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Authors: John Grisham

Witness to a Trial

BOOK: Witness to a Trial
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John Grisham is the author of twenty-eight novels, one work of nonfiction, a collection of stories, and six novels for young readers.​JohnGrisham


A Time to Kill

The Firm

The Pelican Brief

The Client

The Chamber

The Rainmaker

The Runaway Jury

The Partner

The Street Lawyer

The Testament

The Brethren

A Painted House

Skipping Christmas

The Summons

The King of Torts


The Last Juror

The Broker

The Innocent Man

Playing for Pizza

The Appeal

The Associate

Ford County

The Confession

The Litigators

Calico Joe

The Racketeer

Sycamore Row

Gray Mountain

Rogue Lawyer

The Theodore Boone Books

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer

Theodore Boone: The Abduction

Theodore Boone: The Accused

Theodore Boone: The Activist

Theodore Boone: The Fugitive

Theodore Boone: The Scandal

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2016 by Belfry Holdings, Inc.

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada, a division of Penguin Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

and the portrayal of an anchor with a dolphin are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file with the Library of Congress.

Ebook ISBN 9780385542579

Cover design by John Fontana

Cover photograph © Robert D. Strovers




The first witness called by the State of Florida was Clive Pickett, the rather rustic sheriff of Brunswick County, a sparsely populated corner of the Panhandle. Sheriff Pickett took the stand in full uniform and swore to tell the truth. It was his job to describe the crime scene and tell the jury what they had found.

What they had found were two dead bodies, a man and a woman, both naked and both with two shots to the head. They were in her bedroom and apparently had been caught in the act. She was married to someone else, as was he. At some time between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. on January 17, 1995, the defendant, sitting right over there at the defense table, had allegedly barged in and found them. He was married to the woman and knew the man well.

The first large color photo, State's Exhibit No. 1, was an exterior shot of the house, an old wood-framed dwelling located on Tinley Road, about two miles from the Tappacola reservation and thus not on tribal land but in the county and under Pickett's jurisdiction. The sheriff explained that there were no signs of forced entry into the house. The 1984 model Ford truck sitting in the driveway belonged to the deceased gentleman, one Son Razko.

The second photo, No. 2, showed the woman lying across the bed, on her back, her head and shoulders surrounded by blood that had drenched the white sheets. As always, the defense lawyer had objected to the photo on the usual grounds of its being inflammatory, prejudicial, and so on, but his objections had been overruled. The crime-scene photos, regardless of how grisly, were always admitted. The jurors eagerly passed the second one around even as they gaped at it in horror, some looking away, unable to focus on what they were holding. Same for the third photo, Exhibit No. 3, one of the man sprawled on the floor in his own blood. The next two photos, Exhibits 4 and 5, were of the bedroom and the bodies but from different angles. By the time the photos made the rounds in the jury box, the jurors were glaring at the defendant as if they couldn't wait to dispense the justice he deserved.

A large diagram was placed on a tripod near the jury box, and the prosecutor walked the sheriff through the layout of the house, the two acres around it, Tinley Road, and the tribal land nearby. He stressed the remoteness of the crime scene. The nearest house was three hundred yards away and not visible from the driveway.

With the stage carefully set, the prosecutor yielded the witness. Cross-examination produced nothing new and lasted only a few minutes. Sheriff Pickett was excused and, since he would not be called again, allowed to remain in the courtroom.


The Defendant.
His name was Junior Mace, a full-blooded Tappacola Indian, age thirty-seven, father of three, and husband of Eileen, the woman he was accused of killing. Until he was arrested, he had driven a truck and delivered propane for a company out of Moreville. The job paid barely enough to keep his family afloat. He and Eileen had a small mortgage on an old house, one they had bought from her parents before they died. Because he had no money, he was forced to settle for a court-appointed lawyer.

Junior was a big man, over six feet, and lean, with long dark hair that fell to his collar. The fifteen months he'd spent in jail awaiting this trial had not lightened his dark skin. For his trial he wore the same outfit every day—faded jeans and boots and a brown leather shirt with beads around both wrists. He sat straight and proud, absorbing every word without flinching, though he wanted to scream his innocence.


The second witness was a hick cop named Willard who, in spite of being called a homicide detective, was nothing more than the senior deputy on Pickett's slim force. In his eleven years with the sheriff, he said, he had investigated only four other murders, though this was not mentioned by the defense lawyer. For the occasion Willard wore his only sports coat, one he'd acquired years ago before packing on the last eighty pounds.

Willard told the jury that the police had immediately begun looking for Eileen's husband, the defendant, Junior Mace, not as a suspect but as a family member. Oddly enough, a bartender fifteen miles from the crime scene had called the sheriff's office around 7:00 p.m. and said Junior was sitting in his pickup truck, slumped over the steering wheel, too drunk to drive, and in need of help. The bartender knew Junior and said he was just trying to warn the cops and keep the roads safe. Willard and two other deputies raced to the bar and found Junior in his truck, unconscious and barely breathing. They called an ambulance and he was taken to the hospital in Walton County. After he was hauled away, Willard, without a warrant, searched his truck and found a Smith & Wesson revolver with two bullets left in the chamber. Under the front seat he also found a wallet belonging to Son Razko.

State's Exhibit No. 6 was the Smith & Wesson, an unlicensed firearm with the registration number filed off. No. 7 was the wallet, complete with Mr. Razko's Florida driver's license, one credit card from a bank, one from an oil company, and $17 in cash. These were passed around the jury box.

Months earlier the defense had attacked the warrantless search on the grounds that there was no probable cause, no solid legal reason to poke around the truck. The judge, though, ruled that the search was valid; thus the gun and wallet were admissible into evidence.


The Judge.
Her name was Claudia McDover and she was forty years old. The previous year she had defeated an eighteen-year incumbent by a thousand votes. This was her first capital murder case; indeed, it was her first murder case of any variety. Before becoming a judge, she had been a small-town general practitioner with a decent reputation and modest success. Her campaign had been well financed, and she knocked on doors for months, promising, as always, a tough law-and-order courtroom. She strongly supported the death penalty and seemed determined, at least to those lawyers watching the case, to ensure a death verdict in the matter of Junior Mace.

She felt as though she owed it to her voters, all residents of rural northwest Florida.


The third witness was the bartender himself. He went by Spike and it was obvious Spike had spent most of his life on one side of the bar or the other. His long gray hair was pulled tight into a ponytail. His ears were adorned with metal. A white, perfectly pointed goatee dripped from his chin. Spike seemed just as relaxed on the witness stand as he would have been pulling pints. He explained to the jurors that Junior stopped by at least once a week for a few beers after work and was generally talkative and in a pleasant mood. But on his last visit he was obviously disturbed by something. He quickly drank two beers—always from bottles, never draft or from cans—and said nothing. He sat at the end of the bar and stared straight ahead, lost in another world. A crowd came in and the bartender got busy elsewhere. He noticed Junior had moved away from the bar and was tossing darts with a man the bartender had never seen before.

Junior always paid with cash so there was no record of how many beers he had ordered. Plus, the stranger was buying a few rounds. Spike did not see Junior leave the bar, but around 6:30 a regular had whispered to him that a drunk had passed out in the parking lot. Spike went outside, found Junior sitting against a wall, and managed to get him into his truck. When Spike asked for his keys, Junior refused and for a second seemed belligerent. Spike then called Clive Pickett's office and said they might have a problem. Within twenty minutes Officer Willard and two other policemen were there.

Spike said he was stunned to hear about the murders, but looking back it made sense. Something was definitely wrong with Junior that last visit.


The Bar Owner.
He owned several bars along the Florida Panhandle, along with a few lounges, liquor stores, and a strip club. Three months before the murders he had bought the bar where Junior stopped. He'd paid too much for it, but by then he knew Junior's movements and had decided it was the perfect place.

He was in court to observe the testimony from Spike, his employee, and to make sure that Spike stuck to the story of Junior arriving that day in a funk and acting weird. Though Junior usually limited himself to two or three beers, and had probably done so on that day, it was important to convey to the jury the image of a troubled man drinking heavily, a man so drunk he had collapsed outside the building. Junior's blackout had little to do with alcohol, but that secret would be kept forever. The bar owner had arranged it all.

Disguised and sitting in the back row, he observed Spike on the stand with a trace of smugness as the pieces of his neat little plot fell into place. He lived in the shadows of his own dark world, a place where hard cash was king and from where people had to be eliminated from time to time.

BOOK: Witness to a Trial
11.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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