Frederick Aiken: Sir.
Reverdy Johnson: Well, nice of you to show, Mr. Aiken.
Frederick Aiken: I'm sorry for being late, Senator.
Reverdy Johnson: You aware the trial of the conspirators begins today?
Frederick Aiken: Yes, sir. There's not a seat to be had.
Reverdy Johnson: Well, now you have one.
Frederick Aiken: How's that, sir?
Reverdy Johnson: I've taken one of the cases, and I want you to be my second chair.
Frederick Aiken: I thought the government was planning a military tribunal.
Reverdy Johnson: Oh, indeed. Stanton has chosen nine of his most loyal officers to be judges, all for Union. In fact, he's picked one of Lincoln's pallbearers to head the Commission. Uh, let's go.
Frederick Aiken: Uh, I'm sorry, sir. I might be being a little slow, but won't the War Department be handling the prosecution?
Reverdy Johnson: Stanton's most trusted judge advocate general, Joseph Holt, will be in charge.
Frederick Aiken: Then what are we to do?
Reverdy Johnson: Defend one of the eight.
Frederick Aiken: Defend one of the assassins?
Reverdy Johnson: Alleged assassins, counselor. I had a letter from the lady this morning. She runs a boarding house, a Mrs. Mary...
Frederick Aiken: Surratt?
Reverdy Johnson: Yes, that's it.
Frederick Aiken: Sir, her son John was Booth's right hand.
Reverdy Johnson: Well, if they suspect her son, they should try him.
Frederick Aiken: [laughs] They would if they could find him, but they've got 250 agents out looking for him. She built the nest that hatched this plot. President Johnson said it himself.
Reverdy Johnson: Well, I know this goes hard with you, Freddie, but... but what they're plannin', which is a military trial of civilians, is an atrocity.
Frederick Aiken: No, no. What she did is an atrocity.
Reverdy Johnson: There's no presumption of innocence, no burden of proof, no jury of your peers and no appeal.
Frederick Aiken: All right, you were one of Lincoln's pallbearers, too. How can you represent her?
Reverdy Johnson: She's entitled to a defense, Freddie, so I shall defend her.
General Hunter: Mary E. Surratt, in aid of the existing armed rebellion against the United States, you are charged with having received, entertained, harbored, concealed, aided and assisted John Wilkes Booth, John A. Surratt and their confederates... David E. Herold... Lewis Payne... George A. Atzerodt... Michael O'Laughlen... Edmund Spangler... Samuel A. Mudd... and Samuel Arnold... in traitorous and murderous conspiracy to kill then-President Abraham Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward. Pursuant to special orders number 211 and 216, how do you plead? What say you, madam? Guilty or not?
Mary Surratt: I am innocent.
General Hunter: In that case, as each of the defendants has entered a not-guilty plea, we will begin. Judge Advocate Holt, please proceed.
Reverdy Johnson: Just a moment, Your Honor.
General Hunter: What is it, Senator?
Reverdy Johnson: I... I wish to request an adjournment.
General Hunter: An adjournment? We just got here.
Reverdy Johnson: My client has been in custody for a month, wasn't allowed to contact counsel until yesterday.
Joseph Holt: General Hunter, a delay will only serve to prolong the nation's sorrow.
Reverdy Johnson: My learned colleague, you've had over four weeks to prepare your case, no doubt assisted by the entire War Department. I believe the defendant is entitled to equal consideration.
General Hunter: Senator Johnson, our fellow citizens must be permitted to put this tragedy to rest. The sooner we dispose of this matter, the better... for everyone.
Reverdy Johnson: Everyone but my client.
General Hunter: Judge Advocate Holt, please proceed.
Reverdy Johnson: In that case, I move for termination.
General Hunter: Termination?
Reverdy Johnson: On the grounds this trial is unconstitutional. The defendant is a civilian entitled to a public trial before a jury of her peers.
Joseph Holt: The attorney general has affirmed the legitimacy of this proceeding.
Reverdy Johnson: Has he furnished a verdict as well?
General Hunter: Senator. You will mind the horror which summons us.
Reverdy Johnson: Indeed. We all mourn the loss of our leader, but in our grief, let us not betray our better judgment and partake in an inquisition.
Military commission member: Inquisition? How dare you? Sounds to me like we have the enemy among us. Maryland not being among our most loyal of states during the war, its senator ought to certify his allegiance to this court.
Reverdy Johnson: I have served this nation as its attorney general. That is certification enough.
General Hunter: Nevertheless, we may require counsel to sign this oath of loyalty as prescribed by Congress.
Reverdy Johnson: I am a member of Congress, the same body that creates armies, authorizes military tribunals and makes major generals like you.
General Hunter: Our authorization comes from the War secretary, Edwin Stanton, and by order of the president.
Reverdy Johnson: If our founding fathers had desired tyranny to prevail, the president and his War secretary would have been granted such indiscriminate powers, but they drafted a Constitution with laws against such powers. They did so precisely for times like this.
General Hunter: Order! Order! Order!