Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Trial of Henry Sweet (1926)

Clarence Darrow’s Summation
. . . (O)n the schoolhouse grounds, a crowd of seven or eight hundred assembled, and listened to a firebrand who arose in that audience and told the people that his community had driven men and women from their homes because they were black . . . and advised the mob to violate the law and the constitution and the rights of the black; advised them to take the law into their own hands, and to drive these poor dependent people from their own homes.
The man is more than a firebrand who invited and urged crime and violence in his community. No officer raised his hand to prosecute, and no citizen raised his voice, while this man uttered those treasonable words across the street from where Sweet had purchased his home, and in the presence of seven hundred people. Did anybody say a thing? Did anybody rise up in that audience and say: “We respect and shall obey the law; we shall not turn ourselves into a mob to destroy black men and to batter down their homes . . . ”
Gentlemen, these black men shot. Whether any bullets from their guns hit Breiner, I do not care. I will not discuss it. It is passing strange that the bullet that went through him, went directly through, not as if it was shot from some higher place. It was not the bullet that came from Henry Sweet’s rifle; that is plain. It might have come from the house; I do not know, gentlemen, and I do not care. There are bigger issues in this case than that. The right to defend your home, the right to defend your person, is as sacred a right as any human being could fight for, and as sacred a cause as any jury could sustain.
That issue not only involves the defendants in this case, but it involves every man who wants to live, every man who wants freedom to work and to breathe; it is an issue worth fighting for, and worth dying for, it is an issue worth the attention of this jury, who have a chance that is given to few juries to pass upon a real case that will mean something in the history of a race.
These men were taken to the police station. Gentlemen, there was never a time that these black men’s rights were protected in the least; never once. They had no rights—they are black. They were to be driven out of their home, under the law’s protection. When they defended their home, they were arrested and charged with murder. They were taken to a police station, manacled. And they asked for a lawyer. And, every man, if he has any brains at all, asks for a lawyer when he is in the hands of the police. If he does not want to have a web woven around him, to entangle or ensnare him, he will ask for a lawyer. And, the lawyer’s first aid to the injured always is, “Keep your mouth shut.” It is not a case of whether you are guilty or not guilty. That makes no difference. “Keep your mouth shut.” The police grabbed them, as is their habit. They got the County Attorney to ask questions.
What did they do? They did what everybody does, helpless, alone, and unadvised. They did not know, even, that anybody was killed. At least there is no evidence that they knew. But, they knew that they had been arrested for defending their own rights to live; and they were there in the hands of their enemies; and they told the best story they could think of at the time,—just as ninety-nine men out of a hundred always do. Whether they are guilty or not guilty makes no difference. But lawyers, and even policemen, should have protected their rights . . .
Gentlemen, from the first to the last, there has not been a substantial right of these defendants that was not violated.
We come now and lay this man’s case in the hands of a jury of our peers,—the first defense and the last defense is the protection of home and life as provided by our law. We are willing to leave it here. I feel, as I look at you, that we will be treated fairly and decently, even understandingly and kindly. You know what this case is. You know why it is. You know that if white men had been fighting their way against colored men, nobody would ever have dreamed of a prosecution. And you know that, from the beginning of this case to the end, up to the time you write your verdict, the prosecution is based on race prejudice and nothing else.
Gentlemen, I feel deeply on this subject; I cannot help it. Let us take a little glance at the history of the Negro race. It only needs a minute. It seems to me that the story would melt hearts of stone. I was born in America. I could have left it if I had wanted to go away.
Some other men, reading about this land of freedom that we brag about on the 4th of July, came voluntarily to America. These men, the defendants, are here because they could not help it. Their ancestors were captured in the jungles and on the plains of Africa, captured as you capture wild beasts, torn from their homes and their kindred; loaded into slave ships, packed like sardines in a box, half of them dying on the ocean passage; some jumping into the sea in their frenzy, when they had a chance to choose death in place of slavery. They were captured and brought here. They could not help it. They were bought and sold as slaves, to work without pay, because they were black.
They were subjected to all of this for generations, until finally they were given their liberty, so far as the law goes,—and that is only a little way, because, after all, every human being’s life in this world is inevitably mixed with every other life and, no matter what laws we pass, no matter what precautions we take, unless the people we meet are kindly and decent and human and liberty-loving, then there is no liberty. Freedom comes from human beings, rather than from laws and institutions.
Now, that is their history. These people are the children of slavery. If the race that we belong to owes anything to any human being, or to any power in this Universe, they owe it to these black men. Above all other men, they owe an obligation and a duty to these black men which can never be repaid. I never see one of them, that I do not feel I ought to pay part of the debt of my race,—and if you gentlemen feel as you should feel in this case, your emotions will be like mine.
Gentlemen, you were called into this case by chance. It took us a week to find you, a week of culling out prejudice and hatred. Probably we did not cull it all out at that; but we took the best and the fairest that we could find. It is up to you.
Your verdict means something in this case: It means something, more than the fate of this boy. It is not often that a case is submitted to twelve men where the decision may mean a milestone in the progress of the human race. But this case does. And, I hope and I trust that you have a feeling of responsibility that will make you take it and do your duty as citizens of a great nation, and, as members of the human family, which is better still.
Let me say just a parting word for Henry Sweet, who has well nigh been forgotten. I am serious, but it seems almost like a reflection upon this jury to talk as if I doubted your verdict. What has this boy done? This one boy now that I am culling out from all of the rest, and whose fate is in your hands,—can you tell me what he has done? Can I believe myself? Am I standing in a Court of Justice, where twelve men on their oaths are asked to take away the liberty of a boy twenty-one years of age, who has done nothing more than what Henry Sweet has done?
Gentlemen, you may think he shot too quick; you may think he erred in judgment; you may think that Doctor Sweet should not have gone there, prepared to defend his home. But, what of this case of Henry Sweet? What has he done? I want to put it up to you, each one of you, individually. Doctor Sweet was his elder brother. He had helped Henry through school. He loved him. He had taken him into his home. Henry had lived with him and his wife; he had fondled his baby. The doctor had promised Henry money to go through school. Henry was getting his education, to take his place in the world, gentlemen—and this is a hard job. With his brother’s help, he had worked himself through college up to the last year. The doctor had bought a home. He feared danger. He moved in with his wife and he asked this boy to go with him. And this boy went to help defend his brother, and his brother’s wife and his child and his home.
Do you think more of him or less of him for that? I never saw twelve men in my life—and I have looked at a good many faces of a good many juries,—I never saw twelve men in my life, that, if you could get them to understand a human case, were not true and right.
Should this boy have gone along and helped his brother? Or, should he have stayed away? What would you have done? And yet, gentlemen, here is a boy, and the President of his College came all the way here from Ohio to tell you what thinks of him. His teachers have come here, from Ohio, to tell you what they think of him. The Methodist Bishop has come here to tell you what he thinks of him.
So, gentlemen, I am justified in saying that this boy is as kindly, as well disposed, as decent a man as any one of you twelve. Do you think he ought to be taken out of his school and sent to the penitentiary? All right, gentlemen, if you think so, do it. It is your job, not mine. If you think so, do it. But if you do, gentlemen, if you should ever look into the face of your own boy, or your own brother, or look into your own heart, you will regret it in sack cloth and ashes. You know, if he committed any offense, it was being loyal and true to his brother whom he loved. I know where you will send him, and it will not be to the penitentiary.
Now, gentlemen, just one more word, and I am through with this case. I do not live in Detroit. But I have no feeling against this city. In fact, I shall always have the kindest remembrance of it, especially if this case results as I think and feel that it will. I am the last one to come here to stir up race hatred, or any other hatred. I do not believe in the law of hate. I may not be true to my ideals always, but I believe in the law of love, and I believe you can do nothing with hatred. I would like to see a time when man loves his fellow man, and forgets his color or his creed. We will never be civilized until that time comes.
I know the Negro race has a long road to go. I believe the life of the Negro race has been a life of tragedy, of injustice, of oppression. The law has made him equal, but man has not. And, after all, the last analysis is, what has man done?—and not what has the law done? I know there is a long road ahead of him, before he can take the place which I believe he should take. I know that before him there is suffering, sorrow, tribulation and death among the blacks, and perhaps the whites. I am sorry. I would do what I could to avert it. I would advise patience; I would advise toleration; I would advise understanding; I would advise all of those things which are necessary for men who live together.
Gentlemen, what do you think is your duty in this case? I have watched, day after day, these black, tense faces that have crowded this court. These black faces that now are looking to you twelve whites, feeling that the hopes and fears of a race are in your keeping.
This case is about to end, gentlemen. To them, it is life. Not one of their color sits on this jury. Their fate is in the hands of twelve whites. Their eyes are fixed on you, their hearts go out to you, and their hopes hang on your verdict.
This is all. I ask you, on behalf of this defendant, on behalf of these helpless ones who turn to you, and more than that,—on behalf of this great state, and this great city which must face this problem, and face it fairly,—I ask you, in the name of progress and of the human race, to return a verdict of not guilty in this case!
The account below comes from Marcet Haldeman-Julius’s pamphlet on the Sweet (and Scopes) trials, “Clarence Darrow’s Two Greatest Trials”:
To many of us he seemed like one of the prophets of old come to speak a word of warning and of guidance. That plea was a mighty climax which made inevitable the final curtain.
The last act of this drama opened the next day with Mr. Toms rebuttal. It was not such a poor summing up, either, but somehow it reminded one of the clatter of folding chairs after a symphony concert.
The Verdict
Wednesday, Judge Murphy, in a masterly and fearless charge, set forth the law. He left little doubt of the jury’s duty. All afternoon these twelve men deliberated. Once they sent out for further instructions and loud wrangling issued as the door opened. The judge refused, saying that he had covered everything in his charge. People were scattered all through the building. Newspapermen kept their eyes on the clock, thoughts of the last edition in their minds. Only Gladys Sweet and a few of her friends waited inside the enclosure.
Suddenly, at one minute to five, came a loud knocking on the jury door. There was an inpouring from the halls. In the excitement no one could locate that engaging, ever sociable person, Frank Nolan, the clerk. Judge Murphy, in a voice raised for him, put his head into the courtroom and said sternly: “Don’t bring that jury in until we are ready for them.” People continued to gather swiftly until the room was more crowded than on any day of the trial. A wait, while throats tightened. In desperation, another clerk was secured. Henry Sweet, his hands pressed together, stood for a moment, his face to the wall. His chin quivered. At last—the jury door was unlocked, and the men in single file, marched in, headed by the foreman. The regular question was put: “Have you gentlemen in the course of your deliberations reached a verdict in the case of Henry Sweet? And if so who will answer for you?” And then (from the Cunard Anchor Lines man): “We have and I will.” Stillness that pressed and hurt. With an effort, Small cleared his throat. “Not Guilty,” he said, and his voice broke.
Toms, incredulous, asked to have the verdict repeated. And then, in the emotional relief, there were sobs, laughs, warm congratulations. Few eyes were dry. Even that cool, unemotional man, Mr. Chawke, was unable for a moment to speak. Tears rolled down the checks of Clarence Darrow and of Henry Sweet.
1. When Darrow addressed the jury, he said, “It took us a week to find you, a week of culling out prejudice and hatred.” This means that he wanted jurors who
a. never committed a crime.
b.were not biased.
c. often spoke their mind.
d.were not black.
2. When Darrow said that people came to the courtroom to tell what they thought of Henry Sweet, he mentions all of the following except
a.                   his teachers.
b.                  Doctor Sweet.
c.                   his college president.
d.                  the Methodist Bishop.
3. According to the article, with which statement would Clarence Darrow most likely agree?
a.                   Greed is the root of all evil.
b.                  Violence is sometimes justifiable.
c.                   A jury should consist of men only.
d.                  Only the police should have weapons.
4. When he hears a knock on the jury door, Judge Murphy orders everyone to wait because
a.                   he cannot find Frank Nolan, the clerk.
b.                  the jury has sent out for further instruction.
c.                   a crowd has gathered inside the enclosure.
d.                  Henry Sweet needs to be located.
5. According to the article, which of the following statements about Henry Sweet is true?
a.                   He had broken the law many times in the past.
b.                  He did not know when he was arrested that anyone had been killed.
c.                   He refused to answer questions until his lawyer arrived.
d.                  He did not have access to a gun at his brother’s house.
6. People tried to force Henry Sweet’s brother to leave his home because he
a.                   was educated.
b.                  killed a man.
c.                   was black.
d.                  broke the law.
7. According to Clarence Darrow, which words best describe Henry Sweet?
a.                   obedient and predictable
b.                  impulsive and naïve
c.                   educated and outspoken
d.                  hardworking and loyal
8. Who asks to have the verdict repeated?
a.                   Mr. Toms
b.                  Mr. Chawks
c.                   Frank Nolan
d.                  Henry Sweet
9. Why do you think this case was important? Why were so many people anxious to hear the verdict?

No comments:

Post a Comment