Calpurnia Murphy strutted into the courtroom in a bright purple dress and matching hat. After the bailiff swore her in, District Attorney Henry Russell began his examination.
“Would you please state your name for the court record and tell us where you’re from?” he asked.
Calpurnia ignored the prosecutor and spoke directly to the jury. “My name is Calpurnia Barrett Murphy. I was born in Hartselle, Alabama, but now I live in Yamacraw County. Down by the highway.”
“Do you know the defendant, Willie Baxter?” the prosecutor asked.
Calpurnia glanced at the Reverend without expression. “Reverend Baxter’s been my neighbor for nearly ten years.” A smile formed on her face as she added, “His wife used to do my hair.”
“And did you see Mr. Baxter on the night of June 28, 1969?” Henry Russell asked.
“Would you please describe what you saw?”
“Well, that evening, Reverend Baxter and I attended a revival meeting in Macon County. We didn’t get home until after midnight.”
Russell, who had strolled over to the jury box, did a double take. “What’s that now?”
Murphy looked as pleased as punch. “I said that on the evening in question, Reverend Baxter and I attended a revival meeting down in Macon County. I remember I was very excited to go because my ex-husband was a heathen who would probably get struck by lightning if he ever came within a hundred feet of a church, but Reverend Baxter said he would happy to take me. I’ve never experienced anything like it. I had what they call a spiritual awakening.”
“Wait. You say you were with the Reverend? That’s not what you told me before,” said Russell.
Melvin stood. “Objection, Your Honor. He’s trying to impeach his own witness.”
“Sustained,” the judge said.
Henry Russell stared dumbfounded at the witness. “Ms. Murphy, are you really gonna sit there and tell me and this jury, that you were with the Reverend that night?”
“Objection,” Melvin shouted. “That question has been asked and answered.”
“Sustained,” said the judge.
Russell pleaded with his witness. “What about what you told me before? That you were alone sitting on your porch that night when you saw Reverend Baxter come out of his house carrying... ”
“Your Honor, please,” Melvin said. “Mr. Russell is testifying.”
“Sustained,” said the judge. “Mr. Russell, your remarks are limited to questions only.”
“The prosecutor has no case,” Melvin said. “I move for a directed verdict in favor of the defendant.”
“He’s got you, Henry,” said the judge. “Motion is granted.” He banged his gavel. “Next case!”
Henry Russell kept standing there looking shell-shocked. As Calpurnia came out of the witness box, he noticed something shiny at the end of her finger. He’d been so focused on his own presentation that he hadn’t noticed the new diamond encrusted wedding band.
“Now wait just a second,” Russell said. “Calpurnia, where did you get that ring?”
“The case is over, Henry,” Melvin said.
“Calpurnia,” Russell asked. “Did you get married?”
Calpurnia stretched out her arm to admire her ring. She could not contain her smile.
“I didn’t even know you were engaged,” the prosecutor said. “Who did you marry?”
Calpurnia’s excitement exploded out of her in the form of a long squeal. “I’m Mrs. William Baxter.”
Russell stood thunderstruck as the defendant strolled passed him to greet his new wife. Calpurnia jumped into his arms.
Henry Russell turned to Melvin. “Did you know about this?”
“Are you kidding?” Melvin asked. “I never would have allowed a wife to take the stand against her husband. I thought we were sunk.”
The Reverend and his wife continued to celebrate with Melvin and the throng family members who rushed forward to congratulate them.
Henry Russell stomped out of the courtroom.
Go to Chapter 10