Will you allow us to talk to him?"

"Wasn't his brother tried for murder several years ago?"

"He was, and he was acquitted."

"You were his attorney?"

"You've handled several murder trials in Ford County, haven't you?"

"How many acquittals?"

"All of them," he answered slowly.

"Doesn't the jury have several options in Mississippi?" asked the lady from Memphis.

"That's right. With a capital murder indictment, the jury at trial can find the defendant guilty of manslaughter, which carries twenty years, or capital murder, which carries life or death as determined by the jury. And the jury can find the defendant not guilty." Jake smiled at the cameras. "Again, you're assuming he'll be indicted."

"How's the Hailey girl?"

"She's at home. Went home Sunday. She's expected to be fine."

The reporters looked at each other and searched for other questions. Jake knew this was the dangerous part, when they ran out of things to ask and began serving up screwball questions.

He stood and buttoned his coat. "Look, I appreciate you folks stopping by. I'm usually available, just give a little more notice, and I'll be glad to talk to you anytime."

They thanked him and left.

At ten Wednesday morning, in a no-frills double service at the funeral home, the rednecks buried their dead. The minister, a freshly ordained Pentecostal, struggled desperately for comforting and reassuring thoughts to lay upon the small crowd and over the two closed caskets. The service was brief with few tears.

The pickups and dirty Chevrolets moved slowly behind the single hearse as the procession left town and crawled into the country. They parked behind a small red brick church. The bodies were laid to rest one at a time at opposite ends of the tiny, overgrown cemetery. After a few additional words of inspiration, the crowd dispersed.

The women prepared lunch. The men ate quietly, then returned to the whiskey under the shade tree. The nigger's hearing at 2:00 P.M. was mentioned, and they loaded up and drove to Clanton.

"Sir, is there any evidence of additional gunmen?"

"We have evidence that the shootin's were authorized and financed by an offshoot of the Black Panthers," Moss Junior replied with a straight face.

Half the reporters would either stutter or stare blankly while the other half repeated what he said and scribbled furiously.

Bullard refused to leave his office or take calls. He called Jake again and begged him to waive the preliminary. Jake refused. Reporters waited in the lobby of Bullard's office on the first floor of the courthouse, but he was safe with his vodka behind the locked door.

There was a request to film the funeral. The Cobb boys said yes, for a fee, but Mrs. Willard vetoed the proposal. The reporters waited outside the funeral home and filmed what they could. Then they followed the procession to the grave sites, and filmed the burials, and followed the mourners to Mrs. Cobb's, where Freddie, the oldest, cursed them and made them leave.

The Coffee Shop on Wednesday was silent. The regulars, including Jake, eyed the strangers who had invaded their sanctuary. Most of them had beards, spoke with unusual accents, and did not order grits.

"Aren't you Mr. Hailey's attorney?" shouted one from across the room.

Jake worked on his toast and said nothing.

"What if I am?" shot Jake.

"Will he plead guilty?"

"I'm eating breakfast."

"I don't comment during breakfast. No comment."

"May I talk to you later?"

"Yeah, make an appointment. I talk at sixty bucks an hour."

The regulars hooted, but the strangers were undaunted.

Jake consented to an interview, without charge, with a Memphis paper Wednesday, then barricaded himself in the war room and prepared for the preliminary hearing. At noon he visited his famous client at the jail. Carl Lee was rested and relaxed. From his cell he could see the coming and going of the reporters in the parking lot.

"How's jail?" Jake asked.

"Not that bad. Food's good. I eat with Ozzie in his office."

"Yep. Play cards too."

"You're kidding, Carl Lee."