April 28 Birthday: Harper Lee

harperAtticus’s Speech

Atticus was speaking easily
He walked slowly
Up and Down
In front of the jury
and the jury seemed to be attentive

Atticus paused
He unhitched his watch and chain
and placed them on the table
saying “With the court’s permission,”
Judge Taylor nodded
Atticus
unbuttoned his vest
loosened his tie
and took off his coat
and to me and Jem
this was the equivalent of him
standing before us stark naked

“Gentlemen,”
he said
“this case is not a difficult one,
it requires
no minute sifting
of complicated facts
this case should never
have come to trial
This case is as simple
as black
and white

The state
has not produced one iota
of medical evidence
to the effect
that the crime ever took place
It has relied
upon the testimony
of two witnesses whose
evidence
has not only been called into
serious question
on cross-examination
but has been
contradicted by the defendant

The defendant
is not guilty
but someone in this courtroom is

I have nothing
but pity
in my heart for the chief witness
but my pity
does not extend
so far as to
putting a man’s life at stack
which she has done
in an effort
to get rid
of
her
own
guilt

I say guilt
because it was guilt
She
committed no crime
She has broken
a code
a code so severe
that whoever breaks it
is hounded
from our midst as
unfit to live with

What did she do?
She
tempted
a Negro

No code mattered
but it came crashing down on her
Her father saw it
What did her father do?
There is
circumstantial evidence
to indicate that
Mayella Ewell was beaten
savagely by someone
who led almost exclusively with his
left hand
Mr. Ewell
swore out a warrant
No doubt signing it with his
left hand
and Tom Robinson
now sits before you
haven taken the oath
with the only good hand he posses, his
right hand

And so,
a quiet
respectable
humble Negro
who had the
unmitigated temerity to
feel sorry
for a white woman
has had to put
his word
against
two white people’s
I need not
remind you of their
appearance and conduct
on the stand
The witnesses for the state
have presented themselves
to you
gentlemen
to this court
in the cynical confidence
that their testimony
would not be doubted
confident that you
would go along with
the evil assumption
that all Negroes lie
that all Negroes are
basically immoral beings
that all Negro men are not
to be trusted around our women
Which, gentlemen
we know is a lie
You know the truth
some Negroes lie
some Negroes are
immoral beings
some Negroes are not
to be trusted around women
black or white
this is a truth
that applies to the
human race
and to no particular
race of man.

One more thing,
gentlemen
before I quit

Thomas Jefferson once said
All men are created equal
There is a tendency
for certain people
to use this phrase
out of context
to satisfy all conditions
We know
all men are
not
created equal
in the sense some people
would have us believe

But,
there is one way
in this country
in which all men are created equal
there is one
human institution
that makes a pauper
the equal to a Rockefeller
the stupid man
the equal of an Einstein
That institution
gentlemen
is a court
in this country
our courts are the great levellers
and in our courts
all men are created equal

I’m no idealist
to believe firmly
in the integrity
of our courts
and in
the jury system
that is no ideal to me
it is a living
working reality
Gentlemen
a court is no better
than each man of you
sitting before me
on this jury.
A court is only as sound
as the men
who make it up.
Come to a decision
restore this defendant to his family
In the name of God,
do your duty,”

Atticus’ voice had dropped
and he turned away
from the jury
he said something

“In the name of God,
believe him,”

A found poem created by Dylan Aspie from To Kill a Mockingbird

NOTE: In honor of National Poetry Month, each day a person’s birthday will be celebrated with a poem about or by him/her. The poems come from all over the place.

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