Friday, March 18, 2005


F. Lee Bailey is lawyer for the defense, and he is cross examining Jimmie James, an important government witness. Bailey is telling about it in the portion of his book quoted below:

[Bailey:] Q. Did you also say to Delane and to the others, "He's right about one thing, I hate n______s"?
A. No, sir.
Q. Did you make that statement or didn't you?
A. Absolutely not, and you heard me correctly, sir. I absolutely did not say that.
Jimmie James made the answer sound as emphatic as he could, but he was clearly nervous. And the atmosphere in the courtroom was equally tense, for it had changed noticeably when I used the word "n_____s." I had barked out the word, trying to give it as much meanness and venom as I could. It hung in the air, an all but palpable accusation. Within seconds the witness was showing signs of strain. He sat motionless, but he was biting His lip frequently now, and the jury was staring at him.
My pace had been very fast, so I slowed it a bit by pausing, and then picked up the speed again. My voice was firm and loud.

Q. You say that you did not. You do not use that word at all, do you?

I knew that if James denied using the word, I could put the investigator on the stand to refute him, thereby impeaching that statement and casting doubt on the rest of his testimony as well. The witness must have had similar thoughts.

A. I'm sure I've used it, yes, sir, because I'm from the South.

Several jurors who had been watching me returned their gaze to the witness. As soon as James said he used the word,I had what I needed to asked [sic] the next two questions without objection from the prosecutor. I almost shouted them.

Q. As recently as last week, perhaps, in Greenville?

James went literally pale. His hand gripped the top of the witness box.

A. I may have.

Q. Describing your own employee, Lee Grimes, whom you call a n______ on a daily basis?

A. He enjoys it.

I waited a moment for the impact of his answer to sink in, and then I said, as I picked up my notes and returned to the defense table, "'He enjoys it.' And you believe all men are equal in your eyes? Thank you. No further questions."

Hugh Smith [prosecutor] was on his feet like a shot, objecting to my final remark. But the jury hardly noticed him. All eyes were on Jimmie James, the "fair and equal" man.

One black juror, a woman who had betrayed absolutely no emotion up to that point, appeared stunned. She stared at the witness.

The lawyers went to the sidebar, where Smith prevailed in the argument that my last remark should be disregarded. The woman paid no attention as the Judge said, "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, I want you to disregard the comment Mr. Bailey made when he sat down. It was not addressed to the witness or anyone else. You may proceed, Mr. Smith."

The Judge could have saved his breath for all the apparent effect it had on the
jury. The black woman in the front row continued to stare at Jimmie James all through Smith's less-than-enthusiastic redirect examination. The juror next to her, another woman, kept patting her on the knee the whole time, saying what even an amateur lip reader could recognize as "Calm down now, calm down."

F. Lee Bailey, FOR THE DEFENSE (with John Greenya)
New York ATHENEUM 1975

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