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A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance 1) John Grisham 2022/8/8 14:24:34

The locals had watched them as they scrambled like idiots around the square chasing the sheriff, the prosecutor, the defense lawyer, or anybody who might know anything. They watched them wait at the rear of the courthouse like hungry wolves to pounce on the defendant, who was invariably surrounded by cops, and who invariably ignored them as they yelled the same ridiculous questions at him. The locals watched with distaste as they kept their cameras on the Kluxers and the rowdier blacks, always searching for the most radical elements, and then making those elements appear to be the norm.

They watched them, and they hated them.

"What's that orange crap all over her face?" Tim Nunley asked, looking at a reporter sitting in a booth by the window. Jack Jones crunched on his okra and studied the orange face.

"I think it's something they use for the cameras. Makes her face look white on TV."

"But it's already white."

"I know, but it don't look white on TV unless it's painted orange."

Nunley was not convinced. "Then what do the niggers use on TV?" he asked.

"Did you see her on TV last night?" asked Jack Jones.

"Nope. Where's she from?"

"Channel Four, Memphis. Last night she interviewed Cobb's mother, and of course she kept on pushing till the old woman broke down. All they showed on TV was the cryin'. It was sickenin'. Night before she had some Klansmen from Ohio talkin' about what we need here in Mississippi. She's the worst."

The State finished its case against Carl Lee Thursday afternoon. After lunch Buckley put Murphy on the stand. It was gut-wrenching, nerve-wracking testimony as the poor little man stuttered uncontrollably for an hour.

"Calm down, Mr. Murphy," Buckley said a hundred times.

He would nod, and take a drink of water. He nodded affirmatively and shook negatively as much as possible, but the court reporter had an awful time picking up the nods and shakes.

"I didn't get that," she would say, her back to the witness stand. So he would try to answer and get hung, usually on a hard consonant like a "P" or "T." He would blurt out something, then stutter and spit incoherently.

"I didn't get that," she would say helplessly when he finished. Buckley would sigh. The jurors rocked furiously. Half the spectators chewed their fingernails.

"Could you repeat that?" Buckley would say with as much .patience as he could find.

"I'm s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-sorry," he would say frequently. He was pitiful.

Through it all, it was determined that he had been drinking a Coke on the rear stairs, facing the stairs where

the boys were killed. He had noticed a black man peeking out of a small closet some forty feet away. But he didn't think much about it. Then when the boys came down, the black man just stepped out and opened fire, screaming and laughing. When he stopped shooting, he threw down the. gun and took off. Yes, that was him, sitting right there. The black one.

Noose rubbed holes in his glasses listening to Murphy. When Buckley sat down, His Honor looked desperately at Jake. "Any cross-examination?" he asked painfully.

Jake stood with a legal pad. The court reporter glared at him. Harry Rex hissed at him. Ellen closed her eyes. The jurors wrung their hands and watched him carefully.

"Don't do it," Carl Lee whispered firmly.

"No, Your Honor, we have no questions."

"Thank you, Mr. Brigance," Noose said, breathing again.

The next witness was Officer Rady, the investigator for the Sheriffs Department. He informed the jury that he found a Royal Crown Cola can in the closet next to the stairs, and the prints on the can matched those of Carl Lee Hailey.

"Was it empty or full?" Buckley asked dramatically.

"It was completely empty."

Big deal, thought Jake, so he was thirsty. Oswald had a chicken dinner waiting on Kennedy. No, he had no questions for this witness.

"We have one final witness, Your Honor," Buckley said with great finality at 4:00 P.M. "Officer DeWayne Looney."

Looney limped with a cane into the courtroom and to the witness stand. He removed his gun and handed it to Mr. Pate.

Buckley watched him proudly. "Would you state your name, please, sir?"

"Fourteen sixty-eight Bennington Street, Clanton, Mississippi."

"Where are you employed?"

"Ford County Sheriff's Department."

"And what do you do there?"

"Where did you work on Monday, May 20?"

"Yes. I was assigned to transport two subjects from the jail to court and back."

"Who were those two subjects?"

"Billy Ray Cobb and Pete Willard."

"What time did you leave court with them?"

"Around one-thirty, I guess."

"Who was on duty with you?"

"Marshall Prather. He and I were in charge of the two subjects. There were some other deputies in the courtroom helpin' us, and we had two or three men outside waitin' on us. But me and Marshall were in charge."

"What happened when the hearing was over?"

"We immediately handcuffed Cobb and Willard and got them outta here. We took them to that little room over there and waited a second or two, and Prather walked on down the stairs."

"Then what happened?"

"We started down the back stairs. Cobb first, then Willard, then me. Like I said, Prather had already gone on down. He was out the door."

"Yes, sir. Then what happened?"

"When Cobb was near 'bout to the foot of the stairs, the shootin' started. I was on the landing, fixin' to go on down. I didn't see anybody at first for a second, then I seen Mr. Hailey with the machine gun firin' away. Cobb was blown backward into Willard, and they both screamed and fell in a heap, tryin' to get back up where I was."

"Yes, sir. Describe what you saw."

"You could hear the bullets bouncin' off the walls and hittin' everywhere. It was the loudest gun I ever heard and seemed like he kept shootin' forever. The boys just twisted and thrashed about, screamin' and squealin'. They were handcuffed, you know."

"Yes, sir. What happened to you?"

"Like I said, I never made it past the landing. I think

one of the bullets ricocheted off the wall and caught me in the leg. I was tryin' to get back up the steps when I felt my leg burn."

"And what happened to your leg?"

"They cut it off," Looney answered matter-of-factly, as if an amputation happened monthly. "Just below the knee."

"Did you get a good look at the man with the gun?"

"Can you identify him for the jury?"

"Yes, sir. It's Mr. Hailey, the man sittin' over there."

That answer would have been a logical place to end Looney's testimony. He was brief, to the point, sympathetic and positive of the identification. The jury had listened to every word so far. But Buckley and Musgrove retrieved the large diagrams of the courthouse and arranged them before the jury so that Looney could limp around for a while. Under Buckley's direction, he retraced everybody's exact movements just before the killings.

Jake rubbed his forehead and pinched the bridge of his nose. Noose cleaned and recleaned his glasses. The jurors fidgeted.

"Any cross-examination, Mr. Brigance?" Noose asked at last.

"Just a few questions," Jake said as Musgrove cleared the debris from the courtroom.

"Officer Looney, who was Carl Lee looking at when he was shooting?"

"Them boys, as far as I could tell."

"Did he ever look at you?"

"Well, now, I didn't spend a lotta time tryin' to make eye contact with him. In fact, I was movin' in the other direction."

"So he didn't aim at you?"

"Oh, no, sir. He just aimed at those boys. Hit them too."

"What did he do when he was shooting?"

"He just screamed and laughed like he was crazy. It was the weirdest thing I ever heard, like he was some kinda madman or something. And you know, what I'll always remember is that with all the noise, the gun firin', the bullets

whistlin', the boys screamin' as they got hit, over all the noise I could hear him laughin' that crazy laugh."

The answer was so perfect Jake had to fight off a smile. He and Looney had worked on it a hundred times, and it was a thing of beauty. Every word was perfect. Jake busily flipped through his legal pad and glanced at the jurors. They all stared at Looney, enthralled by his answer. Jake scribbled something, anything, nothing, just to kill a few more seconds before the most important questions of the trial.

"Now, Deputy Looney, Carl Lee Hailey shot you in the leg."

"Do you think it was intentional?"

"Oh, no, sir. It was an accident."

"Do you want to see him punished for shooting you?" ? "No, sir. I have no ill will toward the man. He did what I would've done."

Buckley dropped his pen and slumped in his chair. He looked sadly at his star witness.

"What do you mean by that?"

"I mean I don't blame him for what he did. Those boys raped his little girl. I gotta little girl. Somebody rapes her and he's a dead dog. I'll blow him away, just like Carl Lee did. We oughtta give him a trophy."

"Do you want the jury to convict Carl Lee?"

Buckley jumped and roared, "Objection! Objection! Improper question!"

"No!" Looney yelled. "I don't want him convicted. He's a hero. He-"

"Don't answer, Mr. Looney!" Noose said loudly. "Don't answer!"

"Objection! Objection!" Buckley continued, on his tiptoes.

"He's a hero! Turn him loose!" Looney yelled at Buck-ley.

"Order! Order!" Noose banged his gavel.

Buckley was silent. Looney was silent. Jake walked to his chair and said, "I'll withdraw the question."

"Please disregard," Noose instructed the jury.

Looney smiled at the jury and limped from the courtroom.

"Call your next witness," Noose said, removing nis glasses.

Buckley rose slowly and with a great effort at drama, said, "Your Honor, the State rests."

"Good," Noose replied, looking at Jake. "I assume you have a motion or two, Mr. Brigance."

"Very well, we'll take those up in chambers."

Noose excused his jury with the same parting instructions and adjourned until nine Friday.

Jake awoke in the darkness with a slight hangover, a headache due to fatigue and Coors, and the distant but unmistakable sound of his doorbell ringing continually as if held firmly in place by a large and determined thumb. He opened the front door in his nightshirt and tried to focus on the two figures standing on the porch. Ozzie and Nesbit, it was finally determined.

"Can I help you?" he asked as he opened the door. They followed him into the den.

"They're gonna kill you today," Ozzie said.

Jake sat on the couch and massaged his temples. "Maybe they'll succeed."

"Jake, this is serious. They plan to kill you."

"Yeah. He called yesterday and said something was up. He called back two hours ago and said you're the lucky man. Today is the big day. Time for some excitement. They bury Stump Sisson this morning in Loydsville, and it's time for the eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth routine."

"Why me? Why don't they kill Buckley or Noose or someone more deserving?"

"We didn't get a chance to talk about that."

"What method of execution?" Jake asked, suddenly feeling awkward sitting there in his nightshirt.

"He ain't much on details. He just said they'd try to do it sometime today."

"So what am I supposed to do? Surrender?"

"What time you goin' to the office?"

"As soon as I can shower and dress."

At five-thirty, they rushed him into his office and locked the door. At eight, a platoon of soldiers gathered on the sidewalk under the balcony and waited for the target. Harry Rex and Ellen watched from the second floor of the courthouse. Jake squeezed between Ozzie and Nesbit, and the three of them crouched in the center tight formation. Off they went across Washington Street in the direction of the courthouse. The vultures sniffed something and surrounded the entourage.