Where Have You Gone, Atticus Finch?

In the archives of legal fiction, two characters best embody historic liberal self-perception. One is attorney Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird fame. The other is Juror #8 in the 1957 film, 12 Angry Men. Today, each is an endangered species.

In his defense of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of rape in 1930s Alabama, Atticus ignored public opinion. He stared down the mobs intent on extra-legal justice and protected his ”mockingbird” as best he could. The unlikely mockingbird today is former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. As Chauvin learned quickly, if he did not know it beforehand, today’s vestigial liberals identify not with Atticus but with the mob.

Hell, as even Snopes had to concede Vice President Kamala Harris “encouraged her supporters to donate” to a nonprofit called the Minnesota Freedom Fund (MFF) that was bailing out members of the mob arrested for rioting after George Floyd’s death.

Chauvin’s crime, like Robinson’s, was being of a certain race in a society that increasingly sees justice only through the prism of race. Like the fictional Robinson, the real-life Chauvin represents one of a long and growing line of sacrificial lambs offered on the altar of racial “justice” to expiate the nation’s imagined sins.

Ever impatient, the mobs from the very same liberal metro could not wait for Chauvin’s official immolation to demand the sacrifice of a new lamb. This time, the mobs have shown no scruple about sating themselves on a female officer. To them, it mattered not a whit that veteran Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, officer Kim Potter clearly showed no racial malice in her accidental shooting of Duante Wright, a troubled archetype from a subculture slowly being crushed under the weight of rigidly enforced dishonesty.

To his good fortune, Chauvin has found his Atticus in defense attorney Eric Nelson. Although he has backstage help from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, Nelson has been arguing solo against the snarky Mod Squad of a prosecution team. Calm and dispassionate, the forty-something Nelson has been quietly picking the prosecution case apart these last three weeks.  Viewed from another planet, the unknowing alien might wonder why Chauvin is even on trial. For details, please see the work done by Andrew Branca at Legal Insurrection.  Those who have not followed the case closely would be wise to ignore Big Media and watch the closing arguments, likely on Monday, before forming an opinion.

For all of Nelson’s good work, Chauvin has only a slightly better chance of acquittal than Tom Robinson. His best hope lies in having a juror like Juror #8, the character played by Henry Fonda in the liberal fantasy of a movie, 12 Angry Men.

In his screenplay notes, Reginald Rose describes Juror #8 as “a man who sees all sides of every question and constantly seeks the truth. A man of strength tempered with compassion. Above all, he is a man who wants justice to be done and will fight to see that it is.” This is how liberals have historically imagined themselves. The willfully blind perhaps still do. Not one for nuance, Rose describes #8’s nemesis, Juror #3, played by Lee J. Cobb, in the film, as “a humorless man who is intolerant of opinions other than his own and accustomed to forcing his wishes and views upon others.”

This being the mid-fifties, #3 serves as the inevitable Joe McCarthy proxy. In the film, he allies himself with Juror #10, “a bigot who places no values on any human life save his own.” Such was the profile of the conservative in the liberal mind nearly sixty years ago. Not much has changed. 

The plot of Twelve Angry Men unfolds fully in the jury room. The jurors have convened to discuss the case. The defendant is a young, five-foot-seven inch, Hispanic man accused of killing someone much taller -- curiously, the precise scenario of the case against George Zimmerman, an earlier sacrificial lamb. Zimmerman’s acquittal in 2013 launched Black Lives Matter and the era of mob justice.

The victim in 12 Angry Men is the young man’s father and the weapon used to kill him a knife. In the initial go-round, only Juror #8 votes “not guilty.” The other jurors are stunned. “I just think he's guilty,” says Juror #2. “I thought it was obvious. I mean nobody proved otherwise.” The Fonda character responds sagely, “Nobody has to prove otherwise. The burden of proof is on the prosecution. The defendant doesn't have to open his mouth. That's in the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment.” This being Hollywood, the good liberal juror persuades the others one by one to his point of view. Finally, even #10 and #3 yield to his wisdom, and the jurors vote to acquit.

That was then. This is now. A Juror #8 might emerge, ideally one of the three black males on the jury. The odds that he will convince the other eleven to brave the hell that would greet an acquittal are vanishingly slim. The odds that he -- or she -- might hang tough and convince one or two of the others to do the same and force a mistrial are still long but not absurd.

“We may be wrong,” #8 concedes. “We may be trying to return a guilty man to the community. No one can really know. But we have reasonable doubt, and this is a safeguard that has enormous value in our system.” Given that the Brooklyn Center City Council voted to fire its black city manager for saying Kim Potter should be accorded due process, one wonders today whether “progressives” might try to cancel 12 Angry Men for endorsing a “system” founded on white supremacy.

Jack Cashill’s forthcoming book, Barack Obama’s Promised Land: Deplorables Need Not Apply, is available for pre-order. See also www.cashill.com

Image: United Arttists

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