A happy ending to Grisham's last case

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John Grisham, Mississippi lawyer turned best-selling author, won his last case on Wednesday - at his first trial as an attorney in seven years. The author of The Firm, The Pelican Brief and several other novels with legal themes convinced a jury that the Illinois Central Railroad was responsible for the 1991 death of a brakeman crushed between two rail carriages.

After two hours of deliberation, the jury awarded Barbara King $683,500 (pounds 444,000) for the wrongful death of her husband, John. ''It's the biggest verdict I've ever gotten. I'm tickled to death,'' said Mr Grisham, who was hired by Mrs King before he became an international best-selling author, and who will not accept a fee in the case.

After a lottery draw, 25 Grisham fans gained seats for the trial in the Lincoln County rail town of Brookhaven.

''Some of you may have heard of me through my books,'' Mr Grisham told the jury. ''As far as I'm concerned, that's totally irrelevant to anything we're doing here.''

He added: ''I'm not going to ask how many of you have read my books. I once asked some high school students that, and was humiliated.''

To some observers, the wedding of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Mildred Trouillot last weekend was as much a political contract as a marital union, with the couple vowing to serve the Haitian people.

''When you look at this ring, remember me and remember you are an advocate of the people,'' the not-so-romantic President told his bride, a New York- born Haitian lawyer, during the ceremony.

Ms Trouillot urged Mr Aristide to see his ring and ''remember that it is better to fail with the people than to succeed without them, and with the people there is no failure''.

Many poor Haitians are worried that Mr Aristide's commitment to them will now wane. They reckon that his wife, whom many regard simply as a light-skinned foreigner, will not understand their suffering.

''This business about divorcing the people - no way,'' the President said after the low-key wedding, during which the couple barely glanced at each other and exchanged only awkward kisses on the cheek.

Bernard Tapie is embarking on yet another career. The French business tycoon - an ex-pop singer, former television presenter, ex-government minister and former owner of the Olympique de Marseille football team - is to perform in a ''tender and cruel comedy'' film, Hommes, Femmes, Mode d'Emploi, directed by Claude Lelouch.

''I've been asking Tapie to be in one of my movies for 20 years,'' Lelouch told the newspaper Le Figaro. ''He has an essential quality for the movies: he knows how to be convincing.''

Mr Tapie wasn't convincing enough to avoid conviction last year on corruption charges. But Lelouch, who won an Oscar for his 1966 film Un Homme et une Femme, is not worried.

''I have directed the top actors and I am confident -Tapie is a film star,'' he said.

The movie, starring Anouk Aimee, is about modern society as the century draws to an end, Lelouch said.

He reckons Mr Tapie is typical of the times.

''He is a man in a hurry in an era that is in even more of a hurry.''

The filming itself is being done quickly.

Mr Tapie still faces a prison sentence, against which he is appealing.