Judge Medina presided over the sensational trial in 1949 of
lhe leaders of the U. S. Communist party, a trial which lasted
for nine months and ended in the conviction of all eleven of
the accused for conspiring to advocate the overthrow of the
government by violence. In 1931 he became a circuit judge
of the U. S. Court of Appeals.
Following is a speech Judge Medina delivered recently
before the Illinois State liar Association.
The Inside Story of the
Trial of the Eleven Communists
By Judge Harold l>. Medina
I am going to tell you something of the inside story of the
Communist trial. It is six years ago now. I thought people
would have forgotten all about it long ago. I resolved when
it was over that I would not say anything about it and I
did not for years. I thought I should not, especially when
the case was on appeal, and years went on; but now ... I
am going to do it.
One of the first things I began to hear in that trial was
Abraham Lincoln. They took all of our great American
characters and they tied their own propaganda on to those
names. To the ignorant and the ill-informed they seemed
so plausible! Abraham Lincoln was one of their key words.
They were always talking about him and oh! how he must
have turned in his grave when he heard them taking bis
name in vain as Ihey did. When I started in with that trial
I had an idea that it was going to be kind of rough, and
that the Communists were people who wanted to divide up
other people's property and make trouble and all thai, but
I was like most of you people, I didn't believe all that I
read in the papers.
I was verv skeplieal about all this tie-up with Soviet Rus-
sia, and I had no conception at all of what I was going to
be up against. I did study with some care the record in a
previous sedition trial where the judge wore himself out
and died. I read about a good deal of shouting and arguing
and gavel banging and punishing people for contempt during the continuance of that trial, until the judge wore himself (low n: and I said to myself I wouldn't do that. And
so, without any real understanding of what was coming. I
To begin with I had to deal vvilh delegation number one.
I said, now those fellows are Americans and somehodv has
got to tell ihem what American justice is like, so 1 brought
them in and I said, "Now look here, what do you fellows
"Well, this is a political persecution and these fellows and
this case ought lo be thrown out," and this and that and
this and that.
I said, "Now you have no business coming around and
telling the judge what to do with the case. That is un-American. We don't do things lhal way. What would you think
of it if some rich man or some politician who had no business to come around, came around to my chambers and
started telling me how to decide a case? Now you fellows
get on out of here."
But there was another delegation—maybe two or three
—from some rubber factory in Ohio or from someplace
down in Mississippi, or from someplace out in the slate of
Washington, or from Oklahoma. There were delegations,
delegations, delegations. When I got through with one delegation there was always another delegation, and then- I
was. figuring I was kind of representing America. I was
trying to tell these people thai vve Americans can't do this
kind of ihing. Each one had to put in his two cents worth,
and then when I gol them out there was another bunch
wailing there from all over this great United States of
America, Every part of America. There were housewives
delegations, veteran-' delegations, purple heart veterans'
delegations, and workers' delegations of every name, nature
and description, from the South, from the North, and all
over the country. I lost a couple of days and I went without
my lunch seeing those fellows.
I didn't get out of the courthouse until half past seven or
eight at night, until all of a sudden I said, "Why. Harold,
this is just an organized effort here." Why 1 didn't see il
quicker I don't know, but you can put yourself in my position. I wanted these people lo understand you jusl can't do
this sort of thing. They looked like ordinary Americans—
they didn't look like these Commies are supposed to look
Then I said, "No more delegations." and it vvas jusl as
though I had turned off a faucet. Jusl let this soak in for a
minute. Think of thc power of that organization. That they
could get all those fellows coming, although whether they
really came from all those places or not I had no means
of knowing: but I believe that they did. But when lhal particular strategy reached its end. and I said no more delegations, they stopped instantly. Not a single one turned up
FACTS FORUM NEWS, October. 1955