Tremain’s speech moves the spectators. Several exhibit agreement; many scrutinize Stokes less skeptically than before. The whispers sound softer, as if the whisperers are more willing to allow for human weakness.
District Attorney Garvin acknowledges the shift as he begins the conclusion for the state. “All the sympathy of the jury, the audience, the court, prosecuting officers, and counsel is with the living man, with the relatives that surround him and the associations with which he is connected,” Garvin says. This is only natural. So is the tendency to devalue those who cannot appear in court. “The dead are forgotten; their good deeds are buried with them, and their bad deeds, if they have any, are brought to the surface in the course of a trial like this. Every stain on their character is referred to. Every single thing that can be brought to light against them is displayed in characters of living fire.”
Yet the quality of the life of the deceased is not the issue here, Garvin continues, but the manner of its termination. “He was struck down while going up the stairway into the ladies’ entrance of the Grand Central Hotel, and sent into eternity by a pistol shot by the prisoner, who pleads for mercy, who asks for reasonable doubt in his favor, who asks for sympathy at the hands of this jury, and who prays through counsel for the right to be heard. All these for him. Poor Fisk has no jury, no counsel, no friends. Among strangers, no human being that he ever saw before, so far as we know, except the employees of this hotel, except the prisoner, who at the head of the stairs took his life in a moment. This is not disputed. This is admitted, and nobody denies. He swears to it himself. Yet he stands here asking for protection.”
The defense has made its case on three allegedly mitigating grounds, Garvin says. “First, insanity—want of responsibility—whatever it may be called. Second, that Fisk did not die of the wound that was inflicted upon him by this pistol shot. And third, self-defense.”
The district attorney serially dissects the defense arguments. Regarding insanity: “Is there any doubt that this man started on this day, came down from Delmonico’s to Andrews’s office, to Bixby’s court, and the Hoffman House and the Erie Railway office, and the corner of Fourth Street, to Chamberlain & Dodge’s, and to the Grand Central Hotel, and performed this deed? Anybody say he is guilty of any symptoms of insanity? Anything said or done by him that afternoon, or that day, or that week, that should indicate that he is not a sane man and knew what he is doing? Every step that he took that day, every word he said, and everything that he did, only goes to confirm the idea that he was just as responsible as he is today.”
As to the cause of death, Garvin reminds the jurors that while the doctors for the defense have asserted that shock from the gunshot wound was not the cause of death, other equally distinguished physicians have asserted that the shock was the cause of death. The jurors must make up their own minds—and recall that without the gunshot, fired by Stokes, the issue of the technical cause of death never would have arisen.
In the matter of self-defense, Stokes claims to have seen a pistol in Fisk’s hand. “Where is the pistol Fisk is alleged to have had? Was it dropped anywhere, and why was it not found? If the shot was fired in self-defense, why did Stokes not say so to the crowds on the spot? Why did he not say so to Hart when he charged him with shooting Fisk? Why did he not say so to the deceased when brought before him for recognition?”
And what is the evidence for the existence of a pistol in Fisk’s hand? “The only testimony to that effect was by the prisoner, confirmed by a woman connected with these two men, one of whom she had brought to death, the other to this peril.” He asks the jury to disregard Josie Mansfield’s testimony as entirely self-interested and wholly unreliable. He quotes Proverbs: “Deliver me from the strange woman. Her house inclineth unto death, and her paths to the dead.”
The arguments of the defense have failed, Garvin concludes. The responsibility of the jury is to judge not the dead man or his associates but the prisoner. “I care nothing for the Erie ring or the Tammany ring or any other ring. I care for right, justice, and truth.” If the jurors have doubts regarding the testimony of particular witnesses, let them ignore it. “There is evidence enough beside.” The question is simple: “If there was a killing without provocation it was murder.”
Garvin reminds the jurors that they bear great responsibility. New York is a dangerous place; he notes a recent series of violent murders that have set the entire community on edge. “If you release this man, blood will continue to flow in our streets.”
The accused has acted; now he must accept the consequence of his actions. “By the law he is to be judged; by the law he is to be punished.”