Read The Shining Badge Online

Authors: Gilbert Morris

The Shining Badge (10 page)

Lewis turned and shook his head. “Things like this always come up, but you’ve done the right thing, Jenny. Are you nervous?”

“Yes, I am a little.”

“Don’t be. It’ll come out all right.”

Jenny wished she could take her father’s advice, but all
through the preliminaries she sat there tensely, often pulling out her handkerchief and mopping her face with it.

Finally the judge, a big man with a bulldog look named O. C. Pender, got the trial under way, and the prosecution at once began. Alex DeRosa was a small wiry man with black hair and pale gray eyes. He was meticulously dressed, and his voice carried clearly throughout the courtroom. “This trial will not take long, Your Honor.”

Pender stared at him and said, “That depends on more than you can control, Mr. DeRosa.”

DeRosa laughed and nodded. “I stand corrected, Your Honor, but the prosecutions case will not take long. I have only two witnesses. I call Deputy Arlie Pender to the stand.”

Pender, wearing his uniform, swaggered to the stand. He took the oath, and DeRosa said, “Deputy, you were on duty on May the twentieth, I believe?”

“Yes, sir, that’s right. Me and Deputy Arp was workin’ together.”

“And on that day you had occasion to stop at the Valentine house?”

“Yes, we did.”

“Why did you stop there?”

“We had evidence that Noah Valentine had robbed a store, and—”

“Objection! Calling for a conclusion!”

“Objection sustained.”

“Very well, Your Honor, but you did find the suspect at home?”

“Yes, we did.”

“Tell us in your own words, Deputy, what happened.”

“He come out of the house,” Pender said, obviously enjoying his moment in the spotlight, “and we began to question him. He looked guilty—”

“Objection!”

“Objection sustained. The witness will not draw conclusions.”

“I’m sorry, Your Honor. Continue, Deputy.”

“Well, there wasn’t much to it. We started askin’ him questions just as easy as I’m talkin’ now, but all of a sudden he got mad, and he took a swing at me.”

“Let me get this clear. He struck at you first?”

“He sure did!”

“And what did you do?”

“Well, I had my night stick in my hand, so I hit him with it.”

“And then what happened?”

“Well, he jumped on both of us, and me and Merle didn’t have no chance at all, so we had to subdue him.”

“But he did strike the first blow?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I have no more questions,” DeRosa said. “Your witness, Counselor.”

Luke Dixon rose to his feet and ambled over to where the deputy watched him cautiously. “You say my client struck you first?”

“That’s right. He did,” Pender said aggressively.

“Where did he hit you?”

“Right in the face.”

“How much do you weigh, Deputy?”

Pender stared at him, and DeRosa at once said, “I object, Your Honor. That has no bearing.”

“I think I can show that it does.”

“Objection overruled, but be careful with this, Mr. Dixon.”

“Of course, Your Honor. How much do you weigh?”

“About a hundred and forty.”

Luke turned and looked at Noah. “My client there weighs two hundred and sixty pounds and is very strong. I assume when he hit you in the face, he broke your nose?”

“Well, no, he didn’t.”

“But surely he loosened your teeth.”

“No, he didn’t.”

“You mean to tell me that a man that big and strong hit you with his fist and left no mark at all?”

Pender glared at Dixon. “That’s right,” he said defiantly.

“No further questions. I think the jury can draw the conclusions necessary.”

Lewis leaned over and whispered to Jenny, “That’s one smart boyfriend you got there.”

“Do you think the jury can see that the deputy was lying?” Jenny whispered back.

“I could see it. Surely they’re as smart as I am.”

Lewis and Jenny turned their attention back to the next witness approaching the stand—Deputy Merle Arp. He looked big and bulky as he moved across the room. He sat down and gave substantially the same testimony as his fellow deputy. When DeRosa turned the witness over to the defense, Luke sat where he was for a moment, letting the silence run on. Finally Judge Pender said, “Do you intend to question this witness, Mr. Dixon?”

“Yes, sir, I do.” Getting to his feet, Luke came to take his position directly in front of Arp. “Deputy Arp, did you ever have any trouble with the defendant prior to May the twentieth?”

“Objection, that has no bearing!”

“I will allow it, Mr. DeRosa. Where are you going with this, Mr. Dixon?”

“Both deputies had preconceived prejudice against my client.”

“Do it then and be quick about it.”

“Had you had trouble with my client before?”

“I guess so.”

“You guess so! You have so much trouble with people you can’t remember for sure!” Dixon grew sharp, and Arp began to squirm in the chair. “Did you ever have any physical contact? Was there a time when you two came to blows?”

“I guess so. Once.”

“Would you care to tell us about that?”

“He jumped on me when I wasn’t lookin’.”

“Why would he do that, Deputy?”

“I don’t know.”

Dixon suddenly said sharply, “It was because you had been payin’ attention to his sister! Is that true?”

“Me after a nigger girl? I reckon not!”

“You deny, then, trying to force yourself on Emma Valentine.”

“I wasn’t doin’ nothin’ to her. Just talkin’.”

DeRosa began to object, and Dixon at once said, “No more questions for this witness, but I reserve the right to recall him. One more question. Are you aware of the penalty for perjury, Deputy?”

“Objection!” DeRosa shouted. “He’s badgering the witness!”

“No more questions, Your Honor,” Dixon said.

That concluded the prosecution’s case, and immediately, as soon as the judge instructed Dixon to begin the defense, Dixon called three witnesses, all white, who had witnessed the trouble between Noah Valentine and Deputy Merle Arp. They all testified to the same thing, that Arp had put his hands on Emma, and she had protested, whereupon Noah had come and grabbed the deputy and ejected him from the restaurant where the incident had taken place.

During all this testimony, DeRosa protested and objected constantly, but Jenny could see that the jury was looking at Arp with rather sharp eyes. She knew that if anything would sway a jury, it was for a white man to pay attention to a black woman.

“I call Miss Jennifer Winslow to the stand.”

Jenny took a deep breath and got up. She felt all eyes upon her as she took the oath and then sat down. “Your name is Jennifer Winslow?”

“Yes, sir, it is.”

“And on May the twentieth you were at the home of my client?”

“Yes, sir, I was.”

“What were you doing there?”

Jenny related how her truck had overheated, and she had driven it around to the back, where Noah Valentine had helped her fill the radiator with water.

Under careful questioning from Dixon, she related that Noah had gone to the front of the house and that when she had later filled the truck and had gone to thank him, she had seen Noah Valentine in between two officers.

“The two officers that have just testified, Deputy Arp and Deputy Pender?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You’ve heard the testimony of these two officers. Would you tell us what you saw.”

“I saw it all very clearly.” Jenny lifted her head, and her voice resounded throughout the courtroom. “They were cursing him and accusing him of robbing a store, and he kept saying that he didn’t do it. Then suddenly that one there, the little one, just raised his stick and hit him on the head.”

“Just a moment. You’ve heard the testimony of Deputy Arlie Pender that Noah Valentine struck the first blow. That was not what happened?”

“It was not! Noah was just standing there, and that little man raised his club and hit him. It knocked him to his knees.”

“And what did the other man do?”

“He began hitting him with his club too.”

“And what did you do?”

“I ran out there and told them to stop.”

“And what did they say?”

“They laughed at me and made fun of me, but I told them that I would testify in court that they struck the first blow. And they did!” Jenny stared at the two deputies. “Noah never raised his hands. He never hit anyone. He just put his hands over his head while they were beating him.” She heard a buzz go through the courtroom, and then she heard Dixon say, “Thank you, Miss Winslow. Your witness, Mr. DeRosa.”

DeRosa got up from his seat and came to stand directly
in front of Jenny. “Now, Miss Winslow, you must be very careful here.”

“I am very careful.”

“Is your eyesight good?”

Jenny looked at DeRosa, who seemed to be making fun of her. She pointed at a bulletin just inside the front door of the courtroom. “I can read the print on that bulletin.” She read out the first line and said, “Can you read it, Mr. DeRosa?”

DeRosa grew angry. “I will ask the questions here! Your Honor, will you please instruct the witness that all she needs to do is answer the questions.”

“Yes, I will instruct her. And I will instruct you. Get on with your cross-examination.”

“Are you a native of this county?”

“I’m a resident, yes.”

“But this is not your home.”

“Objection!” Dixon said. “Miss Winslow’s residence is not in question here.”

“Sustained.”

“Your Honor,” DeRosa said quickly, “I intend to show that this lady does not understand the way we live in this part of the world.”

There was some argument between the two attorneys, but finally Judge Pender said, “You’d better get on with this, Mr. DeRosa, and you’d better be going somewhere with it.”

“You’re from New York, aren’t you?”

“Yes, sir, I am.” DeRosa made a long speech then, indicating that people from the North could not possibly understand southern problems and finally turned to Jenny, saying, “You will agree that things are different in New York and Georgia.”

“Some things are different, but I don’t think the law is different in the North and the South—or it shouldn’t be.”

“My point is that people from the North have a different mind-set. They can’t understand the problems of the South. Your people probably were in the Union Army.”

“My people fought for the Confederacy! My grandfather
and his brothers served under General Robert E. Lee. They all stacked their muskets at Appomattox. My grandmother was a spy for the Confederacy. We only moved to New York in recent years. Until then almost all the Winslows came from Virginia.”

Lewis was chuckling to himself, admiring his daughter and thinking,
I hope he keeps at her. The more he tries to get her, the more the jury goes against him.

DeRosa began to talk about the difficulty of law enforcement, and finally he turned to Jenny and said, “The sheriff of this county has a hard job.”

Jenny was angry at the man and spoke before she thought. “I could be a better sheriff than the man who wears that badge! He’s tarnished it, Mr. DeRosa.”

“Your Honor, I ask for a mistrial. This witness—”

“Objection overruled.”

DeRosa wiped his forehead, then said, “I beg for a recess, Your Honor.”

“Very well. We’ll take a thirty-minute recess.”

Dixon nodded to Jenny, motioning to her, and she came to accompany him and Noah to the back of the courthouse, where they found themselves in a room with a long table and chairs surrounding it.

“How are we doing, Luke?”

Luke looked at her, then turned his eyes on Noah. “Well, we’ve got twelve southern white men on the jury, and this is the South. Plus, the defendant is black. No matter what the facts are, there’s always danger.” He started to say more, but suddenly the door opened, and the district attorney came in. “Luke, I need to talk to you.”

“Talk away, Alex.”

“Not here. Alone.”

“You can say anything before my friends that you could say alone.”

DeRosa hesitated and ran his hand over his hair. A worried
light clouded his eyes, and he said, “This thing’s gettin’ out of hand.”

“Are you ready to dismiss charges?”

DeRosa said, “We’ll change the charge to resisting arrest.”

Instantly Luke said, “All right, but there’ll be no jail time. Probation—and there’ll be no fine.”

Alex DeRosa stared at Dixon, then smiled. “You win this time, but no perjury charges against the deputies.”

“All right.”

DeRosa left the room, and Jenny turned to Luke angrily. “That wasn’t right!”

“It’s better than getting five to ten years in the penitentiary, Jenny. We win.”

“What does it mean, Mr. Dixon?” Noah asked.

“There’ll be a lot of talk about it. You’ll be under probation, and that means you’ll have to report to somebody that the judge appoints once a week or something like that. But you won’t go to jail.”

“That sounds good to me. Thank you so much, both of you.”

The three went outside, and Jenny took her seat next to her father. She did not have time to explain what had happened, for the judge came back at once. He had evidently had a meeting with the district attorney, for he said, “The district attorney has recommended that all charges be dropped except resisting arrest. Will the defendant rise.”

Noah got to his feet, towering over Luke, and the judge said, “I sentence you to six months’ probation. You will report to Chief of Police Thomas Matson. You understand, Noah?”

“Yes, sir, I do.”

“Case dismissed!” the judge said and banged his gavel on the table.

Before Jenny could move, a bulky man wearing a white shirt and a rather frayed black tie came to her. “I’m Raymond Dent, editor of
The Record.

“I’m glad to know you, Mr. Dent.”

Dent nodded with admiration. “You did fine and so did Luke Dixon. It gives me hope that there could be somethin’ better than what we’ve got in the way of law around here.” He cocked his head to one side and said, “You mean what you said about being a better sheriff than Max Conroy?”

“I was angry.”

“I think you could beat him in the election.”

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