The Last Juror

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The Last Juror

Author: John Grisham

Title: The Last Juror

Chapters 1-12The book starts off with the protagonist’s, Joyner William Traynor(Willie) newspaper company going bankrupt. He had grown up in Memphis, studied journalism at Syracuse and just recently dropped out. He had dreamed of traveling the world as a reporter, until a college buddy told him how much money could be made by owning a small town newspaper. After the times went broke Willie saw his break and took a loan out from his grandma to buy the paper. He was still deciding what to call the paper when Rhoda Kassellaw was brutally raped and murdered. Rhoda was a young widow who had been left with two young kids. She kept mainly to herself, but after years of being a widow, she grew lonely. The night of the murder she was doing her usual routine, when a man who had been hidden in her room attacked her. The noise of the attacking awoke her children. She then gave them instructions to go to their neighbors house and get help. Rhonda's neighbor, Mr. Deece, laid Rhoda down on the front porch swing and called the police and ambulance. The children were then taken in by their Aunt. Willie felt this story could be the papers big break. Willie and his men had noticed Danny Padgitt being fingerprinted. Willie got some good shot of Padgitt being taken out of the police car. The next edition of Willie's paper led with the story of the Rhoda's rape and murder. It included pictures of Rhoda, as well as photos of Padgitt in handcuffs with blood all over him. Using primarily unnamed sources, Willie recounted the entire story of how the crime happened. He included pictures of the crime scene and Rhoda's house. He had no idea the backlash would be so strong and quick. Lucien Wilbanks, the defense lawyer, walked over and began yelling and waving a copy of the Times. He accused Willie of sensationalism and yellow journalism and threatened to file suit against him. Willie returned to his office and discussed the hearing with a member of his staff, Baggy. Baggy assured Willie that they would not get sued. Willie decided to follow that lead and confirmed its truth with the Sheriff. In the paper's next edition, he ran a story about the bail hearing and the good life Danny was leading in prison. His article spurred an outcry from the community on the soft treatment. At the office later that day a staff member named Piston discovered a bomb sitting on a pile of papers. The police came and evacuated the entire area around the building. Afterward, Willie found Baggy at the courthouse in the Bar Room, where he frequently drank with the town's lawyers. Baggy said that the Padgitts had planted the bomb to intimidate the newspaper and the town. He was surprised the bomb didn’t go off. That night Wiley Meek, the photographer, was beaten almost to death. This frightened Willie, but he decided to keep going. He continued reporting the story. Willie continued to run hard news stories and pictures on the front page of the paper. The next big one was the story of the bomb in the Times office, complete with photos, and a story about Wiley getting beat up by thugs. The defense lawyer for Danny Padgitt filed a motion for change of venue. On the day of the hearing, Willie was in the courtroom, early as usual. The court listened to the testimony of a resident of a nearby town who knew about the murder and already had an opinion about it. Then, to Willie's surprise, the defense called Willie to the stand. He answered questions about the stories he ran on the Kassellaw murder, who his sources were, and why he presented the stories the way he did. After he was dismissed from the stand, Willie returned to his seat, humiliated. Danny Padgitt's defense team ended up withdrawing their motion for change of venue. Baggy said it was because they knew Padgitt was guilty, and the family would find it easier to buy a jury in Ford County than anywhere else. Willie received a letter applauding his courage.

Chapters 13-24The District Attorney in the Kassellaw murder case, Ernie Gaddis, requested that the court enlarge the jury pool. Rumor has it that he made this request so that it would be harder for the Padgitts to taint the jury. Jury selection for murder trial began. Willie and many of the townspeople have crowded into the courtroom to watch. Willie and Baggy had front row seats. The potential jurors were led into the courtroom. The District Attorney, in his statement, reminded the courtroom that jury tampering is a crime. The prevailing opinion was that the defense would not challenge Callie's appointment to the jury, because it was assumed that blacks were more sympathetic to accused criminals.This opinion was correct, and Callie was chosen as the last juror. On Tuesday morning, the trial began. The District Attorney presented his opening statements. The defense attorney unexpectedly deferred his opening remarks. The first witness was Sheriff Coley. He was on the Padgitt payroll, but was also up for re-election. He described the crime scene and showed photos of Rhoda's corpse. The next day, the prosecution presented the bloody white shirt that Danny was wearing when he was arrested. However, the investigator that presented the testimony was known to be incompetent and was hammered by the defense.Then the defense began their presentation, saying what a wonderful man Danny Padgitt was. They claimed that he had an airtight alibi. Their first witness was Lydia Vince, who said she was having an affair with Mr. Padgitt behind her husband's back. Baggy and Willie knew she was lying. On cross-examination, the prosecution showed how doubtful her story was, but Willie feared the jury was buying it. After Lydia Vince's testimony, the District Attorney Gaddis and Henry Rex met to lament over her story. They were convinced she was lying and set out to prove it. They knew that Vince's testimony could easily lead to a hung jury, and then Padgitt would go free. They found Mr. Vince, Lydia's estranged husband, and had him subpoenaed to appear in court the next morning. He testified that she had no job, was buying lots of new stuff, and he couldn't understand how she was paying her rent. He also told the court that the reason they were divorcing was that Lydia was a lesbian. At the end of the day, the jury was given instructions and released to the jury room to deliberate. Willie returned to his office to wait, and Ginger accompanied him. They sat out on the patio and talked. The verdict was returned in less than an hour, and everyone returned to the courtroom. The judge announced that Danny Padgitt had been found guilty on all counts. The court recessed, and the jurors were told to return the next morning to decide whether Danny would get life in prison or the death penalty. At the end of the day, the jury was given instructions and released to the jury room to deliberate. Willie returned to his office to wait, and Ginger accompanied him. They sat out on the patio and talked. The verdict was returned in less than an hour, and everyone returned to the courtroom. The judge announced that Danny Padgitt had been found guilty on all counts. The court recessed, and the jurors were told to return the next morning to decide whether Danny would get life in prison or the death penalty. On the Saturday following the trial, Willie found seven letters slipped under his office door. They were all letters to the editor about the trial. All were outraged that Danny did not receive the death penalty. Six of them blamed Callie's presence on the jury . Willie decided not to print any of the letters that would harm Calia. He went to visit the Ruffins and talked to Callie briefly. She said the verdict was not what she wanted. That's all she would say for many years. During the following days, the town stewed over the verdict. Mr. Caudle, the original owner of the Times passed away, and Willie felt bad that he had not spoken to Mr. Caudle since he purchased the paper. Malcolm Vince, who testified in the Padgitt trial and ruined Padgitt's alibi, is murdered in a nearby county. Willie is not sure whether to run a story about this murder, because he doesn't want to allow the Padgitts to further terrorize Ford County. He runs the story on page three. The Sheriff said that it was a clean hit, with no clues left behind. He also remarked that he was thankful that he did not serve on the Padgitt trial jury. His comments upset Willie. Willie continued to inquire into the investigation of Malcolm Vince's murder. Not surprisingly, there was nothing new. He and the Tishomingo County Sheriff laughed at how corrupt Sheriff Coley in Ford County had become thanks to the Padgitts.

Sean Strohmayer's Glogster Report

" judge not that ye not be judged"(Grisham 23)

"There was a widely held but unprofessed belief in Mississippi that a good Sheriff must be a little crooked to ensure law and order"(Grisham 33).

"I wanted to save the world by uncovering corruption and environmental abuse and government waste and the injustice suffered by the weak and oppressed." (Grisham 8).

Chapters 25-36One cold day, while Willie was working in his office, he heard gunshots. A bullet came through the window near him. He hit the floor as shots continued. The shots seemed random and not close by. Willie scrambled to find his own gun, but then remembered it was probably in his car or apartment. He remembered one of the guys on his staff, Bigmouth Bass, had an arsenal of guns in his office, so Willie wasn't worried. He stayed put. Then he crawled out onto the patio and behind a rocking chair, so he could see what was going on. A sniper was shooting randomly from the top of the courthouse. Wiley crawled out onto the patio with Willie and began taking pictures of the gunman. When the police began shooting back, the sniper fled. The sniper was Hank Hooten, a local lawyer. Willie attended the Clanton Fourth of July festivities, which were mostly a series of political rallies for area politicians. After the Kassellaw murder and sniper rampage, crime was a big issue. It was the summer of 1971, but there was no talk of Vietnam. Ford County learned that one of its sons had been killed in Vietnam. Willie was furious at the waste of this young man's life. He walked the streets of Clanton, fuming, until he remembered that he was the editor of a newspaper who could voice his opinions. He was ashamed that up until that point he'd been so silent on the subject of the war. Willie ran his first editorial on the war on the front page, below the fold under a large picture of Pete, the fallen soldier. On graduation day that year, a bunch of teenagers were arrested with marijuana in their possession. The town was aghast that its children were involved with drugs. The cops treated them harshly, charging them with every crime possible. Since the cops were now on high alert for drugs, Willie's pot-smoking poker friends had to move their gatherings further out into the woods. That week at poker, talk was of town gossip, rather than the bombings of Hanoi. That week, Willie ran the story that the State Supreme Court upheld Danny Padgitt's conviction. He hoped never to hear Padgitt's name again. After five years of renovation work, Willie's house was complete. He was financially broke from the whole affair, but happy with the results. He decided to have a party to show off the new house. He invited three hundred people to his party. That many and more showed up. All of his friends, including Harry Rex, Bubba Crockett, and Mr. Mitlo, along with his grandma BeeBee and her friends, attended. It was called the best party Clanton had seen in twenty years. Willie became less concerned with the Padgitt's death threats as the family became more isolated and got involved in some legitimate enterprises. One midnight in 1978, Willie received a call from a fellow reporter in Memphis who asked if he was covering the Danny Padgitt parole hearing. Willie had no idea the hearing was scheduled. Apparently, Padgitt's two consecutive life sentences had been changed to concurrent, and he was now eligible for parole. Willie attended the hearing. When he arrived, the chairman of the Parole Board asked him what he was doing there. Willie argued with the Board for his right to be there. They finally compromised, and he was able to stay as a witness for the "other side," but not to report on the proceedings. As the only witness, Willie had the opportunity to argue against parole being granted. At the conclusion of the proceedings, the Board voted against release and Danny went back to prison. Willie prints the story of the Padgitt parole hearing on the front page of the newspaper and sends it to all the officials present at the hearing. In return, he received a threatening letter from the attorney for the Parole Board. Harry Rex assured Willie that the Parole Board attorney couldn't touch him. Willie was still attending churches for his newspaper series. After church one Sunday, he spotted a young man from the Padgitt jury. They talked for a while; he was very concerned about whether Padgitt would be released. One day in March of 1979, the representative of a larger publisher visited Willie. They wanted to buy his paper. After checking him out, Willie opened his financial books. His paper was valued at $1.2 million. Willie couldn't believe it.

Chapters 37-44Another year passed and Danny Padgitt was up for parole again. Willie has been banned from the proceedings, but planned to attend anyway. He wanted to take with him a mob of people that would be opposed to Danny's parole, but he found that the town feared trouble with the Padgitts. Danny's parole was approved. The town was disappointed, but not outraged. Almost a decade had passed, and the townspeople's anger had mellowed, if not disappeared. Not long after Danny's release, Baggy tells Willie that Padgitt's release was bought from State Senator Theo Morton. Willie was shocked. Lenny Fargarson, the young man from the Kassellaw murder trial jury, is shot while sitting in his wheelchair on his porch reading. Everyone blames Danny Padgitt, since he promised revenge on all the jurors. While working on a tractor, Mo Teale is shot dead by a rifle. The shell found by the police matches the one found at the scene of Lenny's murder, but no other clues were found. After doing all he could at the murder scene, Willie returned to his office to write the story. The story of the murdered jurors attracted the attention of the Memphis and Jackson newspapers, and they sent reporters to Clanton. As Willie sat and talked with them, he thought how strange it was that they were working for big papers, making about $40,000 a year, while he worked for a small paper and could walk away with a million dollars. Willie was summoned to Miss Callie's house. She told him that the two murdered jurors have something in common; they voted against the death penalty. The third juror who voted against the death penalty was Maxine Root. Willie found Harry Rex and discussed the new information with him. He also talked to the Sheriff about whether this was a pattern or a coincidence. Lucien Wilbanks requested a meeting with the Sheriff through Harry Rex. He also requested that Willie not be a part of the meeting. Wilbanks told the Sheriff that Danny was not responsible for the killings, that he had alibis, and multiple people would vouch for Danny's whereabouts at the time of each of the killings. The Sheriff was skeptical and warned Wilbanks that if another person got shot, the entire town would explode in violence toward the Padgitts. The town almost erupted when two teenagers set off a bunch of fireworks on the front porch of one of the juror's homes. As Willie continued to consider selling the newspaper, he thought back over the last nine years and realized that he had not left for more than four days. He believed the paper's success was due to the fact that he wrote a great deal about a town in which not much happened. He had also written human interest stories and the series on the churches. Now he was tired of writing and tired of Clanton. He didn't appreciate the way the town was changing and developing. He thought the town was most likely tired of him, too. He had begun spending more and more time writing editorials, arguing his causes. He promised to make his decision in twenty-three days. On June 25, 1979, Willie sold the Times and left the lawyer's office with a check for $1.5 million. He felt sad as he thought about all he was giving up. He and the paper had grown up together. He had transformed the paper into a wildly prosperous business. He returned to the office and told his staff the news. Then he and Harry Rex celebrated over margaritas. One night, while having dinner, Willie and his guests heard sirens. Maxine Root had received an unexpected package. After deliberating whether to open it, the trooper that was stationed to watch her decided to shoot it. The huge explosion blew shrapnel everywhere and injured Maxine. First thing the next morning was Danny's bail hearing. In a scene reminiscent of nine years ago, Danny appeared before the court. Miss Callie insisted on being at the hearing. Willie found himself surprisingly detached from the whole scene. As soon as the judge began to speak, two shots rang out. Everyone in the courtroom got on the floor. Danny Padgitt had been shot twice, once in the head, once in the chest. He was dead. After a couple of minutes, the shooting continued outside. All of the windows in Lucien Wilbanks' office were shot out. Then the sniper turned the gun on himself. When the police were able to access the cupola of the courthouse, they found Hank Hooten, naked again and this time dead. Willie left town to visit the mental hospital that was supposed to be treating Hank. Willie arrived at the hospital to find that Miss Callie had a stroke and mild heart attack. After a long night at the hospital, Willie and much of the family returned to his home. He was glad to have others in the house with him. The next day, as Willie packed up his office, he got a call to come back to the hospital. Callie was awake and accepting visitors. Willie rushed to her bedside. He wanted to tell her he'd sold the paper, but she was too weak to communicate. The bedside vigil continued for several days. Then Callie had a massive heart attack. When the family was summoned for their final moments with her, Willie was ushered in as part of her family. When Calia passed away, Willie was devastated.


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