Chapter Fourteen

Because of Jerry's fondness for beer and gambling and football and rowdiness in general, Nicholas suggested they meet at a casino Monday night to celebrate their last few hours of freedom. Jerry thought it was a wonderful idea. As the two left the courthouse, they toyed with the idea of inviting a few of their colleagues. The idea sounded good, but it didn't work. Herman was out of the question. Lonnie Shaver left hurriedly, quite agitated and not speaking to anyone. Savelle was new and unknown, and apparently the kind of guy you'd keep at a distance. That left Herrera, Nap the Colonel, and they simply weren't up to it. They were about to spend two weeks locked up with him.

Jerry invited Sylvia Taylor-Tatum, the Poodle. The two were becoming friends of a sort. She was divorced for the second time, and Jerry was about to be divorced for the first. Since Jerry knew all the casinos along the Coast, he suggested they meet at a new one called The Diplomat. It had a sports bar with a large screen, cheap drinks, a little privacy, and cocktail waitresses with long legs and skimpy outfits.

When Nicholas arrived at eight, Poodle was already there, holding a table in the crowded bar, sipping a draft beer and smiling pleasantly, something she never did inside the courthouse. Her flowing curly hair was pulled back. She wore tight faded jeans, a bulky sweater, and red cowboy boots. Still far from pretty, she looked much better in a bar than in the jury box.

Sylvia had the dark, sad, worldly eyes of a woman beaten by life, and Nicholas was determined to dig as fast and as deep as possible before Fernandez arrived. He ordered another round, and dispensed with the chitchat. "Are you married?" he asked, knowing she wasn't. The first marriage had occurred when she was nineteen, had produced twin boys, now twenty. One worked offshore on an oil rig, the other was a junior in college. Very opposite. Husband One left after five years, and she raised the boys herself. "What about you?" she asked.

"No. Technically I'm still a student, but I'm working now."

Husband Two was an older man, and thankfully they produced no children. The marriage lasted seven years, then he traded her in for a newer model. She vowed to never marry again. The Bears kicked off to the Packers and Sylvia watched the game with interest. She loved football because her boys had been all-conference picks in high school.

Jerry arrived in a rush, casting wary glances behind him before apologizing for being late. He gulped down the first beer in a matter of seconds, and explained that he thought he was being followed. Poodle scoffed at this, and offered the opinion that right now every member of the jury was jerking at the neck, certain that shadows were not far behind.

"Forget the jury," Jerry said. "I think it's my wife."

"Your wife?" said Nicholas. "Yeah. I think she's got some private snoop trailing me."

"You should look forward to being sequestered," Nicholas said.

"Oh I am," Jerry said, winking at Poodle.

He had five hundred dollars on the Packers, plus six points, but the bet was only for the combined score in the first half. He'd place another bet at half-time. Any pro or college game offered an amazing array of bets, he explained to the two novices seated with him, virtually none of which had anything to do with the ultimate winner. Jerry sometimes bet on who'd fumble first, who'd make the first field goal, who'd throw the most interceptions. He watched the game with the edginess of a man wagering money he could ill afford to lose. He drank four draft beers in the first quarter. Nicholas and Sylvia fell quickly behind.

In the gaps of Jerry's incessant chatter about football and the art of successful betting, Nicholas made a few awkward forays into the subject of the trial, without success. Sequestration was a sore subject, and since they had not yet experienced it there was little to say. The day's testimony had been painful enough to sit through, and the thought of rehashing Dr. Kilvan's opinions during leisure seemed cruel. Nor was there interest in the bigger picture. Sylvia in particular was disgusted by a simple inquiry into the general concept of liability.

MRS. GRIMES had been ushered from the courtroom and was in the atrium when Judge Harkin announced his rules for sequestration. As she drove Herman home he explained that he'd be spending the next two weeks in a motel room, on strange turf, without her around. Shortly after they reached their house, she had Judge Harkin on the phone, and gave him an earful of her thoughts on these most recent developments. Her husband was blind, she reminded him more than once, and he needed special assistance. Herman sat on the sofa, drinking his one beer of the day and fuming at his wife's intrusion.

Judge Harkin quickly found middle ground. He would allow Mrs. Grimes to stay with Herman in his room at the motel. She could eat breakfast and dinner with Herman, and care for him, but she had to avoid contact with the other jurors. Also, she could no longer watch the trial because it was imperative that she not be able to discuss it with Herman. This didn't sit well with Mrs. Grimes, one of the few spectators who'd heard every word so far. And, though she didn't reveal this to His Honor, or to Herman, she had already developed some rather strong opinions about the case. The Judge was firm. Herman was furious. But Mrs. Grimes prevailed, and set off to the bedroom to begin packing.

LONNIE SHAVER did a week's work Monday night at the office. After numerous attempts, he found George Teaker at home in Charlotte, and explained that the jury was about to be locked away for the duration of the trial. He was scheduled to talk to Taunton later in the week, and he was worried about being inaccessible. He explained that the Judge was prohibiting any direct phone calls to and from the motel room, and it would be impossible to correspond again until after the trial. Teaker was sympathetic, and as the conversation progressed he expressed somber concerns about the outcome of the trial.

"Our people in New York think an adverse verdict could send shock waves through the retail economy, especially in our business. God knows where insurance rates will go."

"I'll do what I can," Lonnie promised. "Surely the jury isn't serious about a big verdict, is it?"

"Hard to tell right now. We're halfway through the plaintiff's case, it's just too early."

"You've gotta protect us on this, Lonnie. I know it puts you in the bull's-eye, but, damn, you just happen to be there, know what I mean?"

"Yeah, I understand. I'll do what I can."

"We're counting on you up here. Hang in there."

THE CONFRONTATION with Fitch was brief and went nowhere. Durwood Cable waited until almost nine, Monday night, when the offices were still busy with trial preparation and a late, catered dinner was being completed in the conference room. He asked Fitch to step into his office. Fitch obliged, though he wanted to leave and return to the dime store.

"I'd like to discuss a matter," Durr said stiffly, standing on his side of his desk.

"What is it?" Fitch barked, choosing also to stand with hands on hips. He knew exactly what Cable had in mind.

"We were embarrassed in court this afternoon."

"You were not embarrassed. As I recall, the jury was not present. So whatever happened was of no consequence to the final verdict."

"You got caught, and we got embarrassed."

"I did not get caught."

"Then what do you call it?"

"I call it a lie. We did not send people to follow Stella Hulic. Why would we do that?"

"Then who called her?"

"I don't know, but it certainly wasn't any of our people. Any more questions?"

"Yeah, who was the guy in the apartment?"

"He was not one of my men. I didn't get to see the video, you understand. So I didn't see his face, but we have reason to believe he was a goon employed by Rohr and his boys."

"Can you prove this?"

"I don't have to prove a damned thing. And I don't have to answer any more questions. Your job is to try this lawsuit, and you let me worry about security."

"Don't embarrass me, Fitch."

"And don't you embarrass me by losing this trial."

"I rarely lose."

Fitch turned and headed for the door. "I know. And you're doing a fine job, Cable. You just need a little help from the outside."

NICHOLAS ARRIVED FIRST with two gym bags stuffed with clothes and toiletries. Lou Dell and Willis and another deputy, a new one, were waiting in the hallway outside the jury room to collect the bags and store them for a while in an empty witness room. It was eight-twenty, Tuesday.

"How do the bags get from here to the motel?" Nicholas asked, still holding his and quite suspicious.

"We'll haul them over sometime during the day," Willis said. "But we have to inspect them first."

"I'll be damned."

"I beg your pardon."

"No one is inspecting these bags," Nicholas pronounced and stepped into the empty jury room.

"Judge's orders," said Lou Dell, following.

"I don't care what the Judge has ordered. No one is inspecting my bags." He placed them in a corner, walked to the coffeepot, and said to Willis and Lou Dell in the doorway, "Leave, okay. This is the jury room."

They shuffled backward and Lou Dell closed the door. A minute passed before there were words in the hallway. Nicholas opened the door and saw Millie Dupree, sweat lining her forehead, confronting Lou Dell and Willis with two huge Samsonite suitcases. "They think they're gonna inspect our bags, but they're not," Nicholas explained. "Let's put them in here." He grabbed the nearest, and with great effort lifted it and hauled it to the same corner in the jury room.

"Judge's orders," Lou Dell was heard to mumble.

"We're not terrorists," Nicholas snapped, heaving. "What's he think we're gonna do, smuggle in some guns or drugs or something?" Millie grabbed a doughnut and expressed her gratitude to Nicholas for protecting her privacy. There were things in there that, well, she just wouldn't want men such as Willis or anybody for that matter to touch or feel.

"Leave," Nicholas yelled, pointing at Lou Dell and Willis, who again retreated into the hallway.

By eight forty-five, all twelve jurors were present and the room was cramped with baggage Nicholas had rescued and stored. He'd ranted and raved and grown angrier with each new load, and had done a fine job of whipping the jury into a nasty bunch ready for a showdown. At nine, Lou Dell knocked on the door, then turned the knob to enter.

The door was locked from the inside.

She knocked again.

In the jury room, no one moved but Nicholas. He walked to the door, said, "Who is it?"

"Lou Dell. It's time to go. The Judge is ready for you."

"Tell the Judge to go to hell."

Lou Dell turned to Willis, who was bug-eyed and reaching for his rusty revolver. The harshness of his reply startled even some of the angrier jurors, but there was no break in their unity.

"What did you say?" Lou Dell asked.

There was a loud click, then the doorknob turned. Nicholas walked into the hallway and closed the door behind him. "Tell the Judge we're not coming out," he said, glaring down at Lou Dell and her dirty gray bangs.

"You can't do that," Willis said as aggressively as possible, which was not aggressive at all but rather feeble.

"Shut up, Willis."

THE EXCITEMENT of jury trouble lured people back to the courtroom Tuesday morning. Word had spread quickly that one juror had been bounced and that another had had his apartment broken into, and that the Judge was angry and had ordered the entire panel locked up. Rumors ran wild, the most popular of which was the one about a tobacco snoop actually getting caught in a juror's apartment and a warrant being issued for his arrest. Cops and FBI were looking everywhere for the man.

The morning papers from Biloxi, New Orleans, Mobile, and Jackson ran large stories either on the front page or front page-Metro.

The courthouse regulars were back in droves. Most of the local bar suddenly had pressing business in the courtroom and loitered about. A half-dozen reporters from various papers held the front row, plaintiff's side. The boys from Wall Street, a group that had been dwindling as its members discovered casinos and deep sea fishing and long nights in New Orleans, were back in full force.

And so there were many witnesses to the sight of Lou Dell nervously tiptoeing through the jury door, across the front of the courtroom to the bench, where she leaned up and Harkin leaned down, and they conferred. Harkin's head cocked sideways as if he didn't catch it at first, then he looked blankly at the jury door where Willis was standing with his shoulders up in a frozen shrug.

Lou Dell finished delivering her message and walked quickly back to where Willis was waiting. Judge Harkin studied the inquiring faces of the lawyers, then looked at all the spectators out there. He scribbled something he couldn't read himself. He pondered about what to do next.

His jury was on strike!

And what exactly did his judge's handbook say about that?

He pulled his microphone closer and said, "Gentlemen, there is a small problem with the jury. I need to go speak with them. I'll ask Mr. Rohr and Mr. Cable to assist me. Everyone else is to remain in place."

The door was locked again. The Judge knocked politely, three light raps followed by a twist of the doorknob. It wouldn't open. "Who is it?" came a male voice from inside.

"It's Judge Harkin," he said loudly. Nicholas was standing at the door. He turned and smiled at his colleagues. Millie Dupree and Mrs. Gladys Card were hovering in a corner near a pile of luggage, fidgeting nervously, afraid of jail or whatever the Judge might throw at them. But the other jurors were still indignant.

Nicholas unlocked the door and opened it. He smiled pleasantly as if nothing were wrong, as if strikes were a routine part of trials. "Come in," he said.

Harkin, in a gray suit, no robe, entered with Rohr and Cable in tow. "What's the problem here?" he asked while surveying the room. Most of the jurors were seated at the table with coffee cups and empty plates and newspapers scattered everywhere. Phillip Savelle stood alone at one window. Lonnie Shaver sat in a corner with a laptop on his knees. Easter was no doubt the spokesman, and probably the instigator.

"We don't think it's fair for the deputies to search our bags."

"And why not?"

"It should be obvious. These are our personal effects. We're not terrorists or drug smugglers, and you're not a customs agent." Easter's tone was authoritative, and the fact that he spoke so boldly to a distinguished judge made most of the jurors very proud. He was one of them, undoubtedly their leader regardless of what Herman thought, and he had told them more than once that they-not the Judge, not the lawyers, not the parties-but they the jurors were the most important people in this trial.

"It's routine in all sequestration cases," His Honor said, taking a step closer to Easter, who was four inches taller and not about to be cowered.

"But it's not in black and white, is it? In fact, I'll bet it's a simple matter of discretion with the presiding judge. True?"

"There are some good reasons for it."

"Not good enough. We're not coming out, Your Honor, until you promise our bags will be left alone." Easter said this with a tight jaw and semi-snarl, and it was evident to the Judge and the lawyers that he meant it. He was also speaking for the group. No one else had moved.

Harkin made the mistake of glancing over his shoulder at Rohr, who couldn't wait to add a few thoughts. "Oh hell, Judge, what's the big deal?" he blurted. "These folks aren't carrying plastic explosives."

"That's enough," Harkin said, but Rohr had managed to curry a slight favor with the jury. Cable, of course, felt the same, and wanted to convey his heartfelt trust in whatever the jurors had packed in their American Touristers, but Harkin didn't give him the chance.

"Very well," His Honor said. "The bags will not be searched. But if it comes to my attention that any juror possesses any item prohibited by the list I handed out yesterday, then that juror will be in contempt of court and subject to being jailed. Do we understand?"

Easter looked around the room, took the measure of each of his fellow jurors, most of whom appeared relieved and a few of whom were actually nodding. "That's fine, Judge," he said.

"Good. Now can we get on with the trial?"

"Well, there's one other problem."

"What is it?"

Nicholas lifted a sheet of paper from the table, read something, then said, "According to your rules here, we're allowed one conjugal visit per week. We think we should get more."

"How many?"

"As many as possible."

This was news to most of the jurors. There had been some grumbling among some of the men, Easter and Fernandez and Lonnie Shaver in particular, about the number of conjugal visits, but the women had not discussed it. Particularly, Mrs. Gladys Card and Millie Dupree were downright embarrassed to have His Honor think they were insisting on having as much sex as they could get. Mr. Card had had prostate trouble years earlier, and, well, Mrs. Gladys Card thought about divulging this to clear her good name when Herman Grimes said, "Two'll do me."

The image of old Herm feeling his way around under the covers with Mrs. Grimes could not be denied, and provoked laughter that broke the tension.

"I don't think we should take a survey," Judge Harkin said. "Can we agree on two? We're just talking about a couple of weeks, folks." "Two, with a possible third," Nicholas counteroffered.

"That's fine. Does that suit everyone?" His Honor looked around the room. Loreen Duke was giggling to herself at the table. Mrs. Gladys Card and Millie were trying their best to disappear into the walls and would not under any circumstances look the Judge in the eyes.

"Yes, that's fine," said Jerry Fernandez, red-eyed and hung over. If Jerry went a day without sex he developed headaches, but he knew two things: his wife was delighted to have him out of the house for the next two weeks, and he and Poodle would work out an arrangement.

"I object to the wording of this," Phillip Savelle said from the window, his first words of the trial. He was holding the sheet of rules. "Your definition of the persons eligible to participate in conjugal visits leaves something to be desired."

In clear English, the offending section read: "During each conjugal visit, each juror may spend two hours, alone and in his or her room, with his or her spouse, girlfriend, or boyfriend."

Judge Harkin, along with the two lawyers looking over his shoulder, and every juror in the room read the language carefully and wondered what in the world this weirdo had in mind. But Harkin was not about to find out. "I assure you, Mr. Savelle and members of the jury, I have no plans to restrict any of you in any way with respect to your conjugal visits. I don't care what you do, or whom you do it with, frankly." This seemed to satisfy Savelle as much as it humiliated Mrs. Gladys Card.

"Now, anything else?"

"That's all, Your Honor, and thank you," Herman said loudly, reasserting himself as the leader.

"Thanks," Nicholas said.

SCOTTY MANGRUM announced to the court, as soon as the jury was settled and happy, that he was finished with Dr. Kilvan. Durr Cable began a cross-examination so delicate that he seemed thoroughly intimidated by the great expert. They agreed on a few statistics that were undoubtedly meaningless. Dr. Kilvan stated that, through his plethora of numbers, he believed that about ten percent of all smokers actually get lung cancer.

Cable reinforced the point, something he'd done from the beginning and something he would do to the very end. "So Dr. Kilvan, if smoking causes lung cancer, then why do so few smokers get lung cancer?"

"Smoking greatly increases the risk of lung cancer."

"But it doesn't cause it every time, does it?"

"No. Not every smoker gets lung cancer."

"Thank you."

"But for those who smoke, the risk of lung cancer is much greater."

Cable warmed to the task and began to press. He asked Dr. Kilvan if he was familiar with a twenty-year-old study from the University of Chicago in which researchers found a greater incidence of lung cancer for smokers who lived in metropolitan areas than for smokers who lived in rural areas. Kilvan was very familiar with the study, though he had nothing to do with it.

"Can you explain it?" Cable asked.


"Can you venture a guess?"

"Yes. It was a controversial study when it came out because it indicated factors other than tobacco smoke might cause lung cancer."

"Such as air pollution?"


"Do you believe this?"

"It's possible."

"So you admit that air pollution causes lung cancer."

"It might. But I stand by my research. Rural smokers get lung cancer more than rural non-smokers, and urban smokers get cancer more than urban nonsmokers."

Cable lifted another thick report and made an event of flipping pages. He asked Dr. Kilvan if he was familiar with a 1989 study at the University of Stockholm in which researchers determined that there was a link between heredity and smoking and lung cancer.

"I read that report," Dr. Kilvan said.

"Do you have an opinion on it?"

"No. Heredity is not my specialty."

"So you can't say yes or no on the issue of whether heredity might be related to smoking and lung cancer."

"I cannot."

"But you don't contest this report, do you?"

"I don't have a position on the report."

"Do you know the experts who conducted the research?"


"So you can't tell us if they're qualified or not?"

"No. I'm sure you've talked to them." Cable walked to his table, swapped reports, and walked back to the lectern.

AFTER TWO WEEKS of severe scrutiny but little movement, Pynex stock suddenly had a reason to stir. Other than the impromptu Pledge of Allegiance, a phenomenon that so baffled the courtroom no one could decipher its meaning, the trial had produced virtually no high drama until late Monday afternoon when the jury was shaken. One of the many defense lawyers let it slip to one of the many financial analysts that Stella Hulic was generally deemed to be a decent defense juror. This got repeated a few times, and with each telling Stella's significance to the tobacco industry rose to new heights. By the time the calls were made to New York, the defense had lost its most prized possession-Stella Hulic, who was by then home on the sofa in a martini-induced coma.

Added to the rumor mill was the delicious bit about the break-in of juror Easter's apartment. It was easy to assume the intruder was paid by the tobacco industry, and since they'd been caught or at least were highly suspected, things looked bad all around for the defense. They'd lost a juror. They'd got caught cheating. The sky was falling.

Pynex opened Tuesday morning at seventy-nine and a half, quickly fell to seventy-eight in trading that became heavier as the morning progressed and the rumors mushroomed. It was at seventy-six and a quarter by mid-morning when a fresh report was received from Biloxi. An analyst who was actually in the courtroom down there called his office with the news that the jury had refused to come out this morning, had in fact gone on strike because it was sick and tired of the boring testimony being offered by the plaintiff's experts.

In seconds, the report was repeated a hundred times, and it became a simple fact on the Street that the jury down there was revolting against the plaintiff. The price jumped to seventy-seven, flew past seventy-eight, hit seventy-nine, and was nearing eighty by lunch.