Formal Assignment One: Justice Prevailed

What does it mean to receive justice? Is justice always the same for everyone? How big of a role should our emotion play when making decisions as a juror? In the case of Carl Lee Hailey in the popular 1996 film A Time to Kill, I cannot help but ask myself these questions. In the film, Carl Lee, a black man, shoots and kills the two white men who raped his ten-

year-old daughter Tonya inside the courthouse as they were headed to their preliminary hearing. Carl Lee is found not guilty by the jury when his own case hits the courthouse, even though many witnessed the event and he and his lawyer, Jake Brigance, decided to use the insanity plea, which according to the film only works a small percentage of the time (TK). I believe this unexpected decision by the jurors was due to the invocation of empathy by Jake Brigance in his closing argument (see below) and I think he did exactly what had to be done to promote justice in this case and more importantly, in the world outside of this case. I will first argue for why I believe justice was served in A Time to Kill and I will follow with why I believe empathy ultimately leads to the most just decision in not only the case of Carl Lee Hailey, but also those beyond this case.

Justice, could be taken as synonymous with fairness, is what we strive to base our United States legal system on. However, our legal system is not perfect and there are many crucial aspects to making a just decision. In a matter of fact sense, Carl Lee Hailey did shoot and kill two men in A Time to Kill. There was no denial of this fact just as there was no denial of the fact that the two men he killed brutally raped his daughter Tonya. The time period portrayed in the film was home to an unjust legal system that was prejudice towards black people and Carl Lee Hailey knew that. Uncertain that the men who raped his daughter would face any punishment at all, he sought justice for his daughter himself and succeeded. He felt that the only way to get justice was this way and although death is the harshest punishment of all, Carl Lee Hailey wanted to be sure these men would never be able to commit such atrocities again. If Carl Lee Hailey were to have come across these men in action and shot them to protect Tonya in the moment, there would be no question as to whether or not what he did was justified. When he came to trial for this action, he knew that the legal system remained unchanged and he and his lawyer did all that they could to preserve justice while working within the current system.

He plead insanity, but what he did was logical and just not only for his own family, but the entire community. Right outside the courthouse, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was busy targeting all those promoting freedom for Carl Lee, including his lawyer, Jake, and the peaceful protestors. It was almost as if a guilty charge for Carl Lee Hailey meant the KKK would win, segregation would be considered right in society, and that white men were allowed to rape as long as their victims were black. The scope of the impact this case carried was widespread and justice was maintained through finding Carl Lee not guilty. The impact on the community could be seen almost instantly, with the KKK’s presence vanishing and the arrest of a white police officer involved with the KKK by a black sheriff as soon as court let out. Later, Jake even brought his own daughter to play with Tonya, Carl Lee’s daughter, at a cookout celebrating Carl Lee’s freedom. Justice now meant fairness for all people, not just white people, and society was immediately on the move towards more integration.

Jake Brigance used the power of empathy to persuade the jurors in the case of Carl Lee. With the odds stacked up against him, he knew an appeal to pathos (emotion) would be the strongest way to persuade them to free him. The entire legal process revolves around empathy, from picking jurors that can easily empathize with the defendant to using the most compelling arguments to persuade jurors to see things the defendant’s way. According to Martin L. Hoffman in his work Empathy, Justice, and the Law, empathy is inherent in us as human beings and therefore its involvement in law is unavoidable (238). Defining empathy can get confusing, but when I speak of the involvement of empathy in A Time to Kill, I speak of Hoffman’s definition of affective empathy: “an emotional state triggered by another’s emotional state or situation, in which one feels what the other feels or may normally be expected to feel in his or her situation.” (231). Hoffman sees the potential of empathy in law, but points out that there are problems with using empathy, such as inherent biases, and he believes a possible solution would be better training in recognizing these biases and working to minimize their effects (254). However, I believe that empathy will always include biases and situations must be shown in the right light to reveal justice, as Jake succeeded in with his closing argument. The jurors could not put themselves in Carl Lee’s shoes prior to Jake’s vivid description of Tonya’s attac

k and closing words “now imagine she’s white” (TK). The jurors were there throughout the case and the evidence was not compelling enough to believe Carl Lee Hailey was insane. They instead needed light shown on the idea that the law is not perfect and justice would prevail only by freeing Carl Lee, which is exactly where empathy came into play. The jurors had to look beyond the strictness of law and beyond this case alone to see that. This single decision, guided by the invocation of empathy, preserved justice in the Hailey family and in the entire community.

Beyond this case, the world was changed and it was apparent that following the law is not the only way to preserve justice. This decision showed that we are all human and must be able to see things from each other’s perspectives, regardless of our race. Justice is a goal that has to be created through social interaction and to get society on Carl Lee Hailey’s side, Jake used the most powerful tool- empathy. This was not wrong or unjust at all; it was actually the most just thing he could have done. The unjust legal system of the time got one step closer to becoming just for everyone rather than remaining unchanged, strict, and prejudiced. Our legal system will never be perfect, but at least there will always be a way to promote progress towards justice, and that, as we have seen, is through the invocation of empathy.

 

Works Cited

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. Warner Bros., 1996. Web (Blackboard). 25 Sept. 2016.

Best Closing Statement Ever. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey. Youtube. Msl83db, 3 Oct. 2010. Web. 3 Oct. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKN1K2He8yg>.

Hoffman, Martin L. “14 Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. By Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. N.p.: n.p., 2011. 230+. Oxford Scholarship, Jan. 2012. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

 

Formal Assignment 1

The film opens with a truck raging down an open dirt road. Two sweaty, drunk, racist, and violent white men are inside, pushing the truck to its weak limits of speed and shock absorption. The reason why I mention their race, is the fact that they are driving in a low income African American neighborhood. As they fly down this road, they make numerous stops at local houses and shops. At each stop they become increasingly drunk and then violent towards all of the neighborhood’s people. This tension culminates during the rape scene, which is raw and brutally portrayed. This is where the film first uses empathy. Designed to have viewers be as biased as a racist southern jury, the film successfully made me believe something I now do not. During the film “A Time to Kill”, no justice exists for Carl Lee or Mr. Cobb and Mr. Willard. If the case is viewed in its purest form without race being a factor, both sides have committed terrible crimes. Both Hoffman and Nussbaum would argue that the only way for justice truly to be served is for both sides to be punished, as bias plays too great a role in this case.

The issue of race has always been an issue in court, especially within recent years. Events like the shooting of Michael Brown, the death of Eric Garner, and even events as far back as the beating of Rodney King have sparked great separation within society. It seems now that a day does not go by without seeing some form of race conflict in the headlines. However, the film’s setting is not present day. The film takes place when the KKK was still active in the south and when income directly correlates with race. In A Time to kill, the KKK’s is brought back to Clanton, Mississippi by Cobb’s brother. He does so “to protect our Christian homes and families, to resurrect our country from the fires of racial degradation, and to make white people the sole masters of our country’s destiny” (TK). Maybe even more shocking was society’s response to the KKK reinstating, or lack of response. This said, the jury was completely partial and biased to begin with, it was simply the societal norms. Not only was the jury entirely white, but some jurors were even set upon convicting Carl Lee before he set foot in the courtroom. How can justice possibly exist in the courtroom if the jury is unchanged by evidence?

Nussbaum would argue that the jury must be occupied by “judicious spectators” in order to have a fair, equal trial.  These ideal jurors will not “have such emotions and thoughts as relate to his own personal safety and happiness; in that sense he is without bias and surveys the scene before him with a certain sort of detachment” (Nussbaum 73). Judicious spectators in the jury box would disregard the added complication of race in the case, and see the case for what it really is. When it is finally seen as a trial between two people of equal social standing, there will be justice. Hoffman too sees justice in court is sometimes skewed due to bias. However, Hoffman believes that it is impossible to avoid, so it must simply be adjusted for. Mr. Brigance had a similar idea when proposing a change in court location.  Saying that “failure to properly consider change in venue has been an irreversible decision appealed to the state supreme court” (TK), he knew that the bias of the jury would eliminate his chance of winning the case. The judge denies this request, but had Mr. Brigance successfully changed the court location, the racial bias would still be the same, just in an opposite direction. This would not change the level of unfairness just switch the bias over to the other side. The ideal court scenario would consist of judicious spectators who would put their own personal biases aside and see the case in its pure form, and no longer perceiving it as a trial solely about race.

The final closing speech Jake Brigance makes is incredibly emotional and well delivered. This, I believe. However, the final jury’s decision based on this speech I do not believe. As a final appeal to the jury, he decides to attack them on the only front he has left exposed and unused: empathy. Carl Lee tells Jake that “you are just like all the rest of them. When you look at me, you don’t see a man, you see a black man” (TK). The racism and difference in social class between the defendant and the plaintiff has left the jury unconvinced of his arguments, so Mr. Brigance attacks on the final front. He begins to have the jury feel what exactly Carl Lee felt when killing Cobb and Willard. Brigance proceeds to have the jury set aside all the previous facts and logic that have been presented before them, claiming that he is going to tell the truth. “Now, it is incumbent upon us lawyers not to just talk about the truth, but to actually seek it, to find it, to live it” (TK). This is the truth, but it is presented in an incredibly biased way. As a last appeal to the jury, he decides to tug at the jury’s heartstrings. He then begins to list off the numerous terrible crimes that Tanya suffered and the jury becomes more and more and more emotional. The amount of empathic distress is so intense, that the whole jury, biased as can be, changes their stance on the case. But is this really a fair argument? In this scene, the effect of empathic distress pushes the jurors far from the becoming a judicious spectator. In fact, this is opposite of what Hoffman argues. Yes, this is the truth, but it is extended to such a level that personal, parental emotions take priority of justice. As much as I want try to believe that justice is served from this decision, I cannot. In the eyes of a fair, non-biased court jury this would have been observed as a two awful crimes. The first being two first degree murders, the other a rape and assault. If the murders were a result of the rape and assault, then the murderer must be punished. This empathy is just as negative  a negative factor as the racist southern jury is. Hoffman also states that “when they (most people) witness someone in distress, feel empathically distressed and motivated to help. Thus empathy has been found repeatedly to correlate positively with helping others in distress, even strangers, and negatively with aggression and manipulative behavior” (Hoffman 231). In this case, the empathy feels significantly more manipulative then actually helpful. Although the film might portray it in a positive light, the way Jake Brigance uses empathy completely contradicts Hoffman’s view of empathy and how it should be adjusted for in the courtroom.

I believe that the final ending and verdict of the trial in the film is unjust. The concluding speech made by Mr. Brigance was put in a light to make it seem like the right thing to do, like the just thing to do. In fact, not only the end, but the entire film was focused on justifying the killing of Pete Willard and Billy Ray Cobb, which created a very biased viewpoint for the viewers. The film does in fact not push us to think as a judicious spectator. Instead, we are filled with the anger at the racism, rape and abuse that his daughter suffered. This leads us to connect as many dots as we can to justify the brutal murder of Willard and Cobb. Empathy does not promote justice in the film.

 

Works Cited:

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacy. Regency Enterprises, 1996. DVD.

Hoffman, Martin L. “Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011. Print.

Nussbaum, Martha. “Rational Emotions.” Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995. Print.

 

 

 

Formal Assignment #1 Final- When Empathy Masks Justice

According to Martin L. Hoffman’s “Empathy, Justice, and the Law”, empathy, or more specifically affective empathy, is “an emotional state triggered by another’s emotional state or situation, in which one feels what the other feels…” (231). In A Time to Kill, Jake Brigance clearly invokes this genuine emotion in the members of the court and jury during his closing speech based on the brutal raping of Tonya Hailey. The jury is able to really empathize with Carl Lee Hailey and as a result, they rule Hailey not guilty of murdering two men that he killed in retaliation for the rape of his daughter. This brings up the question of whether justice is served with this decision or if the jury takes the empathy they feel for Hailey too far and the just decision is masked. Justice is served when the lawful decision is made, and while in some cases empathy can trump justice (Hoffman 238), justice is not served in Carl Lee Hailey’s trial in A Time to Kill singlehandedly because of the empathy people felt for him.

In order to understand the idea that Hailey’s trial did not promote justice in the lawmaking system, it is important to understand what makes this decision unlawful, and as a result unjust. A lawful decision is not one that necessarily neglects empathy, as empathy can be used to see point of views that may have otherwise been ignored, but rather that takes all empathy into account. While the jury in A Time to Kill does a remarkable job empathizing with Carl Lee Hailey and his daughter Tonya, so good a job that they completely change their verdict in the case, they neglect to understand the pain and suffering that the families of the two men killed by Hailey. The two rapists were terrible people, seen by the fact that they spat on black peoples’ porches, belittled them, and ultimately raped a child. However, it is still inexcusable to kill two young men. Because Brigance’s closing speech brings so much emotion to the jurors, they overlook the fact that tens of people are mourning over the death of family members. As a result of this, the jurors fail fail to be “judicious spectators” (Nussbaum 73). As explained in Nussbaum’s “Rational Emotions”, a judicious spectator is “without bias and surveys the scene before him [or her] with a certain sort of detachment” (73). At the same time, a judicious spectator needs to understand “what it is like to be each of the persons whose situation he imagines” (Nussbaum 73). The jurors not only neglect the empathy that needs to be felt for the families of the two killed men, but also do not give the proper detachment from Tonya’s situation needed to make a lawful and judicious decision. On top of this, the overpowering of empathy for Tonya and Carl Lee Hailey paired with the lack of empathy for the two dead men results in an unlawful decision that contradicts the evidence given in the trial.

Before Jake Brigance’s closing speech, the jury was overwhelmingly in favor of convicting Carl Lee Hailey of his murder of two men. There was never more than one person in favor of acquitting Carl Lee Hailey in either of the jury’s preliminary votes. There is also sufficient evidence to support this claim, including the fact that the only person the defense could bring up to support the idea that Hailey was insane at the time of the murder was himself convicted of statutory rape years before this trial. Also, most convincingly, Hailey exclaims that the two men who raped Tonya should “burn in hell” (TK). In saying this, Carl Lee Hailey is unknowingly bringing death upon himself for killing two people, which is far worse than raping a girl. The only piece of evidence that is beneficial for the defense before Brigance’s closing speech is the testimony of the Deputy Looney, the man that Carl Lee accidentally shot and severely injured. While Looney acknowledges the fact that Carl Lee did not at all intend to shoot him and that Carl Lee apologized for shooting him in this positive testimony, Deputy Looney does not sugar coat the fact that Carl Lee shot the two men. This is one of many pieces of concrete evidence that should have led to the conviction of Carl Lee Hailey.

Since justice is determined by what is lawfully right, Carl Lee Hailey should have been convicted of the murder of two men.  The ruling that for the court case basically concludes that it is worse to rape someone than it is to kill someone. If someone were to say that justice was achieved would be saying that the men deserved to die for raping Tonya and Carl Lee deserved to have the opportunity to kill two people without repercussion, then something simply does not add up. With the risk that blacks would not have been treated equally had Carl Lee Hailey been convicted, it could be argued that an overcompensation occurred. Regardless of the reasoning behind the jury’s decision to acquit Carl Lee Hailey, it is clear that the decision is based on neither the evidence provided nor on the legality of Hailey’s actions in comparison of those of the two rapists but rather on the closing speech.

After hearing this speech, the members of the jury are visibly shocked and their perception of the case has been completely altered. This alteration is caused entirely by the empathy that Jake Brigance invokes upon the members of the jury. Brigance’s appeal to pathos, or the emotion of the audience, really causes this empathy for Carl Lee. There is nothing in terms of the legality of the act that is impacted by Brigance’s closing speech but Jake Brigance’s speech does a fantastic job of promoting empathy in the audience and more importantly for the case, in the jurors. This empathy that the audience feels is completely genuine, as the members of the jury and others in the audience are moved to tears. However since justice can only be determined by the law and law points in the direction of a conviction, empathy clearly masks the just decision for Carl Lee Hailey. As much as this a powerful ruling for the black community, the ruling does not promote justice.

This phenomenon of someone getting away with a crime because the jury empathized too much with the defense has been seen in other real cases where empathy masked justice. In Empathy, Justice, and the Law, a few of these cases are presented. In 1997, a British nanny in Boston shook a baby to death and justly charged with murder. After the trial that convicted the nanny, many people expressed a serious concern for the baby’s parents, and these people empathized with the parents. The judge felt these emotions too and as a result, the charge was reduced and then after another trial, the charge was dropped altogether and the nanny was completely set free despite killing a baby (252). While this is a far worse case of empathy creating injustice, it does greatly compare to the Carl Lee Hailey trial in that despite killing someone or multiple people, the defendant is acquitted. There is a fine line between what is just in legal terms and what is morally just, but in most cases, if something is legally unjust, then it is unjust altogether. The bottom line is that Carl Lee Hailey killed two young men and he should not simply get away with it even though those men did a terrible thing to Tonya. Empathy can serve as a great medium to determine justice in cases where the truth is being overlooked, but when other victims fail to receive their fair share of empathy and a man can get away with killing two men without consequence, empathy is masking justice rather than serving it.

 

Works Cited:

Hoffman, Martin L.”Empathy, Justice and the Law”. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives.Ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011. 230-54. Print.

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson and Sandra Bullock. Warner Bros, 1996. Web. 20 Sept. 2016

Nussbaum, Martha. “Rational Emotions.” Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995. 53-78. Print.

Formal Assignment 1: A Time to Kill: Empathy that Belies

First, there are crimes, then there are laws. Both the sins and laws are the result of social verdicts. The ever-changing forms of crime cause justice to second the vacillating trait- both of them encompasses high plasticity. Although meant to serve its people, law codes contain a major flaw: it is apathetic and rigid.  Which is why the written laws alone cannot represent justice; unless there’s also contributions of contemporary and appropriate empathy. In order to carry out justice in court, the jurors must present “judicial empathy” (EJL), which stands for extensive, unbiased, and appropriate empathy (empathize with all perspectives but not especially emotionally attached to any). In the movie A time to Kill, the Jurors and movie audiences are influenced by various factors including the commotion outside of the court, the confessions of witnesses, and the performance of the lawyers. All of which infests bias within the jurors, clouding their ability to see from a comprehensive 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 murdering action is justified. They are ordinary citizens who can see nothing deeper than rumors and Carl Lee’s skin before the trial started. The Jurors’ decisions depend chiefly upon how much they sympathize with the words coming from each attorneys’ mouth. Subsequently, they attain Carl Lee’s side of the story far more than the two supremacists’ (Billy Ray Cobb and Pete Willard) (TK), the Jurors are steered 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 in the same situation. Third, Carl Lee has the opportunity to make his “victim-impacted statement”, which come to be too much of a luxury for the two men he murdered(ELJ). Carl Lee’s speech rephrases his’s daughter’s desperate calls for a shoulder that came too late give the Jurors an excuse to overlook and eventually forgive his all wrong doings.

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Fourth, Jake’s profound closing statement not only reinforces Carl Lee’s painstaking speech; it also raises the Jurors’ sentiments for Carl Lee’s throbbing pain when he saw what happened to his daughter (TK).

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The redundant “empathetic bias” mounted in the court is triggered by Jake’s speech. When the jurors have to close their eyes and ingest a riveting experience of a little girl being abused, their empathy will arouse effortlessly. The jurors will feel emotionally pressured to stand up for Tonya while losing focus on the actual case – Carl Lee’s killing. Ironically, 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 the storyteller himself is affected by emotions and biased, who is really trustworthy on the court?

In contrast, the only emotionally moving event from the supremacists’ side is Billy Ray Cobb’s mother, Cora Mae Cobb’s tears, which appear for only a brief moment(TK).  Dr.Willard Tyrrel Bass’ experience suggests about the insufficiency in information from the rapist’s stories. Comparable to what Jake stated, if the public knows that the victim in Tyrrel’s statutory rape eventually become his current wife , it won’t make Tyrrel’s crime more or less true, but it indeed would alter the public’s ideas about whether if he is actually guilty(TK). In this trial, the jurors lack the essential materials 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”.

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Similarly, the viewers of the film are restricted to craft fair judgments. Within five minutes into the film, the viewers are riveted by the abusive scene shot through Tonya’s perspective. The viewers see, hears, and eventually cognitively feels the ache and panic Tonya overcome – an incredibly powerful scene that can easily move anyone with humanity. This parallels the viewers to what the Jurors experience when they close their eyes and listen to Jake(TK). After the enthralling scene, the viewers encounter an exceedingly difficult time to ignore the emotional impact initiated by Tonya’s misfortune. The film arrangements in a manner where the viewers could effortlessly take Jake’s perspective as their own since viewers see the film majorly through Jake’s point of view. However, Jake is not a valid candidate for a judicious spectator. He desires fame from winning the case, commiserates Carl Lee by imagining the same tragic occurring upon his treasured daughter, needs to defend his pride as an attorney alone is enough to explain Jake’s morbid obsession with winning the case(TK). He has not witnessed the tragic himself, yet his obsession to prove Carl Lee not guilty builds up blind spots in both himself and the viewers to suitably empathize with every involved character(TK).

Other than relating to Carl Lee in a father’s position, Jake fails to simulate with the larger community- even with his own family. For instance, when his wife and his secretary are receiving severe threats, Jake should consider whether if it’s worth putting his and his comrades’ life on stake for one single case, yet Jake refuses to pause and think of the potential costs. Jake not once regret, even when his own house burns down and his secretary’s husband lie dying in hospital(TK). As viewers are closely identified with Jake as a protagonist, Jake’s oblivious attitude to his surroundings results in the viewer’s failure with comprehensive empathy. Furthermore, by standing with Jake, the adversities that Jake face produces 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 audiences might be “too empathetic” to think about a bigger picture. For example, people seems to disregard that a Deputy Dwayne Looney lost his a leg because of Carl Lee(TK). Not that it is any worse than losing the ability to bore children, but the film seems to amplify the damage of Tonya’s infertility and brushes over that a deputy lost both a leg and a living.   Not to mention that Carl Lee plea for being not guilty due to insanity, was artificial. There is no lawful Justice involved. The case was won solely with Jake’s vivid persuasion skills.

In A Time to Kill, although Carl Lee’s case seems to be justice’s advocate in terms that the jurors look past skin color to make their decision– the viewers and the jurors don’t have enough information to judge whether if justice is served. The audiences of Jake have removed themselves from the position of a judicious spectator. Few have thought for Billy Ray Cobb and Pete Willard or hear from their perspective. Without hearing them out, no one can justify the current resolution. The distracting factors lead the viewers and the jurors on with prejudice, yet they mistake their prejudice as justice. The film’s purpose was not to declare who is right or wrong but to vitalize that no side is impeccable. It comes to a perfect circle: Billy Ray Cobb and Pete Willard 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; KKK sets Jake’s house on fire in the beginning and the Klan’s leader was burned to death in the end(TK). A judicious spectator would not have empathized any less with the later.

 

Works Cited:

“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.

Does Empathy Promote Justice In A Time to Kill?

Justice, especially in criminal situations, can be different for everyone depending on their involvement. In the film A Time to Kill, Carl Lee believes his act of revenge is just, and similarly the jury believes their acquittal of Carl Lee is just. However both are examples of justice being served for only some individuals involved and not the entire community; the former is unlawful and vigilante and the latter is a biased decision made on the grounds of the empathy of the jurors. By means of a very convincing closing argument by defense attorney Jake Brigance, the jury is ultimately so overwhelmed with empathy that they deem a man who is unequivocally guilty of two counts of murder, “not guilty” . Between the many deaths and injuries from violence in this movie, there is no real justice served. Instead there are only acts of partial justice, and nothing that benefits society as a whole (A Time To Kill). Empathy plays a huge role in denying society from the real justice that should be a guaranteed product of the courts of law.

It is clear from the beginning that some members of the jury are far from impartial. One member goes so far as to say “That n***ers dead” in an illegal conversation with the other jurors before much evidence was even presented. The fact that the jurors even have this conversation diminishes all credibility the audience can have to trust them in making a decision of justice. This insensitivity to the rules of the court severely hinders the ability of justice (A Time To Kill). In order for justice to be served, jurors must uphold themselves to high standards, standards that were outlined hundreds of years ago by economist Adam Smith. Smith calls for a “judicious spectator” and expects of them detached investment rather than personal involvement, appropriate emotion rather than insensitivity or improper feeling, and adherence to facts rather than upholding of biases. This figure should mix feeling with external assessment in order to most clearly understand and decide on the case. Smith even calls for this spectator to vividly imagine the situation of the others so long as all emotions were guided by a true view of the situation. According to this model, empathy can be used in a court of law, but it cannot be based on any personal or external reasons (Nussbaum). The judicious spectator is the most effective way to serve justice because it perfectly balances emotion with reason in order to procure the most just decision. Throughout the movie the jurors fail to accomplish each expectation of the judicious spectator, and ultimately make an unjust verdict based on their personal emotions and an excess of empathy (A Time To Kill).

“Now imagine she’s white” (A Time To Kill). Jake Brigance concludes his powerful closing argument with these four words. His story is enough to cause the entire jury to shift their opinions on the case, and the explanation of this “miracle” lies in the aforementioned incompetence of the jury and the power of Jake’s argument. The jurors are not whatsoever detached from this argument. The obvious bias of race that sits with them is a prime example. This personal involvement mutates into inappropriate empathy with Jake’s closing statement. With this empathy comes neglect of the clear facts presented in the case and a decision made for the justice of few, not many (A Time To Kill).

The facts and evidence of this case become meaningless because of the magnitude of feeling the jury has. Carl Lee breaks into a courthouse, hides in a closet for an entire night, and emerges many hours later to murder two men in cold blood. He returns to his home afterwards and passively submits to his capture, a clear sign that he knows what he did was wrong. He asserts on the stand that he feels the men deserve to die and is deemed “mentally sane” by a doctor, although the credibility of this last piece of evidence is disputable. These are clear facts to the jurors, facts that strongly suggest that Carl Lee is guilty, but despite all of it he is released (A Time To Kill). The jurors, in this sense, are not jurors (and certainly not judicious spectators), but an audience to which Jake performs in front of. All Jake had to do is get into their heads with a good story and make them feel inextricably with Carl Lee.

Jake starts with an apology. This is his first tactic to elicit empathy from the jury. He asks for forgiveness for his mistakes and attributes them to his inexperience. Every individual has had shortcoming before and the jury certainly empathizes and feels with Jake. This segment neutralizes many of the mistakes he makes in the courtroom. Then, Jake says  this: “We have a duty… to seek the truth, not with our eyes, and not with our minds… but with our hearts” (A Time To Kill). This phrase is pretty and poetic, but it is the most audacious phrase said in his entire speech. He essentially tells the jury, “Please forget all conventions of reason when you consider this decision, just focus on who you feel bad for.” With this Jake tears down the shield of reason that had been protecting the jurors from making a decision based only on empathy. Now, it is time for his attack: the story. He asks the jury to close their eyes, and in vivid detail he describes the raping and beating of Carl Lee’s daughter. Here lies the power of the story and the storyteller. Jake takes his time going through everything that happened to Carl Lee’s daughter, and has the jury in tears by the time he finishes. He ends with his four powerful words, as if the jurors do not feel enough empathy for the poor girl. These words do great things to shatter the bias that is inherent in the jury, but Jake uses it as a tool to dilate the effects of empathy in his favor. At this point, all investment and detachment of the jurors transforms into personal involvement, and much like one gets sad after reading or watching a well-written tragedy, the jury (or rather, the audience), is left in tears after a fantastic performance. Their verdict of “not guilty” more closely resembles a movie rating of five stars than a court decision.

The prosecuting attorney gives a fantastic speech full of meaning. He asserts that justice is taken out of the hands of the people and, although what happened to the young girl is tragic, the law must do its job to convict Carl Lee (A Time To Kill). This meaning, and the entire integrity of the case, is undermined by the inappropriate empathy of the jurors. Some may argue that in the end, justice is served to the men who raped Carl Lee’s daughter, but it is not real justice. Real justice comes from reason, morality, and a decision the benefits the community, not ignorance, over-involvement, and individual gratification.

 

Citations:

A Time to Kill. Directed by Joel Schumacher, performances by Matthew                                      McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sandra Bullock, Warner Bros., 1996.

Nussbaum, Martha. “Rational Emotions.” Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and               Public Life. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995. 53-78. Print/Web.

A Time to Kill: Law and Empathy

How many times do criminals walk away exonerated? How many times are victims left without closure? How many times can justice be circumvented? When two racist white men brutally rape and dehumanize a ten-year-old girl, a devastated father seeks to avenge his daughter—and succeeds. A film where justice is not coextensive with the law, A Time to Kill relies heavily on empathy to take precedence in order to deliver true justice. This doesn’t come to fruition until a diligent lawyer uses a white jury’s limitations to his advantage, and effectively gets a black man acquitted of all charges—despite the overwhelming circumstances they both faced.

In a courtroom trial, the defendant is supposed to be accompanied by a fair jury of his peers. However, in A Time to Kill, Carl Lee Hailey (a black man) is pitted against a jury of twelve southern white folks in the year 1984. In spite of a jury being stacked against them, a young lawyer by the name of Jake Brigance has made it his mission to see Carl Lee is freed of all charges. Meanwhile, Brigance also contends with severe crises of his own: a marriage on the verge of collapse, as well as the constant threat of danger from the restless Ku Klux Klan. Can Jake rely on the law to deliver fair justice?

The law is thought to provide justice in a way that deals out a proper punishment to correspond to a committed crime; but, in order to create and ensure justice, the law needs to personify each case in its entirety rather than to try and dismiss empathy’s role in the decision making process of the jury. The law puts too much emphasis on cases being black-and-white, and this movie demonstrates that in more ways than one. When the law doesn’t take into account the gray areas, justice is evaded, and the real victims can be left feeling despondent and disparaged. It is important to realize that the criminal-victim roles that exist in court can actually be morally reversed. Such a realization results in a situation that requires more than an immalleable rule-based system to come to a verdict that not only maintains the integrity of the law, but also corresponds with the morale of the community.

One scene in the film displays the jury getting together for dinner. During this scene, they briefly unveil their opinions on the case prematurely, and the majority of the jurors raise their hand in favor of a guilty verdict that would send Carl Lee to his grave. The man at the head of the table follows up this vote by saying, “That niggers dead y’all.” This demonstrates the presence of intolerable racial bias that renders them blind to the honorable character Carl Lee possesses—a man that takes responsibility for his actions. A man that provides for his family, both emotionally and financially. A man that deserves a fair trial.

Further along in the film, a white policeman—whom was earlier caught in a crossfire between Carl Lee and the two white rapists—begins being cross-examined. The prosecutor assumes he would have spiteful feelings towards Carl Lee, being that he lost his leg in the altercation, but this proves to be amiss. Instead, he emotionally erupts and demonstrates great empathy for Carl Lee; referring to him as a “hero” (TK). While viewers of this scene might assume that such a powerful moment would have garnered some votes in favor of a not guilty verdict, this as well proves to be erroneous. As jurors got together for another dinner, another vote was cast that landed a full twelve of twelve in favor of a guilty verdict.

In the concluding scenes of the movie, Jake has one final chance to sway the jury in favor of Carl Lee with his closing statement, but he begins to realize even the most well-prepared and well-stated argument won’t be enough. His final approach becomes an appeal to pathos (emotion), as he politely asks the jury to close their eyes. What comes next is a surprisingly disconcerting experience for everyone (including himself), as he verbally reconstructs the rape of Carl Lee’s daughter. The jury begins to cry, and sympathetic sentiments begin to emerge.

Jake’s unfolding of the story vividly evokes utter sympathy in the hearts of the jury, yet something even more remarkable occurs when Jake Brigance changes the dynamic of the story and says, “Now imagine she’s white” (TK). By strategically changing the race of the victimized girl from presumably black, to white, Brigance illuminates the fact that race is playing a bigger role in their judgement than they might have realized. Sympathy then became replaced by empathy, and the jurors could finally peer into the soul of Carl Lee to see indefinitely why he was justified in his actions.  Paradoxically, by having the jury close their eyes, Jake was finally able to get them to see clearly. This is a phenomenon Martin Hoffman calls “perspective-taking.” In his work titled, “Empathy, Justice and the Law,” he says “By [using our] imagination[,] we place ourselves in the other’s situation, [and so] we conceive ourselves enduring all the same torments…” This creates an effect on us that “converts the other’s situation into mental images that evoke the same feeling in oneself” (233). As Jake’s story progressed through each dark and twisted sequence, this phenomenon became more and more apparent. It was clear the jury wasn’t invested in this case before, but they certainly were now.

Jake’s appeal to pathos worked so well in this case because it targeted the innately human aspect of the court: empathy. Hoffman delineates two types of empathy, both of which are present in this scene: affective and cognitive. Affective empathy, which can be defined succinctly as “feeling what another feels,” and cognitive empathy, which means having an “awareness of another’s feelings” (230). The jury, through the vivid depiction of Tonya’s rape, began to experience affective empathy for her. Picturing a traumatized little girl—barely a decade into her life—having been heinously abused and unconscionably urinated on by two savages. They also began to realize that this young girl—a man’s daughter—belonged to the very same man that was on trial for taking justice into his own hands. And so, the emergence of cognitive empathy occurs. How could a jury convict a man who has gone through so much pain? How could a jury convict a man that only did what other fathers would have done for their own daughter? To do so would result in an “empathic feeling of injustice” (237). What that simply means is the jury could no longer see Carl Lee as deserving of the punishment he was on trial for.

Finally, the trial was no longer about color; it was about a father having sought justice for his brutally raped daughter. Therefore, it is clear that it wasn’t until after Jake elicited sympathetic and empathetic emotions during his closing argument, the black-and-white circumstance from the law’s perspective started to look a whole lot grayer and the idea of justice had changed. Some people might have said Jake Brigance manipulated the jury, but I don’t believe this is so. He simply showed them the light, and they just finally decided to walk toward it. Empathy served as guiding platform for the jury to make the appropriate corrections in their judgement, which in turn allowed for Carl Lee Hailey, a good man, to be found “Innocent” (TK). An outcome that could not have occurred without the introduction of empathy. Nevertheless, in this trial, true justice was delivered.

 

Works Cited

A Time to Kill. Directed by Joel Schumacher. Warner Brothers, 1996.

Hoffman, Martin L. “Empathy, justice, and the law.” Empathy: Philosophical and psychological perspectives., Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2014.

Does Empathy Promote Justice In A Time to Kill? – Draft

 

Words have meaning, but stories have power. Words are able to communicate a message, but stories are able to communicate feeling. A good orator can motivate and even sway a crowd with his words, but a good storyteller captivates his crowd, pulling them into his story to the point where they feel not only for, but with the protagonist. Empathy, by this method, can be elicited from a group fairly easily. This was made evident in the movie A Time To Kill when attorney Jake Brigance used a story to manipulate jurors into feeling empathy for the defendant. The jury was so overwhelmed with empathy that they deemed a man, who was unequivocally guilty of two counts of murder, “not guilty” . Between the many deaths and injuries from violence in this movie, there was no real justice served. Instead there were only acts of biased vigilantes and a skewed court case (A Time To Kill). Justice was not served in this movie, and empathy did much to promote this negative outcome.

It was quite obvious that from the very beginning, some members of the jury were far from impartial. One member went so far as to say “That n***ers dead” in an illegal conversation with the other jurors before much evidence was even presented (A Time To Kill). The justice system cannot efficiently function with licentious attitudes such as this one. Jurors must uphold themselves to high standards, standards that were outlined hundreds of years ago by economist Adam Smith. Smith called for a “judicious spectator” and expected of them detached investment rather than personal involvement, appropriate emotion rather than insensitivity or improper feeling, and adherence to facts rather than upholding of biases. This figure should mix feeling with external assessment in order to most clearly understand and decide on the case. Smith even called for this spectator to vividly imagine the situation of the others so long as all emotions were guided by a true view of the situation. According to this model empathy can be used in a court of law, but it cannot be based on any personal or external reasons (Nussbaum). Throughout the movie the jurors fail to accomplish each expectation of the judicious spectator, and ultimately make an unjust verdict based on their personal emotions and a sad, well-told story (A Time To Kill).

“Now imagine she’s white” (A Time To Kill). Jake Brigance concludes his powerful closing argument with these four words. His story was enough to cause the entire jury to shift their opinions on the case, and the explanation of this “miracle” lies in the aforementioned incompetence of the jury and the power of stories. To start, the jurors were not whatsoever detached from this story. They followed Smith’s standards in that they empathized with the defendant Carl Lee, but they used personal bias in their empathy. This is made clear in Jake’s last four words, when he addresses the unspoken bias that has sat with the jury members for the entirety of the court case. The jurors, who were originally insensitive towards him, felt too much with Carl Lee. The facts and evidence meant nothing anymore because of the magnitude of feeling they had. Carl Lee broke into a courthouse, hid in a closet for an entire night, and emerged many hours later to murder two men in cold blood. He returned to his home afterwards and passively submitted to his capture, a clear sign that he knew what he did was wrong. He asserted on the stand that he felt the men deserved to die and was deemed “mentally sane” by a doctor, although the credibility of this last piece of evidence is disputable. These were clear facts to the jurors, facts that strongly suggested that Carl Lee was guilty, but despite all of it he was released (A Time To Kill). The jurors, in this sense, were not jurors (and certainly not judicious spectators), but an audience to which Jake performed in front of. All Jake had to do was get into their heads with a good story and make them feel inextricably with Carl Lee.

Jake started with an apology. This was his first tactic to elicit empathy from the jury. He asked for forgiveness for his mistakes and attributed them to his inexperience. Every individual has had shortcoming before and the jury certainly empathized and felt with Jake. This segment neutralized many of the mistakes he made in the courtroom. Then, Jake said this: “We have a duty… to seek the truth, not with our eyes, and not with our minds… but with our hearts” (A Time To Kill). This phrase is pretty and poetic, but it is the most audacious phrase said in his entire speech. He essentially tells the jury, “Please forget all conventions of reason when you consider this decision, just focus on who you feel bad for.” With this Jake tore down the shield of reason that had been protecting the jurors from making a decision based only on empathy. Now, it was time for his attack: the story. He asked the jury to close their eyes, and in vivid detail he described the raping and beating of Carl Lee’s daughter. Here lies the power of the story and the storyteller. Jake took his time going through everything that happened to Carl Lee’s daughter, and had the jury in tears by the time he finished. He ended with his four powerful words, as if the jurors did not feel enough empathy for the poor girl. These words do great things to shatter the bias that was inherent in the jury, but Jake used it as a tool to dilate the effects of empathy in his favor. Left in the jury were twelve emotionally torn victims who knew no better than to act upon their empathy.

The prosecuting attorney had a fantastic speech full of meaning. He asserted that justice was taken out of the hands of the people and, although what happened to the young girl was tragic, the law must do its job to convict Carl Lee (A Time To Kill). This meaning, and the entire integrity of the case, was undermined by the power of Jake’s story. Empathy is an emotion that is imperative to have in a courtroom and life in general, but to let it take the reins of a jury’s decision making process is wrong. This movie is played off to have a happy ending, where the good guys are released and the bad guys are finally caught, but a murder was set free. Empathy did not lead to justice; it only contributed to the of prejudice and bias that every jury must overcome. Sadly, the jurors were not able to overcome their emotions, and justice was absent in the resolution of this film.

 

Citations:

A Time to Kill. Directed by Joel Schumacher, performances by Matthew McConaughey,        Samuel L. Jackson, and Sandra Bullock, Warner Bros., 1996.

Nussbaum, Martha. “Rational Emotions.” Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and               Public Life. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995. 53-78. Print/Web.

Justice Prevailed!

What does it mean to receive justice? Is justice always the same for everyone? How big of a role should our emotion play when making decisions as a juror? In the case of Carl Lee Hailey in the popular 1996 film A Time to Kill, I cannot help but ask myself these questions. In the film, Carl Lee, a black man, shoots and kills the two white men who raped his ten-year-old daughter Tonya inside the courthouse as they were headed to their preliminary hearing. Carl Lee is found not guilty by the jury when his own case hits the courthouse, even though many witnessed the event and he and his lawyer, Jake Brigance, decided to use the insanity plea, which according to the film only works a small percentage of the time (TK). I believe this unexpected decision by the jurors was due to the invocation of empathy by Jake Brigance in his closing argument (see below) and I think he did exactly what had to be done to promote justice in this case and more importantly, in the world outside of this case. I will first argue for why I believe justice was served in A Time to Kill and I will follow with why I believe empathy leads to the most just decision in the case of Carl Lee Hailey.

INSERT VIDEO HERE (need help figuring out how to do this…)

Justice, could be taken as synonymous with fairness, is what we strive to base our United States legal system on. However, our legal system is not perfect and there are many crucial aspects to making a just decision. In a matter of fact sense, Carl Lee Hailey did shoot and kill two men in A Time to Kill. There was no denial of this fact just as there was no denial of the fact that the two men he killed brutally raped his daughter Tonya. The time period portrayed in the film was home to an unjust legal system that was prejudice towards black people and Carl Lee Hailey knew that. Uncertain that the men who raped his daughter would face any punishment at all, he sought justice for his daughter himself and succeeded. He felt that the only way to get justice was this way and although death is the harshest punishment of all, Carl Lee Hailey wanted to be sure these men would never be able to commit such atrocities again. He plead insanity, but what he did was logical and just not only for his own family, but the entire community. If Carl Lee Hailey were to have come across these men in action and shot them to protect Tonya in the moment, there would be no question as to whether or not what he did was justified. When he came to trial for this action, he knew that the legal system remained unchanged and he and his lawyer did all that they could to preserve justice while working within the current system.

 

Jake Brigance used the power of empathy to persuade the jurors in the case of Carl Lee. With the odds stacked up against him, he knew an appeal to pathos, or emotion, would be the strongest way to persuade them to free Carl Lee. The entire legal process revolves around empathy, from picking jurors that can easily empathize with the defendant to using the most compelling arguments to persuade jurors to see things the defendant’s way. According to Martin L. Hoffman in his work Empathy, Justice, and the Law, empathy is inherent in us as human beings and therefore its involvement in law is unavoidable (238). Defining empathy can get confusing, but when I speak of the involvement of empathy in A Time to Kill, I speak of Hoffman’s definition of affective empathy: “an emotional state triggered by another’s emotional state or situation, in which one feels what the other feels or may normally be expected to feel in his or her situation.” (231). Hoffman points out that there are problems with using empathy in law, such as inherent biases, and he believes a possible solution would be better training in recognizing these biases and working to minimize their effects, but I believe that empathy will always include biases and situations must be shown in the right light to reveal justice, as Jake Brigance succeeded in with his closing argument (254). The jurors could not put themselves in Carl Lee Hailey’s shoes prior to Jake’s vivid description of Tonya’s attack and closing words “now imagine she’s white” (TK). The jurors were there throughout the case and the evidence was not compelling enough to believe Carl Lee Hailey was insane and did not know what he was doing was wrong under the law. They instead needed light shown on the idea that the law is not perfect and justice would prevail only by freeing Carl Lee, which is exactly where empathy came into play. The jurors had to look beyond the strictness of law and beyond this case alone to see that justice would prevail only by allowing Carl Lee Hailey’s actions to go unpunished. This single decision, guided by the invocation of empathy, preserved justice in the Hailey family and in the entire community.

Beyond this case, the world was changed and it was apparent that following the law is not the only way to preserve justice. With race riots and protesting going on right outside the courthouse, this decision showed that we are all human and must be able to see things from each other’s perspectives, regardless of our race. Justice is a goal that has to be created through social interaction and to get society on Carl Lee Hailey’s side, Jake Brigance used the most powerful tool- empathy. This was not wrong or unjust at all; it was actually the most just thing that could have been done at the time. The unjust legal system of the time would go on to change and become just for everyone instead of remaining prejudiced. Our legal system will never be perfect, but at least there will always be a way to promote progress towards justice, and that, as we have seen, is through the invocation of empathy.

Works Cited

Hoffman, Martin L. “14 Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. By Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. N.p.: n.p., 2011. 230+. Oxford Scholarship, Jan. 2012. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. Warner Bros., 1996. Web (Blackboard). 25 Sept. 2016.

Formal Assignment #1- Empathy vs. Justice

According to Martin L. Hoffman’s Empathy, Justice, and the Law, empathy, or more specifically affective empathy is “an emotional state triggered by another’s emotional state or situation, in which one feels what the other feels…” (231). In A Time to Kill, Jake Brigance clearly invokes this genuine emotion in the members of the court and jury during his closing speech based on the brutal raping of Tonya Hailey. The jury is able to really empathize with Carl Lee Hailey and as a result, they rule Hailey not guilty of murdering two men that he killed in retaliation for the rape of his daughter. This brings up the question of whether justice was served with this decision or if the jury took the empathy they felt too far and the just decision was masked. Justice is served when the lawful decision is made, and while in some cases empathy can trump justice (Hoffman 238), justice was not served in Carl Lee Hailey’s trial in A Time to Kill singlehandedly because of the empathy people felt for him.

 

Before Jake Brigance’s closing speech, the jury was overwhelmingly in favor of convicting Carl Lee Hailey of his murder of two men. There was never more than one person in favor of acquitting Carl Lee Hailey in either of the jury’s preliminary votes. There was also sufficient evidence to support this claim, including the fact that the only person the defence could bring up to support the idea that Hailey was insane at the time of the murder was himself convicted of statutory rape years before this trial. Also, most convincingly, Hailey exclaimed that the two men who raped Tonya should “burn in hell” (TK). In saying this, Carl Lee Hailey is unknowingly bringing death upon himself for killing two people, which is far worse than raping a girl. The only piece of evidence that was beneficial for the defense before Brigance’s closing speech was the testimony of the Deputy Looney, the man that Carl Lee accidentally shot and severely injured.

 

While Looney acknowledges the fact that Carl Lee did not at all intend to shot him and that Carl Lee apologized for shooting him in this positive testimony, Deputy Looney does not sugar coat the fact that Carl Lee shot the two men. Since justice is determined by what is lawfully right, Carl Lee Hailey should have been convicted of the murder of two men.  The ruling that for the court case basically concludes that it is worse to rape someone than it is to kill someone. If someone were to say that justice was achieved would be saying that the men deserved to die for raping Tonya and Carl Lee deserved to have the opportunity to kill two people without repercussion, then something simply does not add up. With the risk that blacks would not have been treated equally had Carl Lee Hailey been convicted, it could be argued that an overcompensation occurred. While this could be the case, there is also evidence that the members of the jury were not considering race in their decision to ultimately acquit Hailey. This is especially apparent during the closing speech.

 

When Jake Brigance is painting the picture of the rape that Tonya Hailey, he never says he is referencing Tonya. This leaves a lot of interpretation for the audience as to who he is referencing. Seen by the fact that many of the members of the jury cried during the speech, they could have been visualizing their own white children instead of Tonya. If this were the case, when Brigance says “now imagine she’s white” (TK), this could almost serve as a slap in the face because Brigance is calling the jury out for judging Carl Lee Hailey for being black. This could be a far fetched theory, but given the jury’s reaction to the speech, it is a serious possibility.

 

After hearing this speech, the members of the jury are visibly shocked and their perception of the case has been completely altered. This alteration was caused entirely by the empathy that Jake Brigance invoked upon the members of the jury. There was nothing in terms of the legality of the act that was impacted by Brigance’s closing speech. Jake Brigance’s speech does a fantastic job of promoting empathy in the audience and more importantly for the case, in the jurors. This empathy that the audience feels is completely genuine, as the members of the jury and others in the audience are in tears. Even though there was nothing that changed legally, Jake Brigance’s speech singlehandedly reversed the verdict of the case. Since justice can only be determined by the law, empathy clearly masks the just decision for Carl Lee Hailey. As much as this a powerful ruling for the black community, the ruling does not promote justice.
This phenomenon of someone getting away with a crime because the jury empathized too much with the defense has been seen in other real cases where empathy masked justice. In Empathy, Justice, and the Law, a few of these cases are presented. In 1997, a British nanny in Boston shook a baby to death and justly charged with murder. After the trial that convicted the nanny, many people expressed a serious concern for the baby’s parents, and these people empathized with the parents. The judge felt these emotions too and as a result, the charge was reduced and then after another trial, the charge was dropped altogether and the nanny was completely set free despite killing a baby (252). While this is a far worse case of empathy creates injustice, it does greatly compare to the Carl Lee Hailey trial in that despite killing someone or multiple people, the defendant was acquitted. There is a fine line between what is just in legal terms and what is morally just, but in most cases, if something is legally unjust, then it is unjust altogether. The bottom line is that Carl Lee Hailey killed two young men and he should not simply get away with it even though those men did a terrible thing to Tonya. Empathy can serve as a great medium to determine justice in cases where the truth is being overlooked, but when a man can get away with killing two men without consequence, empathy is masking justice rather than serving it.

Works Cited:

Hoffman, Martin L.”Empathy, Justice and the Law”. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives.Ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011. 230-54. Print.

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson and Sandra Bullock. Warner Bros, 1996. Web. 20 Sept. 2016

A Time to Kill – does empathy promote justice?

The themes of empathy and justice are a central component of Joel Schumacher’s A Time to Kill. In this note I take empathy to be the “awareness of another’s feelings” or “feeling what another feels” (Hoffman 230) and understand justice to be the notion of fair treatment, that everyone should get what they deserve. I will explore the relationship between these two in the film. A Time to Kill tells the story of the prosecution of a black man, Carl Lee, who killed the two men who raped his 10-year-old daughter. His motive was the belief that the black community could not get a fair trial in the South at the time. Carl Lee states, “how a black man ever going to get a fair trial, with the enemy on the bench in the jury box. My life in white hands?” (TK). In his trial, Carl Lee justifiably feels as though he is both the victim and the accused. The fight for justice in this film goes beyond what is found in the law. In my view, this film powerfully portrays how law and justice are not necessarily co-extensive. The law is a set of rules made by society, and when the film was set societal norms were not ‘just’, Tonya and Carl Lee did not live in a “fair” society. It is for this reason that I would argue that empathy did promote justice because justice could not be found in the law in A Time to Kill.

This blog post is going to look at whether or not the ultimate verdict arrived at by the jury, acquitting Carl Lee, was an act of justice, consequently: since this decision was arrived at primarily by empathizing with the accused, reflecting on the role empathy played in either promoting or obstructing justice. To achieve this, I am going to look at tools used to invoke and portray empathy, as well as their effects, throughout the trial, then move onto looking at whether or not Carl Lee’s acquittal was an act of justice.

Firstly, let us consider the effect of empathy invoked in characters (mainly the jury) as well as the audience to create a platform for the discussion of whether or not empathy promoted or obstructed justice. To begin with, let us consider Carl Lee’s direct examination. In this scene, the camera is placed at a constant distance that centers Carl Lee’s face on the screen at all times as he explains how he felt. Having the frame only on Carl Lee’s face detaches him from the rest of the cast, which reflects his feeling of loneliness, isolation, and helplessness, which happen to be the same feelings his daughter experienced. This aids in invoking empathy because helplessness and loneliness are emotions everyone can relate to. In addition to this, the camera circles Carl Lee, a technique which is referred to as an “Arc shot” (Arc shot, mediacollege.com). Circling Carl Lee with extremely close range creates this impression that the viewer is getting insight on what is happening in Carl Lee’s mind as he speaks, which makes the viewer feel as though they have a deeper understanding of his innermost thoughts and feelings as he relays them to the courthouse. This invokes empathy because it enables the reader to appreciate what he was feeling, creating the sense of awareness and ultimately making it easier to feel what he felt. Furthermore, Carl Lee uses emotive language as well as an anecdote to invoke empathy in the jury. Carl Lee speaks about how he as Tonya’s father could not protect or help her at that moment, which is considered to be the role of a father. He talks about how all he could hear was his daughter say, “I called for you daddy. When them men was hurting me. I called for you, over and over. But you didn’t never come” (TK). This scene invokes empathy for both Tonya and Carl Lee. It should be noted that the only question used by the defense was, “How did you feel”, indicating that their whole case was based on getting the jurors to understand his emotions.

Furthermore, Carl Lee’s attorney, Jake, explicitly states that to win the case “the jury needs to identify with the defendant”, and to create this link of identification Jake used empathy in his closing statement (TK). It is also important to note that before Jake’s closing statement the jurors had all decided that Carl Lee was guilty, so given that he was acquitted, we can safely infer that the case was won by Jake’s closing statement. Jake uses ethos and pathos to appeal to the jury in his last address to the court, he too uses an anecdote to vividly describe what Tonya went through to invoke empathy in the jury. He speaks about how her innocence and purity was violated. He also uses literary features such as groups of three to emphasize the trauma and the pain she went through. When describing her body, he states that it was, “raped, beaten and broken” in addition to this he says it was “soaked in their urine, soaked in their semen and soaked in her blood” (TK). The technique Jake used to deliver his statement is also critical in evaluating its effectiveness. He speaks extremely slow to make sure that he gives the jury enough time to not only hear what he says but internalize it too. Lastly, there is the use of discontinuous movement in the scene, the frame moves from Jake’s face to the jury and then to the Hailey family. This increases empathy in the audience because it allows the audience to see the people who were directly affected by what happened to Tonya as Jake relays it. As illustrated above this closing argument invoked an “empathic feeling of injustice”, the preference for equity, to communicate that Carl Lee deserves to be acquitted (Hoffman 238).

It could be argued that the immense use of pathos compromised the jury’s ability to use “rational emotions”, emotions we can trust in the law (Nussbaum 72), inhibiting them from being “judicious spectators”. According to Nussbaum a “judicious spectator” is not only able to use rational emotions but also has the ability to “care” for both the victim and the accused in a trial. A “judicious spectator” is an individual who is able to “vividly” imagine what it is like to be both parties in the trial, which is what him/her an ideal juror (73). However, I want us to consider the possibility that the jurors in the film were not judicious spectators until empathy was invoked in them. Evidence in the film leads us to believe that the jurors did not care for Carl Lee. In the beginning of the trial, one of the jurors refers to the fact that he has to go back to his family, implying that he does not regard Carl Lee’s life as important or deserving of his time. Furthermore, this vocal juror states, “that nigger is dead” after he initiated an informal vote before the end of the trial. This indicates that he had a preconceived verdict, further emphasizing his disregard for Carl Lee (TK). The use of pathos in Jake’s statement, “now imagine she’s white”, essentially assisted the jurors to be judicious spectators, allowing them to care for Carl Lee and appreciate what it is his family went through as well as consider the lives of the two boys who were killed. This statement allowed the jurors to empathize with Carl Lee possibly for the first time in the trial. Which is why I strongly believe that empathy promoted justice in the film A Time to Kill. Without empathy, the jurors were not going to be “judicious spectators” and ultimately acquit Carl Lee.

Work Cited
Hoffman, Martin L.”Empathy, Justice and the Law”. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives.Ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011. 230-54. Print.
(2011). pp 230-254. Print

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson and Sandra Bullock. Warner Bros, 1996. Web. 20 Sept. 2016

Arc Shot. Arc Shot. N.p., n.d. Web. www.mediacollege.com/video/shots/arc.html 24 Sept. 2016

Nussbaum, Martha. “Rational Emotions.” Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995. 53-78. Print.