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A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance 1) John Grisham 2022/8/8 14:24:26

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?"

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

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

"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?"

"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?"

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

"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.

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

"Well, basically, yes."

"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.

"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?"

"Grady Listen, district attorney, Fourteenth District."

"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?"

"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."

"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."

"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?"

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?"

"What's wrong with Bud?"

"He's a very sick man."