The movie A Time to kill is based on the novel by John Grisham, A Time to Kill. He does an fabulous job of storytelling and of portraying the problems that African American male defendants have in getting a fair trial before all-White juries.2 the movie opens with the senseless rape of the ten-year-old daughter of a respected African-American family in the northwestern Mississippi town of Clanton. Tonya Hailey (a ten-year-old black girl) was walking home from the store when she was brutally gang raped and beaten by two drunken racist white men, Billy Ray Cobb and Pete Willard.
Tonya was on an errand for her mother, getting groceries from the store, when she encountered the two men who after kidnapping and raping her, eventually left her for dying. Almost immediately after Tonya was found she was rushed to a hospital and fortunately she survived the brutal incident. However, on being checked out by doctors, she was okay but had been told that she had lost her ability to bear children.
With this horrifying news Tonya’s family worried about the impact of the incident on her long term psychological and emotional development. Meanwhile at a roadside bar, Tonya’s missing shoe was found in the back of a yellow pickup truck decked out with Confederate flags which Pete and Billy Ray were joyfully riding and were speeding though black neighborhoods throwing full beer bottles at people and houses, until they come across ten-year-old Tonya . Both the men are arrested and were charged for rape and attempted murder. Upon learning of the arrest of the two men, Carl Lee Hailey, father of the girl, remembers a case, when four white men raped an African-American girl in a nearby town and were declared not guilty and let off. With this Carl was determined not to let it happen in his case and decides to take justice into his own hands. Next morning, while deputy Dwayne Powell Looney was escorting Pete and Billy Ray up the staircase to a court room, Carl appears from the building’s basement with a rifle, and he kills them both for what they did to Tonya. As a result of shooting, he unintentionally also shot Sheriff Deputy Looney on one of his legs, below the knee. Carl later was arrested for his act and he confessed to the murder and said that he had nothing to do with the two white men until they messed with his little daughter and also that he deeply sympathized with the families of the two men, but did not regret his actions. Thereafter he urged Jake Tyler Brigance to pursue his case. Jake, agreeing realized that it would be a tuff call as the judge and the juries were all white. Therefore he filed a petition for change in venue. To start things off, Judge Omar Noose denies bail and jakes petition for the venue. On the other hand swearing vengeance, Billy Ray Cobb’s brother Freddie Lee Cobb joined the Mississippi branch of the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) and through overt and covert actions threatened who ever tried to support Carl Lee Hailey. However throughout the trial Jake and his team of former law professor Lucien Wilbanks, fellow attorney Harry Rex Vonner, and law student Ellen Roark had to deal with threatening phone calls, kidnapping, burning crosses etc. One of the members of the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) was also caught planting a bomb under Jake’s porch. Regardless of the troubles caused by the Klan Jake was determined to stand by his client through thick and thin. As the tension rose, there was a riot amongst the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) and the N.A.A.C.P (National Assessment & Accreditation Council) outside the courthouse lawn. With all this discrimination going on, it was hard for Jake to convince the jury (white) that Carl Lee Hailey (black man) was not guilty by reason of insanity. But he did not lose hope and in his closing argument he starts off by requesting everyone in the courtroom to close their eyes and conjure in their mind’s eye the scene he was about to describe. This tactic helped him put everyone in the courtroom in the same state of mind in which Carl was.
Next, he started off his narration by describing a small girl and her buoyant steps, leading her from a grocery shop towards her home on a sunny afternoon. Suddenly there is a screech of tires, signaling the stopping of a truck near her. Two drunk men leap out of the truck and quickly bundle her into the truck. They take her to a nearby desolate field, tie her up and take turns in climbing on her and raping her brutally. Everything pure and innocent is trampled and the girl is bathed with their sweat, semen and drunken breath. Her womb is destroyed; her chance of having her own children, of procreating to produce and love her children is snatched from her in the snap of a few hours.
Then the men decide a novel way of entertainment, using her as target practice they throw full beer cans at her with such force that the skin is torn off to reveal her bones. They then urinate on her and then in a drunken stupor decide to hang her from a nearby tree. They produce a rope from the truck and tie it in the form of a noose. Jake then urges the people to visualize as the noose placed around her neck slowly tightens and then with a swift jerk her body is lifted off the ground with her feet threshing frantically in search of solid ground which elude them. However the branch is too weak to hold her weight and snaps, taking her to the ground along with it. The men, their plan thwarted, pick her up and throw in the back of the truck and drive out to Foggy Creek Bridge. They drop her thirty feet below to the bottom of the creek leaving her to die..soaked in their ill deeds and her own blood. Then again Jake connects to the people exhorting them to picturise the little girl and bind themselves emotionally to her there by sympathizing with her plight. At this juncture of the narration when the people in the court are fully and emotionally entangled with the girl and her situation he drops a bombshell urging all to now visualize this nameless girl to be white.
In his brilliant closing arguments, of course as a result Carl Lee Hailey was found not guilty by reason of insanity. The movie A Time to Kill was one of trial and tribulations during a time where many had one track minds. Although I have seen the movie more than five times and every time it ends I’m left with only one thought of, “What would I do in that situation? To make a difficult decision, especially about someone else’s future we have to put ourselves in the other persons shoes. I believe in the movie “A Time to Kill”, Jake’s closing argument would have allowed me to put myself in the shoes of the father of the girl that was rapped. To make a difficult decision, especially about someone else’s future we have to put ourselves in the other persons shoe’s. I feel that the scheme that Jake used was an appropriate choice and I would have done the same thing if put in his shoes. He realized that the jury sitting in that court was all white and he required a unique and creative way to make them realize that the color of the victim doesn’t matter. He also had to make the jury realize that everyone sitting in that courtroom would have done the same thing if they were put in the same situation and that Carl wasn’t the only one. “A Time to Kill” show us a remainder that in governing our nation, and eventually in living our lives, we must look past race and color and look for equality in its purest form. If we can’t do this in the present, there is no hope for the future.