“Guilty” verdict has been reached in the trial of Tom Robinson. A jury of twelvewhites has reached a verdict that Tom Robinson, a black male, raped Mayella Ewell,
a white woman. The rendition of this verdict has brought to a close a trial that has
captured the news and stirred the emotions of this town for several months. It
somehow seems fitting that this trial, for a most horrible crime, began during the
winter months when all of nature is dead, and has ended with the beginning of
Spring when all of nature seems to come alive.
Tom Robinson, a 25 year old black male, stood accused of raping a 19 year old
white woman named Mayella Ewell. The crime took place in November of last year.
Both the victim and the accused were lifelong residents of Maycomb, County and
were acquainted. Mr. Robinson was represented by County lawyer, Atticus Finch, a
well renowned and respected lawyer.
Highlights of the Trial
The Prosecution’s strongest witness was the alleged victim, Mayella Ewell. Ms.
Ewell stated under oath that the defendant, Tom Robinson, was in fact the person
who raped her. However, there were several discrepancies in the testimony that she
provided under questioning and cross examination. The defendants lawyer, Atticus
Finch, tried to capitalize on the contradictory statements made by Ms. Ewell. He
questioned the witness using a variety of techniques and seemed to receive less than
uniform answers to the same questions that were asked in a different manner. At
times the witness appeared confused and became frustrated and emotional as Mr.
Finch continued to try and raise a reasonable doubt among the jurors concerning the
testimony that was being given by Ms. Ewell.
The Defenses’ strongest witness was the accused himself, Tom Robinson.
Lawyer Finch called his client to the stand and questioned him about the allegations
that were being made about him. Mr. Robinson answered his lawyer’s question in
what appeared to be a forthright and honest manner. He denied ever contemplating
or committing such a terrible crime. Mr. Finch pointed out that the bruises on the left
side of her face were consistent with the injuries that would have been rendered by
left handed person. He went on to demonstrate through logic that this would almost
definitely be the case. His client had a left arm that was rendered useless as the
result of an accident sustained while working a cotton gin.
The strongest defense portion of the case was the closing argument that was
delivered by Atticus Finch. Mr. Finch appealed to the all white jury asking them to
deliver verdict based on the facts of the case that were presented rather than on the
basis of the race of his client and the race of the victim. He appealed to the jury by
stating that they had the power to grant life or to end the life of his client. This
power that they were given comes with a great responsibility. The jury is responsible
to render a verdict that is based in fact and not tainted in any way by race, creed or
sex. In this case, the jury must apply the law in a color blind manner.
The Verdict and It’s Consequences:
For Tom Robinson, the consequences of the trial and the rendition of the Guilty
verdict are quite simple and clear.
For the rest of us however, the consequences are not so clear and simple and they
will not be immediately known to us. A major consequence is that the race of the
defendant and the victim played a major role in the decision. A jury of all whites
convicted a black defendant on evidence that was far from beyond reasonable doubt.
Emotions ran high and although facts and not emotions should have been the basis
for the verdict that was certainly not the case. So this trial demonstrates that we as
people have a long way to go in treating all human beings as equals and protect them with the equal application of the laws of our land. We must strive to apply the
law in the manner that was defined by our forefather’s , all men are created equal
and the law must be applied to all men on an equal basis and not on a basis that is
related to their race.