small town america

     Once everyone was settled in the courtroom that next morning, Bruce yielded to the prosecuting attorney for closing arguments.  He really just wanted to hear what Harris had to say so he could add to his closing argument if he needed to.  I felt that was very clever.  Well, Harris began by saying . . .

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury.  The defense wants you to believe that this is a simple case of mistaken identity.  Well, there is nothing simple when innocent people are forced on the floor at gunpoint and the hard earned dollars of law abiding citizens are stolen by harden criminals.  The only two witnesses for the defense are a colored coach who is protecting his own and an old lady who is senile and 95% blind.  For the prosecution, you have heard from those who were in the bank and have testified that the robbers were indeed the Sampson boys.  Mr. Grimes who gave these young men the benefit of the doubt because their father is a trustworthy worker.  Bubba, the security guard, experienced such shock that caused him to lose consciousness.  Ms. Lois, the bank teller testified as well.  These law abiding, hard working, honest citizens have stated on the holy bible that these two colored boys Chris and Torrence, are indeed the two that came into that bank and stole money from the hard working citizens of our close knit community.  Your pension.  Your social security.  Your life savings.  Gone.  Stolen by these two heartless criminals.  I implore you ladies and gentlemen of the jury to do what is right.  Find them guilty and sentence them so that they cannot steal from any of us again.  Thank you.”

     I sat there listening and praying that Bruce would be clear in what he was going to say to save those boys.  When Bruce stood up, I could tell that he was nervous.  He picks at this mustache when he is nervous.  As any wife would be, I was proud that he was trying to help this poor family.  I hoped that his closing argument would be enough to free them.

“Mr. Harris is absolutely right in that this is not a simple matter.  It is never a simple matter when life hangs in the balance.  Two young men who are considered guilty solely for the color of their skin.  It has been stated that no one saw the face of the robbers.  Seeing their skin color only proved that they were colored.  Their faces were never seen.  No one can prove that these two young men committed this crime.  Witnesses have stated that Chris and Torrence Sampson were across town at basketball practice.  Why has the integrity of these witnesses come into question?  Because one is colored and the other is old and partially blind.  Ladies and gentlemen of this jury.  No one can find these two young men guilty because nothing has been presented to prove that they are guilty.  There is simply not enough evidence therefore you must find them not guilty.  Thank you.”

     The judge charged the jury to carefully weigh the evidence and to realize that the fate of two young men lies in their hands. The judge then recessed for the jury to deliberate.  Robert and Lillie Sampson sat quietly holding each other in the courtroom.  I could not imagine going through such an ordeal.  To know that their sons could possibly be sentenced to life in prison simply for being colored.  There is no proof of their guilt.  I must admit that I was embarrassed that some members of my community could still be so ignorant.

     An hour passed and the jury reached a verdict.  I was a little worried because it seemed like they came to a decision rather quickly.  I felt that this was not a good sign.  Bruce looked at me and we both looked at Robert and Lillie.  I remember thinking this was the end.  The judge asked the jury for their verdict.

“Mr. Forman.  Has the jury reached a verdict?”

“Yes your Honor, we have.”

“What say you?”

“Your honor, we the jury find the accused . . . “

All of a sudden there was a great thud in the courtroom.  I turned to see Robert on the floor. Lillie was screaming hysterically.  Chris and Torrence were trying to reach their father but they could not due to the shackles on their hands and feet.

“Bailiff, get the doctor.  Order! Order in this courtroom.  Order I say. Someone remove that man from the courtroom so we can proceed.”

Some colored men who were standing around in the lobby were allowed inside to carry Robert out.  Lillie stayed for the verdict.  She knew that the judge would not stop anything for a colored.  I saw her sit forward when the foreman began to speak.

“What is your verdict Foreman?”

“Your honor, we find these two boys not guilty.”

A loud roar went up in the balcony, which is where all of the colored folks in attendance sat.  Grumbles of discontent permeated around me in the main area of the court.

“Thank you for your service ladies and gentleman of the jury.  You may leave.  No one is to leave out of this courtroom until the jury has left.  Am I clear?  If I so much as hear that anyone on that jury was threatened, I will take it as a personal threat on my life.  You know who I am talking to.  Case dismissed.”

The judge slammed the gavel with such force that the handle broke.  I walked over to Lillie.  She looked exhausted.  Holding my hand, she rose immediately and led me to where Robert now rested.  The doctor did not look very optimistic.

“Mrs. Sampson, Robert needs to go home.  There is nothing that can be done.  He has had a heart attack.  I don’t expect him to be with us long.  Get your boys and go home.  I am terribly sorry.”

I expected Lillie to cry, scream, or faint but she didn’t do any of those things.  She released my hand and moved toward her husband who was lying on the bench.


I turned to see Chris and Torrence running toward their mother.

“We need to go home sons.  Your father is tired and he needs to rest.  Let’s get him home.  Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Whitville for all that you have done for us.  My husband has to rest now.”

The men that brought him out of the courtroom took him out of the side door with Lillie, Chris, and Torrence following.

Robert died two days later.  Lillie and her sons moved to California.  I am sad about Robert.  Horrible way to become a widow.  I  have not heard anything from Lillie.   I take pride though in the fact that my husband was able save her sons from a life in prison.  At least she has her sons.

Author’s Note: FINISHED!  Man this took longer than I planned.  I hope the boss will be content with this.  Maybe I need to submit this for a screenplay.  Time for bed.

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