The Martinsville Seven
The Trials Continue
The next day, Frank Hairston, 19, went on trial. A different jury was quickly selected and again, no blacks were chosen to sit on the panel. The case began with Mrs. Floyd tearfully retelling much the same story as she did the day before. "There he sits there with that green sweater on," she said as she pointed Hairston out to the jury. She testified for only forty minutes while defense attorney William Carter tried to get her to admit she could have made a mistake on her identification. "It was him!" she replied to one question. "He seemed to me to have a mustache at the time."
State Police Sgt. Barnes also took the stand and repeated Hairston's confession to the court and described the circumstances under which it was given. He said that although Hairston appeared to have been drinking, he was not drunk and seemed calm. Late that afternoon, Frank Hairston testified in his own defense and contradicted what Barnes had said. "Some of the things in there he said I said...I don't remember telling him," Hairston told the court, "I ain't calling him a liar...I'm not saying I didn't say it. I don't remember saying it!"
When asked if he had any relations with Mrs. Floyd, Hairston denied it. "No sir!" he said, "The only time I myself had anything to do with her was down on the ridge when the woman was thrown in the pines." But Hairston admitted that some of the others had sexual intercourse with Mrs. Floyd. He said that he left the railroad tracks and began the walk back to Cherrytown, the black section of Martinsville. "We started over to Cherry town," he said, "walked by Mayor Prillaman's Paint shop up there...the cops, one of them called us and said 'Come here!' That's when they locked us up." When he was asked what time it was, Hairston said he was too drunk to remember. "To tell the truth, I don't know," he replied, "I'd been drinking right heavy. I was pretty high. It was dark." Just before he left the stand, Hairston asked for mercy from the court. "If I hadn't been drinking" he said, "I may not have done it. I am asking for the mercy of the court and promise to be a better boy if you give me another chance!"
The jury received the case for deliberation at 5:37 p.m. Just over an hour later, at 7:17 p.m., a verdict was announced. Frank Hairston was guilty on all counts. Over the next few days the trials of Booker T. Millner, Howard Hairston, James Hairston, John Taylor and Francis Grayson followed. When Millner took the stand at his trial, he said he was unable to complete the sexual assault on Mrs. Floyd, although he tried. "I did not have any feeling for the lady," he said tearfully, "so I got up and left...I know I did wrong and should have tried to help the lady!"
Each trial was a copy of the one before it. Mrs. Floyd, Sgt. Barnes, Charlie Martin and even some of the defendants took the witness stand to tell their stories. In all six trials, no black man or woman sat on any of the juries. In each case, the outcome was the same. The verdict was guilty.