Jury Selection: Chapter Excerpt
Y’all, Indie is really sick right now. Pneumonia. I hope he pulls through. He said to let y’all know and for y’all to keep pulling for him. I asked him if he wanted us to say a prayer, and he said things warn’t that desperate yet, but he said to send some up for the folks in worse shape.
I asked Indie if it would be O.K. to print an excerpt of the book. I figured y’all already know Indie got in a lot of trouble when Blinky Wallendorf died. And my guess is you also guessed Betty Wallendorf sued him.
Well, as far as how all that came out, Indie ain’t ready to tell, and he still says not to send out the full manuscript till after he’s gone. At the same time, he wanted you to know some, and he approved todays’ post.
I’m glad it was O.K. with him. If I make it as a writer, much credit has to go to my blog readers. You have been very influential in my writer journey. I figure y’all deserve more of an insider’s perspective than the folks who just happen to buy the book by mistake down at the Walmarks, so here goes. This is my first full chapter excerpt I have posted. And now a disclaimer- it may change a lot by the time agents and publishers get a hold of it, but I wanted y’all to have the benefit of previewing the original version. Here it is- Chapter 29- I hope you enjoy.
Chapter 29: Jury Selection
So, O.K., there was going to be trial. We started with the matter of jury selection. Mac and Tag predicted local counsel would prove helpful, and they were right. Ted David was a fine Christian man who knew every scoundrel in town- both the legal and illegal ones. Anyone who could be bought off was eliminated from the mix early on.
Gibson Taylor was aggressive too, though. We almost got Mrs. Chili on the jury. I was all about her- fair, honest, open minded- just what we wanted. She was rejected by the plaintiffs. We had a chance until they realized she had been my English teacher, and then she was bounced. I never did figure out Gibson’s source. And, how he knew I played in a high school garage band with Ross Douglas I’ll never know, and Rossie didn’t either.
We haggled for two days, and pared the list down to twenty souls.
“Man. I’m tired of looking at the bios on all these folks, Ted. I don’t see how we can predict what they are going to do anyway,” Indie complained.
Ted was persistent in his perusal. “Doc, I hate to tell you, but most of these things are won or lost before the trial ever starts. Think of it like the first tee in golf. A good hustler cuts his bets there, and knows how to shave the margin before he ever hits the first shot. What kind of game he plays is immaterial, as long as he knows the opponent well enough. If he’s gathered the right information, then what follows is predictable.”
The next day was spent with the entire team reviewing the prospects for the final cut. Mac, Tag, and Ted David poured over the details. For the most part, me and Indie just sat back and watched. The players got as much scrutiny as athletes trying to make a pro ball team.
Mac was the lead attorney, but she considered all input from the team. She shuffled thorough the reams of prospective juror data. “O.K., guys. Tell me what you know about number seventeen.”
“Seventeen- Joseph E. Watson. He’s very quiet, and we don’t know much of his background,” Tag said. “He retired after thirty years with the State Credit Union in Raleigh, and moved to the County last year to take care of his mother. Taylor didn’t object to him, I think because he wasn’t a local, or least has been gone a long time.” Ted David made a motion to keep him. People that stayed in one job a long time were often conservative, and tended to opt for lower settlements. Watson was old, a slight man with horn-rimmed glasses. I hoped he wasn’t demented, but didn’t object, and he passed.
Several were ditched because they hated doctors in general, and two were omitted because they thought all lawyers were crooks. Both sides jockeyed for position. After a couple deals and trades, three more were seated.
“Good grief, guys,” I said. “You’re like the Dodgers and Yankees trading players.”
Indie was pleased to see how hard the team fought for the folks they wanted, but Taylor was also tenacious.
One potential juror was from a family I recognized. They had been mad at me twelve years ago when they wanted me to send their dad to the V.A. and Case Management could only come up with a Sandhills transfer. They still held a grudge about it, and wanted to nail Indie to get back at me. Mac had them home watching the soaps before noon.
Mac was nervous about Jen, who owned a beauty shop, but I convinced her to leave the girl in. “Mac, they’ve got Janie working the street for them. We need a Beauty Operator too if we can slide one in there. Gibson’s team missed the cue on that one. Jen worked part time as a journalist, a profession that tended toward sympathy for the plaintiffs, and team Taylor voted yes on her.
“What about this one?” Tag asked. “Wanda Meyer. Housewife. Husband is Oscar. She was approved by Taylor earlier today.”
“Wanda? Don’t trade her for any two!” I had dozed off, but the name awoke me.
“How do you know this one, Bibey? Is she an old girlfriend?” Tag asked.
“No, no. She ran the pig races at the fair for years.”
Mac looked over her glasses. “Pig races? What, pray tell, is a pig race?”
“Shoot, Mac. That’s always the biggest attraction at the fair. The little porkers run at the top of every hour. There’s a chicken wire pig-pen track they race through to get an ear of corn for a prize. They announce it by a bugle call that sounds like the start of the Kentucky Derby. Heck, once we played a gig at the fair, and when they sounded the bugle everyone left our show right down to my own mama. I’ve known Wanda for ages. She’ll not dig Gibson Taylor at all. Leave her in.”
Tag rolled her eyes. “Lord have mercy.”
Mac winced, but did not object. I’m sure she didn’t frequent the pig races or eat vinegar fries at the County Fair, but she was smart enough to take any help she could get. Wanda passed the mustard, as they say around here.
“Bonita LaTrice. I think….” Mac started.
“Bonita!” Indie interrupted. “Damn!”
“Is she another pig racing crony?” Tag asked.
“Hardly. Man, she’s Blinky’s old flame!”
“Prejudicial. Mac countered. She’ll have to be ditched. Gibson should know better.”
“No, no, Mac. You don’t understand.” Indie said. Gibson don’t know, ‘cause Betty don’t either. She never found out. You know what? Bonita was good to Blink. Shoot, he and Betty didn’t have….., uh…” Indie realized he was in mixed company. “Well, never mind, but I tell you the only reason Blink didn’t leave was ‘cause he was too good a guy and hated to hurt Betty. Too damn good for his own good he was.” I thought Indie was gonna cry.
“Wouldn’t she favor a settlement for Blinky?” Mac asked.
“If Blink was alive she would, but not for Betty. I guarantee it. She hated that woman with a purple passion,” Indie said.
Bonita stayed in until the eleventh hour, but Gib caught us. A note came over from team Taylor on the last day. “The Beauty Operator votes no to Bonita. Sorry- we have to make a trade-Gib.”
It took three more days, but we got a jury seated both sides could live with. No question, team Taylor had the advantage as far as the science of jury selection. One cat on their team was a bone-fide expert in the matter- very impressive. We had the home court advantage, though. It was a lot like Bill Cosby’s old basketball team- we knew where every loose board was on the court. As far as which set of skills would win the day, only time would tell. I was nervous. Indie was worse than that. I didn’t want him to take to drinking too heavy. I’d have to watch after him close.
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