He looked dramatically back at Leo. “The only verdict in this trial is Not Guilty because Leo Pierce didn’t do it. He is not a murderer, and the character witnesses that we’ll provide will prove this to you. Thank you.”
Mr. Hillard went to sit down beside Leo and the judge shuffled some papers on his desk, preparing to proceed. “Mr. Mitchell, you may call your first witness.”
Mr. Mitchell called Henry Davidson to the stand. Henry was the police officer who first called in the crime. He was African American, and had gone to school with Leo, and he also knew Ross Pierce very well. The bailiff ordered Henry to raise his right hand, and then asked, “Do you swear that the testimony you’re about to give is the whole truth without omission?”
Henry replied, “I do swear.”
Henry sat in the witness chair while Mr. Mitchell began to question him. He started simply by asking for his full name and exact position with the police force. Henry replied, “Lieutenant Henry Davidson, 2nd precinct, Atlanta City Police Department.”
Mr. Mitchell went on to ask if Henry had been on duty the night of August the 5th. Henry confirmed that he was indeed on duty and things were going pretty smoothly until about 11 pm when he got a call that someone had been murdered at the Silver Linings Bar and Grill. Mr. Mitchell asked, “And what did you see? Please don’t leave anything out officer.”
Henry took a deep breath and explained the terrible scene that he’d witnessed that night. Everyone could tell that he’d never seen anything quite so gruesome. He witnessed, “Well, I got there and heard lots of screaming going on out in the parking lot. We cut through the crowds to see Ross Pierce lying on the ground dead. Somebody had beat his brains out with a baseball bat. Whoever it was must have run out of there in a hurry cuz they dropped the bat. The victim was covered in his own blood and I remember thinking it was really strange that no one seemed to have heard a thing. By that time, my backup officers had arrived and they searched the premises and interviewed all the people who were still there, but confirmed that no one saw anything at all that could help.”
Once Henry finished explaining the scene, Mr. Mitchell pulled out some photos from the night of the murder to show them to Henry. Henry looks at them with a pungent mixture of disgust and pity. Mr. Mitchell asked, “Is that the body of the deceased, as you found him?” Henry replied, “Yes it is. That poor man.”
Mr. Mitchell handed the pictures to the judge, and then began to ask Henry if he had known Ross Pierce personally, but Mr. Hillard bounced out of his chair with an “I object!” The judge knew full well what Mr. Mitchell was trying to do, but asked the question anyway.
In spite of the accusation of hearsay from Mr. Hillard, the judge allowed Henry to state his opinion, simply because Henry had grown up alongside Leo in the same school so he may have some knowledge of any family “enemies” that were well known. Mr. Hillard’s objection was duly noted by the judge, but turned down, so Henry was allowed to go ahead and tell the world what he really thought of Ross Pierce.
Henry maintained, “Well even though no one really talked about it, we all knew he was queer, but he seemed likable enough. I didn’t appreciate how he called African Americans “niggers” though. Otherwise, he seemed pretty harmless.”
Mr. Mitchell shook his head in agreement, then asked if Henry had known Leo in school, to which he replied, “Yea, I knew him.”
Mr. Mitchell, detecting a bit of sarcasm in Henry’s tone, followed up by asking, “Were you, friends?”
Henry looked shocked and sharply replied, “No way! Leo never liked any of the black students. He always said we were dumb niggers that should be shining his shoes, not sitting in his white school next to him.”
The upset in the court was obvious as the sounds of the voices whispering almost sounded like a light roar.
Mr. Hillard shouted, “Your Honor!”
The judge was compelled to ask Mr. Mitchell where he was going with this line of questioning, to which Mr. Mitchell simply said, “I’m simply trying to establish a pattern of behavior, Your Honor.”
The judge, looking annoyed, replied, “Make your point and make it quick.”
Mr. Mitchell went on to ask, “Henry, you said before that you thought Ross Pierce was a bigot, but a harmless one. Would you consider Leo as harmless?”
Henry looked almost relieved to say it out loud, “No Sir, I don’t think he’s harmless at all. I have known him to be involved in many fist fights at school, and you don’t even wanna know about the women he’s hurt with his philanderin’ ways!”
Mr. Hillard obviously flabbergasted said, “Your Honor, Objection! This is biased!”
The judge replied, “Your objection is duly noted. Mr. Mitchell, you have been warned.” By this time, the buzzing in the courtroom had begun to really annoy Judge Belham, so he gave the audience a stern warning as well. “One more outburst and I’ll clear this courtroom! Now, carry on Mr. Mitchell.”
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