The twelve appeared dazed, bewildered by the thought of not going home for several days. They thought of families, kids, jobs, laundry. Why them? Out of all those people in the courtroom, why them?
With no response, Noose banged his gavel and the
courtroom began to empty,
juror to the judge's chambers, where she called home and
ordered clothes and a toothbrush.
"Where are we going?" she asked Jean.
"It's confidential," Jean said.
"It's confidential," she repeated over the phone to her husband.
By seven, the families had responded with a wild assortment of luggage and boxes. The chosen ones loaded a chartered Greyhound bus outside the rear door. Preceded by two patrol cars and an army jeep and followed by three state troopers, the bus circled the square and left Clanton.
Stump Sisson died Tuesday night at the burn hospital in Memphis. His short, fat body had been neglected over the years and proved itself deficient in resisting the complications bred by the serious burns. His death brought to four the number of fatalities related to the rape of Tonya Hailey. Cobb, Willard, Bud Twitty, and now Sisson.
Immediately, word of his death reached the cabin deep in the woods where the patriots met, ate, and drank each night after the trial. Revenge, they vowed, an eye for an eye and so on. There were new recruits from Ford County-five in all-making a total of eleven local boys. They were eager and hungry, and wanted some action.
The trial had been too quiet so far. It was time for excitement.
Jake paced in front of the couch and delivered his opening statement for the hundredth time. Ellen listened intently. She had listened, interrupted, objected, criticized, and argued for two hours. She was tired now. He had it perfect. The margaritas had calmed him and plated his tongue silver. The words flowed smoothly. He was gifted. Especially after a drink or two.
When he finished they sat on the balcony and watched the candles inch slowly in the darkness around the square. The laughter from the poker games under the pavilions echoed softly through the night. There was no moon.
Ellen left for the final round of drinks. She returned with her same beer mugs filled with ice and margaritas. She sat them on the table and stood behind her boss. She placed her hands on his shoulders and began rubbing the lower part of his neck with her thumbs. He relaxed and moved his head from side to side. She massaged his shoulders and upper back, and pressed her body against his.
"Ellen, it's ten-thirty, and I'm sleepy. Where are you staying tonight?"
"Where do you think I should stay?"
"I think you should stay at your apartment at Ole Miss."
"I'm too drunk to drive."
"Nesbit will drive you."
"Where, may I ask, are you staying?"
"At the house my wife and I own on Adams Street."
She stopped rubbing and grabbed her drink. Jake stood and leaned over the rail and yelled at Nesbit. "Nesbit! Wake up! You're driving to Oxford!"
Carla found the story on the second page of the front section. "All White Jury Chosen for Hailey" read the headline. Jake had not called Tuesday night. She read the story and ignored her coffee. The beach house sat by itself in a semisecluded area of the beach. The nearest neighbor was two hundred yards away. Her father owned the land in between and had no plans to sell it. He had built the house ten years earlier when he sold his company in Knoxville and retired wealthy. Carla was the only child, and now Hanna would be the only grandchild. The house-with four bedrooms and four bathrooms scattered over three levels-had room for a dozen grandchildren.
She finished the article and walked to the bay windows in the breakfast room overlooking the beach, and then the ocean. The brilliant orange mass of the sun had just cleared the horizon. She preferred the warmth of the bed until well after daybreak, but life with Jake had brought new adventure to the first seven hours of each day. Her body was conditioned to at least wake up at five-thirty. He once told her his goal was to go to work in the dark and return from work in the dark. He usually achieved this goal. He took great pride in working more hours each day than any lawyer in Ford County. He was different, but she loved him.
Forty-eight miles northeast of Clanton, the Milburn county seat of Temple lay peacefully beside the Tippah River. It had three thousand people and two motels. The Temple Inn was deserted, there being no moral reason to be there this time of year. At the end of one secluded wing, eight rooms were occupied and guarded by soldiers and a couple of state troopers. The ten women had paired off nicely, as had Barry Acker and Clyde Sisco. The black alternate, Ben Lester Newton, was awarded a room to himself, as was the other alternate, Francie Pitts. The televisions had been disconnected and no newspapers were allowed. Supper Tuesday
night had been delivered to the rooms, and Wednesday's breakfast arrived promptly at seven-thirty while the Greyhound warmed and blew diesel fumes all over the parking lot. Thirty minutes later the fourteen loaded aboard and the entourage set out for Clanton.
They talked on the bus about their families and jobs. Two or three had known each other prior to Monday; most were strangers. They awkwardly avoided any mention of why they were all together and the task before them. Judge Noose had been very plain on this point; no discussions about the case. They wanted to talk about many things: the rape, the rapists, Carl Lee, Jake, Buckley, Noose, the Klan, lots of things. Everyone knew of the burning crosses, but they weren't discussed, at least they weren't discussed on the bus. There had been many discussions back in the motel rooms.
The Greyhound arrived at the courthouse five minutes before nine, and the jurors stared through dark windows to see how many blacks and how many Klansmen and how many others were being separated by the guardsmen. It eased past the barricades and parked at the rear of the courthouse, where the deputies were waiting to escort them upstairs as soon as possible. They went up the back stairs to the jury room, where coffee and doughnuts were waiting. The bailiff informed them it was nine, and His Honor was ready to start. He led them into the crowded courtroom and into the jury box, where they sat in their designated seats.
"All rise for the court," Mr. Pate yelled.
"Please be seated," Noose said as he fell into the tall leather chair behind the bench. "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen," he said warmly to the jurors. "I trust you're all feeling well this morning, and ready to go."
"Good. I'm going to ask you this question every morning: Did anybody attempt to contact you, talk to you, or influence you in any way last night?"
They all shook their heads.
"Good. Did you discuss this case among yourselves?"
They all lied and shook their heads.
"Good. If anyone attempts to contact you and discuss
me as soon as possible. Do you understand?"
"Now at this time we are ready to start the trial. The first order of business is to allow the attorneys to make opening statements. I want to caution you that nothing the attorneys say is testimony and is not to be taken as evidence. Mr. Buckley, do you wish to make an opening statement?"
Buckley rose and buttoned his shiny polyester coat. "Yes, Your Honor."
"I thought so. You may proceed."
Buckley lifted the small, wooden podium and moved it squarely in front of the jury box, where he stood behind it and breathed deeply and slowly flipped through some notes on a legal pad. He enjoyed the brief period of quietness with all eyes on him and all ears anxious for his words. He started by thanking the jurors for being there, for their sacrifices, for their citizenship (as if they had a choice, thought Jake). He was proud of them and honored to be associated with them in this most important case. Again, he was their lawyer. His client, the State of Mississippi. He expressed fear at this awesome responsibility that they, the people, had given to him, Rufus Buckley, a simple country lawyer from Smith-field. He rambled on about himself and his thoughts on the trial, and his hopes and prayers that he would do a good job for the people of this state.
He gave pretty much the same spiel in all of his opening statements, but this was a better performance. It was refined and polished garbage, and objectionable. Jake wanted to burn him, but from experience he knew Ichabod would not sustain an objection during an opening statement unless the offense was flagrant, and Buckley's rhetoric did not qualify -yet. All this fake sincerity and gushiness irritated Jake to no end, primarily because the jury listened to it and, more often than not, fell for it. The prosecutor was always the good guy, seeking to right an injustice and punish a criminal for some heinous crime; to lock him away forever so he could sin no more. Buckley was master at convincing a jury, right off the mark, during the opening statement, that it was up to them, He and The Twelve Chosen Ones, to search diligently for the truth, together as a team, united against
evil. It was the truth they were after, nothing but the truth. Find the truth and justice would win. Follow him, Rufus Buckley, the people's lawyer, and they would find the truth.
The rape was a terrible deed. He was a father, in fact had a daughter the same age of Tonya Hailey, and when he first heard of the rape he was sick at his stomach. He grieved for Carl Lee and his wife. Yes, he thought of his own little girls and had thoughts of retribution.
Jake smiled quickly at Ellen. This was interesting. Buck-ley had chosen to confront the rape instead of keeping it from the jury. Jake was expecting a critical confrontation with him on the admissibility of any testimony regarding the rape. Ellen's research found the law to be clear that the lurid details were inadmissible, but it wasn't so clear as to whether it could be mentioned or referred to. Evidently Buckley felt it was better to acknowledge the rape than try to hide it. Good move, thought Jake, since all twelve and the rest of the world knew the details anyway.
Ellen smiled too. The rape of Tonya Hailey was about to be tried for the first time.
Buckley explained it would be natural for any parent to want revenge. He would too, he admitted. But, he continued with his voice growing heavier, there is a mighty distinction between wanting revenge and getting revenge.
He was warming up now as he paced deliberately back and forth, ignoring the podium, getting his rhythm. He launched himself into a twenty-minute discourse on the criminal justice system and how it was practiced in Mississippi, and how many rapists that he, Rufus Buckley, had personally sent to Parchman, for life, most of them. The system worked because Mississippians had enough good common sense to make it work, and it would collapse if people like Carl Lee Hailey were allowed to short-circuit the system and dispense justice according to their own terms. Imagine that. A lawless society where vigilantes roamed at will. No police, no jails, no courts, no trials, no juries. Every man for himself.
It was sort of ironic, he said, winding down for a moment. Carl Lee Hailey now sat before them asking for due process and a fair trial, yet he did not believe in such things.
Ask the mothers ot Billy Ray Cobb and Pete Willard. Ask them what kind of fair trials their sons received.
He paused to allow the jury and the courtroom to absorb and ponder that last thought. It sunk in heavy, and every person in the jury box looked at Carl Lee Hailey. They were not looks of compassion, Jake cleaned his fingernails with a small knife and looked thoroughly bored. Buckley pretended to review his notes at the podium, then checked his watch. He started again, this time in a most confident businesslike tone of voice. The State would prove that Carl Lee Hailey carefully planned the killings. He waited for almost an hour in a small room next to the stairs where he knew the boys would eventually be led as they were taken back to jail. He somehow managed to sneak an M-16 into the courthouse. Buckley walked to a small table by the court reporter and hoisted the M-16. "This is the M-16!" he announced to the jury, waving it wildly about with one hand. He sat it on the podium and talked about how it was carefully selected by Carl Lee Hailey because he had used one before in close combat, and he knew how to kill with it. He had been trained with an M-16. It's an illegal weapon. You can't buy one down at the Western Auto. He had to go find it. He planned it.
The proof would be clear: premeditated, carefully planned, cold-blooded murder.
And then there was Deputy DeWayne Looney. A fourteen-year veteran of the Sheriffs Department. A family man -one of the finest law enforcement officers he had ever known. Gunned down in the line of duty by Carl Lee Hailey. His leg was partially amputated. What was his sin? Perhaps the defense would say it was accidental, that it shouldn't count. That's no defense in Mississippi.
There's no excuse, ladies and gentlemen, for any of this violence. The verdict must be guilty.
They each had an hour for their openings, and the lure of that much time proved irresistible for the D.A., whose remarks were becoming repetitive. He lost himself twice during his condemnation of the insanity ruse. The jurors began to look bored and searched for other points of interest around the courtroom. The artists quit sketching, the reporters quit writing, and Noose cleaned his glasses seven
or eight times. It was a known fact that Noose cleaned the glasses to stay awake and fight boredom, and he usually deaned them throughout the trial. Jake had seen him rub them with a handkerchief or tie or shirttail while witnesses broke down and cried and lawyers screamed and flailed their arms at each other. He didn't miss a word or objection or trick; he was just bored with it all, even a case of this magnitude. He never slept on the bench, although he was sorely tempted at times. Instead he removed his glasses, held them upward in the light, blew on them, rubbed them as though they were caked with grease, then remounted them just north of the wart. No more than five minutes later they would be dirty again. The longer Buckley droned on, the more they were cleaned.
Finally, after an hour and a half, Buckley shut up and the courtroom sighed.
"Ten-minute recess," Noose announced, and lunged off the bench, through the door, past chambers to the men's room.
Jake had planned a brief opening, and after Buckley's marathon, he decided to make it even shorter. Most people don't like lawyers to begin with, especially long-winded, tall-talking, wordy lawyers who feel that every insignificant point must be repeated at least three times, and the major ones have to be hammered and drilled by constant repetition into whoever happened to be listening. Jurors especially dislike lawyers who waste time, for two very good reasons. First, they can't tell the lawyers to shut up. They're captives. Outside the courtroom a person can curse a lawyer and shut him up, but in the jury box they become trapped and forbidden to speak. Thus, they must resort to sleeping, snoring, glaring, squirming, checking their watches, or any one of a dozen signals which boring lawyers never recognize. Second, jurors don't like long trials. Cut the crap and get it over with. Give us the facts and we'll give you a verdict.
He explained this to his client during the recess.
"I agree. Keep it short," said Carl Lee.
He did. Fourteen minutes worth of opening statement, and the jury appreciated every word. He began by talking about daughters and how special they are. How they are different from little boys and need special protection. He
told them of his own daughter and trie special oonu mat exists between father and daughter, a bond that could not be explained and should not be tampered with. He admitted admiration for Mr. Buckley and his alleged ability to be so forgiving and compassionate to any drunken pervert who might rape his daughter. He was a big man indeed. But in reality, could they, as jurors, as parents, be so tender and trusting and indulging if their daughter had been raped-by two drunk, stoned, brutal animals who tied her to a tree and-"
"Objection!" shouted Buckley.
"Sustained," Noose shouted back.
He ignored the shouting and continued softly. He asked them to try to imagine, throughout the trial, how they would feel had it been their daughter. He asked them not to convict Carl Lee but to send him home to his family. He didn't mention insanity. They knew it was coming.
He finished shortly after he started, and left the jury with a marked contrast in the two styles.
"Is that all?" Noose asked in amazement.
Jake nodded as he sat by his client.
"Very well. Mr. Buckley, you may call your first witness."
"The State calls Cora Cobb."
The bailiff went to the witness room and fetched Mrs. Cobb, He led her through the door by the jury box, into the courtroom where she was sworn by Jean Gillespie, and then he seated her in the witness chair.
"Speak into the microphone," he instructed.
"You are Cora Cobb?" Buckley asked with full volume as he situated the podium near the railing.
"Route 3, Lake Village, Ford County."
"You are the mother of Billy Ray Cobb, deceased?"
"Yes, sir," she said as her eyes watered. She was a rural woman whose husband had left when the boys were small. They had raised themselves while she worked two shifts at a cheap furniture factory between Karaway and Lake Village. She lost control over them at an early age. She was about
fifty, tried to look forty with hair dye and makeup, but could easily pass for early sixties.
"How old was your son at the time of his death?"
"When did you last see him alive?"
"Just a few seconds before he was kilt."
"Where did you see him?"
"Here in this courtroom."
"Where was he killed?"
"Did you hear the shots that killed your son?"
She began to cry. "Yes, sir."
"Where did you last see him?"
"At the funeral home."
"And what was his condition?"
"Nothing further," Buckley announced.
"Cross-examination, Mr. Brigance?"
She was a harmless witness, called to establish that the victim was indeed dead, and to evoke a little sympathy. Nothing could be gained by cross-examination, and normally she would have been left alone. But Jake saw an opportunity he couldn't pass. He saw a chance to set the tone for the trial, to wake Noose and Buckley and the jury; to just get everyone aroused. She was not really that pitiful; she was faking some. Buckley had probably instructed her to cry if possible.
"Just a few questions," Jake said as he walked behind Buckley and Musgrove to the podium. The D.A. was immediately suspicious.
"Mrs. Cobb, is it true that your son was convicted of selling marijuana?"
"Objection!" Buckley roared, springing to his feet. "The criminal record of the victim is inadmissible!"
"Thank you, Your Honor," Jake said properly, as if Noose had done him a favor.
She wiped her eyes and cried harder.
"You say your son was twenty-three when he died?"
"In his twenty-three years, how many other children am he rape?"
"Objection! Objection!" yelled Buckley, waving his arms and looking desperately at Noose, who was yelling, "Sustained! Sustained! You're out of order, Mr. Brigance! You're out of order!"
Mrs. Cobb burst into tears and bawled uncontrollably as the shouting erupted. She managed to keep the microphone in her face, and her wailing and carrying on resounded through the stunned courtroom.
"He should be admonished, Your Honor!" Buckley demanded, his face and eyes glowing with violent anger and his neck a deep purple.
"I'll withdraw the question," Jake replied loudly as he returned to his seat.
"Cheap shot, Brigance," Musgrove mumbled.
"Please admonish him," Buckley begged, "and instruct the jury to disregard."
"Any redirect?" asked Noose.
"No," answered Buckley as he dashed to the witness stand with a handkerchief to rescue Mrs. Cobb, who had buried her head in her hands and was sobbing and shaking violently.
"You are excused, Mrs. Cobb," Noose said. "Bailiff, please assist the witness."
The bailiff lifted her by the arm, with Buckley's assistance, and led her down from the witness stand, in front of the jury box, through the railing, down the center aisle. She shrieked and whined every step of the way, and her noises increased as she neared the back door until she was roaring at full throttle when she made her exit.
Noose glared at Jake until she was gone and the courtroom was quiet again. Then he turned to the jury and said: "Please disregard the last question by Mr. Brigance."
"What'd you do that for?" Carl Lee whispered to his lawyer.
"I'll explain later."
"The State calls Earnestine Willard," Buckley announced in a quieter tone and with much more hesitation.
Mrs. Willard was brought from the witness room above the courtroom. She was sworn and seated.
"You are Earnestine Willard?" asked Buckley.
"Yes, sir," she said in a fragile voice. Life had been rough on her too, but she had a certain dignity that made her more pitiful and believable than Mrs. Cobb. The clothes were inexpensive, but clean and neatly pressed. The hair was minus the cheap black dye that Mrs. Cobb relied on so heavily. The face was minus the layers of makeup. When she began crying, she cried to herself.
"And where do you live?"
"Out from Lake Village."
"Pete Willard was your son?"
"Right here in this room, just before he was killed."
"Did you hear the gunfire that killed him?"