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Transcript

Western Action, April, 1954
It was obvious that the woman seated in the front row of Flat Creek’s crowded courtroom could
be the determining factor in this case. Guilty or not, the prisoner would be acquitted it she
continued to play upon the jurors’ sentiments. Judge Steele, however, was immune . . .
THE WALKING JURY
by Lon Williams
UDGE WARDLOW STEELE, arms
folded across his rugged chest, scowled
at a mongrel crowd with customary
displeasure. Flat Creek’s jammed courtroom
had settled to expectant silence, when a
strange new sound intruded upon its
stillness. It was a feminine sob, one that
tightened to a hurt and tender moan. This
touch of aching heart posed a problem not
before encountered in Steele’s brief, but
stormy, judicial experience. A middle-aged
woman, once no doubt exceptionally
beautiful, though now considerably faded by
countless washings of adversity and time,
occupied a front-row puncheon and bravely
dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief.
Those eyes met Judge Steele’s, assailed
their savagery with an unspoken plea in
behalf of a cause easily surmised, though not
yet disclosed. Judge Steele shifted
uncomfortably and glared at a young, hardfaced monkey who sat on a puncheon
reserved for criminals about to be tried for
their lives. His jaws tightened then;
deliberately, almost resentfully, he rejected
that quality of mercy which reputedly fell
J
WESTERN ACTION 2
like gentle rain. He hardened his heart
instead.
“Sheriff, call court.”
Sheriff Jerd Buckalew, raw-boned, tall
and poker-faced, stood up and pounded an
inverted barrel with his forty-five. “Court’s
now in session; anybody with different ideas
had better save ‘em up.”
Judge Steele, shaken in spite of himself
by those tender eyes that constantly sought
his own, gave his straw-colored mustache a
couple of slow pulls. His glance at Clerk
James Skiffington was nevertheless cold and
determined. “Skiffy, call fust case.”
Skiffington rose, stood for a moment,
thin and pale, a paper quivering in his long
fingers. He steadied himself and read,
“People versus Jefferson, alias Forty-rod
Furlong. Charge: first count, conspiracy to
commit first-degree murder; second count,
first-degree murder.”
Judge Steele glared at Forty-rod Furlong.
A dark, callously-indifferent, smooth-shaved
bozo of about twenty-five glared back at
him.
“Murder, eh?” growled Steele. “Tired of
livin’, I suppose? Well, by thunder, you’ll
find this court mighty accommodatin’ in that
respect. You got a lawyer?”
A lean, black-haired hungry-looking
human in black suit, white vest and four-inhand necktie got up, poised and confident. “I
am his lawyer, Your Honor, French
Demeree.”
To Judge Steele, appearance of this
Demeree from Tennessee was like being
confronted by a dose of nasty medicine.
“Demeree, you seem confident enough. Has
Flat Creek run out of hangropes?”
“Your Honor, I am in hopes there is at
least a temporary shortage.”
Steele’s blood-pressure inched up, as it
always did in prospect of battle with this
clever, axe-faced Demeree. “Don’t let your
hopes get out of bounds.” Steele swung left.
“Whar’s our man?”
A stocky redhead rose at an adjacent
table, a placid, benign expression on his
ruddy face. “Wade Claybrook, Your Honor.
Prosecuting attorney.”
Steele surveyed his man with a hope
hardly sustained by experience. “I trust,
Claybrook, you are no less confident than
your adversary?”
Claybrook was not one for levity,
whether it came disguised as humor or as
sarcasm. “I am confident, Your Honor, that
justice will prevail.”
Steele grunted, shifted and glowered at
Forty-rod Furlong. “All right, what’s your
plea?”
Demeree responded in Furlong’s behalf.
“Your Honor, I move to strike so much of
this indictment as charges conspiracy to
commit murder.”
“Object,” said Claybrook boldly.
“Defendant is charged with having
committed first-degree murder. An element
of that crime is deliberateness; premeditation
could no better be shown than by proof of a
conspiracy.”
“But,” said Demeree, “it takes two to
make a conspiracy.”
Claybrook fired back, “There were two,
Your Honor.”
“This indictment,” said Demeree,
“mentions no co-conspirator.”
“I mean to use him as a witness, Your
Honor.”
“But Mr. Claybrook can’t prove a
conspiracy without proving a coconspirator.”
“See hyar, consarn you lawyers, quiet
down. Motion granted; we don’t have to
prove no conspiracy to prove murder. Now,
Demeree, what’s your plea?”
“Not guilty, Your Honor.”
A
POUT APPEARED on Claybrook’s
lips. He sat down and slumped low.
Demeree sat down and assumed a passive
demeanor, that being his equivalent of
THE WALKING JURY 3
satisfaction.
Steele nodded at Sheriff Buckalew.
“Panel a jury, Bucky.”
Buckalew jerked his head at Clerk
Skiffington. “Call names, Skiffy.”
Neither side challenged those called, and
presently a jury of twelve gold-diggers had
been sworn. A moment after they had seated
themselves; a muffled feminine moan rose
plaintively, “Oh, my son! My poor, poor
son!”
Judge Steele glanced at his jurors.
Already, he perceived, their stony hearts had
turned to butter. Consarn these sentimental
gold-diggers! To please a pretty woman,
they’d turn a barrel of rattlesnakes loose.
“Witnesses come and be sworn,” he
called, anger in his voice.
Seven men came forward, all golddiggers except one. That one had a shifty
eye, an unkempt sandy head and a lean,
downcast face; he also wore handcuffs,
which necessitated a two-handed oath.
When all were herded to a back room,
Judge Steele gave his mustache a hard jerk.
“Call fust witness.”
Claybrook got up. “Call Utah Mullet.”
A deputy sheriff brought Mullet in and
seated him as a witness. Mullet’s big, round
head was as bald as a gourd. He had a long
nose, and his large ears stuck straight out;
but he was of friendly, smiling disposition,
and honesty glowed within him like a lighted
candle.
“Your name?” said Claybrook.
“My name air Utah Mullet.”
“Your name is Utah Mullet,” Claybrook
repeated. “Now, Mr. Mullet, where do you
live?”
“I live in Patch-britches Gulch, yes, sir.”
“You live in Patch-britches Gulch,”
Claybrook repeated. “Are you acquainted
with defendant Jefferson Furlong?”
“I am acquainted with Forty-rod Furlong,
yes, sir.”
“You are acquainted with Forty-rod
Furlong. Now, Mr. Mullet—”
Demeree arose, his face serious. “May it
please Your Honor, I don’t think Mr.
Claybrook should repeat after witness Mullet
everything that Mullet says. It sounds like
some sort of fraternal initiation. Besides, it
has a tendency to make two witnesses out of
one, namely, Mullet plus Claybrook.
Defendant objects.”
Before Judge Steele could respond,
Claybrook cut in. “If Your Honor please,
Mr. Demeree is right. I had not noticed that I
was being repetitious, and I stand corrected.”
There arose again a sobbing, feminine
moan. “My son—my son.”
Steele snapped indignantly, “Proceed,
Claybrook.”
“Now, Mr. Mullet,” said Claybrook,
“where were you last Saturday night
between nine o’clock and midnight?”
“I were at Cooksy Blair’s saloon.”
“What were you doing there?”
“I were having a nip of whiskey.”
“Did you see there a man named Buck
Saddler?”
“You mean him that was robbed and
killed?”
“I do.”
“Yes.”
“What was he doing?”
“He were having a good time.”
Demeree popped up. “If Your Honor
please, witness may not draw conclusions. It
is a matter of opinion as to whether old
Saddler was having a good time, or a bad
time.”
Steele tugged at his mustache. “Demeree,
I sort of figured you meant to act decent for
once; I see I was mistaken.”
Demeree eased down.
C
LAYBROOK proceeded. “Mr. Mullet,
relate in detail what Buck Saddler did in
Cooksy Blair’s saloon.”
WESTERN ACTION 4
“Well, sir, he war-whooped a right
smart.”
“Go ahead.”
“He staggered and stumbled around,
bumpin’ tables and chairs.”
“Yes?”
“He had a bottle in his left hand and a
leather pouch of gold money in his right
hand.”
“Go right on.”
“And he bangs down his leather pouch of
gold on a table so hard he nearly busts it,
yes, sir.”
“Proceed.”
“And when he whams down that gold, he
whoops and says, says he—”
“Object,” said Demeree, rising. “He
can’t tell what somebody said.”
“Your Honor,” said Claybrook, “what
this witness is asked to testify to is not to
prove a fact, not to prove that what Buck
Saddler said was true, but merely to prove
that he made a particular statement.”
“No, Your Honor,” Demeree insisted,
“he can’t do that. If a witness swears that soand-so said that so-and-so rode a black
horse, somebody is going to believe that soand-so did ride a black horse—not merely
that so-and-so said that so-and-so rode a
black horse. I object.”
“Now, Your Honor,” said Claybrook
with patient forbearance, “what is sought
here is not proof of an ultimate fact, but
merely proof that Saddler made such and
such a statement. Hearsay evidence is
inadmissible only when it is offered—”
Judge Steele banged with his gavel. “Beconsarned if a couple of lawyers can’t kill
more time than a cat-fight; Mullet, what did
Saddler say when he banged down his bag of
gold?”
Mullet swung round toward Judge
Steele. “Well, Jedge, Saddler says, says he,
‘I’ve got fifty double-eagles in this here
pouch. And what is more’, says he—”
“Now, Your Honor,” said Claybrook, “it
was that statement about his having fifty
double-eagles which I wanted brought out by
this witness, nothing more.”
“By thunder, Claybrook,” growled
Steele, “we’re going to bring out more’n
that, if Mullet knows any more.”
Demeree was up. “If Your Honor please,
I’d like to cross-examine this witness.”
“Demeree,” retorted Steele, “this witness
ain’t ready to be cross-examined.” He turned
to Mullet. “Utah, what else do you know
about this murder?”
“Well, now, Jedge, I knows them three
coyotes was there and heard every word
Saddler said at Cooksy Blair’s.”
“What three coyotes?”
“Mullet jerked a thumb toward Forty-rod
Furlong. “Him there, for one.”
Judge Steele’s female spectator sobbed,
“Oh, no, no; it is not true.”
Steele pulled angrily at his mustache.
“Lady, are you a witness in this case?”
She looked up through startled tears.
“No. No, Judge, but please—”
“I don’t please, ma’am; you will have to
keep quiet, or a deputy sheriff will escort
you out,” Steele growled.
She dabbed her eyes. “I’m sorry, Judge; I
shall try to be brave.”
UTWARDLY silent, Judge Steele
inwardly stewed. Be-consarned if he
knew what to do. Here was a murderer who
ought to be hung, but unless events took an
unexpected turn, Furlong was going to be
acquitted. He could read that in every juror’s
eye.
“Claybrook, got any more questions?”
Claybrook was pouting. “No more
questions.”
Steele scowled at Demeree. “I suppose
you will cross-examine, or bust?”
Demeree nodded calmly. “It is
defendant’s right and privilege, if Your
Honor please.” He came round and
confronted Utah Mullet. “You say you were
O
THE WALKING JURY 5
at Cooksy Blair’s, having a nip of whiskey?”
“I were, yes, sir.”
“How much is a nip?”
“About a pint.”
“How much of that pint had you already
swallowed when old Saddler went whooping
around, making his brags?”
“About all of it.”
“How much was left?”
“A drap or two, maybe.”
“How much whiskey does it take to
make you drunk?”
“A pint.”
“Is it not true, Mullet, that when old
Saddler was kicking chairs around and being
a general nuisance, you were already dogdrunk and didn’t know anything about what
was going on?”
“I were beginning to feel a little tipsy,
yes, sir.”
“What do you mean by tipsy?”
This was too much. Judge Steele’s
fractious temper rebelled. “Now, look hyar,
Demeree, you’re diggin’ outside your claim;
git over thar and set down.”
Demeree obeyed reluctantly. Mullet was
excused.
Claybrook nodded at a deputy. “Call
Windell Grocer.”
Grocer was brought in and seated. He
was short, booted, and in need of a haircut.
His dark, middle-aged face was pitted with
smallpox scars.
“Your name?” asked Claybrook.
“Windell Grocer.”
“Sometimes called Potatoes Grocer?”
“Sometimes.”
“Gold-digger?”
“Yes.”
“Know defendant?”
“Yes.”
“Where were you last Saturday night
between nine o’clock and midnight?”
“In Cooksy Blair’s saloon.”
“Did you see defendant there?”
“Yes.”
“Did you see him in conversation with
anybody?”
Demeree got up. “Now, Your Honor, he
is getting ready to ask what somebody said,
and he knows before he does that he can’t do
it. I object to this line of questioning.”
“Your Honor, I intend to prove by this
witness that Forty-rod Furlong and two
others, namely, one Shug Sartin and one
Sharm Litus, otherwise known as Litus
Hitchus, agreed to act in concert—”
“Object,” Demeree shouted. “Mr.
Claybrook should remember that his
conspiracy count has been stricken.”
“Nothing has been said about a
conspiracy,” Claybrook fired back.
“If there is any better definition of
conspiracy than an agreement to act in
concert, I don’t know what it is,” returned
Demeree.
“I disclaim responsibility for Mr.
Demeree’s lack of knowledge,” said
Claybrook. “What is intended here is proof
of premeditation and a killing with malice
aforethought.”
“Yes,” Demeree insisted hotly, “he may
prove premeditation, if he can; but an
agreement to act in concert is a horse of
another color. I object to his attempt to prove
conspiracy.”
“Both of you lawyers set down,” Steele
ordered angrily. “If thar’s any excuse for
lawyers, I don’t know what it is.” When
Demeree and Claybrook had eased down, he
turned to Grocer. “Potatoes, what do you
know about this murder?”
“I know it was planned in Cooksy Blair’s
saloon, Judge.”
EMEREE started to get up, but changed
his mind.
“Proceed,” snapped Steele.
“Well, Judge, I was settin’ at a table,
with them schemers off to my left.”
“Now, Your Honor,” Demeree said
contritely, “there’s no difference between
D
WESTERN ACTION 6
schemers and conspirators. He can’t—”
“Sheriff,” Steele said coldly, “if Axeface Demeree interrupts again before he has
permission, throw him out. We’ve got a
murderer hyar to be tried and hung, and
thar’s been enough nonsense.” He returned
his attention to witness Grocer. “All right,
Potatoes, tell what you know.”
“As I was saying, Judge, I was settin’ at
a table, with them schemers off to my left.
That one called Litus Hitchus says to Shug
Sartin, he says—”
Demeree half-rose, but quickly got down
again.
“This Litus Hitchus says,” resumed
witness Grocer, “he says to Shug Sartin,
‘Shug,’ says he, ‘how would you like to have
them fifty double-eagles?’ And Sartin says,
‘Just what I was askin’ myself.’ And this
here Forty-rod, him there with Demeree, he
says, ‘I got a scheme, fellers. Want to hear
it?’ And they both say, ‘Shoot.’ ‘Well,’ says’
Forty-rod—”
A feminine sigh shuddered softly. Eyes
turned away from witness Grocer, and those
within range beheld a dazed and placid face,
filled with sweet sadness.
Judge Steele’s nostrils distended
themselves. “Proceed, Potatoes.”
Windell Grocer took up his story. “Like I
says, Judge, this Forty-rod Furlong had a
plan. And this is what he says. ‘You fellers,’
he says, ‘sneak out and hide in Goochy
Alley. Meantime I’ll get next to Saddler and
whisper a sweet tune in his ear. Maybe, first
thing you know, we’ll be dividin’ fifty
double-eagles between us three.’ Pretty soon
after that, Shug Sartin and Litus Hitchus
sneaked out. It wasn’t long after that till
Forty-rod was whispering something in
Saddler’s ear, like he said. Saddler’s eyes
popped wide, and a smile turned his lips up,
and out they went; Forty-rod Furlong and
Buck Saddler. That’s all I know, Judge.”
“You’re excused,” clipped Steele. “Next
witness.”
Claybrook responded sulkily, “Call
Combs Delay.”
Delay was a short gold-digger with
brown whiskers and a restless right eyebrow.
His heavy hair had a crooked left-side part.
“Your name?” said Claybrook.
Judge Steele leaned forward. “Hold on
thar, Claybrook. Ask him what he knows
about this murder.”
Claybrook nodded at Delay.
“Tell you how it was,” said Delay. “Last
Saturday night, when I’d had a dram or two
and was going home, right at a street lamp I
sees this here Furlong and Saddler turn aside
and go down Goochy Alley. I reckon a good
many gold-diggers knows what’s down that
way. It’s where Goldielocks Hanno keeps a
house of cuties and a man with money can
meet a lady. Well, it’s no affair of mine, so I
ambles along, turns right at next corner; and
when I’m a hundred yards or so down my
street I hears what sounds like a grunting,
slugging fight over in Goochy, with Saddler
calling for help. Saddler is no particular
friend of mine. Still, I figures somebody is
doing him dirt, so I heads in to lend a hand.
But when I gets there, nobody is around
except two dead men. Somebody comes out
of Hanno’s with a lamp, and there’s Saddler
with his head busted, and Sharm Litus with a
knife in his side.”
“Next witness!” snapped Judge Steele.
ELAY STEPPED down, and Claybrook
got up.
“Your Honor,” said Claybrook
cautiously, “people’s counsel has an
objection. Orderly justice—which, I believe
you will agree, was our original aim in
setting up a court of law—requires that
witnesses be examined and cross-examined
by counsel. In such a court, its judge is
expected to maintain a status of strict
neutrality. It is not that I am accusing Your
Honor of unfairness; yet, as people’s
counsel, I find it my duty to say that in
D
THE WALKING JURY 7
orderly procedure—”
“Claybrook,” Steele interrupted with a
contemptuous snarl, “you’ve said enough, by
thunder. You lawyers would make every
case a bone for a couple of yowling dogs to
fight over. Call your next witness.”
Demeree eased up halfway. “Your
Honor, may I say a word?”
“All right, Demeree.”
“By way of showing how right Mr.
Claybrook is, I wish to call attention to this
witness Combs Delay, variously known as
Wattles Delay, Don’t Delay, and Why
Delay. It is common knowledge that he
never stops his liquor with a dram or two,
but always gets whooping drunk; that when
he’s intoxicated, he not only sees double, but
as often sees treble; and that, drunk or sober,
there’s no bigger liar in Flat Creek than he
is. Defendant feels deeply aggrieved at not
being permitted to cross-examine witnesses,
which, as Mr. Claybrook has so learnedly
and honorably conceded, is a part of fair and
orderly justice.”
Judge Steele settled back in his chair,
outwardly calm but inwardly raging.
“Claybrook, call your next witness.”
“Call Shug Sartin,” said Claybrook, a
hint of elation in voice and attitude.
Sartin, wearing handcuffs, was brought
in and seated. He was slim, freckled, and
about twenty-one years old.
“Your name?” asked Claybrook.
“Wilbur Sartin.”
“Sometimes called Shug Sartin?”
“Yes.”
“Acquainted with defendant?”
“Yes.”
A sound of gentle weeping spread its
disturbing influence to witness, jurors and
spectators. Men heard an agonized whisper,
“Oh, my son. They are going to betray my
poor, innocent son.”
Judge Steele contained his wrath. There
had crept upon him a beguiling resolution to
become a mere spectator himself and leave
everything to Claybrook and Demeree. He
kept silent.
EMEREE arose cautiously. “Your
Honor, may I say a word?”
“Go right ahead, Demeree.”
“Defendant objects to this witness, Your
Honor.”
“On what ground?”
“On ground of infamy. He is a convicted
felon who has served time in a Missouri
prison for horse-stealing. An infamous
person is disqualified by his infamy to testify
in court.”
Claybrook was up, facing Judge Steele.
“If Your Honor please, what Mr. Demeree
says would be sound law, if true.”
Demeree’s long face stiffened. “Are you
insinuating, Mr. Claybrook?”
“I,” said Claybrook, “am charging
defense counsel with fabricating out of
whole cloth.”
“Your Honor,” said Demeree, “if you
will question witness Sartin, I am confident
his testimony will make Claybrook out as an
unconscionable liar.” Demeree paused, then
looked intently at Steele. “Would Your
Honor like to question witness Sartin?”
“If I wanted to question him, I would not
require your permission,” Steele replied
frigidly. “This court is committed to fair and
orderly justice; hence my position is that of
impartial and passive neutrality.”
“Then I suggest that Claybrook qualify
his witness,” said Demeree.
Claybrook hesitated, confused and
embarrassed. He stared through his
eyebrows at Sartin. “Have you ever been
convicted of horse-stealing?”
Sartin colored, replied shiftily, “Yes.”
“Then step down,” said Claybrook.
“Hold on thar,” ordered Steele, unable
longer to restrain his fury. “You lawyers set
down.” He waited until they were seated,
then glared at Sartin. “Tell what you know
about this murder.”
D
WESTERN ACTION 8
Sartin, dry-mouthed, began huskily,
“Well, it didn’t start out to be a murder.
We—that is, me and Litus and Furlong, was
going to entice old Saddler into Goochy
Alley and rob him. We got him down that
way, when Furlong told him a lady wanted
to see him in Hanno’s place. First thing I
knowed, Sharm Litus whams him with a slug
sock and knocks him down. That sort of
addles Saddler, but he gets up and puts a
knife between Sharm’s ribs. About then,
Furlong lays a bone-crusher across Saddler’s
head with a wagon coupling-pin. When I
saw it was turning into a murder, I lit out,
and what happened afterwards I don’t
know.”
There was a shuddering feminine sigh
again, but when jurors and Steele and others
looked, they saw not a face drawn with
agony, but one of beauty that had resigned
itself to an embrace of saintly martyrdom.
Demeree was up, waiting.
“All right, Demeree?”
“I’d like to cross-examine.”
“Your privilege, Demeree.”
Demeree did not venture to come around.
He said quietly, “Mr. Sartin, in return for
betrayal of your former friend and
companion, did Mr. Claybrook promise that
he would not have you indicted?”
After a shifty hesitation, Sartin nodded.
“Yes.”
Claybrook rose indignantly. “Now, Your
Honor, I did not make any such promise.”
“I suggest,” said Demeree “that if Mr.
Claybrook is determined to be a witness, he
have himself sworn by Mr. Skiffington.”
“Counsel’s word in court is admissible as
a matter of honor,” Claybrook retorted
angrily. “I did not promise this witness he
would not be indicted; I merely promised
that if he were indicted and prosecuted to
conviction, there would be a
recommendation of leniency.”
“In other words,” said Demeree, “Mr.
Claybrook supplied this witness with a
motive for lying; it looks more and more like
a frameup.”
Claybrook flushed. “If Mr. Demeree is
determined to be a witness—”
“Call next witness,” said Steele sharply.
“Be-consarned if this ain’t as sorry a trial as
I ever saw.”
Following examination of two other
witnesses, Claybrook looked at his watch. “It
is twelve o’clock, Your Honor.”
Steele nodded at Sheriff Buckalew.
“Recess court till after dinner.”
Bucky pounded with his forty-five.
“Court’s in recess till one-thirty.”
T ONE-THIRTY he pounded again.
“Court’s now in session.” Judge Steele
sat for a while, his savage eyes roving in
search of a familiar figure. At last those eyes
spotted what they sought. Steele beckoned
with his thumb, and a broad-shouldered sixfooter with black, close-cut mustache, dark,
fierce eyes and twin sixguns strode leisurely
forward and eased up beside Steele.
“What’s wrong, Wardlow?”
“Bill Hacker, this case will soon be ready
for a verdict, and unless something is done
pronto, thar’s going to be an acquittal. Do
you see that lady down thar?”
Hacker nodded. “What about her?”
“Bill, our jury won’t convict her boy;
that sorrowing, saintly look of hers has
already melted them jurors down, and I’m
beginning to feel like a brute myself.”
Hacker sank his voice to a whisper, and
Steele’s nostrils began to expand and his
face to flush with heat.
When Hacker had concluded, Steele
faced his beautiful, saintly auditor. “Lady,
kindly stand up.”
Her mouth opened in surprise.
Indignation spread over her once lovely face.
“Why, Judge! And before all these—these
ruffians!”
Every grizzled face within hearing
produced a smile. There were silent
A
THE WALKING JURY 9
chuckles.
“Lady,” said Steele, “if you are suffering
a disability, a couple of nice deputies will
gladly assist you.”
Buckalew nodded, and a couple of
deputies moved to either side of her.
She stood up without assistance. “This is
an outrage.”
“Lady,” said Steele, “you have been
making it appear that you are that varmint’s
mother. You are not his mother, are you?”
She looked for an avenue of escape.
None appeared. “No,” she said angrily.
“You used to travel with a show, didn’t
you?”
“Yes.”
“And your show-girl name is Jobina
Lynn.”
She nodded.
“And somebody hired you to come here
and pretend to be that Furlong skunk’s
mother. Right?”
She looked frightened, but nodded.
Bill Hacker tugged at Steele’s sleeve.
“Don’t ask who hired her, Wardlow; if it
turned out to be Demeree, we might have to
hang him.”
“Lady,” said Steele, “unless you’d like to
stick around and see how a monkey looks
when he’s hung, you may now be excused.”
She turned and swished down a narrow
aisle that closed behind her as she passed.
Before leaving entirely, she faced about and
gave Judge Steele an angry glare. Her
expression toward her recently-captive jurors
was a contemptuous leer.
“Next witness, Claybrook,” said Steele.
WO MORE witnesses were called, one
an undertaker who testified that
Saddler’s death was caused by a skullcrushing blow.
Demeree cross-examined, but did so
half-heartedly. After a verdict of guilty,
however, he rose with a show of outraged
sensibilities.
“Your Honor, a matter of utmost gravity
has come to my attention. While out to
lunch, that jury went on a sight-seeing
expedition, and they were not accompanied
either by me or by defendant. Their verdict is
void; therefore, and I move that it be so
declared and that defendant be discharged.”
Judge Steele’s blood pressure shot up.
“Demeree, what in tarnation are you talking
about?”
“I am saying they took a walk,” replied
Demeree.
“And what’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing, had they confined their
perambulations to a mere stroll. But they
went to Goochy Alley, took a look around
and asked questions of every Dick, Tom and
Harry who happened to stroll along with
them.”
“Who had this jury in charge?” Steele
demanded.
A huge deputy, almost seven feet tall and
weighing around two hundred fifty pounds,
stepped out. “I had ‘em in charge, Judge.”
“Dan Trewhitt, what did they do?”
“Like Mr. Demeree said, Judge, they
took a walk. One of them said he’d like to
see where that murder took place, and I said,
‘Shore, I can take you right to it’. And what
they saw was plenty, I can tell you that.
Ground tore up where they fought, and
where they died it looked like somebody
might’ve poured out a couple of buckets of
ox blood. They talked to some of them cuties
at Goldielocks Hanno’s, too—asked ‘em
questions about what they saw and heard.
One of ‘em said she was lookin’ out of an
upstairs window and saw Forty-rod wham
old Saddler with something heavy and hard.
Hit him from behind, she said, which
dropped him like a shot steer. They also
measured how far it was to that corner street
light and asked this person and that how far
its light would shine. They figured it would
shine as far down as Hanna’s, so a witness
upstairs could see who was who and what
T
WESTERN ACTION 10
was what, down below. But I shore didn’t
know there was anything wrong with a jury
takin’ a little stroll. I’m sorry, Judge. I could
crawl under a log, if there was one handy.”
“Now, Your Honor,” Demeree
continued, “in view of what Trewhitt has
reported, defendant is entitled to be
discharged. Any other course would be a
travesty upon justice.”
Steele started to get up. Hacker pulled
his sleeve. “Claybrook wants to say
something, Wardlow.”
Claybrook rose with dignity and in
magnanimous spirit. “Your Honor, this is a
most unfortunate turn of events. Of course,
Mr. Demeree is right. I can’t say that
defendant should be discharged, but he
certainly should have a new trial, and I so
move.”
Judge Steele eased up. “Claybrook, do
you mean to stand thar and say this
murderin’ skunk should be tried again, just
because these jurors got curious and wanted
to see some blood?”
“Yes, Your Honor. They not only saw
blood; they questioned unsworn witnesses,
in great prejudice of defendant’s rights.”
Demeree was still up. “Your Honor,
defendant should be discharged. Mr.
Claybrook has moved for a new trial, but a
second trial at his instance would be double
jeopardy. No recourse is left, but to
discharge defendant. Rightfully, he is now a
free man and should be so declared.”
“Hold it, Wardlow,” chided Hacker,
“you’re a fine judge; just what we need in
Flat Creek. Suppose you ask Demeree when
he learned about that jury-excursion. If he
knew about it prior to verdict, and played
shut-mouth, he must be deemed to have
waived his objection.”
Judge Steele saw a gleam of light. He
faced Demeree with rising exultation.
“Demeree, just when did you learn about this
jury picnic to Goochy Alley?”
“At lunch-time, Your Honor.”
“Why didn’t you say something about it
as soon as court took up again?”
“I did not then consider it advisable to do
so, Your Honor. A verdict of ‘not guilty’
seemed to me clearly indicated, and I did not
wish to alienate any juror’s feelings.
Accordingly—”
“Accordingly, you gambled, and your
luck turned sour. By taking a chance, you
tossed away what might have been a valid
objection; too bad, Demeree.” Steele
furrowed his brow at Sheriff Buckalew.
“Forty-rod is your meat, Bucky; swing him.”
A roaring exit set in, and after a few
minutes Steele and Bill Hacker were alone.
Hacker filled his pipe with tobacco crumbs
and fired up.
“Let’s go, Wardlow.”
Steele remained seated. “Bill, what are
we going to do about this man Demeree? Beconsarned if I don’t think he ought to be
hung.”
Hacker firmed his burning tobacco and
took a long draw. “No, Wardlow. Lawyers
don’t ordinarily get hung. Possibly from
excellent reason; a man never knows when
one might come in handy.”
Steele slid down. “I reckon you’re right,
Bill. But they sure ain’t handy around this
place.”

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