One of the most poignant, despairing moments in American cinema is when lawyer Atticus Finch delivers his closing plea to twelve racist jurors in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” He fully realizes these men are locked into their biases; the vote outcome is already guaranteed to preserve the evil poison of prejudice. Gregory Peck can say whatever he wants; he can be as lofty and eloquent as MLK on the Mall. And it won’t make a dime’s worth of difference; these guys don’t care. All they want is to cling to things the way they already are.
So Finch lays out the inescapable facts once more, how Tom Robinson absolutely did not, could not commit this rape; he was incapable of it. Beyond that, how our nation’s only hope is for the legal system to function fairly, for even a black man to be equal in the eyes of the law when he steps into the dock. That when twelve men put their hand on the Bible and swear before God to do justice, that pledge ought to mean something.
And he closes with eight words that bring tears to the eyes of moviegoers: “IN THE NAME OF GOD, DO YOUR DUTY.”
Sometimes it really doesn’t make that much difference how one trial comes out. Because no matter how some cynical jurors may vote, millions of people around the globe are all watching the movie.