A Time to Kill - Justice Is Not Relative

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  • Topic: Cocaine, Crack cocaine, Joel Schumacher
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~ Justice is ‘not’ Relative ~

“I want to tell you a story. I'm going to ask you all to close your eyes while I tell you the story. I want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to yourselves…. Can you see her? Her raped, beaten, broken body soaked in their urine, soaked in their semen, soaked in her blood, left to die. Can you see her? I want you to picture that little girl." “Now - imagine she's white!” (Schumacher, 1996)

In the 1996 release of his film A Time to Kill, film director Joel Schumacher submits a formidable adaptation of John Grisham's 1989 legal thriller novel of the same name. The film’s plot, set in the Deep South (Mississippi) involves the rape of a young black girl and the arrest of white rapists responsible - and their subsequent murder by the girl's father. The remainder of the film then focuses on the trial of the killer, who surprisingly chooses a young unheralded white male lawyer to defend him. At issue are several questions, to be approached and responded to from the Christian tradition. The questions are as follows: 1.Why does Carl Lee take the law into his own hands?

2.Why does Jake take Carl Lee’s case?
3.Jake indicates to Carl Lee that they are friends. Carl Lee corrects him quickly. What is Carl Lee’s rationale? Race, defensibility, access to resources 4.Explain the impact of the 2 psychologists’ testimony.

5.Explain the impact of the deputy who was shot during Carl Lee’s revenge. 6.Why is Jake’s closing argument so effective? What type of strategy is he using? 7.Why does Jake bring his family to Carl Lee’s party at the end of the movie?

My summation is as follows:

(1)Carl Lee decides to take up arms once he is confident that the violators of his daughter would likely walk free or receive light punitive sentences for their vicious assault. Quite frankly, while his lawyer vies to go for the insanity defense, Carl Lee informs all that he, in fact, was not insane during commission of the murders. What is clear is that, due to the racial climate, Carl Lee felt that ‘justice’ could only be served in this instance … if he meted it out himself - as prejudice would surely veil justice as it had many times over. “Yes, they deserved to die – and I hope they burn in hell” (Schumacher, 1996) is Carl Lee’s response when asked what would’ve been a fair sentence to those that nearly fatally assaults his daughter. (2)It is my opinion that Jake takes on the case of Carl Lee due to several factors. My first notion is that he felt as if he and Carl Lee were ‘neighbors’, as Carl Lee’s brother had previously been helped by the lawyer; not to mention that both men had daughters that were practically the same age. Moreover, while Jake was fully aware of the practical possibility of the rapists ‘getting off easy’, he realized that racial prejudice within the law was unjust. He seemed to relate to and understand Carl Lee’s plight and providing a good defense was ultimately the ‘right thing to do’. (3)While meeting his client in jail, Jake makes the naïve mistake of referring to Carl Lee as a "friend". Understandably so, Carl Lee takes offense to such a characterization as he reminds the counselor that he had never visited the home of this ‘so-called’ friend and also that their girls (while peers) would never have the opportunity to play together. Carl Lee goes on to dispute Jake’s naïve approach to race relations in the South and informs him (Jake) that he is, in fact, ‘the enemy’. Carl Lee grabs his assessment of their relationship primarily due to his pragmatic world view. He was Black and Jake was white. More importantly to Carl Lee was that the jury, which held his life in their hands, would also be lily-white. Jake was not chosen for representation due to friendship or otherwise; but, simply because he would be in a better position to understand what would be needed to convince white people to view the world (and thus his situation and/or circumstance) differently. Carl Lee would add,...
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