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A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance 1) John Grisham 2022/8/8 14:24:37

He addressed the jury. He began by facing his biggest problem, Dr. W.T. Bass. He apologized. A lawyer walks into a courtroom, faces a strange jury, and has nothing to offer but his credibility. And if he does anything to hurt his credibility, he has hurt his cause, his client. He asked them tb believe that he would never put a convicted felon on the stand as an

expert witness in any trial. He did not know of the conviction, he raised his hand and swore to this. The world is full of psychiatrists, and he could easily have found another if he had known Bass had a problem, but he simply did not know. And he was sorry.

But what about Bass's testimony. Thirty years ago he had sex with a girl under eighteen in Texas. Does that mean he is lying now in this trial? Does that mean you cannot trust his professional opinion? Please be fair to Bass the psychiatrist, forget Bass the person. Please be fair to his patient, Carl Lee Hailey. He knew nothing of the doctor's past.

There was something about Bass they might like to know. Something that was not mentioned by Mr. Buckley when he was ripping the doctor to pieces. The girl he had sex with was seventeen. She later became his wife, bore him a son, and was pregnant when she and the boy were killed in a train-

"Objection!" Buckley shouted. "Objection, Your Honor. That evidence is not in the record!"

"Sustained. Mr. Brigance, you are not to refer to facts not in evidence. The jury will disregard the last statements by Mr. Brigance."

Jake ignored Noose and Buckley and stared painfully at the jury.

When the shouting died, he continued. What about Rodeheaver? He wondered if the State's doctor had ever engaged in sex with a girl under eighteen. Seemed silly to think about such things, didn't it? Bass and Rodeheaver in their younger days-it seemed so unimportant now in this courtroom almost thirty years later.

The State's doctor is a man with an obvious bias. A highly trained specialist who treats thousands for all sorts of mental illnesses, yet when crimes are involved he cannot recognize insanity. His testimony should be carefully weighed.

They watched him, listened to every word. He was not a courtroom preacher, like his opponent. He was quiet, sincere. He looked tired, almost hurt.

Lucien was sober, and he sat with folded arms and watched the jurors, all except Sisco. It was not his closing, but it was good. It was coming from the heart.

Jake apologized for his inexperience. He had not been in many trials, not nearly as many as Mr. Buckley. And if he seemed a little green, or if he made mistakes, please don't hold it against Carl Lee. It wasn't his fault. He was just a rookie trying his best against a seasoned adversary who tried murder cases every month. He made a mistake with Bass, and he made other mistakes, and he asked the jury to forgive him.

He had a daughter, the only one he would ever have. She was four, almost five, and his world revolved around her. She was special; she was a little girl, and it was up to him to protect her. There was a bond there, something he could not explain. He talked about little girls.

Carl Lee had a daughter. Her name was Tonya. He pointed to her on the front row next to her mother and brothers. She's a beautiful little girl, ten years old. And she can never have children. She can never have a daughter because-"

"Objection," Buckley said without shouting.

"Sustained," Noose said.

Jake ignored the commotion. He talked about rape for a while, and explained how rape is much worse than murder. With murder, the victim is gone, and not forced to deal with what happened to her. The family must deal with it, but not the victim. But rape is much worse. The victim has a lifetime of coping, of trying to understand, of asking questions, and, the worst part, of knowing the rapist is still alive and may someday escape or be released. Every hour of every day, the victim thinks of the rape and asks herself a thousand questions. She relives it, step by step, minute by minute, and it hurts just as bad.

Perhaps the most horrible crime of all is the violent rape of a child. A woman who is raped has a pretty good idea why it happened. Some animal was filled with hatred, anger and violence. But a child? A ten-year-old child? Suppose you're a parent. Imagine yourself trying to explain to your child why she was raped. Imagine yourself trying to explain why she cannot bear children.

"Sustained. Please disregard that last statement, ladies and gentlemen."

Jake never missed a beat. Suppose, he said, your ten-year-old daughter is raped, and you're a Vietnam vet, very familiar with an M-16, and you get your hands on one while your daughter is lying in the hospital fighting for her life. Suppose the rapist is caught, and six days later you manage to maneuver to within five feet of him as he leaves court. And you've got the M-16.

Mr. Buckley has told you what he would do. He would mourn for his daughter, turn the other cheek, and hope the judicial system worked. He would hope the rapist would receive justice, be sent to Parchman, and hopefully never paroled. That's what he would do, and they should admire him for being such a kind, compassionate, and forgiving soul. But what would a reasonable father do?

What would Jake do? If he had the M-16? Blow the bastard's head off!

It was simple. It was justice.

Jake paused for a drink of water, then shifted gears. The pained and humble look was replaced with an air of indignation. Let's talk about Cobb and Willard. They started this mess. It was their lives the State was attempting to justify. Who would miss them except their mothers? Child rapists. Drug pushers. Would society miss such productive citizens? Wasn't Ford County safer without them? Were not the other children in the county better off now that two rapists and pushers had been removed? All parents should feel safer. Carl Lee deserves a medal, or at least a round of applause. He was a hero. That's what Looney said. Give the man a trophy. Send him home to his family.

He talked about Looney. He had a daughter. He also had one leg, thanks to Carl Lee Hailey. If anyone had a right to be bitter, to want blood, it was DeWayne Looney. And he said Carl Lee should be sent home to his family.

He urged them to forgive as Looney had forgiven. He asked them to follow Looney's wishes.

He became much quieter, and said he was almost through. He wanted to leave them with one thought. Picture this if they could. When she was lying there, beaten, bloodied, legs spread and tied to trees, she looked into the woods around her. Semiconscious and hallucinating, she saw some-

one running toward her. It was her daddy, running desperately to save her. In her dreams she saw him when she needed him the most. She cried out for him, and he disappeared. He was taken away.

She needs him now, as much as she needed him then. Please don't take him away. She waits on the front row for her daddy.

Let him go home to his family.

The courtroom was silent as Jake sat next to his client. He glanced at the jury, and saw Wanda Womack brush away a tear with her finger. For the first time in two days he felt a flicker of hope.

At four, Noose bid farewell to his jury. He told them to elect a foreman, get organized, and get busy. He told them they could deliberate until six, maybe seven, and if no verdict was reached he would recess until nine Tuesday morning. They stood and filed slowly from the courtroom. Once out of sight, Noose recessed until six and instructed the attorneys to remain close to the courtroom or leave a number with the clerk.

The spectators held their seats and chatted quietly. Carl Lee was allowed to sit on the front row with his family. Buckley and Musgrove waited in chambers with Noose. Harry Rex, Lucien, and Jake left for the office and a liquid supper. No one expected a quick verdict.

The bailiff locked them in the jury room and instructed the two alternates to take a seat in the narrow hallway. Inside, Barry Acker was elected foreman by acclamation. He laid the jury instructions and exhibits on a small table in a corner. They sat anxiously around two folding tables placed end to end.

"I suggest we take an informal vote," he said. "Just to see where we are. Any objections to that?"

There were none. He had a list of twelve names.

"Vote guilty, not guilty, or undecided. Or you can pass for now."

"Undecided, for now. I wanna talk about it."

"We will. Clyde Sisco."

"That's eleven. I'm Barry Acker, and I vote not guilty."

He tallied for a few seconds and said, "That's five guil-ties, five undecideds, one pass, and one not guilty. Looks like we've got our work cut out for us."

They worked through the exhibits, photographs, fingerprints, and ballistics reports. At six, they informed the judge they had not reached a verdict. They were hungry and wanted to go. He recessed until Tuesday morning.

They sat for hours on the porch, saying little, watching as darkness surrounded the town below and ushered in the mosquitoes. The heat wave had returned. The soggy air clung to their skin and moistened their shirts. The sounds of a hot summer night echoed softly across the front lawn. Sallie had offered to cook. Lucien declined and ordered whiskey. Jake had no appetite for food, but the Coors filled his system and satisfied any hunger pangs stirring within. When things were good and dark, Nesbit emerged from his car, walked across the porch, through the front screen door, and into the house. A moment later he slammed the door, walked past them with a cold beer, and disappeared down the driveway in the direction of his car. He never said a word.

Sallie stuck her head through the door and made one last offer of food. Both declined.

"Jake, I got a call this afternoon. Clyde Sisco wants twenty-five thousand to hang the jury, fifty thousand for an acquittal."

Jake began shaking his head.

"Before you say no, listen to me. He knows he can't guarantee an acquittal, but he can guarantee a hung jury. It just takes one. That's twenty-five thousand. I know it's a lot of money, but you know I've got it. I'll pay it and you can repay me over the years. Whenever, I don't care. If you never repay it, I don't care. I've got a bankful of C.D.'s. You know money means nothing to me. If I were you I'd do it in a minute."

"You're crazy, Lucien."

"Sure I'm crazy. You haven't been acting so good yourself. Trial work'll drive you crazy. Just take a look at what this trial has done to you. No sleep, no food, no routine, no house. Plenty of booze, though."

"But I've still got ethics."

"And I have none. No ethics, no morals, no conscience. But I won, bubba. I won more than anybody has ever won around here, and you know it."

"It's corrupt, Lucien."

"And I guess you think Buckley's not corrupt. He would lie, cheat, bribe, and steal to win this case. He's not worried about fancy ethics, rules, and opinions. He's not concerned about morality. He's concerned with one thing and only one thing-winning! And you've got a golden chance to beat him at his own game. I'd do it, Jake."

"Forget it, Lucien. Please, just forget it."

An hour passed with no words. The lights of the town below slowly disappeared. Nesbit's snoring was audible in the darkness. Sallie brought one last drink and said good night.

"This is the hardest part," Lucien said. "Waiting on twelve average, everyday people to make sense of all this."

"It's a crazy system, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is. But it usually works. Juries are right ninety percent of the time."

"I just don't feel lucky. I'm waiting on the miracle."

"Jake, my boy, the miracle happens tomorrow."

"Yes. Early tomorrow morning."

"Would you care to elaborate?"

"By noon tomorrow, Jake, there will be ten thousand angry blacks swarming like ants around the Ford County Courthouse. Maybe more."

"To scream and shout and chant 'Free Carl Lee, Free Carl Lee.' To raise hell, to scare everybody, to intimidate the jury. To just disrupt the hell out of everything. There'll be so many blacks, white folks will run for cover. The governor will send in more troops."

"And how do you know all this?"

"Because I planned it, Jake."

"Listen, Jake, when I was in my prime I knew every black preacher in fifteen counties. I've been in their churches. Prayed with them, marched with them, sang with them. They sent me clients, and I sent them money. I was the only white radical NAACP lawyer in north Mississippi. I' filed more race discrimination lawsuits than any ten firms in Washington. These were my people. I've just made a few

phone calls. They'll start arriving in the morning, and by noon you won't be able to stir niggers with a stick in downtown Clanton."

"Where will they come from?"

"Everywhere. You know how tracks love to march and protest. This will be great for them. They're looking forward to it."

"You're crazy, Lucien. My crazy friend."

In Room 163, Barry Acker and Clyde Sisco finished their last game of gin rummy and made preparations for bed. Acker gathered some coins and announced he wanted a soft drink. Sisco said he was not thirsty.

Acker tiptoed past a guardsman asleep in the hall. The machine informed him it was out of order, so he quietly opened the exit dqpr and walked up the stairs to the second floor, where he found another machine next to an ice maker. He inserted his coins. The machine responded with a diet Coke. He bent over to pick it up.

Out of the darkness two figures charged. They knocked him to the floor, kicked him and pinned him in a dark corner beside the ice maker, next to a door with a chain and padlock. The large one grabbed Acker's collar and threw him against the cinder block wall. The smaller one stood by the Coke machine and watched the dark hall.

"You're Barry Acker!" said the large one through clenched teeth.

"Yeah! Let go of me!" Acker attempted to shake free, but his assailant lifted him by the throat and held him to the wall with one hand. He used the other hand to unsheathe a shiny hunting knife, which he placed next to Acker's nose. The wiggling stopped.

"Listen to me," he demanded in a loud whisper, "and listen good. We know you're married and you live at 1161 Forrest Drive. We know you got three kids, and we know where they play and go to school. Your wife works at the bank."

"If that nigger walks free, you'll be sorry. Your family will be sorry. It may take years, but you'll be awfully sorry." He dropped him to the floor and grabbed his hair. "You

breathe one word of this to anyone, and you'll lose a kid.

They vanished. Acker breathed deeply, almost gasping

for breath. He rubbed his throat and the back of his head.

He sat in the darkness, too scared to move.

At hundreds of small black churches across north Mississippi, the faithful gathered before dawn and loaded picnic baskets, coolers, lawn chairs, and water jugs into converted school buses and church vans. They greeted friends and chatted nervously about the trial. For weeks they had read and talked about Carl Lee Hailey; now, they were about to go help. Many were old and retired, but there were entire families with children and playpens. When the buses were full, they piled into cars and followed their preachers. They sang and prayed. The preachers met other preachers in small towns and county seats, and they set out in force down the dark highways. When daylight materialized, the highways and roads leading to Ford County were filled with caravans of pilgrims.

They jammed the side streets for blocks around the square. They parked where they stopped and unloaded.

The fat colonel had just finished breakfast and stood in the gazebo watching intently. Buses and cars, many with horns honking, were coming from all directions to the square. The barricades held firm. He barked commands and the soldiers jumped into high gear. More excitement. At seven-thirty, he called Ozzie and told him of the invasion. Ozzie arrived immediately and found Agee, who assured him it was a peaceful march. Sort of like a sit-in. How many were coming? Ozzie asked. Thousands, said Agee. Thousands.

'They set up camp under the stately oaks, and milled around the lawn inspecting things. They arranged tables and chairs and playpens. They were indeed peaceful, until a group began the familiar cry of "Free Carl Lee!" They cleared their throats and joined in. It was not yet eight o'clock.

A black radio station in Memphis flooded the airwaves early Tuesday with a call for help. Black bodies were needed to march and demonstrate in Clanton, Mississippi, an hour away. Hundreds of cars met at a mall and headed south.

Every civil rights activist and black politician in the city made the trip.