Friday, March 5, 2021

Plot Summary of A time to Kill by John Grisham

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"It is in justice that the ordering of society is centered" Aristotle

Justice; the word in itself means to conform to the law. But who or what does the law have to conform to? In the novel, "A Time to Kill" by John Grisham many questions are answered such as, do people have the right to take justice into their own hands? And, is the Criminal Justice system colorblind?

Clanton, Mississippi. The life of a ten year old black girl is shattered by two drunken and remorseless young men when she is brutally raped and left to die. The mainly white town reacts with shock and horror at this inhumane crime. That is until her black father vows revenge and takes justice into his own hands. As Pete Willard and Billy Ray Cobb leave the courtroom on the first day of their trial, they are shot and killed by Carl Lee Hailey the father of Tonya, the little girl raped. In shooting these men, Carl Lee also shot and wounded a police officer. Now the guilt is on Carl Lee, as he is arrested and put on trial for the murder of the two rapists. Young Jake Brigance, struggling to keep his law practice afloat, suddenly finds himself defending the now famous Carl Lee against murder charges. Ellen Roark, a top of the class law student from Ole Miss, offers her services to Jake, for no fee, just for the opportunity to become part of a most likely death penalty conviction, which she is so much against. The trial becomes nation wide news, and soon the Klu Klux Klan has become involved and begins threatening the county with burning crosses and death threats. Burning crosses, attempts the blow up his house, and even gun him down give Jake enough reason to make his wife and child leave to stay with their parents. With the news of the big trial, over one hundred citizens of Clanton are sequestered for jury duty. Form these one hundred, ten white and two black citizens are chosen.

An old boss of Jake's gives needed advice to prepare him for trial and also supplies the name of a psychiatrist who can be easily bribed. While on trial, the past of Dr W.T. Bass comes back to hurt the trial for Jake, when the courts become aware of his past statutory rape conviction. But Jakes enemy, Rufus Buckley, the district attorney, does not know that Jake can talk his way out of any situation. And because of this he is able to convince the jury that his witness is still credible. Meanwhile, the K.K.K is becoming more active and eventually Jake becomes aware of this when his house is burnt to the ground. The black churches around Mississippi show their support for Carl Lee by rallying in the court yard against the K.K.K. After two weeks of constant trials the jury cannot reach a verdict because the two black jurors will not allow themselves to convict a man for a crime in which he was, in their minds, lawful in doing. While in their final deliberation, the jury can hear the commotion outside the courthouse between the followers of the K.K.K. and the black people as they fight to let their opinions known. In a deadlock the jury has no idea on what to do, until Wanda Crowell steps forth and asks the jury to close their eyes, and picture something in her heads. A white girl being raped by two black men, who are later shot and killed by the father. They are asked to vote as if Carl Lee was the father of that little white girl. Court is in session and the jury is asked to read the verdict. Not only is Jake sweating but also the district attorney, Buckley. This decision not only affects the life of Carl Lee, but also can make or break their careers. The jury finds the "defendant not guilty." This is a win for the black citizens of Ford County, and also for Jake Brigance.

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The Hailey family reunites and they now can begin to heal the wounds that Willard and Cobb have inflicted. Not only does justice prevail but also the lives of every black in Mississippi have been changed forever.

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