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A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance 1) John Grisham 2022/8/8 14:24:30

"I wouldn't take him," Lucien said. "If he's from up North, he doesn't think like we do. Probably in favor of gun control and all that crap. Yankees always scare me in criminal cases. I've always thought we should have a law in Mississippi that no certified yankee could sit on a jury down here regardless of how long he's lived here."

"Thank you so much," said Jake.

"I'd take him," said Harry Rex.

"He's got kids, probably a daughter. If he's from the North he's probably not as prejudiced. Sounds good to me."

"He's dead," said Lucien.

"I said he's dead. Been dead for three years."

"Why's he on the list?" asked Atcavage, the non-lawyer.

"They don't purge the voter registration list," explained Harry Rex, between drinks. "Some die and some move away, and it's impossible to keep the list up to date. They've issued a hundred and fifty summons, and you can expect a hundred to a hundred and twenty to show up. The rest have died or moved away."

"Caroline Baxter. Ozzie says she's black," Jake said flipping through his notes. "Works at the carburetor plant in Karaway."

"Take her," said Lucien.

Ellen returned with the beer. She dropped it in Lucien's lap and -tore a sixteen-ounce can out of a six-pack. She popped the top and returned to the rolltop desk. Jake declined, but Atcavage decided he was thirsty. Jake remained the non-drinker.

"Sounds like a redneck," said Lucien.

"Why do you say that?" asked Harry Rex.

"The double first name," Lucien explained. "Most rednecks have double first names. Like Billy Ray, Johnny Ray, Bobby Lee, Harry Lee, Jesse Earl, Billy Wayne, Jerry Wayne, Eddie Mack. Even their women have double first names. Bobbie Sue, Betty Pearl, Mary Belle, Thelma Lou, Sally Faye."

"What about Harry Rex?" asked Harry Rex.

"Never heard of a woman named Harry Rex."

"I mean for a male redneck."

Jake interrupted. "Dell Perry said he used to own a bait shop down by the lake. I take it no one knows him."

"No, but I bet he's a redneck," said Lucien. "Because of .his name. I'd scratch him."

"Aren't you given their addresses, ages, occupations, basic information like that?" asked Atcavage.

"Not until the day of trial. On Monday each prospective juror fills out a questionnaire in the courtroom. But until then we have only the names."

"What kind of juror are we looking for, Jake?" Ellen asked.

"Young to middle-aged men with families. I would prefer to have no one over fifty."

"Why?" Lucien asked belligerently.

"Younger whites are more tolerant of blacks."

"Like Cobb and Willard," Lucien said.

"Most of the older folks will always dislike blacks, but

the younger generation has accepted an integrated society. Less bigotry, as a rule, with youth."

"I agree," said Harry Rex, "and I would stay away from women and rednecks."

"I think you're wrong," said Lucien. "Women are more sympathetic. Just look at Row Ark. She's sympathetic toward everyone. Right, Row Ark?"

"She has sympathy for criminals, child pornographers, atheists, illegal immigrants, gays. Don't you, Row Ark?"

"She and I hold the only two ACLU cards existing at this very moment in Ford County, Mississippi."

"That's sick," said Atcavage, the banker.

"Clyde Sisco," Jake said loudly, trying to minimize controversy.

"He can be bought," Lucien said smugly.

"What do you mean 'He can be bought'?" Jake asked.

"Just what I said. He can be bought."

"How do you know?" asked Harry Rex.

"Are you kidding? He's a Sisco. Biggest bunch of crooks in the eastern part of the county. They all live around the Mays community. They're professional thieves and insurance defrauders. They burn their houses every three years. You've never heard of them?" He was shouting at Harry Rex.

"No. How do you know he can be bought?"

"Because I bought him once. In a civil case, ten years ago. He was on the jury list, and I got word to him that I'd give him ten percent of the jury verdict. He's very persuasive."

Jake dropped the jury lists and rubbed his eyes. He knew this was probably true, but didn't want to believe it.

"And?" asked Harry Rex.

"And he was selected for the jury, and I got the largest verdict in the history of Ford County. It's still the record."

"Stubblefield?" Jake asked in disbelief.

"That's it, my boy. Stubblefield versus North Texas Pipeline. September 1974. Eight hundred thousand dollars. Appealed and affirmed by the Supreme Court."

"Did you pay him?" asked Harry Rex.

Lucien finished a long drink and smacked his lips. "Eighty thousand cash, in one-hundred-dollar bills," he said proudly. "He built a new house, then burned it down."

"What was your cut?" asked Atcavage.

"Forty percent, minus eighty thousand."

The room was silent as everybody but Lucien made the calculation.

"Wow," Atcavage mumbled.

"You're kidding, aren't you, Lucien?" Jake asked halfheartedly.

"You know I'm serious, Jake. You know I lie compulsively, but never about things like this. I'm telling the truth, and I'm telling you this guy can be bought."

"How much?" asked Harry Rex.

"Forget it!" said Jake.

"Five thousand cash, just guessing."

There was a pause as each one looked at Jake to make sure he was not interested in Clyde Sisco, and when it was obvious he was not interested, they took a drink and waited for the next name. Around ten-thirty Jake had his first beer, and an hour later the case was gone and forty names remained. Lucien staggered to the balcony and watched the blacks carry their candles along the sidewalks next to the streets around the courthouse.

"Jake, why is this deputy sitting in his car in front of my office?" he asked.

"That's my bodyguard."

Lucien leaned dangerously over the railing. "Hey, Nesbit," he yelled.

Nesbit opened the door of his patrol car. "Yeah, what is it?".

"Jake here wants you to go to the store and get us some more beer. He's very thirsty. Here's a twenty. He'd like a case of Coors."

"I can't buy it when I'm on duty," Nesbit protested.

"Since when?" Lucien laughed at himself. .

"It's not for you, Nesbit. It's for Mr. Brigance, and he really needs it. He's already called the sheriff, and it's okay."

"Who called the sheriff?"

"Mr. Brigance," lied Lucien. "Sheriff said he didn't care what you did as long as you didn't drink any."

Nesbit shrugged and appeared satisfied. Lucien dropped a twenty from the balcony. Within minutes Nesbit was back with a case minus one which had been opened and was sitting on his radar gun. Lucien ordered Atcavage to fetch the beer from below and distribute the first six-pack.

An hour later the list was finished and the party was over. Nesbit loaded Harry Rex, Lucien, and Atcavage into his patrol car and took them home. Jake and'his clerk sat on the balcony, sipping and watching the candles flicker and move slowly around the courthouse. Several cars were parked on the west side of the square, and a small group of blacks sat nearby in lawn chairs waiting to take their turns with the candles.

"We didn't do bad," Jake said quietly, staring at the vigil. "We made notes on all but twenty of the hundred and fifty."

"I'll try to find something on the other twenty, then we'll make an index card for each juror. We'll know them like family by Monday."

Nesbit returned to the square and circled twice, watching the blacks. He parked between the Saab and the BMW.

"The M'Naghten brief is a masterpiece. Our psychiatrist, Dr. Bass, will be here tomorrow, and I want you to review M'Naghten with him. You need to outline in detail the necessary questions to ask him at trial, and cover these with him. He worries me. I don't know him, and I'm relying on Lucien. Get his resume and investigate his background. Make whatever phone calls are necessary. Check with the state medical association to make sure he has no history of disciplinary problems. He is very important to our case, and I don't want any surprises."

Jake finished his last beer. "Look, Row Ark, this is a

very small town. My wife left five days ago, and I'm sure people will know it soon. You look suspicious. People love to talk, so be discreet. Stay in the office and do your research and tell anyone who asks that you're Ethel's replacement."

"That's a big bra to fill."

"You could do it if you wanted to."

"I hope you know that I'm not nearly as sweet as I'm being forced to act."

They watched the blacks change shifts and a new crew take up the candles. Nesbit threw an empty beer can onto the sidewalk.

"You're not driving home are you?" Jake asked.

"It would not be a good idea. I'd register at least .20."

"You can sleep on the couch in my office."

Jake said good night, locked the office, and spoke briefly to Nesbit. Then he placed himself carefully behind the wheel of the Saab.. Nesbit followed him to his home on Adams. He parked under the carport, next to Carla's car, and Nesbit parked in the driveway. It was 1:00 A.M., Thursday, July 18.

They arrived in groups of two and three and came from all over the state. They parked along the gravel road by the cabin deep in the woods. They entered the cabin dressed as normal working men, but once inside they slowly and meticulously changed into their neatly pressed and neatly folded robes and headdresses. They admired one another's uniforms and helped each other into the bulky outfits. Most of them knew each other, but a few introductions were necessary. They were forty in number; a good turnout.

Stump Sisson was pleased. He sipped whiskey and moved around the room like a head coach reassuring his team before the kickoff. He inspected the uniforms and made adjustments. He was proud of his men, and told them so. It was the biggest meeting of its kind in years, he said. He admired them and their sacrifices in being there. He knew they had jobs and families, but this was important. He talked about the glory days when they were feared in Mississippi and had clout. Those days must return, and it was up to this very group of dedicated men to take a stand for white people. The march could be dangerous, he explained. Niggers could march and demonstrate all day long and no one cared. But let white folks try and march and it was dangerous. The city had issued a permit, and the nigger sheriff promised order, but most Klan marches nowadays were disrupted by roving bands of young wild nigger punks. So be careful, and keep ranks. He, Stump, would do the talking.

They listened intently to Stump'srep talk, and when he finished they loaded into a dozen cars and followed him to town.

Few if any people in Clanton had ever seen the Klan march, and as 2:00 P.M. approached a great wave of excitement rippled around the square. The merchants and their customers found excuses to inspect the sidewalks. They milled about importantly and watched the side streets. The vultures were out in full force and had congregated near the gazebo on the front lawn. A group of young blacks gathered

nearby under a massive oak. Ozzie smelled trouble. They assured him they had only come to watch and listen. He threatened them with jail if trouble started. He stationed his men at various points around the courthouse.

"Here they come!" someone yelled, and the spectators strained to get a glimpse of the marching Klansmen as they strutted importantly from a small street onto Washington Avenue, the north border of the square. They walked cautiously, but arrogantly, their faces hidden by the sinister red and white masks hanging from the royal headdresses. The spectators gawked at the faceless figures as the procession moved slowly along Washington, then south along Caffey Street, then east along Jackson Street. Stump waddled proudly in front of his men. When he neared the front of the courthouse, he made a sharp left turn and led his troops down the long sidewalk in the center of the front lawn. They closed ranks in a loose semicircle around the podium on the courthouse steps.

The vultures had scrambled and fallen over themselves following the march, and when Stump stopped his men the podium was quickly adorned with a dozen microphones trailing wires in all directions to the cameras and recorders. Under the tree the group of blacks had grown larger, much larger, and some of them walked to within a few feet of the semicircle. The sidewalks emptied as the merchants and shopkeepers, their customers, and the other curious streamed across the streets onto the lawn to hear what the leader, the short fat one, was about to say. The deputies walked slowly through the crowd, paying particular attention to the group of blacks. Ozzie placed himself under the oak, in the midst of his people.

Jake watched intently from the window in Jean Gilles-pie's second floor office. The sight of the Klansmen, in full regalia, their cowardly faces hidden behind the ominous masks, gave him a sick feeling. The white hood, for decades a symbol of hatred and violence in the South, was back. Which one of those men had burned the cross in his yard? Were they all active in planning the bombing of his home? Which one would try something next? From the second floor, he could see the blacks inch closer.

"You niggers were not invited to this rally!" Stump

screamed into the microphone, pointing at the blacks. "This is a Klan meetin', not a meetin' for a buncha niggers!"

From the side streets and small alleys behind the rows of red brick buildings, a steady stream of blacks moved toward the courthouse. They joined the others, and in seconds Stump and.his boys were outnumbered ten to one. Ozzie radioed for backup.

"My name's Stump Sisson," he said as he removed his mask. "And I'm proud to say I'm the Mississippi Imperial Wizard for the Invisible Empire of the Ku Klux Klan. I'm here to say that the law-abidin' white folks of Mississippi are sick and tired of niggers stealin', rapin', killin', and gettin' by with it. We demand justice, and we demand that this Hailey nigger be convicted and his black ass sent to the gas chamber!"