In the corridors of Chicago’s top law firm: Twenty -six-year-old Adam Hall stands on the brink of a brilliant legal career. Now he is risking it all for a death-row killer and an impossible case.
Maximum Security Unit, Mississippi State Prison: Sam Cayhall is a former Klansman and unrepentant racist now facing the death penalty for a fatal bombing in 1967. He has run out of chances — except for one: the young, liberal Chicago lawyer who just happens to be his grandson.
While the executioners prepare the gas chamber, while the protesters gather and the TV cameras wait, Adam has only days, hours, minutes to save his client. For between the two men is a chasm of shame, family lies, and secrets — including the one secret that could save Sam Cayhall’s life… or cost Adam his.
The Chamber by John Grisham
It began with a phone call on the night of April 17, 1967. Not trusting his own telephone, Jeremiah Dogan drove to a pay phone at a gas station to make the call. At the other end, Sam Cayhall listened to the instructions he was given. When he returned to bed, he told his wife nothing. She didn’t ask.
Two days later, Cayhall left his home town of Clanton at dusk and drove to Greenville, Mississippi. There he drove slowly through the center of the city, and found the offices of the Jewish lawyer Marvin B. Kramer. It had been easy for the Klan to pick Kramer as their next target. He had a long history of support for the civil rights movement. He led protests against whites-only facilities. He accused public officials of racism. He had paid for the rebuilding of a black church destroyed by the Klan. He even welcomed Negroes to his home.
The operation had been simple to plan, as it involved only three people. Mississippi Klan leader Dogan provided the money, and enjoyed his role as organizer. The second man was Sam Cayhall, one of two men chosen by Dogan to do the actual dirty work. The Cayhall family’s connections with the Klan went back very many years, but there was little Klan activity in Clanton so he was considered harmless by the FBI. He was a good choice.
At eleven, Cayhall drove to Cleveland, where he looked for a green Pontiac. He found the vehicle parked at a truck stop on
Highway 61, got in, and drove it out into open farming country. There he stopped on a lonely road and opened the trunk. In a box covered with newspapers, he found everything he needed. Then he drove back into town and waited at an all-night cafe.
At exactly 2 a.m., the third person in the team walked into the cafe and sat across from Sam Cayhall. This young man’s name was Rollie Wedge. At the age of twenty-two, Rollie was already deeply committed to the struggle for white power. His father was in the construction industry, and had taught his son how to use explosives. Cayhall knew little about the young man, but they had done this kind of job together several times now and Rollie certainly knew what he was doing. They drank coffee together for half an hour. Sam’s cup shook in his hand, but Rollie’s was steady.
The two men climbed into the green Pontiac and, with Cayhall at the wheel, the car headed south on Highway 61. It was around 4 a.m. when they drove up to Kramers office in Greenville. The street was very quiet and dark…