The reading of the verdict was just a formality.
From the moment defense lawyer Mike Rasmussen tapped his client on the shoulder and said three words, it was just ceremony.
“There’s a verdict,” he said to then-Mayor Larry Langford.
And that was all anyone needed know.
For it was less than two hours into deliberations. Minus a jury smoke break or two, a restroom trip and selection of a jury foreman, and it was barely enough time to read sixty counts of his indictment, much less debate their merits.
If there was a verdict in that time, everyone knew what it would be.
But that didn’t break the tension as the verdict came.
“Guilty.” “Guilty.” “Guilty.” “Guilty.” “Guilty.” On and on it went.
The evidence was overwhelming. The verdict irrefutable. Justice was done.
Seconds after stepping from the courtroom–with Melva beside him and the weight of prison on his shoulders–Langford met a throng of reporters asking his thoughts and emotions.
For in the moments that followed, Mrs. Langford’s emotions overflowed. She ripped into the racial state of Alabama and the Justice Department, and claimed racial prosecution in a way that her husband, until then, had avoided.
It was an emotional response at a difficult time, and it began to divide the community immediately. What it really was was just more sadness, more pain trickling from the wounds of our mistakes.