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In Memoriam: Gregory Peck

June 12, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT

JIM LEHRER: Now, Gregory Peck, in Los Angeles. Here he is playing his most famous role, that of Atticus Finch, the idealistic southern lawyer in the 1962 classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Just last week, the American Film Institute named Finch as the screen hero in 100 years of American film history.

ATTICUS FINCH (played by Gregory Peck): (“To Kill a Mockingbird”) Witnesses for the state with the exception of the sheriff of the county, have presented themselves, gentlemen, to this court in this cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted — confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption, the evil assumption, that all negroes lie, all negroes are basically immoral beings, all negro men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption that one associates with minds of their caliber, and which is in itself, gentlemen, a lie– which I do not need to point out to you.

And so a quiet, humble, respectable negro who has had the unmitigated temerity to feel sorry for a white woman has had to put his word against two white people’s. The defendant is not guilty — but somebody in this courtroom is.

Now gentlemen, in this country our courts are the great levelers. In our courts, all men are created equal. I’m no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and our jury system. That’s no ideal to me. That is a living, working reality. Now, I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion the evidence that you have heard, come to a decision, and restore this man to his family. In the name of God, do your duty.