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A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance 1) John Grisham 2022/8/8 14:24:16

"Pete. Pete Willard."

"Route 6, Box 14, Lake Village, Mississippi."

"Who do you live with?"

"You know Billy Ray Cobb?"

Willard hesitated and noticed his feet. His boots were back in the cell. His white socks were dirty and did not hide his two big toes. Safe question, he thought.

"Was you with him yesterday?"

"What time did you leave?"

"What were you drivin'?"

"What were you ridin' in?"

Hesitation. He studied his toes. "I don't think I wanna talk no more."

Ozzie pushed another button and the recorder stopped. He breathed deeply at Willard. "You ever been to Parchman?"

Willard shook his head.

"You know how many niggers at Parchman?"

" 'Bout five thousand. You know how many white boys are there?"

Willard dropped his chin to his chest. Ozzie let him think for a minute, then winked at Lieutenant Griffin.

"You got any idea what those niggers will do to a white boy who raped a little black girl?"

"Lieutenant Griffin, tell Mr. Willard how white boys are treated at Parchman."

Griffin walked to Ozzie's desk and sat on the edge. He looked down at Willard. "About five years ago a young white man in Helena County, over in the delta, raped a black girl. She was twelve. They were waiting on him when he got to Parchman. Knew he was coming. First night about thirty blacks tied him over a fifty-five-gallon drum and climbed on. The guards watched and laughed. There's no sympathy for rapists. They got him every night for three months, and then killed him. They found him castrated, stuffed in the drum."

Willard cringed, then threw his head back and breathed heavily toward the ceiling.

"Look, Pete," Ozzie said, "we're not after you. We want Cobb. I've been after that boy since he left Parchman. I want him real bad. You help us get Cobb and I'll help you as much as I can. I ain't promisin' nothin', but me and the D.A. work close together. You help me get Cobb, and I'll help you with the D.A. Just tell us what happened."

"I wanna lawyer," Willard said.

Ozzie dropped his head and groaned. "What's a lawyer gonna do, Pete? Get the niggers off of you? I'm tryin' to help you and you're bein' a wiseass."

"You need to listen to the sheriff, son. He's trying to save your life," Griffin said helpfully.

"There's a good chance you could get off with just a few years here in this jail," Rady said.

"It's much safer than Parchman," Prather said.

"Choice is yours, Pete," Ozzie said. "You can die at Parchman or stay here. I'll even consider makin' you a trusty if you behave."

Willard dropped his head and rubbed his temples. "Okay, okay."

Ozzie punched the red button.

"Where'd you find the girl?"

"I don't know. I's drunk."

"Where'd you take her?"

"Just you and Cobb?" . "Yeah."

"We both did. Billy Ray went first."

"I don't remember. I's smokin' weed and drinkin'."

"Both of you raped her?"

"Where'd you dump her?"

"Don't remember. I swear I don't remember."

Ozzie pushed another button. "We'll type this up and get you to sign it."

Willard shook his head. "Just don't tell Billy Ray." "We won't," promised the sheriff.

Percy Bullard fidgeted nervously in the leather chair behind the huge, battered oak desk in the judge's chambers behind the courtroom, where a crowd had gathered to see about the rape. In the small room next door the lawyers gathered around the coffee machine and gossiped about the rape.

Bullard's small black robe hung in a corner by the window that looked north over Washington Street. His size-six feet were wearing jogging shoes that barely touched the floor. He was a small, nervous type who worried about preliminary hearings and every other routine hearing. After thirteen years on the bench he had never learned to relax. Fortunately, he was not required to hear big cases; those were for the Circuit Court judge. Bullard was just a County Court judge, and he had reached his pinnacle.

Mr. Pate, the ancient courtroom deputy, knocked on the door.

"Come in!" Bullard demanded.

"How many blacks out there?" Bullard asked abruptly.

"Half the courtroom."

"That's a hundred people! They don't draw that much for a good murder trial. Whatta they want?"

Mr. Pate shook his head.

"They must think we're trying these boys today."

"I guess they're just concerned," Mr. Pate said softly.

"Concerned about what? I'm not turning them loose. It's just a preliminary hearing." He quieted and stared at the window. "Is the family out there?"

"I think so. I recognize a few of them, but I don't know her parents."

"How about security?"

"Sheriffs got ever deputy and ever reserve close to the courtroom. We checked everbody at the door."

"Where are the boys?"

"Sheriffs got them. They'll be here in a minute."

The judge seemed satisfied. Mr. Pate laid a handwritten note on the desk.

Mr. Pate inhaled deeply. "It's a request from a TV crew from Memphis to film the hearing."

"What!" Bullard's face turned red and he rocked furiously in the swivel chair. "Cameras," he yelled, "In my courtroom!" He ripped the note and threw the pieces in the direction of the trash can. "Where are they?"

"Order them out of the courthouse."

Mr. Pate left quickly.

Carl Lee Hailey sat on the row next to the back. Dozens of relatives and friends surrounded him in the rows of padded benches on the right side of the courtroom. The benches on the left side were empty. Deputies milled about, armed, apprehensive, keeping a nervous watch on the group of blacks, and especially on Carl Lee, who sat bent over, elbows on knees, staring blankly at the floor.

Jake looked out his window across the square to the rear of the courthouse, which faced south. It was 1:00 P.M. He had skipped lunch, as usual, and had no business across the street, but he did need some fresh air. He hadn't left the building all day, and although he had no desire to hear the details of the rape, he hated to miss the hearing. There had to be a crowd in the courtroom because there were no empty parking spaces around the square. A handful of reporters and photographers waited anxiously near the rear of the courthouse by the wooden doors where Cobb and Willard would enter.

The jail was two blocks off the square on the south side, down the highway. Ozzie drove the car with Cobb and Willard in the back seat. With a squad car in front and one behind, the procession turned off Washington Street into the short driveway leading under the veranda of the courthouse. Six deputies escorted the defendants past the reporters, through the doors, and up the back stairs to the small room just outside the courtroom.

Jake grabbed his coat, ignored Ethel, and raced across the street. He ran up the back stairs, through a small hall outside the jury room, and entered the courtroom from a side door just as Mr. Pate led His Honor to the bench.

"All rise for the court," Mr. Pate shouted. Everyone stood. Bullard stepped to the bench and sat down.

"Be seated," he yelled. "Where are the defendants? Where? Bring them in then."

Cobb and Willard were led, handcuffed, into the courtroom from the small holding room. They were unshaven, wrinkled, dirty, and looked confused. Willard stared at the large group of blacks while Cobb turned his back. Looney removed the handcuffs and seated them next to Drew Jack Tyndale, the public defender, at the long table where the defense sat. Next to it was a long table where the county prosecutor, Rocky Childers, sat taking notes and looking important.

Willard glanced over his shoulder and again checked on the blacks. On the front row just behind him sat his mother and Cobb's mother, each with a deputy for protection. Willard felt safe with all the deputies. Cobb refused to turn around.

From the back row, eighty feet away, Carl Lee raised his head and looked at the backs of the two men who raped his daughter. They were mangy, bearded, dirty-looking strangers. He covered his face and bent over. The deputies stood behind him, backs against the wall, watching every move.

"Now listen," Bullard began loudly, "This is just a preliminary hearing, not a trial. The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to determine if there is enough evidence that a crime has been committed to bind these defendants over to the grand jury. The defendants can even waive this hearing if they want to."

Tyndale stood. "No sir, Your Honor, we wish to proceed with the hearing."

"Very well. I have copies of affidavits sworn to by Sheriff Walls charging both defendants with rape of a female under the age of twelve, kidnapping, and aggravated assault. Mr. Childers, you may call your first witness."

"Your Honor, the State calls Sheriff Ozzie Walls."

Jake sat in the jury box, along with several other attorneys, all of whom pretended to be busy reading important

materials. Ozzie was sworn and sat in the witness chair to the left of Bullard, a few feet from the jury box.

"Would you state your name?"

"Sheriff Ozzie Walls."

"You're the sheriff of Ford County?"

"I know who he is," Bullard mumbled as he flipped through the file.

"Sheriff, yesterday afternoon, did your office receive a call about a missing child?"

"Yes, around four-thirty."

"What did your office do?"

"Deputy Willie Hastings was dispatched to the residence of Gwen and Carl Lee Hailey, the parents of the girl."

"Down on Craft Road, back behind Bates Grocery."

"He found the girl's mother, who made the call. Then drove around searchin' for the girl."

"No. When he returned to the house, the girl was there. She'd been found by some folks fishin', and they took her home."

"What shape was the girl in?"

"She'd been raped and beaten."

"Yeah. She could talk, or mumble, a little."

Tyndale jumped to his feet. "Your Honor, please, I know hearsay is admissible in a hearing like this, but this is triple hearsay."

"Overruled. Shut up. Sit down. Continue, Mr. Childers."

"Told her momma it was two white men in a yellow pickup truck with a rebel flag in the window. That's about all. She couldn't say much. Had both jaws broken and her face kicked in."

"What happened then?"

"The deputy called an ambulance and she was taken to the hospital."

"They say she's critical."

"Based on what I knew at the time I had a suspect in mind."

"I located an informant, a reliable informant, and placed him in a beer joint down by the lake."

Childers was not one to dwell on details, especially in front of Bullard. Jake knew it, as did Tyndale. Bullard sent every case to the grand jury, so every preliminary was a formality. Regardless of the case, the facts, the proof, regardless of anything, Bullard would bind the defendant over to the grand jury. If there was insufficient proof, let the grand jury turn them loose, not Bullard. He had to be reelected, the grand jury did not. Voters got upset when criminals were cut loose. Most defense lawyers in the county waived the preliminary hearings before Bullard. Not Jake. He viewed such hearings as the best and quickest way to look at the prosecution's case. Tyndale seldom waived a preliminary hearing.

"What'd he find out?"

"Said he heard Cobb and Willard, the two defendants over there, braggin' 'bout rapin' a little black girl." (

Cobb and Willard exchanged stares. Who was the informant? They remembered little from Huey's.

"What'd you find at Huey's?"

"We arrested Cobb and Willard, then we searched a pickup titled in the name of Billy Ray Cobb."