According to Hoffman, the term “affective empathy” is the process of feeling what another person is feeling due to a certain situation in which they are in (231). That feeling of empathy leads to “empathetic distress” which is the process that creates the same feelings (Hoffman 231). Justice is defined as “the proper administration of the law; the fair and equitable treatment of all individuals under the law” (Definitions US legal “Law and Legal definition” 2016). Two main results come from a good justice system; they are fairness and moral rightness. Law, on the other hand, is defined as a combination of rules and regulations under which a certain society enforces justice. In other words, law is a means to achieve justice and justice is a means to achieve fairness. My point in this essay is that the goal of both justice and law is fairness and if for some reason, fairness isn’t achieved, then we ought to do something. Problems of injustice in our judicial system are sometimes caused by the poor enforcement of the law. The court is the one in charge to enforce the law and yet, sometimes, it fails to do so correctly. One of the reason of the court’s failures is that the court itself is made by people (the jury and the judge). Yet, those people aren’t always unbiased as we expect them to be. The fact that the law is enforced by a single entity-the court- whose decisions are never examined or questioned to check their fairness is also a problem that jeopardizes our judicial system. By entirely trusting the court to bring to us justice, we assume that it never makes mistakes and yet, it does. Carl Lee’s case articulates the above claims.

It is important in this essay to understand thoroughly what led Carlee to kill the two rapists. Carl lee wanted the rapists fairly punished for raping his daughter. However, he could not count on the court to bring him justice. First of all, those rapists had been raping and torturing other young kids. Yet, by not fairly punishing them, the court had failed to bring justice to all those kids (11:32-13:02 TK). High chances were that for the same reasons they were not punished before-which could be because they were white and rich- they weren’t going to be fairly punished either for raping Tonya. Second, Carlee was a poor black man whose daughter had been raped by white men. Therefore, he was not expecting the court to bring him justice- most especially in a time where blacks were highly discriminated. Had Carl Lee been confident that the court was going to fairly punish the rapists, he would not have killed them. Whose fault is it then if Carl lee is obliged to bring justice to himself? Isn’t it the court’s fault which failed to fairly punish from the very beginning?

In the movie, the law demands that no matter the circumstances, there is no justification for taking justice in one’s own hands (As Carlee did by killing the rapists) (2:44:02-2:44:05 TK). However, the above rule is unfair because it expects us to stand and do nothing while we are continuously being wronged by the court’s failure to do its job. On the other hand, True justice demands that no one be above the law, not even the court itself. If individuals must take responsibility of their mistakes, then the court, on its turn, should take responsibility for failing to do its job -not punishing us if we do it on our own. Therefore, by killing the rapists, Carlee refuses to sit and watch impunity-he does what the court should have done long ago- and so should not be punished for it. This however means that for the second time, the court will have to break the law by not punishing Carl Lee- but this time for the sake of justice.

Carl Lee went to talk to Jack about what he thought of doing. He asks him what he would do if his girl was raped- knowing that he might meet the rapists moving freely only ten years after. This question makes Jake go through a self -oriented empathetic arousal method where he started relating the rape of Tonya to his own daughter. He felt that if he had been in the same situation as Carl Lee was, he would have done the same thing. This conversation also makes Jake have an “empathetic feeling of injustice” Hoffman 240. This feeling was mostly shown when Jake didn’t denounce Carl Lee to the sheriff even though he had an idea of what Carl Lee planned on doing (11:32-13:02 TK); he let him get his own justice. In other words, Jake also knew that Tonya would not have received justice if her dad hadn’t taken it himself. We can therefore deduce that Jake passionately defended Carl Lee not only because he related to him as a father, but also because he knew that the only way Carl Lee was going to get justice, is if he took it himself. Carl Lee was obliged to kill by the court’s previous failure to punish the rapists and the high probability that it was going to fail again. This means that the judges and the jury whom we count on to reinforce our laws had failed to do so in the very beginning. The court therefore ought not to dictate what Carl Lee’s fate should be.

During his closing remarks, Jake tells the jury to close their eyes and imagine a ten-year-old girl being raped. He explains the whole scene detail by detail and at the end, he says: “now imagine the girl was white”. By saying that closing sentence, Jake wants the jury to think about what they would do if the girl had been one of theirs-white. This scene shows that Jake manipulated the jury by making them over empathize with the victim. However, though empathy was used to manipulate the jury, it was at the same time a “necessary wrong” used for the bigger cause of restoring justice. In a sense, by manipulating the jury to acquit Carl Lee who punished the rapists whom the court should have punished before, Jake obliges the court to take responsibility for not punishing the rapists.

Empathy in the beginning of the movie made Jake understand what Carl Lee was going through. However, at the end of the movie, Jake used empathy to manipulate the jury to acquit Carl Lee. By doing this, Jake becomes the rare person who questions what the court does and makes it take responsibility of its mistakes. Jake used that deceiving method only because there was no other way to make the jury acquit Carl Lee. The question I ask is “Does the end justify the means?” and my answer is yes- for this particular case. This movie uses empathy in a way that we wouldn’t necessarily use it all the time but it is justified to do so if the ultimate goal is justice for all. When the court breaks the law by not punishing then it might need to break other laws to fix the imbalance.

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.

 

(Definitions US legal “Law and Legal definition” 2016)

http://definitions.uslegal.com/l/law/

(Farlex, The free dictionary-Justice, 2016)

http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/justice: used to define justice

 

Formal Assignment1

Empathy, justice and Law in A Time To Kill

Without any doubt, A Time To Kill is a fantastic movie and its original purpose is to promote justice among the community of black and white people. It, indeed, did a very good job on such things by successfully invoking empathy in its viewers. However, when it comes to the question of whether empathy promote justice in A Time To Kill, my answer might be NO. In my perspective, empathic feeling in A Time To Kill played such an important role that it might overdo the rule of promoting justice and, furthermore, encourage some form of unfairness within our society by the means of stealing concepts.

 

First and foremost, I want to state my definition of empathy. In my opinion, empathy is an emotional state when one is putting oneself into other’s shoes and affectively feeling what other feel’s, just as the “affective empathy” by Hoffman (230). However, sympathy, or according to Hoffman: “cognitive empathy” , is a feeling that one has the awareness of other’s feeling.

These two kinds of empathy that I mentioned above can serve as catalysts to boost people to help. In another word, empathy can act as a motive. When people witness someone in distress, they would feel empathetically distressed and willing to help, even their empathetic targets are strangers (Hoffman 231). Under this intense empathetic pulse of helping others, people would even be willing to break the protocol. This kind of special emotional state, in my opinion, greatly contribute to the change of original decision among the jurors.

 

Secondly, in order to make things clear, I want to give my own definition of justice. What is justice? Some might said that it is a form of legal equality, so that each people would live in a fair environment under the governing of law. Other people would like to say that justice is a sense of utilitarianism, in which the best moral action is the one that maximizes utility. To me, justice is a form of fairness, in which the goods are impartially distributed. In another words, each of us is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties. To do so, we should not maximize our own welfare by sacrificing other’s benefit to a greater extend. What’s more, our human beings have a strong preference of justice. We often associate out empathetic feeling with our detest of injustice. According to Huffman, “empathic feeling of injustice and anger” is form under the process that one first responds empathically to someone in distress, then, realizing the cause is an injustice transforms the empathic distress in to an empathic feeling of injustice. This form of empathic feeling would boost people to change laws and promote justice. However, it would also instigate people to do something unfair in responds to other’s injustice situation, just as the themes in the movie.

 

What’s more, when we talk about empathy, we might usually refer it to good value, such as helping people, changing laws and promoting justice. However, empathy itself has its own limitations. Although it is a clear pro-social motive, empathy is limited by its fragility, dependence om the salience and intensity of distress cues and susceptibility to one’s relationship to the victim (250 Hoffman).  Empathic distress would increase with the intensity of victims’ distress. It means that when someone sense the intensity of the victims’ distress, they may no longer be able to think as a bystander without his or her personal bias. However, the empathic distress in this person is so intense that drives him or her to help the victim he or she empathize, despite the fact that the action he or she conduct, in this situation, might not meet the standard of justice. Besides, people have an tendency to empathize more with kin, friends and their own ethic group, which is call “in-group bias” according to Huffman(251). In addition, the physical present of the victim would also intensify jurors’ empathy. These three types of limitation of empathy have especially damaging effect in the courtroom, which may cause the jurors to abandon their former thought and came up with a decision that seemed no so fair.

 

When we analyze the movie with the factors that I mentioned above, we would easily discover what the movie aimed to promote with the utilize of empathy, which might be seemingly right when we are watching the movie, is not so fair. It is for sure that Jake’s closing argument invoke empathy in both the jurors and viewers. At the very beginning of his closing argument, he first apologized to the jurors. He said that: “

I’m hear to apologize. I am young and I am inexperienced. But you cannot hold Carl Lee Hailey responsible for my shortcomings. You see, in all this legal maneuvering something has gotten lost, and that something is the truth.”(TK)

By doing so, he immediately drawn the attention and empathy from the jurors, because the jurors are mainly white, who although might not be able to empathize with Carl Lee as far, they could, without doubt, empathized with Jake, a young, handsome, white male layer. Under this circumstance, Jake was able to seize this very kind of appreciative empathy so that he got the change of asking the jurors to listen to his storytelling and flex upon it with their own imagination. In his story, he depicted how two hateful white men raped, tortured and even tried to kill the girl. Most importantly, at the end of his closing statement, he choked with his tear almost fall down and dropped the most powerful statement of his speech: “Now imagine that she is a white.” (TK) Afterward, the jurors’ empathic feeling toward Carl Lee had so been immediately amplified that they changed their mind from considering Carl Lee, who butchered two armless white people, guilty to believe that he was innocent. When viewed from the factors that I lists above, it would be clear that the closing argument of Jake not only encourage empathy but also rely on the limitations of the empathy within white jurors. The most obvious factor lies in the final sentence of the statement “Now imagine that she is white”. This sentence drew the in-group bias among the white jurors. It rapidly shortened the mental gap between the racism of black and white so that the jurors could, at the first time, view the little girl and Carl Lee as ones of their community and empathize with them. What’s more, this closing argument also attribute to the factor the salience effect. Jake intensified jurors’ empathic feeling to Carl Lee by vividly depicting the theme of his daughter getting rape in order to inform them the intensity of distress that the victim, Carl Lee, was in. In addition to the presence of Carl Lee in the court room with a desperate gesture, the negative effect cause by limitations of empathy urged the jurors to make an injustice decision to regard Carl Lee as innocent.

 

From the prospective of the viewers, the movie does not encourage them to be “judicious spectators”. According to Nussbum, “judicious spectators ” are the people who guild by the good emotions but are capable of making judgement excluding their personal bias(73). However, the movie is so established on evoking the intense emotions in the views, such as empathy, anger and shock. To do so, their purpose might be to stealing the concept of the viewers. Through depicting several themes, they managed to making the viewers to ignore the fact that Carl Lee killed two unarmed people and invoking views’ empathy to Carl Lee. The night before the final judgement, Carl Lee Hailey invoked the empathy in Jake and boosted Jake to think about the experience of him as a first-personal-view colored man. Before the day of the final judgement, Carl Lee talked to Jake in a half complaining and half accusing manner. He said that the reason why he chose Jake as his attorney was because he was “one of the bad guys”, which meant that Jake shared the perspective with the jurors so that he was of bigger possibility to come up with a way to win the case. On the other hand, Carl also thought that Jake was different from the other white people, because he believed that Jake was the person who pursuits fairness and justice. However, his view as toppled, when Jake mentioned the different of outcomes of losing the case between him and Carl. In response to Jake’s statement, Carl said desperately that: “you are just one of them; you never shown up at our place and our children will never play together”. The desperate speaking of Carl made Jake resonate with the feeling of Carl. He started to truly empathize with him as a first-person-view colored man and apply that to the group of white people rather than just think about how to win the case and promote justice as a lawyer. Therefore, during the closing statement, he abandoned his original work, which might be full of mundane technical worlds, and went for a personal statement,making full use of appeal to pathos. By doing so, this movie not only invoked Jake’s empathy, but also viewers’. By showing the inferior condition that Carl Lee were in, they successfully win the empathy of viewer’s toward Carl Lee. Moreover, By showing the misconduct of two white people, who robbed a black-man-owned stored, raped and attempted to murder an underage black girl on purpose, and party Klan, in which hateful people tried to maintain the permanent ruling position of white people by conduction violent and illegal crime, the movie managed to invoke the empathetic feeling of the viewers toward Jake and Carl Lee. Even me once considered Carl as innocent when I was watching the movie. Also, the action of Klan invoked the empathy in the masses to ward Carl, too. Therefore, it was a combination effect. However, as a judicious viewer, I think the depiction of the Klan was just an apparent invocation of empathy. Apart from merely invoking empathy, it also arouses the anger of the injustice between the social status of colored men and white men and about the ways that the colored men were treated. This type of feeling of anger would combine with the empathic feeling to form the “The empathic feeling of injustice”. Holding this feeling, this movie successfully convinces a large number of viewers that Carl Lee was innocent is a fair judgement.  In short, the movie, though indeed invoke empathy in its views, did not aim to encourage its viewer to be “judicious viewers”.

 

At the end, it is also clear that this film coextensive with the law. Under the governing of the Laws, there are no reasons one people who can execute the law himself. Admittedly, the two hateful white people were guilt. However, there are still no ways that Carl Lee could butcher these two people himself, without the authentic approval. Furthermore, according to this film, what it encouraged probably is that when someone hurt the people closed to you, it is your own right to punish this people with brutal way of killing. All in all, this film, though seeming promoting the equality of races, did not coextensive with the law.

Work Cited

Martin L. Hoffman. “Empathy, Justice and Law”. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press. 2014. 213-254

 

A Time to Kill (Motion Picture: 1996), Directed by Joel Schumacher, 1996.

 

WRT105E Feeling Good-Empathy and Ethics in-class discussion, Dustin Hannum, 2016.

 

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

 

 

 

 

Strive for justice ends in failure

Over the course of A Time to Kill, it is very evident that empathy is present in the film and specifically in the hearing of Carl Lee Hailey. The reason that these points of empathy promote justice in the film is because of the effects on people involved. Once Jake Brigance and Judge Noose are exposed to empathetic situations, they begin to act in ways which are no longer in the best interest of themselves, their family or the community. The reactions of these 2 individuals should be examined in further depth to show how their feelings of empathy led to further promote justice. Justice can be defined as an individual being treated in a way which aligns with the law. When speaking of a court case, the application of the law pertains to process,verdict and sentence. Even while the involvement of empathy promotes justice, this justice is not ultimately served in the verdict.

The film made it clear that many people were working very hard to achieve justice. It can be shown that empathy was a major source of motivation for this. There is only one truly “just” decision that can be made, but the prosecution and defense attorneys had their own opinions on this and thus they both aggressively studied and fought to prove their form of justice. Through a brief examination of Jake Brigance’s journey in this case, it becomes clear that empathy is what drove him through the tough process. Brigance has constant KKK threats that ultimately amount to his house being burnt to the ground(TK).  Though, he has a constant drive to serve as a result of empathy for the Hailey family. Jake comes home to his wife and explains to his wife how he imagines the abduction and rape of Tanya as it being their own daughter, Hannah(TK). He goes through very tough times in the case, so we must wonder what the reasoning for his constant drive is. It is known that Carl Lee Hailey is poor, so there is not a huge monetary incentive for Jake Brigance(TK). It is likely that there are other clients waiting on Jake and they will be paying him a much heftier amount than that of Carl Lee Hailey. This then leaves one to believe that Jake Brigance feels as though he is in the shoes of Carl Lee Hailey. He empathizes with his client and is not going to be stopped by public judgment, the KKK or even people burning his house to the ground.

While the judge assigned to Carl Lee Hailey’s case has no direct impact on the verdict, he still runs the courtroom. It is a frequent occurrence in the movie to see either the prosecution or defense attempt to interject in the midst of another’s speech. For example, Jake Brigance tries to stop the prosecution when the psychologist comes from Mississippi State to prove the sanity of Carl Lee Hailey(TK). It is up to the judge to decide who has the right to continue speaking in this situation, and by the end of the movie it seems as though the judge has treated both sides equally. Both the prosecution and defense were denied and granted what they requested. While the direct connection is never made, it can be fair to say that Jake Brigance’s meeting at the judge’s estate is what led the judge to playing his part in promoting justice. Brigance made an effort to visit the judge and make a request for a change of venue(TK). While it was not granted, Jake’s decision to visit him showed his dedication to reaching justice regardless of what was necessary.  Considering the society of rampant racism that they live in, it is a fair assumption to say that the judge would typically act in favor of the whites (the prosecution). Regardless, Jake Brigance showed his dedication for his craft by going to the judge’s house. Before reaching the pinnacle of his career, the judge was likely in a very similar position as Jake Brigance. He developed some empathy for him knowing that they have been in the same shoes. It is imperative to also consider that Judge Noose is a white man in a time and place of great racism. He takes great risk by giving equal treatment to the black man accused and the white man prosecuting, considering that many white people will expect a bias against the black man. Judge Noose has a passion for his job and that means promoting justice against all odds.

Martha Nussbaum provides further evidence on the value of empathy in this film’s journey for justice. She considers the variety of situations from which issues can arise. She considers when emotions might be a hinderance in the courtroom and when emotions will promote justice. Her argument is most applicable to Carl Lee Hailey’s situation when she says, “As I have said, emotions are good guides only if they are based on a true view of the facts of the case and a true view of the importance of various types of suffering and joy for human actors of many types”(Nussbaum 75). Nussbaum is referring more to the role of emotions in a verdict, but it still applies very much to empathy’s impact in promoting overall justice in the movie. Whether we are thinking about Jake Brigance or Judge Noose, we can see that they are fully aware of factual aspects of the situation, but empathy ultimately steers them in a direction which is a complete fight for justice. She additionally mentions the importance of an emotion not applying to an individual but the greater group(Nussbaum 71). It would be fair to say that most people in the community can relate to Brigance’s empathy for Tanya’s rape. Nussbaum does set specific criteria as those stated, but this case fits them. That is until the end.

By the end of the film, justice is unfortunately not served. As has been analyzed here, the trial goes over very smoothly for the great majority of it. Though, there comes a point in the trial where emotions (specifically empathy) have taken too prominent of a role. Martha Nussbaum explains this idea in saying that, “The emotions do not tell us how to solve these problems; they do keep our attention focused on them as problems we ought to solve”(69).  This can be seen when Jake Brigance gives his closing statements. Jake Brigance is the last voice that is heard by the jury prior to their decision on the verdict of Carl Lee Hailey’s case. Jake given them an in depth and play by play recount of the abduction and rape of Tanya, Carl’s daughter. The film shows nearly all of the jury members who are visibly shaken emotionally. Many of them are sobbing(TK). This is the state in which the jury makes their final decision on the case. Not to say that they still cannot take a holistic view of the situation, but it appears as though empathy has taken far too much control, and it ends in a way that justice is not served.

 

Works Cited

 

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

 

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

 

formal assignment

Empathy and justice in A time to kill

In the film ‘a time to kill’, Jake successfully raised the empathic distress among juries with vivid image depiction in his closing argument and finally convinced the jury to acquit Carl Lee. In general sense, it’s just one of those classic happy-ending films: bad guy died and good guy lived a happy life. However, the deeper I think about the film, the more I feel that empathy did not actually promote justice in this film. Instead, it’s a courtroom case where empathy displayed its limitations just as Martin L. Hoffman discussed in his article Empathy, Justice and the law.

First of all, Carl Lee is by no means innocent in this film. Just as the prosecuting attorney Rufus Buckley asserted: ‘He had no right to execute the law by himself.’ Certainly, what happened to his daughter was heartbreaking, especially when there’s a great chance the two white men don’t have to die. Carl Lee has every right to be furious, but feeling of anger and injustice do not give him a license to kill legally. Logically speaking, if Carl Lee can get out of the case without being punished, the white man’s mother can also kill him for compensation. The circulation of revenge will then never end and society will be in disorder, so there is and should be a law to constrain people’s behaviors. Once you break the law, no matter how perfect reason you have, you should be punished. What Carl did was reasonable but definitely guilty in terms of law. In the movie, Jake also spent a lot of time trying to prove to the jury that Carl Lee was mentally insane at that time and therefore unware of what he was doing. However, from my perspective, some details presented in the film suggest that Carl Lee was perfectly sane and aware of his behavior when he killed the two white men. For example, there’s a scene that Carl walked into the court room in silence. Judging from his facial expression, I find him not insane but extremely clam. He was probably trying to make a plan to kill or even hide a gun somewhere; therefore the whole killing thing can’t be his impulsive decision. When the police officers came for him, there’s also a specific scene that he was holding one of his sons, saying goodbye to his family. At that point, he sort of admitted his guilt; otherwise he would act more fiercely when police arrested him. Carl Lee knew perfectly what he did and was willing to pay the price. So it’s kind of a surprise when he was acquitted at the end.

Despite the fact that Carl Lee was actually guilty in this case, racial prejudice in the court had always existed and often leads to wrong decisions at that time. As mentioned in the film, Carl Lee said to Jack: ‘no matter how you call me, Negro, black, African American. You see me as different.’ This is indeed true for most white people at that time; they may not be so extreme as to be a racist, but deep in their mind, they see black people as different, and most of the time, inferior to them. According to Hoffman, empathy is defined as an emotional state triggered by anther’s emotional state or situation, in which one feels what other feels or may normally be expected to feel in his or her situation.(Hoffman 231) For empathy to develop, at least you should first care about other’s feeling. It is therefore extremely hard, even impossible for white people to feel empathy for Carl Lee. To make an inappropriate comparison, white people see black people as dogs or cats at that time. No one would care what a dog or a cat had experienced or felt if it killed a man. The only thing they care is the fact that this black man dared to kill two white men, their two fellows, and he has to be dead for doing that.

What Jade did in his closing argument was extremely clever and skillful, he realized that the racial prejudices rooted in white people’s mind was so deep to remove, so instead of proving the insanity of Carl Lee that jury didn’t even care, he tried to let them forget about the race problem for a moment. With strong emotions, he described the harrowing scene of Tonya Hailey raped by the two white men and depicted an image of the little girl covered in blood, hopeless and desperate. ‘Now imagine she’s white.’ With this abrupt but indeed clever closing sentence, Jake successfully raised the jury’s empathic distress and unnoticeably, changed Carl’s role from a murder to a victim, from a black who kills to a man whose daughter is raped. The juries may not feel actual empathy directly to Carl Lee, but at least they are feeling someone in this situation and the most important, the sympathy for Carl is stirred up. There’s a clear distinction between sympathy and empathy: empathy is to put oneself into other’s shoes; sympathy is standing at a higher stage and feel sorry for someone less fortunate. Because of racial prejudice, it’s still hard for juries to feel real empathy but it’s relatively easy for them to form sympathy as they already and always see themselves ‘standing on the higher stage’. Once the sympathy for Carl was raised among jury, it’s easy to sway their final decisions. As shown in the movie, the mistakenly used empathy actually leads to the acquittal of Carl Lee who is apparently guilty.

The empathy’s role in this movie is a very good example for victim-impact limitations that Hoffman discussed in his article. He stated that the arousing empathy for the victim, however, can do the accused great harm. ‘The heartbreaking testimony may diminish juries’ ability to process evidence’. (Hoffman 253) Of course in the murder case, Carl Lee is not the victim, but Jake’s words was so emotionally intense that it shift everyone’s attention from the murder case to the rape case in which Carl Lee becomes the victim. Though all hard facts indicate Carl Lee’s guilty, the jury is biased because of their empathy or sympathy toward him. This is certainly unfair to the actual victim in the murder case, the mother who lost her son. She had no chance to speak up and make others to feel her pain.

works cited:

Hoffman, martin, L ‘Empathy, Justice and the Law’ Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspective. Ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie, Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011 230-54 Print.

A time to kill, Dir. Joel Schumacher, Warner Brothers , 1997

Formal Assignment 1

In the movie A Time to Kill, an African-American father, Carl Lee, killed two white thugs that raped and beat his daughter Tanya nearly to death. The story took place in a town in Mississippi, in the 1980s, where the racial bias still prevails. Since Carl was fully aware that those two thugs were not going to be properly trailed and punished, he executed them with an automatic assault rifle in the courthouse on the day they were supposed to be trialed. On Carl’s summation, his lawyer Jake Brigance described the story of Tanya’s rape, and suggested the jurors to imagine that Tanya was a white girl. The emotional appeal made a dramatic change to the situation. Carl Lee was acquitted. (TK)

Should the acquittal of Carl Lee, which is a direct result of the effect of empathy on the jurors, be considered the outcome of prevailing justice or just another uneven decision? I believe the answer is the latter. Although some may think there is nothing wrong with killing two rapists who raped a young girl, it still is a crime to do so. Did those thugs really deserve to die? Rapists are not punishable by death under the law at that time. Therefore Carl Lee’s behavior cannot be justified. It is understandable for him to do so, but he must accept the consequences come along with it. Couldn’t the jurors realize this fact? I believe it is the overly aroused emotional turbulence that had prevented the jurors from making a dispassionate conclusion. This can be seen as a set back of empathy in law. As Martin L. Hoffman says in his article Empathy, Justice, and the Law, empathy has some “inherent biases that may limit its value in legal contexts.” (230) One of the biases perfectly matches the jurors’ reaction. It is called “here-and-now bias” (Hoffman 251) Hoffman suggests that viewers are more likely to be influenced by those who are in the courthouse than those who are not. (251) That being said, the jurors in Carl Lee’s case tend to be affected more by the story of Tanya being raped than those two rapists being inappropriately punished. Indeed, the rapist should be punished for committing such violent crime to a young girl, but they were supposed to serve time in jail to make up for what they had done, not to be killed. According to their mother, they were only 20-ish years old when they were killed. (TK) Dying is too harsh for them and their family even though they were such notorious scumbags. Same thing happens outside the courthouse. When Carl Lee was in trial, the supporter of Carl Lee and the members of Ku Klux Klan fought against each other and one of Carl Lee’s supporters threw a Molotov Cocktail at a Ku Klux Klan leader, and the latter burnt to death. (TK) The supporter started off feeling empathetic for Carl Lee, but ended up killing others who did not deserve to die. Thus justice is not promoted by these people.

With such a passionate speech given by Jake Brigance, it is hard to not be moved by it. Jake Brigance’s intension in using such argument is clearly not to take advantage of jurors’ empathy. He himself emotionally agrees with what Carl Lee did. According to Jake’s wife, Jake would have done the same thing if anyone has raped his daughter. (TK) (-) However, overly revenge still cannot be justified. What would happen if the jurors were asked to imagine the circumstance in which those two rapists were killed? Would the juror still acquit Carl Lee? I would say that the reason that Jake had won the case was partially related to the limitation of the jurors, which is the “here-and-now bias”. (Hoffman 251) The jurors were moved by the speech Jake gave but were not aware of what influence it would make toward the victim in Carl Lee’s case when they made the decision. In this way, the dignity and fairness of law is compromised.

The movie tends to lead the viewers to stand by the side of Carl Lee. Since it pays much more attention on the rape of Tanya and its effect on her family than on the death of two rapists and the one killed by a Molotov Cocktail. When the man in the red cape caught on fire because someone threw a Molotov cocktail at him, the attention of viewer was quickly dragged away since the scene only lasted for several seconds. (-) However, when Tanya was being raped, the way of depicting the story was in the first-person aspect, which makes the viewers feel like if they were being abused. (-) In this way, the movie naturally makes the viewer to form empathy for Tanya and her family and feel appalled by the rapists. Additionally, the movie tends to use ominous music when the bad thing happens. Therefore, the movie does not encourage the viewers to be “judicious spectators”, which is a term describing spectators that have nothing to do with the event, and will not have any bias. (Nussbaum 72) The movie delivers a bias to the viewers by paying uneven attention on the two sides.

I do not believe the justice expressed in the movie is lawful. The true just settlement for the case should be for the rapists to be properly prosecuted and sentenced lawfully without any bias, but not to be brutally killed in their handcuffs in front of their family and friends in the courthouse hallway. (TK) An unlawful revenge is no better than a crime.

 

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. edited by Amy Coplan, Peter Goldie. Oxford University Press, 2011, 230-254

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

Formal assignment 1

In this essay, I will define what both justice, empathy and law mean to support my arguments. I will later appeal to the question “Do the ends justify the Means?” as my method to analyze this movie and judge whether it promotes justice.

According to Hoffman, the term “affective empathy” is the process of feeling what another person is feeling due to a certain situation in which they are in. That feeling of empathy leads to empathetic distress which is the process that creates the same feelings. Justice is defined as “the proper administration of the law; the fair and equitable treatment of all individuals under the law”. Two main results come from a good justice system; they are fairness and moral rightness. Law, on the other hand, is defined as a combination of rules and regulations under which a certain society enforces justice. In other words, law is a means to achieve justice and justice is a means to achieve fairness. My point in this essay is that the goal of both justice and law is fairness and if for some reason, fairness isn’t achieved, then we ought to do something. I will argue in the essay that the problem with the law is that it is a predetermined set of rules and regulations which aren’t flexible to consider different complexities that come with some cases and so, it is doesn’t always lead to fairness. An example of such a complex case is the one of Carl lee. The law demands that anyone who kills without being legally insane or defending themselves must be punished. Since Carl lee was neither of those two, the law condemns him without taking into account the history attached to his crime.

It is important in this essay to understand thoroughly what led Carlee to kill the two rapists. Carl lee wanted the rapists fairly punished for raping his daughter. However, he could not count on the court to bring him justice. First of all, those rapists had been raping and torturing other young kids. Yet, by not fairly punishing them, the court had failed to bring justice to all those kids (attach video). High chances were that for the same reasons they were not punished before-which I think is because they were white and influential- they weren’t going to be fairly punished either for raping Tonya. Second, considering the fact that Carlee was a poor black man whose daughter had been raped by white men, he was not expecting the court to bring him justice- most especially in a time where blacks were highly discriminated. Had Carl Lee been confident that the court was going to fairly punish the rapists, he would not have killed them. Whose fault is it then if Carl lee is obliged to bring justice to himself? Isn’t it the court’s fault which failed to punish from the very beginning? It would be unfair to punish a man just because he refused to tolerate impunity; yet this is what the law dictates.

 In the movie, the law- in its flawed manners- claims that no matter the circumstances, there is no justification for taking justice in one’s own hands (As Carlee did by killing the rapists) (attach video). However, the above rule is unfair because it expects us to stand and do nothing while we are continuously being wronged by the court’s failure to do its job. On the other hand, True justice demands that no one be above the law, not even the court itself. If individuals must take responsibility of their mistakes, then the court, on its turn, should take responsibility for failing to do its job -not punishing us if we do it on our own. Therefore, by killing the rapists, Carlee refuses to sit and watch impunity-he does what the court should have done long ago- and so should not be punished for it. Jake empathizes with Carl lee enough to understand that he doesn’t deserve to be punished for killing those “animals” as Jake calls them. The next paragraph elaborates the above.

 Carl Lee went to talk to Jack about what he thought of doing. He asks him what he would do if his girl was raped- knowing that he might meet the rapists moving freely in the road a few months after. This question makes Jake go through a self -oriented empathetic arousal method where he started relating the rape of Tonya to his own daughter. He felt that if he had been in the same situation as Carl Lee was, he would have done the same thing. This conversation also makes Jake have an “empathetic feeling of injustice” Hoffman 240. This feeling was mostly shown when Jake didn’t denounce Carl Lee to the sheriff even though he had an idea of what Carl Lee planned on doing (killing the rapists); he let him get his own justice. In other words, Jake also knew that Tonya would not have received justice if her dad hadn’t taken it himself. We can therefore deduce that Jake passionately defended Carl Lee not only because he related to him as a father, but also because he knew that the only way Carl Lee was going to get justice, is if he took it himself. Carl Lee was obliged to kill by the court’s previous failure to punish the rapists and the high probability that it was going to fail again. And so, Jake thought that Carl Lee ought not to be punished for that.

During his closing remarks, Jake tells the jury to close their eyes and imagine a ten-year-old girl being raped. He explains the whole scene detail by detail and at the end, he says: “now imagine the girl was white”. By saying that closing sentence, Jake wants the jury to think about what they would do if the girl had been one of theirs-white. This scene shows that Jake manipulated the jury by making them over empathize with the victim (use the judicious spectator example). However, though empathy was used to manipulate the jury, it was at the same time a “necessary wrong” used for the bigger cause of restoring justice. In a sense, by manipulating the jury to acquit Carl Lee – who punished the rapists whom the court should have punished before- Jake obliges the court to take responsibility for not punishing the rapists.

Empathy in the beginning of the movie made Jake understand what Carl Lee was going through. However, at the end of the movie, Jake used empathy to manipulate the jury to acquit Carl Lee which is what the court had to do for fairness. Jake used that deceiving method only because there was no other way to make the jury acquit Carl Lee. The question I ask is “Does the end justify the means?” and my answer is yes- for this particular case. This movie uses empathy in a way that we wouldn’t necessarily use it all the time but it is justified to do so if the ultimate goal is justice for all. Sometimes, changing a few rules is what leads us to true justice.

 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.

http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/justice: used to define justice

Formal Assignment 1

Generally, throughout the whole movie, invocation of empathy and pathos are accompanied with the recall of Tonya’s miserable story from the former shocking rape scene to the plot of gripping final speech in court. Empathy in this movie not only gives people a great opportunity to engage in recognizing the distress of victims identifiably but also causes wrong directions to justice and laws and limitations of consideration. In my paper, I want to addressed three questions: Does Jake’s closing argument promote the good aspect of empathy or take advantage of the limitations and bias of empathy? How can empathy affect the justice of laws? What should we take into consideration when changing and making the laws? These three arguments are specified in the following statements.

Initially, I prefer to adopt Martin L. Hoffman’s definition of influential perspective-taking in empathy. According to Hoffman, of three types of perspective-taking, he emphasizes the “co-occurrence” which means people combine appeal personal identification of the victims by recalling their similar painful experience and associated sympathy of victims by concentrating on others’ distress. This mode is beneficial to law because it not only creates the social and emotional climate but also enlarge the scope for making and changing the law. (233)

Empathy changes both Jake and jurors’ way of thinking and feeling. As for lawyer Jake, His “other-focused” empathy of Tonya induces “self-focused” to his imagination of his own daughter. (Hoffman 233) Therefore, he would put everyone nearby and even himself in danger to demonstrate non-evenhanded justice from his part rather than renounce the case. Instead of empathy, I think Jake also has a fraction of self-sufficiency and a sense of mission to prevail certain justice. Like he said in the movie, “a lawyer can’t be rich from a case but they can change and save the world from a case”. This motto encourages him to stand in Carlee’s shoes instead of seeking vanity and wealth. He believes he can promote justice of his side which he thinks is harmonic to the law and beneficial to the world.

However, justice in this movie is continuously biased because of the limitations of empathy. Initially, Carlee didn’t believe that laws and court can provide justice since the previous case that the evils went off without punishment presents an unfair arbitration. And in the movie, Carlee insists that laws of America can’t set him free and give him a fair judgment but the perspectives taken by jurors decide if he is guilty or not. Actually in this whole film, there is no evenhanded justice because whether Jake wins or loses this case, the justice prevails. Before the conclusion speech, the combination of Jake’s temporary “co-occurrence empathy” and meaningful ambition cannot be transformed to a cogent statement and reason convinced by listeners. (Hoffman 233) After all jurors’ viewpoints can’t be changed by flawless and refined appeal of Jake and be doubted by questionable proposals raised by plaintiff’s attorney. It’s extremely hard to win this case because reasons and logos are biased in jurors’ mind. Consequently, although Jake adds weights to their lower scale, opponents never stop but put more weights on their side and even wind can blow it to the original position. In the movie, it shows that the emotion on Jake’s face is exhausted and frustrated when he goes into the jail to visit Carlee before the last trial and says that he is going to cop a plea for the reason that there are no points of law to argue on court. (TK) And then his disappointment changes to anger when Carlee tells him he is also a white enemy with bias and segregation of the black and white. But after Carlee explains his meditation, Jake finally understands how jurors and himself can be persuaded and changes his “sharp-lawyering summation” to empathic distress picturing.

During the final speech, when Jake asks jurors to close their eyes and seek truth from their heart, impartial justice is concealed by the emotion and pathos. As for pathos, Aristotle’s definition of it is that Pathos awakes emotion in the audience so as to induce them to make the judgment desired. Therefore, the judgment induced from this way is intrinsically a prejudice. Since jurors in the end can only imagine the pain and hurt of Tonya, the picture that two cruel animals tore little girl’s clothes, hang her on the fragile branches and kick her off from the bridge, pity and sadness occur at the same time. Thus, ineradicable judgements and ingrained principle go in fade as commiserative nature predominates. Furthermore, in this jury, there are 8 women and 4 man. Sometimes different genders can’t produce the identical empathy since most of women shed tears in the movie while other men are only look serious. Women can picture the pain of the little girl easily and their affective thinking and maternal splendor can be exaggerated instantly. After hearing the description of story elaborated by Jake, they pray for the girl and wish there’s less harm on her immediately. Since they understand the hurt of losing ability of having babies, they feel angry and no matter what punishments of guys cannot cover the hurt of Tonya.

As we can see, the truth from Carlee’s side got lost in the first place but was emphasized even exaggerated after empathy occurs. The empathy of black girl was more understated before the last sentence “now imagine she’s white” released. These two situation demonstrates that empathy has bias which make people merely concentrate on the distress of familiar groups rather than both unseen and present people. After Jake’s final speech, the pathos of Tonya is amplified easily and the bereavement of two guys’ family is neglected. The clarification of murder accusation thus goes faded in people’s eyes. This is also a bias of empathy that people “empathize more to physically present victims rather than potential victims”. (Hoffman 235&236)

In conclusion, on the one hand, the empathy helps us reflect one’s misfortune quickly and response their distress intensely with full of humanness in separate conditions. On the other hand, empathy is vulnerable to bias can simply be used as a technique to pursue the justice which only benefits one side of groups and triggers others’ rights of fairness.

Because the bias and transience of empathy often triggers people have instant and impulsive motivation, reason and deliberation which promote credibility should be taken into the final consideration. Especially in the court, attorneys can easily use some techniques to enable jurors to feel the empathic distress of the victim and when the humanity and emotion take place, rational and “self-focused” thinking are concealed immediately. (Hoffman 233) Justice should be coextensive with law in Tonya’s cases. Jurors imagine the desperation of Tonya’s parents and the distress of Tonya when they see the truth that Carlee kills two evil guys. They should also feel empathy toward the bereavement of the families of two guys when they hear the story about how Tonya was raped cruelty and how pure girl was tarnished by two animals. Logical facts, such as Carlee’s insanity when killing two guys and Carlee’s revenge without respecting the authority and justice of laws, should be taken into final decision. Rational reasons and “affective empathy” together create emotional climate of the court room and evenhanded justice of laws. (Hoffman 233)

 

 

Cited from

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

Martin L. Hoffman. “Empathy, Justice and Law”. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press. 2014. 213-254

 

 

Does empathy promote justice in A Time to Kill

Lucas

Professor Dustin Hannum

WRT 105E

25th September, 2016

Does empathy promote justice in A Time to Kill

On the way to moral society that thrives on the basis of social justice, we are seeking to find the proper relation between empathy, justice and the laws, and figuring out how and to what extent we should apply empathy into the process of legal decision making. As illustration of this search, A Time to Kill, the movie that depicts a judgement with empathy involved, gives rise to people’s thinking for the right approach to combine empathy and justice. However, as shown in Martin Hoffman’s article Empathy, Justice and the law, to integrate empathy and fairness is not an easy job. Although it indicates from historical events that, empathy did play an indispensable role in equality development, its potential limitations still deserve people’s attention, especially when it is performed in courtroom. Set under the background of racial inequality, it is really important to seek justice both for an individual, and for an entire group. And the key to achieve this is that, while lawyers strive to apply empathy so as to win justice for an individual, jurors should be aware of the necessity to stand on the side of an entire community. In other words, once jurors fail to perform their roles, the balance of fairness would be inclined, leading to justice absence. This seems to be most notable in the movie A Time to Kill, when Jake Brigance’s closing statement, though did gain justice for Carl Lee as an individual, fails to guard fairness for the entire society.

Since people are arguing about whether justice is promoted, I’m going to give definition of justice and illustrate where the controversial comes from. To begin with, let me classify justice into two kinds, one for an individual, and another for an entire group.  Individual justice is, I believe, the poetic justice. According to Wikipedia, “Poetic justice is a literary device in which ultimately virtue is rewarded and vice punished”. This definition indicates that individual justice prevails when good people are rewarded and bad ones are punished, regardless of how they are done. However, justice for an entire group is different. Group justice focuses on guaranteeing morally proper and logically convincing consequences people deserve, instead of simply a punish-or-reward issue. It is acknowledged that laws are made to guard justice. And the justice served by laws is on the stand of an entire society. In this way, justice related to laws refers to that serving an entire group rather than an individual. That’s where the difference lies. It is viewer’s stance on different justice that makes it debatable to answer the question whether justice is promoted.

With reference to Carl Lee’s case, empathy did play an important part in guarding individual justice for Carl Lee, with its positive effects and negative limitations both performed. Carl Lee’s individual justice was achieved when jurors decided to acquit him from what he has done. Meanwhile, what makes this happen is the involvement of empathy. It is noticeable that empathy’s advantage acts when Jake asks jurors imagine the raping and empathize for the girl. Especially, when he says, “Now imagine she is white,” people are lost in tears, dropping racial discrimination in decision making. However, it is not hard to realize that empathy also perform two kinds of limitations unconsciously, which, as Hoffman has emphasized, is especially damaging in the courtroom. The first is mentioned in Hoffman’s account of empathy’s negative side, “People emphasize more with victims who are physically present than with absent victim or potential victims.” Specifically, while Carl Lee is present, jurors hear what he says, feel what he went through after his daughter experienced the nightmare and share similar feelings in the role of parents. At the same time, those killed boys are forgotten.  This side effect of empathy tend not to be realized when people are driven by emotions and making immediately correct decisions. Furthermore, I believe the result would be totally different if the boys survived and spoke in the courtroom. What if Mr. Buckley arouse people’s imagination of detailed experience of being shot, bearing the hurt and pretending to be dead on the ground only trying to survive in Carl Lee’s gun? What if people are reminded that lives of two boys who should have been punished in jail were almost taken by the father of the victim. Then who is to blame? Obviously, Carl Lee will do. He would be punished, even to death maybe. In addition, the second empathy drawback lies in the moment when Jake asked, “Now imagine she’s white.” The majority of people were lost in tears. Then what triggers them? It is ethnic preference. As Hoffman declared in Empathy, Justice and the Laws, “They emphasize more with kin, friends, and their own ethic group”. The picture based on white-skinned girl imagination invokes juror’s empathy for Tonya’s tragedy and understanding with Carl Lee’s choice. Though Jake is noticeably wise to make juror neglect their rooted racial bias, we still need to be aware that familiarity bias did affect the trend of the development. To conclude, Jake’s closing statement did encourage empathy, but it also relies on the limitations of empathy.

As judicious spectators, it is still easy to find that justice for an entire group is lost. Logically speaking, Carl Lee failed to prove his innocence with existing evidence. The key point that decided the nature of Carl Lee’s motive is to confirm mental situation when he committed the crime but people supporting Carl did not really testify his insaneness. Mr. Buckley’s trap that tricks Carl to speak out his motives, and Doctor’s dishonorable crime record that raises doubt for his reliability to be trusted has led to the unfavorable situation while people’s judgement has inclined in the advantage of the killed criminals. In such a case, solely from the reasonable perspective, it is not appropriate to decide that Carl Lee is innocent.

However, what strikes me is that viewers are not encouraged to be judicious spectators in this film. As Nussbaum declares in his article “Rational Emotions.” “The emotion must be the emotion of a spectator, not a participant”. Actually, what Jake aims to do is to trick jurors in the position of Carl Lee and view the raping step by step as a father, which means they share the emotion of the dad who imagines the tragedy his daughter experienced. This is of course not what a judicious spectator should do. In addition, Nussbaum argues, “Emotions are good guides only if they are based on a true view of the facts of the case and a true view of the importance of various types of suffering and joy for human actors of many types”. Since the Doctor is unable to convince the insaneness of Carl Lee and various kinds of sufferings for the dead are neglected, emotions failed to guide people in a right way. This means that jurors are not judicious, the same for the judgement of innocence.

To conclude, justice is not coextensive with the law in the film though empathy did obtain justice for individual. As I have emphasized, the law serving an entire society is aimed to guard justice. And Justice is coextensive with the law only when it guards fairness of an entire group but it fails to do so in this movie. So I will regard it as not coextensive with the law. However, it is worthwhile to notice that empathy did promote justice, but justice for individual, not an entire community. This will perfectly address people’s controversial on this movie and further answer the question in this article’s title. In a nutshell, while we are on the way to achieve justice, we should not only be aware of the necessity to evaluate empathy’s role in court case, but also be clear about justice categories to promote fairness in legal decisions.

Works Cited

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

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

Martin L. Hoffman. “Empathy, Justice and Law”. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press. 2014. 213-254

Does empathy promote justice in A Time to Kill?

The final decision which jury determined for the case of an African-American, Carl Lee, murdering two white people who had raped his little girl, made a fabulous ending for the movie A Time to Kill. Nevertheless, before the final judgement, not a person in the jury considered Carl Lee as innocent although he shot the two whites for a comprehensible reason. However, on the day of final judgment, they were moved by Lawyer Brigance’s empathy-invoking story and turned to believe that Carl Lee was innocent. (TK) The ending of this film was certainly happy, but does empathy truly promote justice in this film? As .far as I am concerned, the answer should be “No”, to justify my question, I will divide my essay into three chapter: The definition of empathy and justice, the way that empathy worked in the movie A Time to Kill, especially in the final statement provided by lawyer Brigance, and whether empathy, in this case, promoted justice.

 

What is empathy and what is justice?

In order to know the reason why empathy failed to promote justice in the film, firstly, one may want to understand clearly what empathy truly is. According to Hoffman, in his essay Empathy, Justice and Law, he considered empathy as “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). Another way to explain empathy is that, which Hoffman also mentioned, empathy is a result of “Feeling injustice” and “Upholding Justice”. Then, Empathic-distress, which is invoked by the feeling of empathy, usually acts as either a changer or an intensive in one’s decision-making. (231) Knowing these features of empathy, it is not hard for one to infer that empathy is a double-edged sword: Admittedly, empathy can simulate one’s desire to help the unfortunates, who rarely receive fair treatments. At the same time, empathy may influence his or her subjectively and lead one to make inappropriate, even wrong decisions.

Then, what is justice? “Reference.com” says that justice is a board notion that is based on a concept of moral rightness that incorporates varying perspectives on fairness, ethics, rationality, religion and law. From my perspective, justice is the guarantee that everyone will be treated equally and will get what they truly deserve. Moreover, in the courtroom, the law, which is created by millions of the most knowledgeable people in the world, should be the only criteria of the justice. In the movie, “justice” seems to be unclear because of the character relation and the complicated plot. Nevertheless, one should always make justice depends on the law, which the jury failed to do so. Then, how does empathy influence the jury in the film?

How did empathy influence the jury in A Time to Kill?

Generally, jury members are trained, as well as asked, to be “Judicial spectators”, that is, judge cases objectively and impersonally from a spectator’s view instead of a participant’s in order to make the fairest decision, which apparently the movie was opposed to. As we all know, jury members are also human-being, so it is impossible for a person to be totally objective and emotion-resistance. In the movie, the jury, not surprisingly, were influenced by emotion invoked by Jake’s miserable story. In the closing argument of Jake, he encouraged jury to use their heart and emotion, instead of logic and prejudice, to judge things: “What is it in us that seeks the truth? Is it our minds or is it our hearts?”, “until that day that we can see each other as equals, 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.” (TK) 

Then he tried to invoke jury’s empathy towards Carl Lee and his little daughter. He used a story of a little girl being raped and beaten by two white people while she was going home from the market: “They drag her into a nearby field and they tie her up and they rip her clothes from her body. Now they climb on. First one, then the other, raping her, and when they’re done, after they’ve killed her tiny womb, murdered any chance for her to have children, to have life beyond her own, they decide to use her for target practice. They start throwing full beer cans at her. They throw them so hard that it tears the flesh all the way to her bones.” (TK) Brigance’s story was so vivid and so intense that most of the jury and the audience, either cried with tears or be filled with anger. No matter how completely Jake was defeated by his opponent before, after hearing Brigance’s empathy-calling speech, the jury changed their idea instantly because they were moved by his story and comprehend the reason why Carl Lee killed the two white men when they consider themselves as the daughter’s parents, teachers or friends. I personally think that the ending of Jake’s final statement “Now imagine she’s white” (TK) is not merely a call for equality, since jury had already moved by his story under the situation that they know the girl in Jake’s story is Tonya, is black. The final sentence would make them feel uncomfortable and started to fear: How if the little girl is my daughter, my cousin, or my best friend? Will I do the same thing as Carl Lee did? If I do, do I want be considered guilty? Then, is Carl Lee doing the right thing? Under the empathy as well as pressure they gave to themselves, jury members finally came to the determination that Carl Lee is innocent and set Carl Lee to his family right after the trail.

 

Was justice promoted by empathy in A Time to Kill?

In the movie, Jake successfully convinced the jury and won the freedom for Carl Lee. Nevertheless, does justice truly got prevailed?

Some people might say that the justice had prevailed since Carl Lee was set free. Admittedly, we should never put Carl Lee into the poison house since the people he killed were also guilty and what he did was merely a protection of her daughter. However, from a logical perspective, should we set him, a murderer, free? From my perspective, whatever reason Carl Lee gave us could not deny the truth that he killed two people; no matter they are white or black. According to Hoffman, “Empathy could lead to unavoidable bias, and empathy bias must be kept in mind and given consideration in any legal context that might involve empathy” (254), and in the movie, the jury obviously failed to put much attention in any bias that empathy might invoke and was moved by the miserable story. (TK) As a result, empathy controlled most of the people in the courtroom and all of them started to think of this case by their emotion instead of their brain, which made them to come up with a decision that betrayed the law. The law is the basic but the most important role in deciding whether a person is guilty or not because it was created for the society’s stability and order by millions of wise men from different centuries, and that is also why we use law but not empathy on the court. Nonetheless, in the case of Carl Lee, the jury’s decision did not obey the law, the law that millions of people had worked together, systematically, for several centuries and finally enacted today. Some would say that the law also has some shortcomings because it is still being revised today and will always being revised. Moreover, the law would have nothing changed after Carl Lee’s judgement, which is the best proof that the jury’s decision was neither legal nor logical. Some might say that Carl Lee’s case is special so that we should treat him specially, but can we allow specialty in the courtroom? I think the answer is no since every person should be treated equally in the courtroom. According to Dustin Hannum, an in-school professor, “If Carl Lee could be set free by killing the people who raped his little girl, could the two whites’ mothers be considered as innocent if they kill Carl Lee, and could Carl Lee’s wife be away from the jail if she kills them?” I think the answer for these series of question is also “No”. What truly decide whether a person is guilty would never be empathy or heart, instead, it should be the fusion of several century’s people wisdom and knowledge, and its name is the law.

Empathy, in the whole movie, acted as a propeller of the scenario and gave a reliable reason to the ending of the film. Nevertheless, when it comes to the question that whether empathy promoted justice in A Time to Kill, the answer should be clear: Empathy did not promote justice in Carl Lee’s case. Instead, it mislead the jury members. Under the effect of empathy as well as empathy bias, jury forgot their identity of “judicial spectator” and made an inappropriate decision that did not follow the law. Although in the film it seems that everyone was happy in the end, no one could guarantee that Carl Lee, a good father but also a fearless murderer, would never do any other thing that may harm the people around him in the future. We should never be the jury in the film. What we should do is, as Hoffman says, “Keep empathic bias in mind and given consideration in any legal context that might involve empathy” (254).

 

Work Cited

Martin L. Hoffman. “Empathy, Justice and Law”. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press. 2014. 213-254

A Time to Kill (Motion Picture: 1996), Directed by Joel Schumacher, 1996.

Dustin Hannum, “Feeling Good-Empathy and Ethics in-class discussion” University of Rochester, September 2016.

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

How justice fails to be fully promoted in A Time To Kill

For many, the movie A Time to Kill depicts a great lawyer Jake Brigance tries his best to serve and defend justice for a black man Carl Lee Haily, whose daughter was cruelly raped and seriously injured by two white guys and he killed them afterwards just before they were about to be on court(TK). Carl Lee was proved innocent at last and set free due to Jake’s touching and unique closing statement on court, in which he walked the jurors quite sentimentally through the horrible and inhumane torture little Tonya, Carl Lee’s daughter and the victim of this insult, has been through(TK). While many claim after watching this movie that justice finally prevailed at a time when racial discrimination was so intense, I’d say justice has not been fully served in this film. I’ll focus on Jake Brigance’s final statement on court to elaborate my idea, about what is the difference between “what is understandable behavior” and “what is legal behavior” and about the inherent limitations in Jake’s statement itself.

I’ll start elaborating my point by firstly mentioning Carl Lee’s action. Regardless of what Carl Lee’s daughter Tonya has been through and what it means to her father, Carl Lee, a civilian rather than a proper law enforcer has basically no right or power to punish the guys who committed the horrible crime himself. Carl Lee is acquitted at last, so it basically means that he is innocent of killing two people who insulted his daughter; then from this point of view it would be acceptable if one of the dead white guy’s father shoot Carl Lee to death and still would be proved innocent for his action because he simply kills the killer of his son. But it’s not acceptable after all. There is no such thing in modern Laws says that if some one did a horrible thing to me, and if it was bad enough then I would have every right to do whatever I consider is right to him.Wrongdoings must be evaluated by Laws and killer must be punished by Law enforcers after all. Basically speaking, the dead white guys’ parents received unjust treatment from this perspective,because the killer of their sons haven’t been punished.

As I mentioned above that a reasonable thing to do doesn’t necessarily mean it is legal, and if it is not legal, then justice was never served. When comes to such extreme circumstance, people tend to follow their will to do things, because they think they have just cause.But Law does not allow people to kill others according to their own will. So here comes the ambiguous part, that people claim we don’t have to follow the Law strictly because Law is just a reflection of people’s willingness so in the case like this we may use humanitarianism as measurement to consider more for the weak rather than depending purely on Constitutions.The lawyer Jake actually uses this strategy in the film. Instead of fighting the prosecutor with hard evidence, Jake Brigance emphasizes in his closing statement only how hurtful this experience must be for a parent so we can’t say Carl Lee is guilty for his action(TK). But I’d say we have to stick to the Law that was established because it is the thing which we all agreed upon to use to keep our society functioning perfectly and keep the justice among everybody. So it might be reasonable for a father to act like this when his daughter was insulted, but it is not legal after all. And again it is totally unjust for the dead’s families that Carl Lee go away without being punished by the Law.

Then I will talk about Jake’s closing statement itself. I find it very touching after hearing all his words, but I also find it incomprehensive for a proper closing statement on court. Instead of providing his strongest point to compete with prosecutor’s points, Jake uses pure emotional language to tell the jurors a horrible experience. He can actually tell the hard evidence with emotions to make his point stronger, but he uses all his sentiment, which makes me think of an idea proposed by Martin L. Hoffman in his paper about “Victim-impact statement and empathy bias”(252). Empathy plays a great role in court decision making process,it makes us feel what the victim feels so that we can make more suitable decision according to it. But empathy could play its role correctly if and only if we had fully understood its limitations. The “Victim-impact statement and empathy bias” demonstrates how the heartbreaking statement that victim made would affect judge and jurors’ decision largely because they will be moved so much by the emotional attachment with one person that they will neglect many rational features,like evidence and essence of Law, when they come to their final decisions(Hoffman 253). In this case, the defendant’s lawyer Jake Brigance tells an experience that no one can tolerate. Since the jurors are all white, he even uses the sentence “now imagine she’s white”(TK) to make them feel more emotionalized that most of them were brimming with tears at last. Under such emotionalized mood, I don’t think the jurors consider rationally about this case when deciding.Without considering the essence of killing, they all tend to think about their families, their children. So the final decision is totally unjust for the prosecutor’s families because no one is considering for them.

Though I’m arguing in this article that justice was not prevailed in the film because I think Carl Lee’s acquitting at last makes dead’s family receive no justice, from a different perspective, Jake Brigance’s closing statement makes the society start to think more about what is right for different colored people since Jake successfully makes all the white jurors from a place where racial discrimination is so overwhelming feel involved with a black man. I think this is the justice that the Black should receive at the time—to be considered. But for the court arguing, the decision is undoubtedly unjust for the two white guys’ family.

The Court should be the most just place one can ever find on this planet, because it represents authority. It’s like a perfect scale, a scale to measure who should be protected and who should be punished. And the weight on the scale should never be affected by things other than the Grand Constitution itself. Empathy, however, is like smaller weight on the scale that makes the balance even more precise. But too much empathy would ruin the balance as well. Many agree today that involving empathy as a measurement on court will bring more humane and accurate decision since jurors can feel as the victim or the prosecutor feels, and they may understand the situation more clearly. But Jake Brigance’s closing statement clearly put too much empathy weight on Carl Lee’s side so that Carl Lee finally walks away from killing two people. Thus I hereby conclude justice is not fully promoted in the movie A Time To Kill.

 

 

 
Works Cited:

A Time To Kill,directed by Joel Schumacher
Warner Bros. Pictures,1966

Hoffman, Martin L., “Empathy,Justice and the Law”, Empathy:Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives,Ed. Amy Coplan,Peter Goldie, Oxford University Press,2011,252-253.