First, there are sins, then there are laws. Sin regenerates with flexible appearances, as justice seconds the trait. Although meant to serve its people, law codes contain a major flaw: it is apathetic and rigid, nothing human. Which is why the written laws alone cannot represent justice unless there’s also an input of contemporary and appropriate empathy. The definition of justice is ever changing. In order to carry out justice in court, the jurors must present “judicial empathy” (EJL), which stands for comprehensive, unbiased, and appropriate (empathize with all perspectives but not especially emotionally attached to any) empathy. In the movie A time to Kill, the Jurors are influenced by various factors including the commotion outside of the court, the words of witnesses, and the performance of the lawyers. All of which infests bias within the jurors, harming their ability to see from every possible perspective and act as a “judicious spectator”.
As the movie progresses, the jurors are presented with voluminous information for them to debate whether if Carl Lee’s killing is justified. They are ordinary citizens, who can see nothing deeper than rumors and Carl Lee’s skin before the trial started. While the viewer sees a bit more through his responses to his daughter’s tragic. Both the viewers of and the jurors in the movie are attaining Carl Lee’s side of the story far more than seeing the two supremacists’ (Nicky Katt and Doug Hutchison) (TK). Moreover, the Jurors’ decisions depends chiefly upon how much they sympathize with the words coming from each attorneys’ mouth, and perhaps feel more empathy of one of the sides. Leaving the trial’s audiences to be more likely to stand with Carl Lee. First, there are hundreds of African Americans yelling outside of the court for Carl Lee to be free. Second, Deputy Dwayne Looney confesses that he cannot blame Carl Lee for his lost leg and believes he would have done what Carl Lee did if he was at the same situation. Third, Jake’s profound closing statement allow the Jurors to feel what Carl Lee was feeling when he saw what happened to his daughter (TK).
There are barely any stories from the supremacists’ side except for Billy Ray Cobb’s mother Cora Mae Cobb’s tears, which only had a brief appearance comparing to any other witnesses’ speech defending for Carl Lee’s actions (TK). The also hint about the insufficiency in both stories by inputting Dr.Willard Tyrrel Bass’ experience. Where he was convicted statutory rape, where the victim become his current wife (TK). Both the viewer and jurors lack the essential information necessary to make a fair judgment. For all who believe that they are able to decipher whether if Carl Lee should be Guilty or not is not acting as a “judicious spectator” (RE) – “whose judgments and responses are intended to provide a paradigm of public rationality. Like what Jake recommended, most jurors have thought with their hearts but little analytics.
There is redundant “empathetic bias” mounted in the court, which is triggered by Jake’s speech ever so similar to a “victim-impacted statement” (EJL). When the jurors have to close their eyes and ingest a riveting experience of a little girl being abused, their empathy will arouse easily. The jurors will feel emotionally pressured to stand up for the Tonya, while losing focus on the actual case – the murder. Sarcastically, Jake, who the jurors based upon for their vote, have only heard the story from Carl Lee (JK). While Carl Lee carries a great amount of emotional color as he is telling about the tragic event. When Jake himself is affected by emotions and biased, who is really trustworthy on the court? Even the viewers only see the film majority from Jake’s point of view, which is not the primary document anymore. Meanwhile, the adversities that Jake, his family and his friends face are producing an “empathic feeling of injustice” (EJL) for the viewers. Jake didn’t commit any crime, yet his personal life is threatened by KKK as he fights for Carl Lee’s case. Instinctively, seeing someone “punished for more than he deserves” (EJL), most film audiences’ empathetic anger would lead them to trust the victim and desire the victim to achieve what he/she is struggling for; in this situation – for Carl Lee to win his case.
A “Judicious spectator” (RE) not only would realize there is a lack of information, he/she would also pull back and think in a bigger picture: “What would happen if Carl Lee wins his case?”, “Who else did Carl Lee harm when he murdered the men?” The fact is, Carl Lee set his own family at stake when he decided to commit the murder, knowingly. He knows they are incapable of supporting themselves, and he knows he might die. He begged/manipulated Jake to save him because he is ready to murder, but not ready to accept the consequence. He is not a follower of justice himself, despite his verbal pity for his victims’ parents(TK). Carl Lee would also be responsible the image he projects for his two growing boys. Carl Lee, as a role model for his two boys to look up to, used violence as the resort to attain the “justice” in his mind. When he is announced “innocent” (TK), what would the two young boys consider to be “right” or “just”? These are just a few examples of where. The jurors might be “too empathetic” to think about a bigger picture. Not to mention that Carl Lee plea for not guilty because he was “insane”, which can’t be proven.
In the film A Time to Kill, although Carl Lee’s case seems to be justice’s advocate in terms that the jurors look pass race to make their decision, any shuffle in perspective would suggest that the case is not black and white – the viewers don’t have enough information to judge whether if justice is served, or if empathy is placed in the appropriate place. Not many thought of Nicky Katt and Doug Hutchison’s parents or hear from their perspective. Without hearing them out, no one can name the resolution justice. The amount of distracting factors leads the jurors on to prejudice while concerning that they are definitely for justice. The film didn’t exist for its audience to say who is right or who is wrong, it is there to say no one is perfectly right. It comes to a perfect circle: Nicky Katt and Doug Hutchison spits at the African Americans in the beginning of the film, and the African American protestors spit at the KKK at the end of the film.
“A Time to Kill,” Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Spacey, Brenda Fricker, Oliver Platt. 1996.http://digitalcampus.swankmp.net/rochester274683/watch?token=6b856fd35ec9027d47a2ccbe87d8e5843937de4304f92e7d4c5743a463e11163.
Hoffman, Martin L. “Empathy, Justice, and Law.” https://learn.rochester.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-727601-dt-content-rid-1890782_1/courses/wrt105.2016fall.41376/hoffman_empathyjusticelaw.pdf.
Nussbaum, Matha. “Rational Emotions.” https://learn.rochester.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-731489-dt-content-rid-1904680_1/courses/wrt105.2016fall.41376/nussbaum_rationalemotions.pdf.