When Harper Lee’s father, A.C. Lee was a young attorney, newly admitted to the bar, a judge appointed him to defend two black men accused of murdering a white man. It was a botched robbery, actually. The storekeeper they robbed was elderly and died from a blow to the head.
A.C. had almost no time to prepare. Still, he raised five serious objections at the trial, the first being that the dead man’s son was on the jury! The judge overruled each objection. Lee did the best he could, but this was “Negro law,” as it was referred to in the South: a kind of pantomime of a real justice. Both of A.C.’s clients were hanged.
About two weeks later, the dead man’s other son in upstate New York received a package. Inside were the scalps of the two hanged man with a note:
Justice has been done in Alabama.
Mr. Lee never took another criminal case. He would not participate in courthouse shams involving the poor, the frightened, and the hapless. But he had stood up in the name of justice. As Atticus said to the jury, “In the name of God, do your duty.”