Summation of William T. Jerome, D. A.
 Harry Thaw Trial (April 10, 1907)

“If it please your Honour and gentlemen of the jury, you seem, as far as I can judge by the reports of the summing up of my learned opponent, to have been wandering through a weird field of romance for a couple of days. However ornate periods may be, however mellifluous sentences may flow from the lips of a polished orator, it is not on such things that the life of a human being is to be determined—on one hand the life of a human being, on the other hand, the safety of our lives, the good order of the community. The issues here cannot be determined by quotations from the Ancient Scriptures. That is not what we are trying to do here.

“Keep clearly in your mind that this is no private litigation in which you sit. Keep clearly in mind that, while the defendant’s counsel stands for the interests of the individual, there is another side, the side of the people, of whom you are part, and from whom you are chosen, and .by whom you are chosen to be triers of questions of fact. It is no conflict between the executors of Stanford White and this defendant. It is no litigation to vindicate or blacken the memory of him whose lips are now sealed. That is not what we are trying here. It is not to determine whether Evelyn Nesbit Thaw was wronged by Stanford White. It is not whether the friends and relatives of Mr. White come here and ask for vengeance. We are not trying that.

"It is an issue between the people of the State of New York and Harry Kendall Thaw, and the issue is to determine whether what the defendant did was, in law, justifiable or excusable—whether for the protection of life in this community, the defendant should be punished.”

“....Any one of these five verdicts, I take it, the learned Judge will charge you can find. Whether there would be any other than the first three, you could find by the wildest stretch of imagination, if you obey the oath, namely, murder in its first degree, murder in its second degree, or manslaughter in its first degree, it will be in part my duty to discuss ; for that this was justifiable, although in the opening we were told that all defences would be availed of, is absurd.

“Justifiable homicide does not mean dementia Americana. Justifiable means self-defence, and when a man sits with his head in his hand, quietly looking at a play, his arm thrown over another chair that has been pushed away from the table, and is shot down by an enemy with a revolver, held so close that his very features are so disfigured that his brother-inlaw does not recognize him, even the wildest stretch of the imagination will hardly picture that to a jury east of the Mississippi River as a case of self-defence.
“That it was excusable is equally absurd. Excusable are those homicides committed by misfortune, committed in the proper chastisement of a child by accident or in doing without carelessness some of those acts that one may lawfully do. There can logically be but one of four verdicts here— murder in its first degree, because there was a design to kill, and that design was premeditated and deliberate; murder in its second, because the premeditation and deliberation were absent, but there was the design to kill; manslaughter in its first, because, while there was no design to kill, it was in the heat of passion with a dangerous weapon; or not guilty, on the ground of insanity.

“An effort to inflame your passions and to turn the real issue aside to the trial of another, is not, as we conceive it on the Atlantic seaboard, the professional manner of presenting to a jury a case. Your oath binds you, but the oath of a counsellor of the Supreme Court, binds him or should. And the appeal to you to do or not to do because of your sympathies or your passions, is a broad and wide departure from the duty of a counsellor. You have been carefully interrogated as to whether you will allow any sympathy or passion to move you, and you have sworn not to. Is it respectful or decent to appeal to these same passions as a basis for adjudicating a matter which should be a simple, intellectual effort—as purely and plainly an intellectual effort as a demonstration in geometry, an equation in algebra, or a sum in arithmetic?"

“....A man walks up where White had a right to be, he walks up to his enemy after locating him, after carefully locating him, and catching him in a position where he was absolutely helpless, he does not miss him. There is no furore. You or I, or our wife or our child might have been there, but he goes up and he makes no mistake in the person he was shooting at. He was asked, was it a man or a woman, and he says. a man ‘Did you hit him?’ ‘I think I hit him.’

“I think he did hit him, each and every time. Every act there was the act of sanity. We are told that he looked white and pallid. Do men who have three long years nursed an enmity to a man, that they never dared bring to a crisis, until they had dined and thought of an old case years ago, where ‘two men and a woman figured,’ who for three long years have ‘glared’ at their enemy, do they go out and slay him and look calm and placid, as they would going to a feast prepared by a friend? If a man had been glaring for two years and looking for his victim, would not his face be pallid? Would there not be signs on his face which were not the signs that they bear at calmer times?”

“Locate your enemy. Locate a man who had blackballed you at clubs, locate the man who had wronged the woman that you had married, locate the man who had spread your scandals broadcast through the town, locate him carefully for half an hour or more, and then go over and shoot him in a way that’ it seems it was done very quietly,’ and then come with your dementia Americana to a jury, east of the Mississippi River, and ask them to see in it anything but a premeditated and deliberate design to take the life of the man you hate. Was there not absolute premeditation? Was there not absolute motive?”

[On White and Nesbit]

“....Let me first deal with the man who is dead. A middle-aged man, his hair grey already, in the language of my learned opponent, a man with a wife and family, a man of position in the community, a man of genius in the particular profession that he followed of architect. And what do we find of this man? He comes into the life of this girl insidiously, we are told by the learned counsel for the defence.  But, up to the awful night described, if there was ever such a night, does he make a single insidious advance toward this girl, does he give her a single rich gift? Why, it was stipulated here that the gifts that White had given her were minor things, the little things that added to her comfort—a boa, a hat, a coat, things of that character. Did he try to dazzle her childish imagination by rich gifts? The stipulation extracted by counsel himself is to the contrary. Did he try to see whether she would yield to drink and so yield to these terrible desires that he is pictured as having conceived? No. If the girl tells the truth, day after day, night after night, party after party, he said—'You must have but one glass of champagne—no more.'”

“....The angel child that Mr. Delmas would paint her [Evelyn] to be, reared chastely and purely, as she herself tells you, drugged and despoiled! Why, what nonsense to come here and tell twelve men! She of the Florodora chorus! She dragged into this den of vice and drugged ! And drugged with what, pray? The door was thrown wide open by my learned opponent. When the girl could not fix that night in any time within three months, oh, how easy to say ‘Why don’t you prove an alibi for Stanford White, why don’t you prove that Stanford White was not there? ‘ and my learned opponent from the Pacific slope said ‘ in spite of the rules of evidence, we throw the door wide open and invite your entry.’

“But when the crossexaminan came and it appeared very definitely and positively that People’s Exhibits 34 and 35 (showing two photographs of Evelyn) were taken the day before the drugging, there came a pause and a change of mind.

“And when the people tried to walk through the door, by calling the learned Professor ‘Witthaus, to show that no drug known to science could produce insensibility in two minutes and a person get through with their life, if it was bitter, or if it was not bitter, recover so as to be around the day the door was closed.

“And yet the next morning apparently, according to my learned friend, this despoiler of virtue could go and teach her that all women were unchaste, only some were more clever than others in concealing. Does that appeal to your sense? Was this girl brought up more carefully than your daughters, if you have them? And, if they be past sixteen and a half, go back to that period and think how it would have appealed to them or to the children that you know of that age. They surely were brought up as carefully as this girl.

“And yet what does she do? She meets him again and again and again—this human ogre that had drugged her. She meets him at the Tower. Eight or ten times she goes to this Twenty-fourth Street place. Surely, surely, surely, an extraordinary condition."

“....As she sat on the stand there that afternoon, during the cross-examination, after days and hours of description of the wickedness of this man; why, it seemed almost as if the spirit of Stanford White had come here and said to her, ‘Evelyn, can you not say one word for me? My lips lie sealed in death ; the rules of evidence will not permit anybody to be my champion ; it cannot be shown where I was the night after these pictures were taken—the law will not allow it; no one can speak for me in this Court, because I am not on trial; and yet, while I can have no procurator here, while there can be no one here to say a word for me, you sit on the stand and for all time write me down as a man for whom the fires of hell are an entirely inadequate punishment.’

“I am not here to defend Stanford White. That Stanford White had his faults and his gross faults, who would deny? But there is a difference between unchastity and brutality.

“There is a difference between the man who errs and the man who brutally despoils. My own information is that there is an explanation to this as consistent with the facts as this marvellous Jekyl and Hyde theory. Her own words have ruined that theory. Is it credible that, now that she has been enlightened by this St. George and taught that all women are not unchaste, that now, not sixteen but twenty-two, she could sit here and look hack on her despoiler and describe him in that way, if that occurred at that Twenty-fourth Street house that night that she said it did occur?

“As I have said before, a wealthy man, finding enjoyments, God knows how or why, in this class of people, sees this young child blown into his circle. She appears youthful even now, after all this trial, after all this tragedy; she appeared youthful on the stand. See what a child she must have appeared to this man, when she blew into his circle, away back in 1901. As she was told, when she applied for a position in the Florodora Company, they were not running a baby farm or kinder garten, or something of that kind. That a wealthy man in these circumstances should have tried to help her, that he should, when she was out of work, have given her $25 a week, that he should not have given her gifts except those that ministered to her comfort, all these are perfectly consistent with his conduct. It is consistent with his conduct that there never was any relation sustained between this girl and Stanford White except those that were pure. It is consistent and more consistent with this horrible monster that he was suddenly transformed into a monster who kept the girl’s respect, to whom she came the moment she came to America, driven out by the defendant from Paris, as I shall show you.”

[On Thaw]

“...Now let us look at the third party [Harry Thaw] to this tragedy. And where in the testimony do we first meet him, wealthy man from Pittsburg, who, in the mellifluous periods of my learned opponent, is described as paying honourable court? We find him wrapping $50 bills around the stems of American beauties, sending them to a girl on the stage whom he did not know. We find her first meeting him after that at a dinner at which he was the host and she was invited to attend by another girl. We find him offering the weak mother a competence to interfere and help him to gain the girl. Honourable court? Why, are men of wealth and station, however illiterate, seeking by honourable court young women as a rule in the chorus, and are they seeking them by wrapping $50 bills around American beauty roses? Is that your notion of honourable court? Is honourable court a fitting term to apply to that?”

“....As to this ‘dementia Americana,’ which ‘prevails from he Canadian line to the Gulf of Mexico ‘—and mostly on the Gulf of Mexico—does it wait three years and glare at its enemy and then kill?

“Does this ‘dementia Americana’ flaunt the woman it loves for two long years through the capitals of Europe and then kill? ‘Dementia Americana’ never hides behind the skirts of a woman; ‘dementia Americana’ never puts a woman on the stand to lay bare her shame to protect it; no woman could in the category where ‘dementia Americana’ prevails.

“‘When I discharged those shots into his head,’ said Thaw, ‘I didn’t know I was discharging shots. I didn’t know it was Stanford White. I didn’t know I was killing him, nor did I know it was wrong.’

“It was wrong under the law. When the anarchists threw the bombs in Chicago they had no personal grievance against any of the four policemen who were killed. It is not a question whether the slayer justified himself, not the form of his own conscience. It is the law of the land that must be satisfied.

“Dementia Americana, the higher and unwritten law! Aye, indeed, it could be appealed to successfully in its home on a basis of that kind, it seems to me.”

“....This is your protector of the home! This is the man who has struck for the virtue of the American woman! “Why, gentlemen, every element in this case is simple. It is simply a mere vulgar, everyday, Tenderloin homicide. That is what it is and you know it is. If this man, instead of being the rich Harry Thaw from Pittsburg, was the son of a rich padrone in Elizabeth Street here, and Mr. White, well, since he was artistic, was a modeller of plaster images in Mott Street, and the girl over whom they quarrelled, and for whom the killing was done, was a chorus girl in the London, how long would brain storm, the paranoia of the millionaire, stand before an American jury?

“A vulgar, ordinary, low, sordid murder. The married man getting away with the girl from the unmarried one, and the unmarried one taking her back and living with her, and finally marrying her; and fearful that the married man would get her back again—the man whom he hated, the man who had kept him out of clubs, the man who had circulated, as it is said here, scandals about him, the man who said that he could get the girl back and would, the man who had described him as a dope fiend, whom he had every reason to hate ; and the girl lying between them like a tiger egging them on. With Thaw she is wronged by White; with White she is lashed by Thaw. Why, the same old elements that existed since the foundation of the world, and because she has a childish garb and a childish face, is she coming here to tell a tissue of lies like this, to work on you, gentlemen, to acquit a cold-blooded, cowardly murderer, on the ground of dementia Americana. If that is to be the result of it we are going to get in this community pretty close to who has the first brain storm, if he has any enemies about.

“I have heard strange opinions in courts of law. But the strangest is this, that this defendant could be insane in 1903 in Paris; that he could be insane in Pittsburg in 1903; that he could be insane on the 4th of April, 1905, when he was married, and made his will; that he could be insane the night of the 25th day of June, when he brutally and cowardly shot down his enemy, whom he hated, and suddenly his insanity depart, and he can sit there and his multitudinous learned counsel can take his fees and perhaps his notes. Aye, murder as a cure for insanity is a new thing in this jurisdiction, until with dementia Americana, it was introduced by my learned friend, Mr. Delmas.

“When this man White was killed, it was said by an assistant of mine that the real question here was, whether New York was to become a mining camp. In a mining camp, you do not expect law, and therefore, you arm yourself against your enemy and try to protect yourself.

“Living in the city of New York, with 9,000 policemen about you, with- courts and juries, whether you be a good man or a bad man, you have a right to assume that there is some safety, that there is some protection for you. But, if this thing can go, if the only thing that lies between a citizen and his enemy is a brain storm, then, as in the mining camp, every man had better pack a gun and have the first brain storm!

“And since my learned opponent has seen fit to go to the Scriptures for words that might guide you, let me, too, call your attention to two things that stand written as of old— ‘Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I shall repay.’ And the other that came from amid the thunders of Sinai and which has been embodied in the code of every civilised race for thousands of years, “Thou shalt not kill.”


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