The concept of a society is based on the quality of its mercy

[BILLY HAYES (Brad Davis), in the prisoner’s dock, addresses the Court; as he speaks, a Turkish translator drones underneath his voice level.]

Midnight Express

So now it’s time for me to speak. What is there for me to say ? When I finish, you’ll sentence me for my crime.

So let me ask you now : what is a crime ? What is a punishment ? It seems to vary from time to time, from place to place. What’s legal today is suddenly illegal tomorrow because some society says it’s over. Now what’s illegal yesterday is suddenly legal because everybody is doing it and… you can’t put everybody in jail. I’m not saying this is right or wrong. I’m just saying that’s the way it is.

But I’ve spent three and a half years of my life in your prison and… I think I’ve paid for my error. It’s your decision today to sentence me to more years and I…I…

[a break]

My lawyer – my lawyer, that’s a good one ! – says “be cool Billy – don’t get angry, don’t be upset, be good ! and I’ll get your pardon and amnesty and appeal or this or that, the other thing”… but this has been going on now for three and a half years.

[YESIL looks over, surprised he is talking like this.]

And I’ve been playing it cool. I’ve been good. And now I’m damn tired of being good because you people gave me the belief that I had 53 days left, you… you HUNG 53 days in front of my face and then you just took those 53 days away !

And YOU ! BOUH !

[PROSECUTOR looks over, through his dark green glasses.]

I just wish you could be standing where I am standing right now and feel what that feels like ’cause then you would know something that you don’t know Mister Prosecutor – mercy ! You would know that the concept of a society is based on the quality of that mercy, its sense of fair-play, its sense of justice…

[shrugs and scoffs at himself]

But I guess that’s like asking a bear to shit in a toilet.

– From Midnight Express (1978).

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