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Journal of the Hon. Judge James Horton, June 21, 1933

(My response to Blog Post #3 — see instructions in our Daily Agendas here! – Melly)


Sometimes I feel as if I won’t sleep again. We’ve met like this too many times since March. I’ve had difficult cases to judge before, but Patterson’s trial is one that won’t loosen its hold on me. I thought it was finished and done with in April, when the jury returned a conviction–that’s the jury’s job, and they hold the burden. At least, that’s what I thought.

I didn’t have the slightest idea what would come next.

We had to postpone the rest of the Scottsboro trials for months. Holding them would be too dangerous. That New York lawyer started getting death threats, protesters started showing up in town, and I believed (foolishly) that everyone would settle down, if given enough time.

That’s been months ago. Nothing is settled.

Looking out the window, I see my family’s farm stretching beyond: green trees, peaceful pastures. Nothing could be further from the tension I feel. The protests, the angry letters, the requests from Leibowitz to declare a mistrial, my own guilt: it all leads me to one conclusion. Haywood Patterson’s trial was unjust. It was clear to me, then and now, that he had committed no crime. The crime is in the sectionalism of our jury and our state: that the word of Victoria Price is to believed, no matter the evidence to the contrary, no matter the cost to the wrongly accused. And Patterson? The members of the jury–the members of my community–dismissed his testimony and the defense’s evidence, because of the color of his skin.

My conscience will not let me sleep on such an injustice any longer.

Though it may cost me my reputation and my public office, I must set aside the conviction and give Haywood Patterson a new trial. If I do not, it will cost the man his life.


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