Vanderbilt Law Review

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Both inside and outside the South, was the law a cause of the high incidence of homicide, or was it an effect? It was probably more effect than cause, for despite the anti-homicide rigor of its supreme court, on the whole the incidence of killing in Alabama seems to have been no lower than elsewhere in the South. Thus, the conservative Alabama court apparently failed to stem not only the legal trend of the Americanization of the common law of homicide but also the trend of blood-letting in Alabama. In one way this is not surprising, for after all, the great majority of homicide cases never went before the supreme court. Some of the lower court judges,especially LeRoy F. Box of Talladega, 0. J. Semmes of Mobile, and James B. Head of Walker County, seem to have applied the law strictly according to Stone and their other mentors on the highest court, but on the other hand, there is evidence of tension between the restrictive stance of Stone's court and the permissive tendency of community opinion. In one homicide trial a defense counsel had the audacity to declare to the jury that it was "above [the] court and the Supreme Court in [its] right to decide [the] case."' The defense attorney was duly reprimanded from the bench, but the whiff of defiance lingered in the air.Legal rules such as the doctrine of retreat and its obverse, the stand-one's-ground doctrine, are in significant cultural and moral relation to the South's historical national leadership in homicide.

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