When Bruce and I arrived at the Sampson home the next morning, Robert and Lillie were sitting on the porch with their minister, Reverend Pickard. Robert stood and gave me his seat. He is such a thoughtful boy. Bruce, who is an attorney, told them what he knew. Before leaving our home, Bruce received a call from Jimmy Buck. He is one of the deputies and one of Bruce’s friends. Bruce began.
“Larry reported that Chris and Torrence robbed the bank.”
Lillie began to cry and Robert insisted that Larry had to be mistaken.
“Chris and Torrence have basketball practice at Carver Central High after school. Carver is no where near the bank.”
Robert asked Bruce if he would help them with this case and we agreed.
Chris and Torrence spent two days in jail before bail could be posted. I believe that the only reason why bond was even set is because Lillie and Robert are decent colored folks who are making positive contributions to the community. The case went immediately to trial, which is the usual process for colored cases. The court room was filled to capacity. It seemed like a scene out of the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Bruce was “Atticus.” The judge spoke.
“How do these boys plead? Guilty?”
Bruce emphatically, yet respectfully replied.
“No, your Honor. We believe that this is a case of mistaken identity. These young men were at Carver High School at the time of the robbery. We believe that Larry saw two colored boys running out of the bank. We do not believe that those boys were Chris and Torrence.”
Earl Harris, the prosecuting attorney, basically said that Larry, ‘who is an upstanding white citizen in the community’, stated he saw these two colored boys running out of the bank after it had been robbed and that there were witnesses present that would agree with his testimony. Attorney Harris also said that he believed that this was an open and shut case.
After the opening arguments, Earl Harris, called Larry to the stand and Larry gave his testimony about seeing the boys running out of the bank. Bruce cross examined Larry. He asked Larry if he saw the two colored boys faces. Larry said he did not see their faces but they looked like Robert Sampson’s sons from the back. Attorney Harris called Bubba, the bank security guard, to the stand. Bubba testified that the two colored boys accused looked like the two that robbed the bank. Bruce then asked him how did he come to be unconscious. Bubba reluctantly responded.
Bubba merely fainted from fear. Low murmuring began in the courtroom and Harris made an objection. The judge overruled the objection because everybody knows that Bubba faints when he is afraid. I still don’t see why he chose a job that requires bravery. Anyway, Harris then called Lois, the bank teller, to the stand. Lois testified that she was not sure that the robbers were Chris and Torrence. She was certain that the robbers were colored because she saw their hands. Lois stated that she was too terrified to look in their faces. We could see that Harris was not happy with her testimony. Bruce declined to cross examine Lois. Attorney Harris rested for the prosecution. Bruce began his defense. His first witness was Levi Cuch, the coach of the Carver High basketball team.
To be continued.