Empathy, Justice and Law in To Kill a Mockingbird

Generally, throughout the whole movie To Kill a Mockingbird, the evocation of empathy is accompanied with the recall of Tonya’s miserable story from the former shocking rape scene to the plot of gripping final speech in the court. Empathy in this movie not only gives people a great opportunity to engage in recognizing the distress of victims but also promotes partial justice for defendants. However, the limitations of empathy cause this justice inappropriate to the law. In my paper, I want to address 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 this empathy encourage justice? Why the justice in this movie is detrimental to law making and changing? 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 “self-focused” empathy, appealing personal identification of the victims by recalling their similar painful experience, and “other-focused” empathy, associated sympathy of victims by concentrating on others’ distress. (233) Moreover, the definition of “poetic justice is that an outcome in which vice is punished and virtue rewarded usually in a manner peculiarly or ironically appropriate.” (Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary) In this movie, “co-occurrence” empathy is beneficial to promote justice in court because it not only creates the social and emotional climate but also enlarges the scope for logical thinking.
Before the conclusion speech, the combination of Jake’s temporary “co- occurrence empathy” and meaningful ambition cannot be transformed into a cogent statement convinced by listeners. (Hoffman 233) After all jurors’ viewpoints can’t be changed by the 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.
However, empathy changes both Jake and jurors’ way of thinking and thus promotes justice. As for lawyer Jake, His “other-focused” empathy of Tonya induces “self-focused” empathy to his imagination of his own daughter. (Hoffman 233) Therefore, he would put everyone nearby and even himself in danger to delimitate non-evenhanded justice from his part rather than renounce the case. From my perspective, Jake also has a fraction of self-sufficiency and a sense of mission to prevail certain justice. For instance, he said “a lawyer can’t be rich from a case but they can change and save the world from a case” and this motto encourages him to stand in Carlee’s shoes instead of seeking vanity and wealth. He believes he can promote justice of Carlee’s and his side, which he thinks is harmonic to the law and beneficial to the world. Then emotional and influential final speech comes out.
During the final speech, Jake promotes justice of Tonya’s position when he asks jurors to close their eyes and seek truth from their heart. Since jurors can 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 of jurors occur at the same time. Thus, their former ineradicable judgments and ingrained principles that Carlee should carry out a death sentence go in fade as commiserative nature predominates. Furthermore, on this jury, there are 8 women and 4 men. Sometimes different genders cannot produce the identical empathy since most of the women shed tears in the movie while other men only look serious. Women can picture the pain of the little girl easily and their emotional 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 the ability to have babies, they feel angry and no matter what punishments of guys cannot cover the hurt of Tonya. Consequently, they change their indifferent characters into empathetic spectators and therefore the justice of Tonya is promoted.
As we can see, the justice from Carlee’s side got lost in the first place but was emphasized even exaggerated after empathy occurs. However, rational reasons are concealed by the emotion and pathos during the final speech because of the limitations of empathy. Aristotle’s definition of pathos is that pathos awakens emotion in the audience so as to induce them to make the judgment desired. Therefore, the justice induced from this way is intrinsically a prejudice and cannot be used to coextend with law. Obviously, jurors’ empathy has the bias which makes them 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 Carlee’s murder accusation thus goes faded in people’s eyes. And the definition of this kind of bias by Hoffman is “empathize more with physically present victims rather than potential victims”. (235&236)
Due to the limitations of empathy, justice boosted in this way cannot be co-extensive with the law. Since the law is not people’s willing but the result of judicial judgments, the law in this movie is not trusted and admitted. Initially, Carlee didn’t believe that the law and court can protect fairness since the previous case that the evils went off without punishment presents an unfair arbitration. And Carlee insists that the law of America can’t set him free and give him a fair judgment but the tendentious 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. But as for law, it does not prevail. For example, if jurors’ rational thinking of law takes place, they should 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 is raped cruelty and how pure girl is tarnished by two animals. Radical facts, such as Carlee’s insanity when killing two guys and Carlee’s revenge without respecting the authority and function of laws, should be taken into the final decision.
Because the bias and transience of empathy often triggers people have instant and impulsive motivations, reasons and judicial meditation which promote credibility of law 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 allow humanity concealing the rational and judicious judgements immediately. According to Hoffman, “Rational reasons and “affective empathy” together create an emotional climate of the courtroom and evenhanded justice of laws. (233)
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. Although justice is promoted in the end, this justice is not co-extensive with the law because of the lack of judicial meditation from both sides of justice.

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

Formal Assignment 1 Final Draft

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 is NO. In my perspective, empathic feeling in A Time To Kill played such an important role that it overdid the rule of promoting justice and, furthermore, encourages some form of unfairness both in the jurors and our viewers.

 

  • About Empathy and Justice

 

First and foremost, 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 can 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 legal right, moral quality and personal benefits 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 our empathetic feeling with our antipathy of injustice. According to Hoffman, “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 (237). 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, 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 feels, 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. Admittedly, when we talk about empathy, we might usually refer 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 on 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. The empathic distress in the victim 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 the tendency to empathize more with kin, friends and their own ethic group, which is call “in-group bias” according to Hoffman (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 thoughts and came up with a decision that seemed no so fair. Also, they are the very factors that the movie counted on to promote some form of injustice to the viewers.

 

  • How injustice cause by A Time To Kill with the use of empathy

 

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.

From the perspective of jurors. It is for sure that Jake’s closing argument invoke empathy in the jurors. At the very beginning of his closing argument, he first apologized to the jurors. He said that:

 

“I’m here 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 reflect 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 list 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” (TK). This sentence drew the in-group bias among the white jurors (250 Hoffman). It rapidly shortened the mental gap created by 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. By witnessing the strong intense of the victim Carl Lee, the juror’s empathetic feelings were invoked. They, at the very first time, begun to feel in Carl Lee’s way. However, Carl Lee’s way of feel was so correspondent to this intense distress he was in. In addition to the presence of Carl Lee in the court room with a desperate gesture, the limitation of empathy is caused and the negative effect of it 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”. Instead, the film rests on evoking intense emotions in the viewers to promote injustice. According to Nussbaum, “judicious spectators” are the people who guild by the good emotions but are capable of making judgement excluding their personal bias (73). By the delicate arrangement of themes, the movie managed to letting the intense emotions, which it invoked in the viewer, to override their rational judgement. At the very opening theme of the movie, it depicted how two hateful young white men robbed the grocery store owned by Carl Lee in a bullying manner and how they thrown cans to little black kids in order to arouse the views’ disgust. In the following theme, the movie went ahead and depicted how these two white men pulled off their trunk in the road and raped an innocent underage black girl they just saw. Most importantly, they used the first-person-sight of the girl to depict the theme of two white men’s intercourse with this poor little girl (TK). By doing so, in merely about twenty minutes from the start of the movie, it successfully piqued the emotions of anger, shock, pettiness and empathy of the viewers. Moreover, the movie amplified the views’ intense emotions through the depiction of the misconduct behavior of the members of KKK and the racist leader of the jurors, who urged the jurors to stand on the side that Carl Lee was guilty (TK). In addition, the movies’ unique demonstrate of the ups and downs of Jake solving the case further justified the behavior of him to speak with the injustice. By watching the movie, viewers could fully realize the hardships of him to solve this case so that a large number of them would consider the purpose of him to defend Carl Lee’s action of killing two unarmed white people as justified. The attempt of the movie to make the viewers ignore the factor that Carl Lee’s guilty behavior of killing two unarmed white people also lies in the imbalance amount of time and energy it devoted to two white people’s rape, the unfair social status of colored man and Carl Lee’s killing. In the movie, it took less than two minute to inform the views that Carl Lee’s killing, without further explanation or emphasis. However, the time and effort it paid to the side against Carl Lee are numerous, such as the astute mid-age lawyer speaking in a gloat manner, the riot caused by K.K.K. and the kidnapping of Jake’s assistant in order to prevent her from helping Jake win the case and incendiary that burned his house to ashes as a threat (TK). They take place in the movie in its beginning till the end. Under the demonstration to such an imbalance demonstration of information of each side, a large quantity of viewers’ original judgement of right and wrong is skewed. They begin to view the people against Carl Lee and Jake were guilty and Carl Lee’s butchering behavior was unimpeachable. In short, the movie, though indeed invoked empathy in its views, did not aim to encourage its viewer to be “judicious viewers”, not to mention promote justice in the viewers.

At the end, it is also clear that this film does not 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 guilty. 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 one, it is one’s 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.

 

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

Formal Assignment

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)

Carl Lee’s acquittal raises a question: is justice promoted by it? To solve this question, we should first define what justice is. What is justice? Justice corresponds with law. Law system was built to serve everyone and to make sure everyone is treated equally. To achieve this, it requires the jurors in the court 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) Were the jurors being judicious spectators? One noticeable fact in this case is that the jurors changed their mind dramatically after Jake’s closing argument, in which he used an appeal to empathy. There are several set backs of empathy in law, Jake was using one of them in his argument. 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. Such emotional tendency favoring one side in the courthouse does not help them to make a decision that equally serves everyone.

Has everyone related to this case received an equal treatment outside the court? It can be answered by one of the example. 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) This incident does not represent justice, even though the man they killed was an extreme racist.

Now let us focus on Jake Brigance’s motive of giving that argument. Carl Lee inspired him, when they met the day before the final summation. Carl told him that only to think as the jurors do could save them both, (TK) which indicates that Jake was supposed to manipulate jurors’ emotion to win the case. Jake did as what Carl told him to do. With such a passionate speech given by Jake Brigance, it is hard not to be moved. Jake Brigance had a strong desire in winning the case. The origin of his desire is the fact that 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, the outcome is that jurors were tricked. 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? 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.

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” (Nussbaum 72) The movie delivers a bias to the viewers by paying uneven attention on the two sides.

Additionally, Carl’s action was not a justifiable homicide under law. “To rule a justifiable homicide, one must objectively prove to a trier of fact, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the victim intended to commit violence.” (Wikipedia) The definition of justifiable homicide does not match what Carl did, because Carl killed two suspects who were under custody at the time when the homicide taken place. (TK) Unlawful revenge will never come to an end if not contained by law.

Considering all above, the acquittal of Carl Lee cannot be justified, and empathy in the movie does not promote justice.

 

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.

Wikipedia, “Justifiable Homicide”, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justifiable_homicide, Accessed 03 Oct. 2016

Formal Assignment final draft

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 nature of law itself and its poor enforcement. First of all, the problem with rules and regulations-the law- is that they are predetermined and hence not flexible at all to consider different complexities that come with some cases. An example of such a complex case is the one of Carl lee. The law by itself demands that anyone who kills without being legally insane or defending themselves, be punished. Since Carl lee was neither legally insane nor defending himself, the law says he should be punished. The law, however, does not take into account the history attached to the story. Second, the court is the one in charge to enforce the law and yet, sometimes, it fails to do so correctly. The court sometimes fails because it is made by people (the jury and the judge). Yet, those people aren’t always unbiased as we expect them to be. Jake makes the same claim in his closing remark (2:15:03-2:1526) TK. 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. 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, there had been a case in Alabama of white men raping black girls and then getting away with it. Yet, by not fairly punishing them, the court had failed to bring justice to all those girls (12:26-12:41TK). In particular, Tonya’s rapists were drug dealers and they were known to be violent (9:30-9:46 TK). High chances were that for the same reasons the rapists in Alabama were not fairly punished -which could be because they were white- Tonya’s rapists weren’t going to be fairly punished either.  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 when 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) (2:12:14-2:12:40 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. The court will have to acquit Carl Lee for the sake of fairness-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 (Hoffman 233). 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” that makes him feel that the rapists deserved to be punished much more than the court had done (Hoffman, 237). 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 (12:46-13:05 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 evil 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 failing to do its job.

As the little boy announces that Carl Lee is declared innocent, Carl Lee’s supporters shout from happiness (2:21:16-2:21:50). Though those who didn’t support Carl Lee’s freedom were angry, the movie shows that their leaders including one police officer might be taken to jail (2:22:20-2:22:36). The moment brings happiness not only to the viewers but also to most people in the community. The final scene of the movie -when Jake goes with both his wife and daughter to Carl Lee’s house- shows that Carl Lee’s freedom brought hope for unity between white and black people in that community (2:25:00-2:26:20). For the first time, Jake and Carl Lee’s daughters get to play together as friends and equals. It is therefore fair to say that acquitting Carl Lee was a good decision for not only justice but also unity in that community.

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.

 

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” 2001-2016)

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

(Farlex, The free Dictionary-Justice, 2016)

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

A time to kill. Dir by Joel Schumacher.

Warner Bros,1996

 

 

 

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

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 how Jake Brigance’s final statement on court fails to coordinate with the definition of Justice. To elaborate I’ll mainly talk 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.

Serving justice,in its own legal definition, can be viewed on small scale as administering fairness among different parties or people. But apparently in Carl Lee’s case not everyone is treated fairly. 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 his action,which is basically and fundamentally murder and slaughter, is approved by the jurors; 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 if we took the position of an ideal juror which Nussbaum would call it “Judicious spectator”, which implies we are perfectly out of and able to see the situation clearly without being affected by any emotions other than pure rationality(72), we would be clear that the action of killing should be punished under any circumstances no matter what. Wrongdoings must be evaluated by Laws and killer must be punished by Law enforcers after all. Basically speaking, the dead white guys’ parents were not fairly treated from this perspective because the killer of their sons haven’t been punished, therefore justice was not served on court.

An understandable reason would never turn the dead alive, and Law is the only way we make their families get fair compensation. 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. But 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 fairness 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 unfair and therefore 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 the fairness that they deserve to have.

Though I’m arguing in this article that justice was not prevailed on court, on a scale that is larger than interpersonal matters, justice can be viewed as the mutual agreement of everyone concerned.It is the Black’s concern that they deserve to be viewed equally, and Jake Brigance’s closing statement makes the society start to think more about what is right for different colored people since he successfully makes all the white jurors from a place where racial discrimination is so overwhelming feel involved with a black man. From this perspective I’d say justice,at least the idea of justice, is successfully promoted on this large scale. 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 and fairness. 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.

Nussbaum, Martha C. “Rational Emotions”,Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life, Beacon Press,1997, 72-77.

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.