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Trial Brings Out Media, Capitalists

Marion Hawkins has waited for months for Susan Smith to come back to Union to face murder charges, but he’s more concerned about keeping his drinks cold than learning why she would drown her boys.

“Boy, people sure do love a hot dog and a Coke when it’s hot,” Hawkins said as he slathered mustard on a bun and passed it to a sweating newsman. “My business will easily double during the trial.”

While some residents worry about the hassle of holding such a major trial at the tiny county courthouse, others smell opportunity.

The trial, which begins Monday, has drawn more than 70 news organizations to Union. With only 117 hotel rooms in this town of about 10,000, some homeowners are renting their homes for as much as $3,000 a week.

Store owners are charging as much as $250 a week for parking and much more for use of their extra space by media representatives.

With capitalism comes friction: One shopkeeper, who asked not to be identified, told a television crew he would charge them if they parked in front of his store in a spot normally filled by a customer.

“The driver turned and looked at me and said, ‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself, trying to make money off of this tragedy,”’ the shopkeeper said. “I looked right back at him and said, ‘What do you think you’re doing down here?”