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 he 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 naive 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 naive 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, “You are my secret weapon because you are one of the bad guys. You don’t mean to be but you are. It’s how you was raised”. (Schumacher, 1996) (4)On the witness stand, during the trial of Carl Lee, there was expert testimony from separate and distinct psychologists’. The one, a Dr. Rodeheaver, the more impressionable of the two, was an agent of the State. Dr.
Rodeheaver’s testimony, while definitely stirring, seemed to shed light on civil injustices used to finance the State’s mental institutions. This testimony, which ordinarily would have been discredited, , was seemingly taken with a ‘grain of salt’ by the all-white jury who did not think outside of the black/white dichotomy. Another psychologist, presented as a ‘defense’ expert would wound up hurting his own cause as he was exposed as a drunken ‘has-been’ bearing no confidence and even less self respect. (5)While carrying out what he surely felt was ‘justice’, Carl Lee (father of the assaulted child) mistakenly shot a town deputy.
This deputy, who had to undergo an amputation due to Carl Lee’s recklessness, proclaimed to the jury, the judge and the world, “I got a little girl. Somebody rapes her, he’s a dead dog. I’ll blow him away just like Carl Lee did”. (Schumacher, 1996) Deputy Looney goes on to command the jury to “turn him loose” regarding Carl Lee’s future. The impact of Looney’s testimony, I felt, was a breakthrough in the case as ‘finally’, it seemed that a white face (and one that was nearly killed by the gunfire) was relating to the injustice prevalent in Deep Southern courthouses.
Whether proximity or empathy, Deputy Looney’s testimony certainly opened eyes in the courtroom and the viewing audience; it actually got the jury to thinking…. ”what would I have done, IF I were Carl Lee”? (6)During the movie, Jake calls on God – in the form of human resource, as he seeks advice from his debunked mentor; a former law professor who tells him, “Your job is to find justice no matter how well she hides herself. ” And, struggle as he may, even at one point willing to cop a plea, Jake throws all caution to the wind (even at the cost of losing his everything) to find the truth.
In his closing statement to the jury, he states, “I set out to prove a black man could receive a fair trial in the south, that we are all equal in the eyes of the law. That’s not the truth, because the eyes of the law are human eyes — yours and mine — and until we can see each other as equals, justice is never going to be evenhanded. It will remain nothing more than a reflection of our own prejudices, so until that day we have a duty under God to seek the truth, not with our eyes and not with our minds where fear and hate turn commonality into prejudice, but with our hearts — where we don’t know better. (Schumacher, 1996) As denoted in this paper’s opening quote, Jake Brigance uses the juror’s own hearts to free their souls. Having been primed by Deputy Looney, the jury (and the viewing audience) finally is able to realize their own veiled prejudices; and, it is this ‘affect’ that brings warmness to all witnessing Jake’s rhetorical deliverance. Whether we would have done as Carl Lee did, we now could definitely ‘feel’ what he must have felt as an (excluded) individual seeking justice. (7)The last scene of the film brings the point of community to the forefront.
By inducing inclusion into the hearts and minds of the all-white jury, Jake is able to obtain a ‘not guilty’ verdict. Just like in a Rocky movie, viewers were cheering the underdog on by film’s end. Naive in his approach…. inexperienced in matters he’d just overcome, Jake (victorious, acclaimed and relieved) sought to validate his sincerity by visiting Carl Lee’s home. As mentioned, while fully aware of the social climate (as it pertained to race), Jake had and still remained an idealist – seeing a world without racial walls. The world had showed him a different reality; yet, still, ever the dreamer, Jake was insistent.
If he and Carl Lee weren’t “friends’ before, Jake saw no reason why they should not be. Moreover, according to Jake – his diluted view of race relations may have been needed to be updated – but the idealistic nature of his being (a color equal world) would need to exhibit what he envisioned. Carl Lee had once told him that their daughters would never play together. I smile as I type that … Jake realized that he (as a white) would need to extend the olive branch to address the racial situation from the top-down, as opposed to the bottom-up angle he once believed.
And finally, Chapter 5, Building Community (Windley-Daoust, 2008) articulates the importance of ‘community’ as a human survival tool. Specifically, it addresses Jesus’ idea of whom and/or what constitutes a ‘neighbor’ as it is mentioned that we ought to love our neighbor as ourselves. Neighbor, as it meant in the Gospel, simply means ‘all’. The subject of exclusion versus inclusion (in the sense of community) is discussed at depth within the chapter … and, it is to that end that I address the question presented within the text. •“Who is excluded from a community to which you belong?
Why are they excluded? How does their exclusion hurt them? How does it hurt the whole community? ” (Windley-Daoust, 2008, p. 151) I actually had a struggle with answering this question because (initially) I took the inquiry personally. Having virtually no prejudices to mention, I couldn’t figure out how to answer succinctly; but after thought, the question doesn’t address me or my outlook but rather that of my community. That being said – the most ‘excluded’ of my community would have to be those that are addicted to crack cocaine.
Strangely enough, those that distribute the highly-addictive substance within and throughout my community are lauded and placed on economic pedestals – while those that actually use the peddled product are oft-times ostracized and detested as ‘less than’. I would suppose such an attitude is employed due to the personal (proximal) damage done by the users (i. e. , thievery, child mistreatment, uncleaniness) which cause such an position against all; yet, “the way we treat others is based on the way we view them” as elucidated in our text. Windley-Daoust, 2008, p. 151)
What is lost in stereotyping ‘crack heads’ within the community is the danger of ‘pigeon-holing’ an entire segment of the population, thus depriving them and ourselves of the God-given gifts and talents that they possess. Moreover, it is not uncommon to hear people say that “once a crack head, always a crack head”; which many times will compel an individual to believe that they have little or value to add to such a huge human existence.
With education and understanding (and prayer), hopefully, the community ‘at large’ will come to realize that addiction is a disease and that drug use is merely a symptom of a much larger societal ill. And, as long as ‘exclusion’ on any level exists, we (as a collective) will always fall short of reaching our human potential in the eyes of God.