In his summation at the conclusion of the trial of Tom Robinson, Negro of the South in the 1930s, is charged with the rape of a white woman, Atticus Finch tells the jury that Tom is not guilty, but someone in that courtroom is. He points to the crux of the situation: "Mayella tempted a Negro....No code mattered to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down on her afterwards."
So, while acknowledging before the jury what he knows is foremost in their minds--the secret code of Southern society--Atticus also acknowleges that not all people are equal. For, some are more intelligent than others; some are wealthier, some are healthier; some have more opportunities in their society. Indeed, not everyone is equal to others; that is, except in a court of law. Atticus, then, addresses the jury of twelve white men,
"But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal--there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court. It can be the Supreme Court of the United States or the humblest J.P. court in the land, or this honrable court which you serve. Our courts have their faults, as does any human institution, but in this country our courts are the great levelers, and in our courts all men are created equal.
"I'm no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and in the jury system--that is no ideal to me, it is a living, working reality....and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up....In the name of God, do your duty."
By appealing to the moral conscious of the jury, Atticus hopes to defend Tom and future blacks and underprivileged who are unjustly accused.