A Time to Kill: Review and Commentary

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A Review and Commentary On:A Time to Kill By John GrishamA Time to Kill written by John Grisham is a book that presents the high racial tensions in Canton Mississippi in the early 1990's. The book opens with two young men, James Lewis Willard and Billy Ray Cobb, joy riding in their brand new yellow pick up truck decked out with Confederate flags. They speed though black neighborhoods throwing full beer bottles at people and houses, until they come across ten-year-old Tonya Hailey walking home from the grocery store. The men pull over, trap her, rape her repeatedly, beat her, hang her, throw her off a bridge and leave her for dead. Her siblings find Tonya later that day, barely alive, her father, Carl Lee Hailey., and the black community are outraged. Tonya's missing shoe is found in the back of the yellow pick up truck and both men are arrested for rape and attempted murder. Carl Lee confronts his lawyer, Jake Brigance , about similar cases where the white criminals were let off or given light sentences for similar charges, which enrages Carl Lee further. Carl Lee asks if Jake will stand by him in a jam, Jake promises he will. The next morning Carl Lee shoots the two men on the way to their arraignment, both men die and a cop is shot and loses his leg. Carl Lee is immediately arrested for the murder of the two men, as promised Jake stands by his side. Carl Lee confesses to the murders and admits he never had anything against the two men until they messed with his baby, he feels sorry for the men's families, but not for what he has done. Jake and Carl Lee begin to discuss every aspect of the case immediately, they decide that Carl Lee with plea not guilty by reason of insanity. The District Attorney, Rufus Buckley, begins to discuss the importance of keeping the case in this county in order to have a better chance of an all white jury, Jake files a change of venue for the opposite reason. Meanwhile, members of the Cobb and Willard family seek out the Ku-Klux-Klan to get even with Carl Lee and Jake, they begin a Klan chapter in their county, which immediately begins to terrorize Jake and his family. The NAACP comes to Canton and offers Carl Lee a more experienced lawyer, the NAACP believes "Carl Lee's acquittal for the killing of two white men will do more for the black people of Mississippi than any event since we integrated the schools. His conviction would be a slap at us, a symbol of deep seeded racism- perhaps enough to ignite a nation." However, Carl Lee declines the offer and requests that the money that was raised for the more expensive lawyer to go to his family so they can survive while he is in jail. The Klan continues to threaten Jake with a bomb and burning crosses, Jake's wife and child have to leave town to avoid danger. Judge Omar Lewis decides to turn down Jake's request for a change of venue on the grounds that it would be impossible to find a fair and impartial jury in any county in Mississippi. Jury selection begins with protests to "Free Carl Lee" and the Klan protesting outside as well, tensions are high and a riot breaks out. A Klan member is set on fire, the black sheriff is beaten, and Jake is stabbed in the leg. The day ends with the inevitable all white jury. The Klan continues to terrorize the city by burning crosses and burning Jake's house down. The National Guard is brought into town to prevent riots for the remainder of the trial. The DA, Buckley opens the trail by bringing Cobb's mother to the stand and showing the gun Carl Lee used to the jury. At the end of the first day Buckley calls Depute Dwayne Luny, the cop who was accidentally shot in the leg the day Carl Lee murdered the two men. Much to the surprise of everyone, Luny does not blame Carl Lee for the loss of his leg, in fact he admits he would have done the same thing if Tonya had been his daughter, he then turns to the jury and repeatedly shouts, "He's (Carl Lee) a hero- you turn him lose!" the court room uproars in mixed reactions....
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