Second Speech for the Defense
The defendant, not because he has judged himself guilty, but because he was alarmed by the vehemence the prosecution, has withdrawn.1
As to us, his friends, we are discharging our sacred duty to him more fitly by aiding him while he is alive than by aiding him after he is dead. Admittedly, he himself would have pleaded his own case best; but since the present course appeared the safer, it remains for us, to whom his loss would be a very bitter grief, to defend him.
To my mind, it is with the aggressor that the blame for the deed rests. Now the presumptions from which the prosecution argues that the defendant was the aggressor are unreasonable. If brutal violence on the part of the young and self-control on the part of the old were as natural as seeing with the eyes and hearing with the ears, then there would be no need for you to sit in judgement; the young would stand condemned by their mere age. In fact, however, many young men are self-controlled, and many old men are violent in their cups; and so the presumption which they furnish favors the defense no less than the prosecution.
As the presumption supports us as much as it does the dead man, the balance is in our favor; for according to the witnesses, it was he who was the aggressor. This being so, the defendant is cleared of all the other charges brought against him as well. For once it is argued that, because it was only the blow given by the striker which obliged you to seek medical attention at all, the murderer is the striker rather than the person immediately responsible for the man's death,2
it follows that the murderer was he who struck the very first blow of all: because it was he who compelled both his adversary to strike back in self-defense and the victim struck to go to the physician. It would be outrageous, were the defendant, who was neither slayer nor aggressor, to be held a murderer in place of the true slayer and the true aggressor.
Nor again is the intention to kill to be attributed to the accused rather than to his accuser. If it had been the case that, whereas he who struck the first blow had meant not to kill, but to strike, he who was defending himself had meant to kill, then it would have been this last who was guilty of the intention to kill. As it was, he who was defending himself likewise intended to strike, not to kill; but he committed an error, and struck where he did not mean to strike.
He was thus admittedly the wilful author of the blow; how can he have killed willfully,when he struck otherwise than he intended?
Further, it is with the aggressor rather than with him who was defending himself that the responsibiIity for the error itself rests. The one was seeking to retaliate for the blows which he was receiving, when he committed his error: he was being forced to act by his attacker; whereas with the other, it was his own lack of self-control which caused him to give and receive the blows which he did: and so, since he is responsible both for his own error and for his victim's, he deserves the name of murderer.
Again, his defense was not more vigorous than the attack made upon him, but much less so: as I will show. The one was truculent, drunken, and violent; he took the offensive throughout, and was never on the defensive at all. The other was seeking to avoid blows and repel him; the blows which he received, he received from no choice of his own and the blows which he gave were given in defense of himself against the aggressor, and much less vigorously than that aggressor deserved, because his only object was to avoid the hurt which was being done to him; he did not take the offensive at all.
Even supposing that his defense was more vigorous than the attack made upon him, because there was more vigor in his hands, you cannot justly condemn him. Heavy penalties are invariably provided for the aggressor: whereas no penalty is ever prescribed for him who defends himself.
The objection that the taking of life, whether justifiably or not, is forbidden, has been answered; it was not to the blows, but to the physician, that the man's death was due, as the witnesses state in their evidence. Further, it is the aggressor, and not he who was defending himself, who was responsible for the accident. The one gave and received the blows which he did from no choice of his own, and therefore the accident in which he had a part was not of his own causing. The other did what he did of his own free will, and it was by his own actions that he brought the accident upon himself; hence he had himself to blame for the mischance whereby he committed his error.
It has been shown, then, that not one of the charges made concerns the defendant; and even if both parties are thought equally responsible alike for the actual crime and for the mischance which led to it, and it is decided from the arguments put forward that there is no more reason for acquitting the defendant than for condemning him, he still has a right to be acquitted rather than condemned. Not only is it unjust that his accuser should secure his conviction without clearly showing that he has been wronged: but it is a sin that the accused should be sentenced, if the charges made against him have not been proved conclusively.
As the defendant has been cleared so completely of the charges made, we lay upon you in his name a more righteous behest than did our opponents: in seeking to punish the murderer, do not put him who is blameless to death. If you do, [the slayer no less than the slain will bring the wrath of heaven upon the guilty:]3
and if the defendant is put to death without scruple, he causes the defilement brought upon his slayers by the spirits of vengeance to become twofold.4
Hold that defilement in fear: and consider your duty to absolve him who is guiltless. Him upon whom the stain of blood rests you may let time reveal, even as you may leave his punishment to his victim's kin. It is thus that you will best serve justice and the will of heaven.