Bryson City Tales — The Trial (Part 1)

This is from the eleventh chapter from my best-selling book, Bryson City Tales. I hope that you’ll enjoy going back to Bryson City with me each week, and that if you do, you’ll be sure to invite your friends to join us.

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THE TRIAL (PART 1)

The day of the trial dawned; yet I had been awake for hours, wondering, What is really going to happen today? Will I seem credible and professional? Will this be one of my reputation-building moments? By 3:00 A.M. I was wide-awake. I tossed and turned for another hour, trying to rid my mind of the flurry of thoughts and concerns. Finally I just went ahead and got up.

I had come to believe that waking up like this was just God’s special way of nudging me for a private meeting time. I had a soft reading chair that served as the repository of my derriere for these quiet times—time to read the Scriptures (listen to God’s words) and to pray (to talk to him). I had grown fond of this time and soon found it essential to my day-to-day well-being. It’s just that these times were not usually so early in the morning.

At 6:00 A.M. it was time to take a shower and get dressed. Barb had picked out my best suit for my “day in court.” After breakfast, I crossed the street to make rounds at the hospital. Several of the nurses and Dr. Mitchell whistled when they saw me. Mitch commented, “You shore are gussied up.” Louise, never one to mince words, asked, “Someone die?” I smiled—so did she. At about 8:30, I headed to the county courthouse for the 9:00 A.M. start of court.

The scene at the courthouse was a bit outrageous. As I drove up, my first clue that this was not the usual case in Swain County was the TV vans and the satellite truck set up in the parking lot. There was a line forming at the front door. I ducked past the line and the reporters to the side entrance used by the attorneys and staff. My new friend, Deputy Rogers, let me in the door.

Once inside the courtroom, I saw Fred Moody sitting alone at the defendant’s desk. He was reviewing a small mountain of papers. At the prosecutor’s table was a crew of men and women in what appeared to be their Sunday-best suits—they actually looked more like stockbrokers than country attorneys. In the middle, dressed in a crisp but slightly off-white three-piece suit, was the silver-haired district attorney and senator-wanna-be. I felt like I was walking into a theater where preparations for a high-stakes performance were under way.

One of the DA’s young staff members saw me and announced to him my arrival. Mr. Buchanan flashed his pearly white, near- perfect smile and passed through the gate in the bar to come meet me. “Welcome, Doctor, welcome. Are you ready to become a star? Son, I’m going to make you a star!” he proclaimed as he brusquely swatted me across the back. “Let me show you where I want you to sit.”

He walked me up to a bench just behind the bar where we chatted for a few minutes. He cocked his head over to a row of seats behind the defense table, to a group of well-dressed young men, chatting together and laughing. “Know who they are?”

“Not really.”

“That’s a group of young attorneys from all over— Robbinsville, Murphy, Andrews, Franklin, Sylva, and Waynesville. Why, there’s even a couple from Asheville. They’re all here to watch the old dog at work. Let’s give them a good show, son.” He swatted my back again as the door to the cham- ber opened to allow the waiting crowd to enter. Quickly he was off to socialize with potential voters.

A moment later the accused and the members of the jury entered the courtroom. The bailiff announced the entry of the judge, and we all stood as he entered. He sat down and gaveled the court to order. During the attorneys’ opening statements I found myself daydreaming a bit, feeling the lack of sleep, and then nearly nodding off several times. I was startled back to real- ity when I heard the DA’s booming voice declare, “Your Honor, we call as the People’s first witness Dr. Walter L. Larimore.”

In one instant it seemed as though all of the eyes in the courtroom were on me. For a brief moment, I felt the nausea and cold sweat I’d felt the night of the murder. I stood, feeling my legs shaking a bit. As Deputy Rogers opened the gate, I passed the bar and walked briskly to the witness-box. The bailiff approached with a Bible in his hand. I swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God. Of course, I did this while obediently eyeing the members of the jury. I then made myself comfortable in the leather-covered witness chair.

The DA slowly stood, smiling at the jury as he approached the witness stand. “Can you tell the jury your name?” Mr. Buchanan almost crooned.

“Walt Larimore.”

“And you are a medical doctor, an M.D. Is that correct?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And is it correct that you received your M.D. degree at the Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans, Louisiana, finishing in the top five in your class?”

“Yes, sir. That is true.”

“And is it true that after completing a general practice teaching fellowship at the Queen’s Medical Center in Nottingham, England, you entered and completed your family medicine residency training at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina? Is that true?”

“Yes, sir.”

“The Duke University, the world-famous Duke University Medical Center?”

I paused. Isn’t this going a bit overboard? I thought. Nevertheless, I responded, “Yes, sir.” Turning to the jury, he flashed his famous smile, then turned toward the spectators in the courtroom, continuing, “The medical university that trains some of the best physicians in the world—that Duke University?”

Well, although this was a bit over the top, I was beginning to enjoy him. Here was a dashing and charismatic attorney informing the attorneys of western North Carolina, the news media, and scores of curious locals about my training and qualifications. I couldn’t pay for this type of advertising. This was, I presumed, a new doctor’s dream come true.

The DA, smiling from ear to ear, now approached the jury. “And, Dr. Larimore, is it true that you are authorized by this great state of North Carolina as a certified coroner?”

I furrowed my brow. “Uh, no, sir, that’s not true, sir.”

He immediately corrected his error. “Um, yes. Why yes. But is it not true that you are certified by the state of North Carolina as a medical examiner?”

That is correct, sir,” I replied.

“Your Honor,” came the sharp retort from my friend, Mr. Moody, as he slowly stood to his feet.

“Mr. Moody?” replied the somewhat startled judge.

Fred slowly straightened his lanky frame, not nearly as expensively clad as his opponent. “Your Honor, the defense is well aware of Dr. Larimore’s copious CV. We are aware of his superlative training and his extensive experience.”

Wow, I thought to myself, my man Fred! I basked in the sunshine of this unexpected bravado. But then, I should not have been surprised. Fred was a friend—a supporter. Why wouldn’t he want the new doctor in his hometown to look good?

“I am aware that Mr. Buchanan desires to qualify Dr. Larimore as an expert in this case,” Fred continued. “Your Honor, I may have been born at night, but sir, I was not born last night.” He paused as the gallery chuckled. Both reporters and young attorneys were scribbling notes. And I was relishing the moment.

“The defense not only has no objection to qualifying Dr. Larimore as an expert, sir, but it is our view that Dr. Larimore, based on his clearly documented and independently certified training and experience, may be the singularly most qualified expert to have ever appeared in this court.”

I was so grateful for a friend so willing to brag a bit on me. It’s one thing for the DA from another town to sing your praises, but then to have those praises expanded and trumped by a well- respected native—well, could it get any better that that?

If I had only known what was going to happen next!

(TO BE CONTINUED NEXT FRIDAY)

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© Copyright Walter L. Larimore, M.D. 2016. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.