The latest legal book I’m reading…

Just finished the new John Grisham book at about 4 AM Sunday morning.  Like all of his books, it’s a fun, easy read, but I particularly enjoyed the opening paragraphs where he does a great job of capturing those final moments before the verdict is rendered:

The jury was ready.  After forty-two hours of deliberations that followed seventy-one days of trial that included 530 hours of testimony from four dozen witnesses, and after a lifetime of sitting silently as the lawyers haggled and the judge lectured and the spectators watched like hawks for telltale signs, the jury was ready.  Locked away in the jury room, secluded and secure, ten of them proudly signed their names to the verdict while the other two pouted in their corners, detached and miserable in their dissension.  There were hugs and smiles and no small measure of self-congratulation because they had survived this little war and could now march proudly back into the arena with a decision they had rescued through sheer determination and the dogged pursuit of compromise.  Their ordeal was over; their civic duty complete.  They had served above and beyond. They were ready.

The foreman knocked on the door and rustled Uncle Joe from his slumbers. Uncle Joe, the ancient bailiff, had guarded them while he also arranged their meals, heard their complaints, and quietly slipped their messages to the judge. In his younger years, back when his hearing was better, Uncle Joe was rumored to also eavesdrop on his juries through a flimsy pine door he and he alone had selected and installed. But his listening days were over, and, as he had confided to no one but his wife, after the ordeal of this particular trial he might just hang up his old pistol once and for all. The strain of controlling justice was wearing him down.

He smiled and said, “That’s great. I’ll get the judge,” as if the judge were somewhere in the bowels of the courthouse just waiting for a call from Uncle Joe. Instead, by custom, he found a clerk and passed along the wonderful news. It was truly exciting. The old courthouse had never seen a trial so large and so long. To end it with no decision at all would have been a shame.

The clerk tapped lightly on the judge’s door, then took a step inside and proudly announced, “We have a verdict,” as if she had personally labored through the negotiations and now was presenting the result as a gift.

The judge closed his eyes and let loose a deep, satisfying sigh. He smiled a happy, nervous smile of enormous relief, almost disbelief, and finally said, “Round up the lawyers.”

If you’ve got a couple of spare hours, I’d definitely recommend picking up a copy: The Appeal by John Grisham.

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