Jake walked to the edge of the porch and leaned on a column. He felt weak. The confidence was gone, taken away again by Lucien. He was an expert at poking holes in every case Jake tried. It was sport to him, and he was usually right.
"Look, Jake, I don't mean to sound so hopeless. The case can be won-it's a long shot, but it can be won. You can walk him out of there, and you need to believe you can. Just don't get too cocky. You've said enough to the press for a while. Back off, and go to work."
Lucien walked to the edge of the porch and spat in the shrubs. "Always keep in mind that Mr. Hailey is guilty, guilty as hell. Most criminal defendants are, but especially this one. He took the law into his own hands, and he murdered two people. Planned it all, very carefully. Our legal system does not permit vigilante justice. Now, you can win the case, and if you do, justice will prevail. But if you lose it, justice will also prevail. Kind of a strange case, I guess. I just wish I had it."
"Sure I'm serious. It's a trial lawyer's dream. Win it and you're famous. The biggest gun in these parts. It could make you rich."
"I'll need your help."
"You've got it. I need something to do."
After dinner, and after Hanna was asleep, Jake told Carla about the calls at the office. They had received a strange call before during one of the other murder trials, but no threats were made, just some groaning and breathing. But these were different. They mentioned Jake's name and his family, and promised revenge if Carl Lee was acquitted.
"Are you worried?" she asked.
"Not really. It's probably just some kids, or some of Cobb's friends. Does it scare you?"
"I would prefer they didn't call."
"Everybody's getting calls. Ozzie's had hundreds. Bul-lard, Childers, everybody. I'm not worried about it."
"What if it becomes more serious?"
"Carla, I would never endanger my family. It's not worth it. I'll withdraw from the case if I think the threats are legitimate. I promise."
She was not impressed.
Lester peeled off nine one-hundred-dollar bills and laid them majestically on Jake's desk.
"That's only nine hundred," Jake said. "Our agreement was a thousand."
"Gwen needed groceries."
"You sure Lester didn't need some whiskey?"
"Come on, Jake, you know I wouldn't steal from my own brother."
"Okay, okay. When's Gwen going to the bank to borrow the rest?"
"I'm goin' right now to see the banker. Atcavage?"
"Yeah, Stan Atcavage, next door at Security Bank.
Good friend of mine. He loaned it before on your trial. You got the deed?"
"In my pocket. How much you reckon he'll give us?"
"No idea. Why don't you go find out."
Lester left, and ten minutes later Atcavage was on the phone.
"Jake, I can't loan the money to these people. What if he's convicted-no offense, I know you're a good lawyer- my divorce, remember-but how's he gonna pay me sitting on death row?"
"Thanks. Look Stan, if he defaults you own ten acres, right?"
"Right, with a shack on it. Ten acres of trees and kudzu plus an old house. Just what my new wife wants. Come on, Jake." .
"It's a nice house, and it's almost paid for."
"It's a shack, a clean shack. But it's not worth anything, Jake."
"It's gotta be worth something."
"Jake, I don't want it. The bank does not want it."
"You loaned it before."
"And he wasn't in jail before; his brother was, remember. He was working at the paper mill. Good job, too. Now he's headed for Parchman."
"Thanks, Stan, for the vote of confidence."
"Come on, Jake, I've got confidence in your ability, but I can't loan money on it. If anybody can get him off, you can. And I hope you do. But I can't make this loan. The auditors would scream."
Lester tried the Peoples Bank and Ford National, with the same results. They hoped his brother was acquitted, but what if he wasn't.
Wonderful, thought Jake. Nine hundred dollars for a capital murder case.
Claude had never seen the need for printed menus in his cafe. Years before when he first opened he couldn't afford menus, and now that he could he didn't need them because most folks knew what he served. For breakfast he cooked everything but rice and toast, and the prices varied. For Friday lunch he barbecued pork shoulder and spare ribs, and everybody knew it. He had few white customers during the week, but at noon Friday, every Friday, his small cafe was half white. Claude had known for some time that whites enjoyed barbecue as much as blacks; they just didn't know how to prepare it.
Jake and Atcavage found a small table near the kitchen. Claude himself delivered two plates of ribs and slaw. He leaned toward Jake and said softly, "Good luck to you. Hope you get him off."
"Thanks, Claude. I hope you're on the jury."
Claude laughed and said louder, "Can I volunteer?"
Jake attacked the ribs and chewed on Atcavage for not making the loan. The banker was steadfast, but did offer to lend five thousand if Jake would cosign. That would be unethical, Jake explained.
On the sidewalk a line formed and faces squinted through the painted letters on the front windows. Claude was everywhere, taking orders, giving orders, cooking, counting money, shouting, swearing, greeting customers, and asking them to leave. On Friday, the customers were allotted twenty minutes after the food was served, then Claude asked and sometimes demanded that they pay and leave so he could sell more barbecue.
"Quit talkin' and eat!" he would yell.
"I've got ten more minutes, Claude."
"You got seven."
On Wednesday he fried catfish, and allowed thirty minutes because of the bones. The white folks avoided Claude's on Wednesday, and he knew why. It was the grease, a secret recipe grease handed down by his grandmother, he said. It was heavy and sticky and wreaked havoc with the lower intestines of white people. It didn't faze the blacks, who piled in by the carloads every Wednesday.
Two foreigners sat near the cash register and watched Claude fearfully as he directed lunch. Probably reporters, thought Jake. Each time Claude drew nigh and glared, they obediently picked up and gnawed a rib. They had not experienced ribs before, and it was obvious to everyone they were from the North. They had wanted chef salads, but Claude cursed them, and told them to eat barbecue or leave. Then he announced to the crowd these silly fools wanted chef salads.
"Here's your food. Hurry up and eat it," he had demanded when he served them.
"No steak knives?" one had asked crisply.
Claude rolled his eyes and staggered away mumbling.
One noticed Jake, and, after staring for a few minutes, finally walked over and knelt by the table. "Aren't you Jake Brigarice, Mr. Hailey's attorney?"
"Yes, I am. Who are you?"
"I'm Roger McKittrick, with The New York Times."
"Nice to meet you," Jake said with a mile and a new attitude.
"I'm covering the Hailey case, and I'd like to talk with you sometime. As soon as possible, really."
"Sure. I'm not too busy this afternoon. It's Friday."
"I could do it late."
"How about four?"
"Fine," said McKittrick, who noticed Claude approaching from the kitchen. "I'll see you then."
"Okay, buddy," Claude yelled at McKittrick. "Time's up. Get your check and leave."
Jake and Atcavage finished in fifteen minutes, and waited for the verbal assault from Claude. They licked their fingers and mopped their faces and commented on the tenderness of the ribs.
"This case'll make you famous, won't it?" asked Atcavage.
"I hope. Evidently it won't make any money."
"Seriously, Jake, won't it help your practice?"
"If I win, I'll have more clients than I can handle. Sure
it'll help. I can pick and choose my cases, pick and choose my clients."
"Financially, what'll it mean?"
"I have no idea. There's no way to predict who or what it might attract. I'll have more cases to choose from, so that means more money. I could quit worrying about the overhead."
"Surely you don't worry about the overhead."
"Look, Stan, we're not all filthy rich. A law degree is not worth what it once was-too many of us. Fourteen in this little town. Competition is tough, even in Clanton-not enough good cases and too many lawyers. It's worse in the big towns, and the law schools graduate more and more, many of whom can't find jobs. I get ten kids a year knocking on my door looking for work. A big firm in Memphis laid off some lawyers a few months ago. Can you imagine? Just like a factory, they laid them off. I suppose they went down to the unemployment office and stood in line with the 'dozer operators. Lawyers now, not secretaries or truck drivers, but lawyers."
"Sorry I asked."
"Sure I worry about the overhead. It runs me four thousand a month, and I practice alone. That's fifty thousand a year before I clear a dime. Some months are good, others slow. They're all unpredictable. I wouldn't dare estimate what I'll gross next month. That's why this case is so important. There will never be another one like it. It's the biggest. I'll practice the rest of my life and never have another reporter from The New York Times stop me in a cafe and ask for an interview. If I win, I'll be the top dog in this part of the state. I can forget about the overhead."
"And if you lose?"
Jake paused and glanced around for Claude. "The publicity will be abundant regardless of the outcome. Win or lose, the case will help my practice. But a loss will really hurt. Every lawyer in the county is secretly hoping I blow it. They want him convicted. They're jealous, afraid I might get too big and take away their clients. Lawyers are extremely jealous."
"Sure. Take the Sullivan firm. I despise every lawyer in that firm, but I'm jealous to an extent. I wish I had some of their clients, some of their retainers, some of their security. They know that every month they'll get a nice check, it's guaranteed almost, and every Christmas they'll get a big bonus. They represent old money, steady money. That would be enjoyable for a change. Me, I represent drunks, thugs, wife beaters, husband beaters, injured people, most of whom have little or no money. And I never know from one month to the next how many of these people will show up at my office."
"Look, Jake," Atcavage interrupted. "I would really like to finish this discussion, but Claude just looked at his watch and then looked at us. I think our twenty minutes are up."
Jake's check was seventy-one cents more than At-cavage's, and since both orders were identical, Claude was interrogated. No problem, he explained, Jake got an extra rib.
McKittrick was personable and precise, thorough and pushy. He had arrived in Clanton on Wednesday to investigate and write about what was billed as the most famous murder in the country, at the moment. He talked to Ozzie and Moss Junior, and they suggested he talk to Jake. He talked to Bullard, through the door, and the judge suggested he talk to Jake. He interviewed Gwen and Lester, but was not permitted to meet the girl. He visited with the regulars at the Coffee Shop and the Tea Shoppe, and he visited with the regulars at Huey's and Ann's Lounge. He talked to Willard's ex-wife and mother, but Mrs. Cobb was through with reporters. One of Cobb's brothers offered to talk for a fee. McKittrick declined. He drove to the paper mill and talked to the co-workers, and he drove to Smithfield to interview the D.A. He would be in town for a few more days, then return for the trial.
He was from Texas, and retained, when convenient, a slight drawl, which impressed the locals and opened them up. He even said "you all" and "y'all" occasionally, and this distinguished him from most of the other reporters who clung to their crisp, precise, modern American pronunciation.
"What's that?" McKittrick pointed to the center of Jake's desk.
"That's a tape recorder," Jake answered.
McKittrick sat his own recorder on the desk and looked at Jake's. "May I ask why?"
"You may. It's my office, my interview, and if I want to record it, I will."
"Are you expecting trouble?"
"I'm trying to prevent it. I hate to be misquoted."
"I'm not known for misquoting."
"Good. Then you won't mind if both of us record ever-thing."
"You don't trust me, do you, Mr. Brigance?"
"Hell no. And my name is Jake."
"Why don't you trust me?"
"Because you're a reporter, you're from a New York paper, you're looking for a sensational story, and if you're true to form, you'll write some well-informed, moralistic piece of trash depicting us all as racist, ignorant rednecks."
"You're wrong. First of all, I'm from Texas."
"Your paper is from New York."
"But I consider myself a Southerner."
"How long have you been gone?"
"About twenty years."
Jake smiled and shook his head, as if to say: That's too long.
"And I don't work for a sensational newspaper."
"We'll see. The trial is several months away. We'll have time to read your stories."
Jake punched the play button on his tape recorder, and McKittrick did likewise.
"Can Carl Lee Hailey receive a fair trial in Ford County?"
"Why couldn't he?" Jake asked.
"Well, he's black. He killed two white men, and he will be tried by a white jury."
"You mean he will be tried by a bunch of white racists."
"No, that's not what I said, nor what I implied. Why do
you automatically assume I think you are all a bunch of racists?"
"Because you do. We're stereotyped, and you know it."
McKittrick shrugged and wrote something on his steno pad. "Will you answer the question?"
"Yes. He can receive a fair trial in Ford County, if he's tried here."
"Do you want it tried here?"
"I'm sure we'll try to move it."
"We won't suggest a place. That's up to the judge."
"Where did he get the M-16?"
Jake chuckled and stared at the tape recorder. "I do not know."
"Would he be indicted if he were white?"
"He's black, and he has not been indicted."
"But if he were white, would there be an indictment?"
"Yes, in my opinion."
"Would he be convicted?"
"Would you like a cigar?" Jake opened a desk drawer and found a Roi-Tan. He unwrapped it; then lit it with a butane lighter.
"No, he would not be convicted if he were white. In my opinion. Not in Mississippi, not in Texas, not in Wyoming. I'm not sure about New York."
"Do you have a daughter?"
"Then you wouldn't understand."
"I think I do. Will Mr. Hailey be convicted?"
"So the system does not work as fairly for blacks?"
"Have you talked with Raymond Hughes?"
"No. Who is he?"
"He ran for sheriff last time, and had the misfortune of making the runoff against Ozzie Walls. He's white. Ozzie, of course, is not. If I'm not mistaken, he got thirty-one percent of the vote. In a county that's seventy-four percent white. Why don't you ask Mr. Hughes if the system treats blacks fairly?"
"I was referring to the judicial system."
"It's the same system. Who do you think sits in the jury box? The same registered voters who elected Ozzie Walls."
"Well, if a white man would not be convicted, and Mr. Hailey will probably be convicted, explain to me how the system treats both fairly."
"I'm not sure I'm following you."
"The system reflects society. It's not always fair, but it's as fair as the system in New York, or Massachusetts, or California. It's as fair as biased, emotional humans can make it."
"And you think Mr. Hailey will be treated as fairly here as he would be in New York?"
"I'm saying there's as much racism in New York as in Mississippi. Look at our public schools-they're as desegregated as any."
"By court order."
"Sure, but what about the courts in New York. For years you pious bastards pointed your fingers and noses at us down here and demanded that we desegregate. It happened, and it has not been the end of the world. But you've conveniently ignored your own schools and neighborhoods, your own voting irregularities, your own all-white juries and city councils. We were wrong, and we've paid dearly for it. But we learned, and although the change has been slow and painful, at least we're trying. Y'all are still pointing fingers."
"I didn't intend to refight Gettysburg."
"I'm sorry. What defense will we use? I do not know at this point. Honestly, it's just too early. He hasn't even been indicted."
"Of course he will?"
"Of course we don't know yet. More than likely. When will this be printed?"
"Makes no difference. No one here takes your paper. Yes, he will be indicted."
McKittrick glanced at his watch, and Jake turned off his recorder.
"Look, I'm not a bad guy," McKittrick said. "Let's drink a beer sometime and finish this."
"Off the record, I don't drink. But I accept your invitation."
The First Presbyterian Church of Clanton was directly across the street from the First United Methodist Church of Clanton, and both churches were within sight of the much larger First Baptist Church. The Baptists had more members and money, but the Presbyterians and Methodists adjourned earlier on Sunday and outraced the Baptists to the restaurants for Sunday dinner. The Baptists would arrive at twelve-thirty and stand in line while the Presbyterians and Methodists ate slowly and waved at them.
Jake was content not to be a Baptist. They were a bit too narrow and strict, and they were forever preaching about Sunday night church, a ritual Jake had always struggled with. Carla was raised as a Baptist, Jake a Methodist, and during the courtship a compromise was negotiated, and they became Presbyterians. They were happy with their church and its activities, and seldom missed.
On Sunday, they sat in their usual pew, with Hanna asleep between them, and ignored the sermon. Jake ignored it by watching the preacher and picturing his confronting Buckley, in court, before twelve good and lawful citizens, as the nation watched and waited, and Carla ignored it by watching the preacher and mentally redecorating the dining room. Jake caught a few inquisitive stares during the worship service, and he figured his fellow church members were somewhat awed to have a celebrity among them. There were some strange faces in the congregation, and they were either long-lost repentant members or reporters. Jake was unsure until one persisted in staring at him-then he knew they were all reporters.
"Enjoyed your sermon, Reverend," Jake lied as he shook hands with the minister on the steps outside the sanctuary.
"Good to see you, Jake," replied the reverend. "We've watched you all week on TV. My kids get excited every time they see you."
"Thanks. Just pray for us."
They drove to Karaway for Sunday lunch with Jake's
parents. Gene and Eva Brigance lived in the old family house, a sprawling country home on five acres of wooded land in downtown Karaway, three blocks from Main Street and two blocks from the school where Jake and his sister put in twelve years. Both were retired, but young enough to travel the continent in a mobile home each summer. They would leave Monday for Canada and return after Labor Day. Jake was their only son. An older daughter lived in New Orleans.
Sunday lunch on Eva's table was a typical Southern feast of fried meats, fresh garden vegetables-boiled, battered, baked, and raw, homemade rolls and biscuits, two gravies, watermelon, cantaloupe, peach cobbler, lemon pie, and strawberry shortcake. Little of it would be eaten, and the leftovers would be neatly packaged by Eva and Carla and sent to Clanton, where it would last for a week.
"How are your parents, Carla?" Mr. Brigance asked as he passed the rolls.
"They're fine. I talked to Mother yesterday."
"Are they in Knoxville?"
"No, sir. They're already in Wilmington for the summer."
"Will y'all be going to visit them?" asked Eva as she poured the tea from a one-gallon ceramic pitcher.
Carla glanced at Jake, who was dipping butterbeans onto Hanna's plate. He did not want to discuss Carl Lee Hailey. Every meal since Monday night had centered around the case, and Jake was in no mood to answer the same questions.
"Yes, ma'am. We plan to. It depends on Jake's schedule. It could be a busy summer."
"So we've heard," Eva said flatly, slowly as if to remind her son he had not called since the killings.
"Is something wrong with your phone, son?" asked Mr. Brigance.
"Yes. We've had the number changed."
The four adults ate slowly, apprehensively, while Hanna looked at the shortcake.
"Yes, I know. That's what the operator told us. To an unlisted number."
"Sorry. I've been very busy. It's been hectic."
"So we've read," said his father.
Eva stopped eating and cleared her throat. "Jake, do you really think you can get him off?"
"I'm worried about your family," said his father. "It could be a very dangerous case."
"He shot them in cold blood," Eva said.
"They raped his daughter, Mother. What would you do if someone raped Hanna?"
"What's rape?" asked Hanna.
"Never mind, dear," Carla said. "Could we please change the subject." She looked firmly at the three Bri-gances, and they started eating again. The daughter-in-law had spoken, with wisdom, as usual.
Jake smiled at his mother without looking at Mr. Bri-gance. "I just don't want to talk about the case, Mother. I'm tired of it."
"I guess we'll have to read about it," said Mr. Brigance.
They talked about Canada.
At about the time the Brigances finished lunch, the sanctuary of the Mt. Zion Chapel CME rocked and swayed as the Right Reverend Ollie Agee whipped the devotees into a glorified frenzy. Deacons danced. Elders chanted. Women fainted. Grown men screamed and raised their arms toward the heavens as the small children looked upward in holy terror. Choir members lurched and lunged and jerked, then broke down and shrieked different stanzas of the same song. The organist played one song, the pianist another, and the choir sang whatever came over it. The reverend hopped around the pulpit in his long white robe with purple trim, yelling, praying, screaming at God, and perspiring.
The bedlam rose and fell, rising it seemed with each new fainting, and falling with fatigue. Through years of experience Agee knew precisely when the fury reached its peak, when the delirium gave way to weariness, and when the flock needed a break. At that precise moment, he jigged to the pulpit and slapped it with the power of God Almighty. Instantly the music died, the convulsions ceased, the fainters awoke, the children stopped crying, and the multitude settled submissively into the pews. It was time for the sermon.
As the reverend was about to preach, the rear doors opened and the Haileys entered the sanctuary. Little Tonya walked by herself, limping, holding her mother's hand. Her brothers marched behind, and Uncle Lester followed. They moved slowly down the aisle and found a seat near the front. The reverend nodded at the organist, who began to play softly, then the choir began to hum and sway. The deacons stood and swayed with the choir. Not to be outdone, the elders stood and began to chant. Then, of all things, Sister Crystal fainted violently. Her fainting was contagious, and the other sisters began dropping like flies. The elders chanted louder than the choir, so the choir got excited. The organist could not be heard, so she increased the volume. The pianist joined in with a clanging rendition of a hymn unlike the hymn being played by the organist. The organist thundered back. Reverend Agee fluttered down from the podium and danced his way toward the Haileys. Everyone followed-the choir, the deacons, the elders, the women, the crying children-everyone followed the reverend to greet the little Hailey girl.
Jail did not bother Carl Lee. Home was more pleasant, but under the circumstances, he found jail life tolerable. It was a new jail, built with federal money under the mandate of a prisoners' rights lawsuit. The food was cooked by two huge black women who knew how to cook and write bad checks. They were eligible for early release, but Ozzie had not bothered to tell them. The food was served to forty prisoners, give or take a few, by the trusties. Thirteen of the prisoners belonged at Parchman, but it was full. So they waited, never knowing if the next day would be their day for the dreaded trip to the sprawling, enclosed delta farm where the food was not as good, the beds were not as soft, the air conditioning was nonexistent, the mosquitoes immense, plentiful, and vicious, and where toilets were scarce and clogged.
Carl Lee's cell was next to Cell Two, where the state prisoners waited. With two exceptions, they were black, and with no exceptions, they were violent. But they were all afraid of Carl Lee. He shared Cell One with two shoplifters who were not just scared, but downright terrified of their famous cellmate. Each evening he was escorted to Ozzie's office, where he and the sheriff ate dinner and watched the news. He was a celebrity, and he liked that almost as much as did his lawyer and the D.A. He wanted to explain things to the reporters, tell them about his daughter and why he should not be in jail, but his lawyer said no.
After Gwen and Lester left late Sunday afternoon, Oz-zie, Moss Junior, and Carl Lee sneaked out the rear of the jail and went to the hospital. It was Carl Lee's idea, and Ozzie saw no harm. Looney was alone in a private room when the three entered. Carl Lee took one look at the leg, then stared at Looney. They shook hands. With watery eyes and a breaking voice Carl Lee said he was sorry, that he had no intention of hurting anyone but the two boys, that he wished and prayed he could undo what he had done to Looney. Without hesitation, Looney accepted the apology.
Jake was waiting in Ozzie's office when they sneaked back into the jail. Ozzie and Moss Junior excused themselves, leaving the defendant with his lawyer.
"Where have y'all been?" Jake asked suspiciously.
"Went to the hospital to see Looney."
"Nothin' wrong, is it?"
"I wish you would check with me before you make any more visits."
"What's wrong with seein' Looney?"
"Looney will be the star witness for the State when they attempt to send you to the gas chamber. That's all. He ain't on our side, Carl Lee, and any talking you do with Looney should be with your attorney present. Understand?"
"I can't believe Ozzie would do that," Jake mumbled.
"It was my idea," Carl Lee admitted.
"Well, if you get any more ideas, please let me know about them. Okay?"
"You talked to Lester lately?"
"Yeah, him and Gwen came by today. Brought me goodies. Told me 'bout the banks."
Jake planned to play hardball about his fee; no way he could represent Carl Lee for nine hundred dollars. The case
would consume his practice for the next three monms ai least, and nine hundred would be less than minimum wage. It would not be fair to him or his family to work for nothing. Carl Lee would simply have to raise the money. There were plenty of relatives. Gwen had a big family. They would just have to sacrifice, maybe sell a few automobiles, maybe some land, but Jake would get his fee. If not, Carl Lee could find another lawyer.
"I'll give you the deed to my place," Carl Lee offered.
Jake melted. "I don't want your place, Carl Lee. I want cash. Sixty-five hundred dollars."
"Show me how, and I'll do it. You the lawyer, you figure out a way. I'm with you."
Jake was beat and he knew it. "I can't do it for nine hundred dollars, Carl Lee. I can't let this case bankrupt me. I'm a lawyer. I'm supposed to make money."
"Jake, I'll pay you the money. I promise. It may take a long time, but I'll pay you. Trust me."
Not if you're on death row, thought Jake. He changed the subject. "You know the grand jury meets tomorrow, and it'll take up your case."
"So I go to court?"
"Naw, it means you'll be indicted tomorrow. The courthouse will be full of people and reporters. Judge Noose will be here to open the May term of court. Buckley'll be running around chasing cameras and blowing smoke. It's a big day. Noose starts an armed robbery trial in the afternoon. If you're indicted tomorrow, we'll be in court Wednesday or Thursday for the arraignment."
"The arraignment. In a capital murder case, the judge is required by law to read the indictment to you in open court in front of God and everybody. They'll make a big deal out of it. We'll enter a plea of not guilty, and Noose sets the trial date. We ask for a reasonable bond, and he says no. When I mention bond Buckley'll scream and turn cartwheels. The more I think of him the more I hate him. He'll be a large pain in the ass."
"Why don't I get a bond?"
"For capital murder, the judge does not have to set a bond. He can if he wants to, but most don't. Even if Noose set a bond, you couldn't pay it, so don't worry about it. You'll be in jail until trial."
"I lost my job, you know."
"Gwen drove over Friday and got my paycheck. They told her. Nice, ain't it. Work there eleven years, miss five days, and they fire me. Guess they think I ain't comin' back."
"I'm sorry to hear that, Carl Lee. Real sorry."
The Honorable Omar Noose had not always been so honorable. Before he became the circuit judge for the Twenty-second Judicial District, he was a lawyer with meager talent and few clients, but he was a politician of formidable skills. Five terms in the Mississippi Legislature had corrupted him and taught him the art of political swindling and manipulation. Senator Noose prospered handsomely as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and few people in Van Buren County questioned how he and his family lived so affluently on his legislative salary of seven thousand dollars a year.
Like most members of the Mississippi Legislature, he ran for reelection one time too many, and in the summer of 1971 he was humiliated by an unknown opponent. A year later, Judge Loopus, his predecessor on the bench, died, and Noose persuaded his friends in the Legislature to persuade the governor to appoint him to serve the unexpired term. That's how ex-State Senator Noose became Circuit Judge Noose. He was elected in 1975, and reelected in 1979 and 1983.
Repentant, reformed, and very humbled by his rapid descent from power, Judge Noose applied himself to the study of the law, and after a shaky start, grew to the job. It paid sixty thousand a year, so he could afford to be honest. Now, at sixty-three, he was a wise old judge, well respected by most lawyers and by the state Supreme Court, which seldom reversed his rulings. He was quiet but charming, patient but strict, and he had a huge monument of a nose that was very long and very pointed and served as a throne for his black-rimmed, octagon-shaped reading glasses, which he wore constantly but never used. His nose, plus his tall, gawky frame, plus his wild, untamed, dense gray hair, plus his squeaky voice, had given rise to his secret nickname, whispered among lawyers, of Ichabod. Ichabod Noose. The Honorable Ichabod Noose.
He assumed the bench, and the crowded courtroom stood as Ozzie mumbled incoherently a statutorily required paragraph to officially open the May term of the Ford County Circuit Court. A long, flowery prayer was offered by a local minister, and the congregation sat down. Prospective jurors filled one side of the courtroom. Criminals and other litigants, their families and friends, the press, and the curious filled the other side. Noose required every lawyer in the county to attend the opening of the term, and the members of the bar sat in the jury box, all decked out in full regalia, all looking important. Buckley and his assistant, D. R. Mus-grove, sat at the prosecution's table, splendidly representing the State. Jake sat by himself in a wooden chair in front of the railing. The clerks and court reporters stood behind the large red docket books on the workbench, and with everyone else.watched intently as Ichabod situated himself in his chair upon the bench, straightened his robe, adjusted his hideous reading glasses, and peered over them at the assemblage.
"Good morning," he squeaked loudly. He pulled the microphone closer and cleared his throat. "It's always nice to be in Ford County for the May term of court. I see most members of the bar found time to appear for the opening of court, and as usual, I will request Madam Clerk to note those absent attorneys so that I may personally contact them. I see a large number of potential jurors present, and I thank each of you for being here. I realize you had no choice, but your presence is vital to our judicial process. We will empanel a grand jury momentarily, and then we will select several trial juries to serve this week and next. I trust each member of the bar has a copy of the docket, and you will note it looks somewhat crowded. My calendar reveals at least two cases set for trial each day this week and next, but it's my understanding most of the criminal cases set for trial will go off on negotiated plea bargains. Nonetheless, we have many cases to move, and I request the diligent cooperation of the bar. Once the new grand jury is empaneled and goes to work, and once the indictments start coming down, I will schedule arraignments and first appearances. Let's quickly call the docket, criminal first, then civil; then the attorneys may be excused as we select a grand jury.
"State versus Warren Moke. Armed robbery, set for trial this afternoon."
Buckley rose slowly, purposefully. "The State of Missis-
sippi is ready for trial, Your Honor," he announced gloriously for the spectators.
"So's the defense," said Tyndale, the court-appointed lawyer.
"How long do you anticipate for trial?" asked the judge.
"Day and a half," answered Buckley. Tyndale nodded in agreement.
"Good. We'll select the trial jury this morning and start the trial at one P.M. today. State versus William Daal, forgery, six counts, set for tomorrow."
"Your Honor," answered D.R. Musgrove, "there will be a plea in that case."
"Good. State versus Roger Hornton, grand larceny, two counts, set for tomorrow."
Noose continued through the docket. Each case drew the same response. Buckley would stand and proclaim the State ready for trial, or Musgrove would quietly inform the court that a plea had been negotiated. The defense attorneys would stand and nod. Jake had no cases in the May term, and although he tried his best to look bored, he enjoyed the call of the docket because he could learn who had the cases and what the competition was doing. It was also a chance to look good before some of the local folks. Half the members of the Sullivan firm were present, and they too looked bored as they sat arrogantly together in the front row of the jury box. The older partners of the Sullivan firm would not dare make an appearance at docket call, and they would lie and tell Noose they were in trial in Federal Court over in Oxford or perhaps before the Supreme Court in Jackson. Dignity prevented their mingling with the ordinary members of the bar, so the firm's younger lieutenants were sent to satisfy Noose and request that all the firm's civil cases be continued, postponed, delayed, stalled, or acted upon in such a way that the firm could drag them on forever and continue to bill by the hour. Their clients were insurance companies who generally preferred not to go to trial and would pay by the hour for legal maneuvering designed solely to keep the cases away from the juries. It would be cheaper and fairer to pay a reasonable settlement and avoid both litigation and the parasitic defense firms like Sullivan & O'Hare, but the insurance companies and their adjusters were too stupid and cheap, so street lawyers like Jake Brigance earned their livelihoods suing insurance companies and forcing them to pay more than what they would have paid had they dealt fairly from the beginning. Jake hated insurance companies, and he hated insurance defense attorneys, and he especially hated the Sullivan firm's younger members, all of whom were his age, and all of whom would gladly cut his throat, their associates' throats, their partners' throats, anyone's throat to make partner and earn two hundred thousand a year and skip docket calls.
Jake particularly hated Lotterhouse, or L. Winston Lot-terhouse, as the letterhead proclaimed him, a little four-eyed wimp with a Harvard degree and a bad case of haughty self-importance who was next in line to make partner and thus had been especially indiscriminate with his throat cutting during the past year. He sat smugly between two other Sullivan associates and held seven files, each of which was being charged a hundred dollars per hour while he answered the docket call.
Noose began the civil docket. "Collins versus Royal Consolidated General Mutual Insurance Company."
Lotterhouse stood slowly. Seconds meant minutes. Minutes meant hours. Hours meant fees, retainers, bonuses, partnerships.
"Your Honor, sir, that case is set prime for a week from Wednesday."
"I realize that," Noose said.