COURT: This court wishes to make an announcement: The court has been conducting this trial, and the audience has generally been orderly. I think they have given respectful attention. It is said that these prisoners did not have protection at Scottsboro, but this court has the Sheriff's force and the National Guards to protect them; also the court wants to protect them and will protect them, just as it will any one else engaged in this trial. Whether or not there is the slightest danger the court does not know; sometimes rumors come that may be absolutely untrue, but occasionally we reach that point where the court feels that there should be something said along this line.
The jury is not in here now, and the court is conscious of this fact, that it is trying to sift out the truth in this case. No unbiased man that has listened to this evidence can say it is not a question for the careful consideration of the jury. Their guilt or innocence is a matter which should be determined, and should be determined after most careful consideration. If these defendants are guilty of the crime charged, of course the law should be vindicated, and they should be punished; if they are not guilty they should be acquitted of the charge against them. That is for the jury to determine after they have carefully heard the evidence. Any man on the outside who has not heard the testimony, and who would try the case from rumor, without hearing it, has no right to say whether or not they are guilty or innocent, and whether or not this jury should turn them loose or not turn them loose.
Now gentlemen this is for the audience, and I want it to be known that these prisoners are under the protection of this court. The Sheriff and his deputies, and members of the National Guards are under the direction and authority of this court. This court intends to protect these prisoners, and any other persons engaged in this trial. Any man or group of men that attempts to take charge outside of the law, are not only disobedient to the law, but are citizens unworthy of the protection of the State of Alabama, and unworthy of the citizenship which they enjoy. I say this much, that the man who would engage in anything that would cause the death of any of these prisoners is not only a murderer, but a cowardly murderer, and a man whom we should look down upon with all the contempt in our being; and I am going to say further that the soldiers here and the Sheriffs here are expected to defend with their lives these prisoners, and if they must do it, listen gentlemen you have the authority of this court, and this court is speaking with authority, the man who attempts it may expect that his own life be forfeited, or the guards that guard them must forfeit their lives. If I were in command, and I will be there if I know it, I will not hesitate to give the order to protect with their lives these prisoners against any such attempt.
I am speaking with feeling, and I know it, because I am feeling it. I absolutely have no patience with mob spirit, and that spirit that would charge the guilt or innocence of any being without knowing of their guilt or innocence. Your very civilization depends upon the carrying out of your laws in an orderly manner. I am here listening to this case trying to sift the truth or not the truth of it, and I am going to strengthen that guard if necessary, and I am going to let everyone know that any attempt, and I believe these boys understand, that you have got to kill them before you get these prisoners. That is understood, and they have told me they would, and they will do it. Those are the instructions and orders given to the guards.
I will say this much; so far as I am concerned I believe I am as gentle as any man in the world; I don't believe I would harm anyone wrongfully, but when it comes to a question of right and wrong, when it comes to the very civilization, men no matter how quiet they are, or how peaceful they are, there comes a time when they must take a stand either right or wrong. Now, gentlemen I want that understood, and I will say this much; if there is any meeting in this town where such matters are discussed, where such thoughts are brought forward, the men that attend such a meeting should be ashamed of themselves; they are unworthy citizens of your town, and the good people of this town look down on them.
Now gentlemen I have spoken straight words; I have spoken harsh words, but every word is true, and I hope we will have no more of any such conduct. Let the jury return.