Chapter 10 The Speech for the Defence. An Argument that Cuts Both Ways
ALL was hushed as the first words of the famous orator rang out. The eyes o_he audience were fastened upon him. He began very simply and directly, wit_n air of conviction, but not the slightest trace of conceit. He made n_ttempt at eloquence, at pathos, or emotional phrases. He was like a ma_peaking in a circle of intimate and sympathetic friends. His voice was a fin_ne, sonorous and sympathetic, and there was something genuine and simple i_he very sound of it. But everyone realised at once that the speaker migh_uddenly rise to genuine pathos and "pierce the heart with untold power." Hi_anguage was perhaps more irregular than Ippolit Kirillovitch's, but he spok_ithout long phrases, and indeed, with more precision. One thing did no_lease the ladies: he kept bending forward, especially at the beginning of hi_peech, not exactly bowing, but as though he were about to dart at hi_isteners, bending his long spine in half, as though there were a spring i_he middle that enabled him to bend almost at right angles.
At the beginning of his speech he spoke rather disconnectedly, without system,
one may say, dealing with facts separately, though, at the end, these fact_ormed a whole. His speech might be divided into two parts, the firs_onsisting of criticism in refutation of the charge, sometimes malicious an_arcastic. But in the second half he suddenly changed his tone, and even hi_anner, and at once rose to pathos. The audience seemed on the lookout for it,
and quivered with enthusiasm.
He went straight to the point, and began by saying that although he practise_n Petersburg, he had more than once visited provincial towns to defen_risoners, of whose innocence he had a conviction or at least a preconceive_dea. "That is what has happened to me in the present case," he explained.
"From the very first accounts in the newspapers I was struck by somethin_hich strongly prepossessed me in the prisoner's favour. What interested m_ost was a fact which often occurs in legal practice, but rarely, I think, i_uch an extreme and peculiar form as in the present case. I ought to formulat_hat peculiarity only at the end of my speech, but I will do so at the ver_eginning, for it is my weakness to go to work directly, not keeping m_ffects in reserve and economising my material. That may be imprudent on m_art, but at least it's sincere. What I have in my mind is this: there is a_verwhelming chain of evidence against the prisoner, and at the same time no_ne fact that will stand criticism, if it is examined separately. As _ollowed the case more closely in the papers my idea was more and mor_onfirmed, and I suddenly received from the prisoner's relatives a request t_ndertake his defence. I at once hurried here, and here I became completel_onvinced. It was to break down this terrible chain of facts, and to show tha_ach piece of evidence taken separately was unproved and fantastic, that _ndertook the case."
So Fetyukovitch began.
"Gentlemen of the jury," he suddenly protested, "I am new to this district. _ave no preconceived ideas. The prisoner, a man of turbulent and unbridle_emper, has not insulted me. But he has insulted perhaps hundreds of person_n this town, and so prejudiced many people against him beforehand. Of cours_ recognise that the moral sentiment of local society is justly excite_gainst him. The prisoner is of turbulent and violent temper. Yet he wa_eceived in society here; he was even welcome in the family of my talente_riend, the prosecutor."
(N.B. At these words there were two or three laughs in the audience, quickl_uppressed, but noticed by all. All of us knew that the prosecutor receive_itya against his will, solely because he had somehow interested his wife- _ady of the highest virtue and moral worth, but fanciful, capricious, and fon_f opposing her husband, especially in trifles. Mitya's visits, however, ha_ot been frequent.)
"Nevertheless I venture to suggest," Fetyukovitch continued, "that in spite o_is independent mind and just character, my opponent may have formed _istaken prejudice against my unfortunate client. Oh, that is so natural; th_nfortunate man has only too well deserved such prejudice. Outraged morality,
and still more outraged taste, is often relentless. We have, in the talente_rosecutor's speech, heard a stern analysis of the prisoner's character an_onduct, and his severe critical attitude to the case was evident. And, what'_ore, he went into psychological subtleties into which he could not hav_ntered, if he had the least conscious and malicious prejudice against th_risoner. But there are things which are even worse, even more fatal in suc_ases, than the most malicious and consciously unfair attitude. It is worse i_e are carried away by the artistic instinct, by the desire to create, so t_peak, a romance, especially if God has endowed us with psychological insight.
Before I started on my way here, I was warned in Petersburg, and was mysel_ware, that I should find here a talented opponent whose psychological insigh_nd subtlety had gained him peculiar renown in legal circles of recent years.
But profound as psychology is, it's a knife that cuts both ways." (Laughte_mong the public.) "You will, of course, forgive me my comparison; I can'_oast of eloquence. But I will take as an example any point in th_rosecutor's speech.
"The prisoner, running away in the garden in the dark, climbed over the fence,
was seized by the servant, and knocked him down with a brass pestle. Then h_umped back into the garden and spent five minutes over the man, trying t_iscover whether he had killed him or not. And the prosecutor refuses t_elieve the prisoner's statement that he ran to old Grigory out of pity. 'No,'
he says, 'such sensibility is impossible at such a moment, that's unnatural;
he ran to find out whether the only witness of his crime was dead or alive,
and so showed that he had committed the murder, since he would not have ru_ack for any other reason.'
"Here you have psychology; but let us take the same method and apply it to th_ase the other way round, and our result will be no less probable. Th_urderer, we are told, leapt down to find out, as a precaution, whether th_itness was alive or not, yet he had left in his murdered father's study, a_he prosecutor himself argues, an amazing piece of evidence in the shape of _orn envelope, with an inscription that there had been three thousand rouble_n it. 'If he had carried that envelope away with him, no one in the worl_ould have known of that envelope and of the notes in it, and that the mone_ad been stolen by the prisoner.' Those are the prosecutor's own words. So o_ne side you see a complete absence of precaution, a man who has lost his hea_nd run away in a fright, leaving that clue on the floor, and two minute_ater, when he has killed another man, we are entitled to assume the mos_eartless and calculating foresight in him. But even admitting this was so, i_s psychological subtlety, I suppose, that discerns that under certai_ircumstances I become as bloodthirsty and keen-sighted as a Caucasian eagle,
while at the next I am as timid and blind as a mole. But if I am s_loodthirsty and cruelly calculating that when I kill a man I only run back t_ind out whether he is alive to witness against me, why should I spend fiv_inutes looking after my victim at the risk of encountering other witnesses?
Why soak my handkerchief, wiping the blood off his head so that it may b_vidence against me later? If he were so cold-hearted and calculating, why no_it the servant on the head again and again with the same pestle so as to kil_im outright and relieve himself of all anxiety about the witness?
"Again, though he ran to see whether the witness was alive, he left anothe_itness on the path, that brass pestle which he had taken from the two women,
and which they could always recognise afterwards as theirs, and prove that h_ad taken it from them. And it is not as though he had forgotten it on th_ath, dropped it through carelessness or haste, no, he had flung away hi_eapon, for it was found fifteen paces from where Grigory lay. Why did he d_o? just because he was grieved at having killed a man, an old servant; and h_lung away the pestle with a curse, as a murderous weapon. That's how it mus_ave been, what other reason could he have had for throwing it so far? And i_e was capable of feeling grief and pity at having killed a man, it shows tha_e was innocent of his father's murder. Had he murdered him, he would neve_ave run to another victim out of pity; then he would have felt differently;
his thoughts would have been centred on self-preservation. He would have ha_one to spare for pity, that is beyond doubt. On the contrary, he would hav_roken his skull instead of spending five minutes looking after him. There wa_oom for pity and good-feeling just because his conscience had been clear til_hen. Here we have a different psychology. I have purposely resorted to thi_ethod, gentlemen of the jury, to show that you can prove anything by it. I_ll depends on who makes use of it. Psychology lures even most serious peopl_nto romancing, and quite unconsciously. I am speaking of the abuse o_sychology, gentlemen."
Sounds of approval and laughter, at the expense of the prosecutor, were agai_udible in the court. I will not repeat the speech in detail; I will onl_uote some passages from it, some leading points.