She stared at me as I walked from the courtroom and I felt her hate bore into me. Her whole posture seemed to drip with contempt and what I could only feel at that moment was a curse from her whole being.
I had just brutally attacked her son, dragging his name through the mud of a jury trial in efforts to show that my client was innocent and that her son was the real culprit the police should have investigated. It was too late for that type of justice now because someone had shot and killed him. All that his mother had left of him was memories of a child she would always love, always defend.
Years later, I would recall her psychic attack at the Philadelphia courthouse as I watched Atticus Finch, the hero from the movie “To Kill A Mockingbird.” He refused to react to the father of a girl the criminal defense lawyer had shown was a liar when she testified against a black man charged with raping her. The girl’s father approached Atticus, played by Gregory Peck, and he spits into the attorney’s face.
Atticus says nothing and refuses to retaliate, as he simply reaches into his pocket and pulls out a handkerchief to wipe the spittle away. The Alabama “gentleman” turns and leaves but not before one of Atticus’ children had witnessed the hate-filled display.
The father of the man charged with the crime looks on with respect and admiration while standing behind Gregory Peck.
My client was charged with a shooting in a poor section of North Philadelphia. I compared his story to the facts presented by the police and I used the police paperwork and a touch of common sense to show the law enforcement officials had arrested the wrong man. I even broke with my own tradition of keeping the defendant off the witness stand after deciding that he could tell his story convincingly with little fear of his failing upon cross-examination by the seasoned prosecutor.
The evidence we produced raised reasonable doubts that he had committed the crime and pointed the finger at the young man who had been killed on the same street months later due to a gang fight involving drugs. The jury found my client not guilty but I had no idea of the eventual verdict when I left the courtroom following my closing argument.
And, that is when the mother of the slain young man approached me and silently cursed me for besmirching her son’s memory.
I took the heat. I took the hatred. I took the evil upon myself and walked out with my head held high and my belief in the law intact. Years later, I understood how Atticus Finch felt when he absorbed the hatred and disdain yet felt proud to have engaged in the battle for the truth.