Childers addressed the judge. "Your Honor, the State will call no witnesses. His Honor is well aware of the charges against these two defendants, since His Honor held the preliminary hearing last Wednesday. It is my understanding the victim is now home, so we do not anticipate further charges. The grand jury will be asked next Monday to indict the two defendants for rape, kidnapping, and aggravated assault. Because of the violent nature of these crimes, because of the age of the victim, and because Mr. Cobb is a convicted felon, the State would ask for the maximum bonds, and not a penny less."
Bullard almost choked on his ice water. What maximum? There's no such thing as a maximum bond.
"What do you suggest, Mr. Childers?"
"Half a million apiece!" Childers announced proudly and sat down.
Half a million! Out of the question, thought Bullard. He sipped furiously and glared at the prosecutor. Half a million! Double-crossed in open court. He sent Mr. Pate after more ice water.
"The defense may proceed."
Cobb's new lawyer stood purposefully. He cleared his throat and removed his horn-rimmed, academic, go-to-hell reading glasses. "May it please the court, Your Honor, my name is Peter K. Bernard. 1 am irom jviempms, aim i uavt been retained by Mr. Cobb to represent him-"
"Do you have a license to practice in Mississippi?" interrupted Bullard.
Bernard was caught off-guard. "Well, uh, not exactly, Your Honor."
"I see. When you say 'not exactly,' do you mean something other than no?"
Several lawyers in the jury box snickered. Bullard was famous for this. He hated Memphis lawyers, and required them to associate local counsel before appearing in his court. Years before when he was practicing, a Memphis judge had kicked him out of court because he was not licensed in Tennessee. He had enjoyed revenge since the day he was elected.
"Your Honor, I am not licensed in Mississippi, but I am licensed in Tennessee."
"I would hope so," came the retort from the bench. More suppressed laughter from the jury box. "Are you familiar with our local rules here in Ford County?" His Honor asked.
"Do you have a copy of these rules?"
"And you read them carefully before you ventured into my courtroom?"
"Uh, yes, sir, most of them."
"Did you understand Rule 14 when you read it?"
Cobb glanced up suspiciously at his new lawyer.
"Uh, I don't recall that one," Bernard admitted.
"I didn't think so. Rule 14 requires out-of-state unlicensed attorneys to associate local counsel when appearing in my courtroom."
From his looks and mannerisms, Bernard was a polished attorney, at least he was known as such in Memphis. He was, however, in the process of being totally degraded and humbled before a small-town, redneck judge with a quick tongue.
"Yes, sir, what?" snapped Bullard.
"Yes, sir, I think I've heard of that rule."
"There is none, but I planned-"
"Then you drove down here from Memphis, carefully read my rules, and deliberately ignored them. Right?"
Bernard lowered his head and stared at a blank yellow legal pad on the table.
Tyndale rose slowly. "Your Honor, for the record, I show myself as associated counsel for Mr. Bernard for purposes of this hearing and for no other purpose."
Bullard smiled. Slick move, Tyndale, slick move. The ice water warmed him and he relaxed. "Very well. Call your first witness."[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@@=======
Bernard stood straight again. He cocked his head. "Your Honor, on behalf of Mr. Cobb, I would like to call his brother, Mr. Fred Cobb, to the stand."
"Make it brief," Bullard mumbled.
CobB's brother was sworn and seated in the witness chair. Bernard assumed the podium and began a long, detailed direct examination. He was well prepared. He elicited proof that Billy Ray Cobb was gainfully employed, owned real estate in Ford County, grew up there, had most of his family there, and friends, and had no reason to leave. A solid citizen with deep roots with much to lose if he fled. A man who could be trusted to show up for court. A man worthy of a low bond.
Bullard sipped, tapped his pen, and searched the black faces in the audience.
Childers had no questions. Bernard called Cobb's mother, Cora, who repeated what her son Fred said about her son Billy Ray. She managed a couple of tears at an awkward moment, and Bullard shook his head.
Tyndale was next. He went through the same motions with Willard's family.
Half a million dollars bond! Anything less would be too little, and the blacks wouldn't like it. The judge had new reason to hate Childers. But he liked the blacks because they elected him last time. He received fifty-one percent of the vote countywide, but he got all the nigger vote.
"Anything else?" he asked when Tyndale finished.
The three lawyers looked blankly at each other, then at the judge. Bernard stood. "Your Honor, I would like to summarize my client's position in regard to a reasonable bond-"
"Forget it, pal. I've heard enough from you and your client. Sit down."
Bullard hesitated, then rapidly announced: "Bond is hereby set at one hundred thousand for Pete Willard, and two hundred thousand for Billy Ray Cobb. Defendants will remain in the custody of the sheriff until they are able to make bail. Court's adjourned." He rapped the gavel and disappeared into his chambers, where he finished the half pint and opened another one.
Lester was pleased with the bonds. His had been fifty thousand for the murder of Monroe Bowie. Of course, Bowie was black, and bonds were generally lower for those cases.
The crowd inched toward the rear door, but Lester did not move. He watched closely as the two white boys were handcuffed and taken through the door into the holding room. When they were out of sight, he placed his head in his hands and said a short prayer. Then he listened.
At least ten times a day Jake walked through the French doors and onto the balcony to inspect downtown Clanton. He sometimes puffed a cheap cigar and blew smoke over Washington Street. Even in the summer he left the windows open in the big office. The sounds of the busy small town made good company as he worked quietly. At times he was amazed at the volume of noise generated on the streets around the courthouse, and at other times he walked to the balcony to see why things were so quiet.
Just before 2:00 P.M., Monday, May 20, he walked to the balcony and lit a cigar. A heavy silence engulfed downtown Clanton, Mississippi.
Cobb went first down the stairs, cautiously, with his hands cuffed behind him, then Willard, then Deputy Looney. Ten steps down, then the landing, turn right, then ten steps to the first floor. Three other deputies waited outside by the patrol cars smoking cigarettes and watching reporters.
When Cobb reached the second step from the floor, and Willard was three steps behind, and Looney was one step off the landing, the small, dirty, neglected, unnoticed door to the janitor's closet burst open and Mr. Carl Lee Hailey sprung from the darkness with an M-16. At point-blank range he opened fire. The loud, rapid, clapping, popping gunfire shook the courthouse and exploded the silence. The rapists froze, then screamed as they were hit-Cobb first, in the stomach and chest, then Willard in the face, neck, and throat. They twisted vainly up the stairs, handcuffed and helpless, stumbling over each other as their skin and blood splashed together.
Looney was hit in the leg but managed to scramble up the stairs into the holding room, where he crouched and listened as Cobb and Willard screamed and moaned and the crazy nigger laughed. Bullets ricocheted between the walls of the narrow stairway, and Looney could see, looking down toward the landing, blood and flesh splashing on the walls and dripping down.
In short, sudden bursts of seven or eight rounds each, the enormous booming sound of the M-16 echoed through the courthouse for an eternity. Through the gunfire and the sounds of the bullets rattling around the walls of the stairway, the high-pitched, shrill, laughing voice of Carl Lee could be plainly heard.
When he stopped, he threw the rifle at the two corpses and ran. Into the restroom, he jammed the door with a chair, crawled out a window into the bushes, then onto the sidewalk. Nonchalantly, he walked to his pickup and drove home.
Lester froze when the shooting started. The gunfire was heard loudly in the courtroom. Willard's mother screamed and Cobb's mother screamed, and the deputies raced into the holding room, but did not venture down the stairs. Lester listened intently for the sounds of handguns, and hearing none, he left the courtroom.
With the first shot, Bullard grabbed the half pint and crawled under his desk while Mr. Pate locked the door.
Cobb, or what was left of him, came to rest on Willard. Their blood mixed and puddled on each step, then it overflowed and dripped to the next step, where it puddled before overflowing and dripping to the next. Soon the foot of the stairway was flooded with the mixture.
Jake sprinted across the street to the rear door of the courthouse. Deputy Prather crouched in front of the door, gun drawn, and cursed the reporters who pressed forward. The other deputies knelt fearfully on the doorsteps next to the patrol cars. Jake ran to the front of the courthouse, where more deputies were guarding the door and evacuating the county employees and courtroom spectators. A mass of bodies poured onto the front steps. Jake fought through the stampede and into the rotunda and found Ozzie directing people and yelling in all directions. He motioned for Jake, and they walked down the hall to the rear doors, where a half dozen deputies stood, guns in hand, gazing silently at the stairway. Jake felt nauseated. Willard had almost made it to the landing. The front of his head was missing, and his brains rolled out like jelly covering his face. Cobb had been able to twist over and absorb the bullets with his back. His face was buried in Willard's stomach, and his feet touched the fourth step from the floor. The blood continued from the lifeless bodies, and it covered completely the bottom six steps. The crimson pool on the floor inched quickly toward the deputies, who slowly backed away. The weapon was between Cobb's legs on the fifth step, and it too was covered with blood.
The group stood silently, mesmerized by the two bodies, which, though dead, continued to spew blood. The thick smell of gunfire hung over the stairway and drifted toward the hall into the rotunda, where the deputies continued to move people toward the front door.
"Jake, you'd better leave," Ozzie said without looking from the bodies.
" 'Cause we gotta take pictures and collect evidence and stuff, and you don't need to be here." cui you aon t interrogate him out ot my presence. Understand?" Ozzie nodded.
The photographs were taken, the mess cleaned, the evidence gathered, the bodies removed, and two hours later Ozzie left town followed by five patrol cars. Hastings drove and led the convoy into the country, toward the lake, past Bates Grocery, onto Craft Road. The Hailey driveway was empty except for Owen's car, Carl Lee's pickup, and the red Cadillac from Illinois.
Ozzie expected no trouble as the patrol cars parked in a row across the front yard, and the deputies crouched behind the open doors, watching as the sheriff walked alone to the house. He stopped. The front door opened slowly and the Hailey family emerged. Carl Lee walked to the edge of the porch with Tonya in his arms. He looked down at his friend the sheriff, and behind him at the row of cars and deputies. To his right was Gwen, and to his left were his three sons, the smallest one crying softly but the older ones brave and proud. Behind them stood Lester.
The two groups watched each other, each waiting for the other to say or do something, each wanting to avoid what was about to happen. The only sounds were the soft sniffles of the little girl, her mother, and the youngest boy.
The children had tried to understand. Their daddy had explained to them what he had just done, and why. They understood that, but they could not comprehend why he had to be arrested and taken to jail.
Ozzie kicked at a clod of dirt, occasionally glancing at the family, then at his men.
Finally, he said, "You better come with me."
Carl Lee nodded slightly, but did not move. Gwen and the boy cried louder as Lester took the girl from her daddy. Then Carl Lee knelt before the three boys and whispered to them again that he must leave but wouldn't be gone long. He hugged them, and they all cried and clutched him. He turned,
and kissed his wife, then walked down the steps to the sner-iff.
"You wanna handcuff me, Ozzie?"
"Naw, Carl Lee, just get in the car."
Moss Junior Tatum, the chief deputy, and Jake talked quietly in Ozzie's office while deputies, reserves, trusties, and other jailhouse regulars gathered in the large, cluttered workroom next to the office and waited anxiously for the arrival of the new prisoner. Two of the deputies peered through the blinds at the reporters and cameramen waiting in the parking lot between the jail and the highway. The television vans were from Memphis, Jackson, and Tupelo, and they were parked in various directions throughout the crowded lot. Moss did not like this, so he walked slowly down the sidewalk and ordered the press to regroup in a certain area, and to move the vans.
"Will you make a statement?" yelled a reporter.
"Yeah, move the vans."
"Can you say anything about the murders?"
"Yeah, two people got killed."
"How about the details?"
"Nope. I wasn't there."
"Do you have a suspect?"
"I'll tell you when the vans are moved."
The vans were immediately moved and the cameras and microphones were bunched together near the sidewalk. Moss pointed and directed until he was satisfied, then stepped to the crowd. He calmly chewed on a toothpick and stuck both thumbs in the front belt loops, just under the overlapping belly.
"Is he under arrest?"
"Was the girl's family involved?"
Moss smiled and shook his head. "One at a time. Yes we have a suspect. He's under arrest and will be here in a minute. Keep the vans outta the way. That's all I have."
Moss walked back to the jail as they continued to can at mm. He ignored them and entered the crowded workroom.
"How's Looney?" he asked.
"Prather's with him at the hospital. He's fine-slight wound to the leg."
"Yeah, that and a slight heart attack," Moss said with a smile. The others laughed.
"Here they come!" a trusty shouted, and everyone inside moved to the windows as the line of blue lights rolled slowly into the parking lot. Ozzie drove the first car with Carl Lee seated, unhandcuffed, in the front. Hastings reclined in the back and waved at the cameras as the car passed them and continued through the crowd, past the vans and around to the rear of the jail, where Ozzie parked and the three walked casually inside. Carl Lee was given to the jailer, and Ozzie walked down the hall to his office where Jake was waiting.
"You can see him in a minute, Jake," he said.
"Thanks. You sure he did it?"
"He didn't confess, did he?"
"No, he didn't say much of nothin'. I guess Lester coached him."
Moss walked in. "Ozzie, them reporters wanna talk to you. I said you'd be out in a minute."
"Thanks, Moss," Ozzie sighed.
"Anybody see it?" Jake asked.
Ozzie wiped his forehead with a red handkerchief. "Yeah, Looney can I.D. him. You know Murphy, the little crippled man who sweeps floors in the courthouse?"
"Sure. Stutters real bad."
"He saw the whole thing. He was sittin' on the east stairs, directly across from where it happened. Eatin' his lunch. Scared him so bad he couldn't talk for an hour." Ozzie paused and eyed Jake. "Why am I tellin' you all this?"
"What difference does it make? I'll find out sooner or later. Where's my man?"
"Down the hall in the jail. They gotta take his picture and all that. Be 'bout thirty minutes."
Ozzie left and Jake used his phone to call Carla and remind her to watch the news and record it. i answerin' no questions. We have a suspect in custody. Name of Carl Lee Hailey from Ford County. Arrested for two counts of murder."
"Is he the girl's father?"
"How do you know he did it?"
"None that we know of."
"Where'd you find him?"
"He's fine. He's in the hospital, but he's okay."
"Looney. DeWayne Looney."
"When's the preliminary hearing?"
"Maybe tomorrow, maybe Wednesday. No more questions, please. I have no further information to release at this time."
The jailer took Carl Lee's wallet, money, watch, keys, ring, and pocketknife and listed the items on an inventory form that Carl Lee signed and dated. In a small room next to the jailer's station, he was photographed and fingerprinted, just as Lester said. Ozzie waited outside the door and led him down the hall to a small room where the drunks were taken to blow into the Intoxilyzer. Jake sat at a small table next to the machine. Ozzie excused himself.
The lawyer and client sat across the table and analyzed each other carefully. They grinned admiringly but neither spoke. They had last talked five days before, on Wednesday after the preliminary hearing, the day after the rape.
Carl Lee was not as troubled now. His face was relaxed and his eyes were clear. Finally he said: "You didn't think I'd do it, Jake."