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The Missing Juror

The Missing Juror(1944)

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The Missing Juror A detective tries to stop... MORE > $17.95
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After Jason Sloan is strangled and his body left in his car to be crushed by an onrushing train, reporter Joe Keats becomes intrigued. Joe, who covered the infamous murder trial of Harry J. Wharton, believes that Sloan, a juror on the Wharton case, is the latest victim of Wharton's revenge from beyond the grave. After convincing his editor, Willard Apple, to run a series on the fatal mishaps that have befallen four other members of the jury, Joe launches his series with a recount of the trial: Found guilty of the murder of Marie Chapel, the mild-mannered Wharton is incarcerated to await his execution by hanging. Through months of appeals, Wharton watches as condemned man after condemned man meets his demise and by the time his last appeal is denied, Wharton has become deranged, obsessed by death. On the eve of Wharton's execution, Joe, who has always believed in his innocence, encounters George Sasbo, the private detective whose testimony convicted Wharton. Later, when Sasbo is gunned down in the street, he gasps with his dying breath that Wharton was framed. The next morning, the governor pardons Wharton, who, now insane, is institutionalized. One day, a member of the jury visits Wharton to make amends. Soon after, Wharton's room explodes into flames, and when Wharton's body is recovered from the ashes, it is burned beyond recognition. After completing the first installment of his story, Joe visits Alice Hill, a member of the jury, at her antique store. Alice has a date for tea with former jury foreman Jerome K. Bentley, whom she has not seen since the trial, and so answers Joe's questions brusquely and then departs. Returning to his office, Joe begins to have reservations about sensationalizing the story of the jury until news comes of the death of another juror. One evening, after Bentley orders a shipment of antiques to furnish his new house, Joe and Alice arrive at her apartment to find Bentley waiting inside. Stating that he mistakenly picked up Alice's key and has come to return it, Bentley leaves. Later that night, Joe finds Bentley waiting for him outside Alice's building. Bentley claims that he can identify the killer, and invites Joe to accompany him to see if his hunch is correct. At his health club, Bentley has his neck massaged by Cullie, the masseur, and then invites Joe to join him in the steam room. As steam pours into the room, Bentley sneaks out and secures the door with the sash from his robe, trapping Joe inside. Noticing an excess of steam, Cullie breaks open the door, rescues Joe and rushes him to the hospital. When Apple visits, Joe tells him that Bentley deliberately locked him in the steam room. After Apple discounts Joe's accusation, informing him that a man named Pierson has confessed to the murders, Joe becomes alarmed, fearing that the confession is only a ploy to make the jurors drop their guards. Hurrying to the police station, Joe tricks Pierson into admitting that he does not know the names of the remaining jurors. When the story of Pierson's confession hits the papers, Joe, fearing for the safety of the jurors, phones the home of Peter Jackson, one of the remaining five. After Mrs. Jackson informs him that her husband left to meet a man in the nearby town of Buckminster, Joe hastens to the address and finds Jackson's body swinging from a beam. Immediately proceeding to the sheriff's office, Joe reports the murder and phones Apple. When the deputies return to the house to retrieve the body, however, it is no longer there, and the sheriff, thinking that the reporter is trying to manufacture a story, jails Joe. Soon after, Alice receives a telegram from Joe, asking her to meet him that night in the town of Glen Lock. After Alice leaves for the train station, Apple phones her apartment and Tex, her assistant, answers. When Apple informs her that Joe is jailed in Buckminster, Tex realizes that something is amiss. While Alice unsuspectingly boards the train for Glen Lock, Tex and Apple speed to Glen Lock. Soon after, Jackson's body is found alongside the river and the sheriff releases Joe and issues a warrant for Bentley's arrest. Upon arriving at the Glen Lock station, Alice is met by Wharton, who has shorn the beard and discarded the glasses he wore to impersonate Bentley. Wharton forces Alice into his car, while Apple, unable to reach Alice at the depot, phones Joe and alerts him of her peril. At his house, Wharton pulls a noose from the beams and is about to drape it around Alice's neck when Joe shoots and kills him from the window. Joe then writes the final installment of his story, explaining that it was Bentley who visited Wharton on the day of the fire. After hanging the jury foreman in revenge, Wharton set fire to the room and assumed his identity, allowing him to wreak vengeance "from the grave."