The Last Juror by John Grisham

The Last Juror

Reviewed by Allen Hott

One fantastic story about the south and more clearly its residents as can only be told by John Grisham. He writes about courtrooms well but when those courtrooms are located in the south it is just that much better.

The Last Juror tells about a young man Joyner William Traynor who moved from Syracuse after not quite finishing his journalistic degree to the town of Clanton Alabama. This occurs in 1970 when integration was still in its infancy and blacks were not generally accepted in small southern towns.

Shortly after his arrival he gets the opportunity to purchase the small local newspaper that he works for. With help from BeeBee, his aunt, he buys The Ford County Times and begins to make changes from the previous owner’s style (mostly lengthy obituaries).

Clanton, at the time, was strictly a quiet little town with very little crime but that all changed rather dramatically when a local lady was raped and then shot to death in from of her small children. She managed to tell her neighbor the man who did the deed and at the same time he was arrested after wrecking his car after drunkenly speeding from the crime scene.

That man however was Danny Padgitt, a young member of a large family that lived on a small island right across from Clanton. The Padgitt family was not only suspected but actually pretty well known to be involved in many businesses that though supposedly legal mostly dealt in illegal operations. The law in Clanton, Sheriff Mackey Don Coley, was known to be on the take from the Padgitts and thus little was done about their moonshining and other operations.

Sheriff Coley did, however, arrest Danny Padgitt and he was ordered to stand trial for the murder. Realizing what a trial of this magnitude means to Clanton, Traynor goes full bore on his coverage of the arrest of Padgitt and the upcoming trial.

And that trial is where the story of The Last Juror really begins! The judge is very definitely against the Padgitts. Their attorney battles tooth and nail with the judge as the trial begins. The attorney goes after Traynor in the courtroom and this incites Traynor even more.

But Grisham then brings in another angle when he has Calia Ruffin, a black woman selected for the jury. Mrs. Ruffin is the first black to ever be on a jury in Clanton and immediately she and Traynor hit it off. She is very well educated and Traynor begins visiting her, her husband, and family in Lowtown, the segregated section of town.

The story takes quite a bit of time as it follows the happenings in Clanton, Lowtown, and even Danny Padgitt’s time in prison. Since he was not sentenced to the electric chair he becomes parole eligible and that is when the next section of Grisham’s story really becomes a must read!

One of Grisham’s best and a story that will keep all readers on edge all the way to the end. Great job!

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