The Right to JuryEveryone charged with a penal offense has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law. In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper, Lee submerges readers into a controversial and page-turning court case. The case of Tom Robinson starts off with the jury choice, which was very different in 1933 then it is now in the 21st century. In the book To Kill a Mockingbird the defendant, Tom Robinson was not given a fair chance in the court.
The courts back then had an all-white male jury, and typically at this time if there was a case against an African American man or woman is almost always condemned guilty. Since the Robinson case, the jury selection process has become more diverse as rules have changed due to jury experts radically improving the process; if these advancements were used in 1933, Tom Robinson’s case could have potentially resulted in a different outcome.In the United States for criminal cases, the defendant is ensured by U.S. Constitution in the Sixth Amendment, the right to an impartial jury by the state. In a case, there is, a place in the room that is full of possible jurors, most times the judge and the attorney will examine the juror about their beliefs and backgrounds. But sometimes the juror pool will be full so the judge might randomly select the jurors. In a court case being struck is where the juror is rejected by either side of the case or by either of the attorneys.
The rules have also changed because back in 1933 the juries were composed of an all-white jury with only men. In 1760 in Massachusetts Jury Selection Law used something called the voir dire. A voir dire is where the judge or the rest of the people examine the juror with their words and with their nonverbal actions. “A well prepared voir dire allows the attorney to focus on having a conversation with the jurors and appreciating their nonverbal behavior. When entering the courtroom, the attorney or paralegal should be watching the jury panel interact with each other. Who is sitting by whom? Who seems to be friends? Are more than one of these friends sitting on the panel? If they are together, they are likely to vote together. Make sure that they are “good” jurors. Block voting can help or hurt.
” (Wilhoit). The people on the voir dire have to be very meticulous focusing on every tiny detail. This is very important in the U.S. justice system if the court had these practices in use readers would have seen a different jury. Attorneys occasionally use jury experts, taught the techniques of voir dire for the job of jury selection. In the 21st century, they used the special people called jury experts whose jobs are used in a court case setting.
The jury experts are trained people who examine everything that the juror is saying and doing. These people are similar to a psychologist who examines the body language, facial gestures, the tone and everything else about the juror. They also ask questions about the religion of the juror and the background of the juror to find out more about him or her. The jury expert plays a big role in the choosing or striking of a juror. In the Tom Robinson trial, it was given to Atticus when they had found out about the trial.
The people of Maycomb had doubts about the outcome of the trial before it even happened, they all had thought and probably played out the case in their heads. When the case happened there were a lot of the farmers on the jury. The townspeople were struck, which means they were basically exempt. Then the court proceeded with an all-white male jury of farmers that were jurying against a poor white woman and a black man in Alabama in the 1930’s. The case was actually looking good for Tom Robinson until one of his remarks toward the end of his time on the stand.
Tom had said that he felt sorry for Mayella which made him seem like he was placing himself above a white woman. “Yes, suh. I felt right sorry for her, she seemed to try more’n the rest of ’em-” (Lee, 203). This is most likely the quote that lost Tom the case. This quote pretty much belittled Mayella and it made Tom look like he was higher than Mayella. In the end, the case was lost and Tom went to jail, where he was killed. Mr. Robinson was working in the prison and decided to run for it and he got very close to making it but he was then shot 17 times in the back.
Now the last part of the essay is about how the current rules of jury selection may have changed the outcome of the case. If there were any diversity in the jury Tom may have won. If they had jury experts who research the background of the people, there would be more people not on the jury because there were very good friends of the Ewell’s in the jury. There would also be diversity in the occupation of the people there would not be 15 farmers on a jury. There was also clear evidence proving the innocence of Tom, and clear evidence showing that the rapist may have been Mayella’s father.
But the people of Maycomb had their minds set and Bob and most of the city would not have it that Tom, a black man wins the case. “The judge or the lawyers then ask them questions as to whether they have any knowledge of the case or have had specific experiences that might cause them to be biased or unfair. This questioning of the potential jurors is known as voir dire (to speak the truth).If either lawyer believes there is information that suggests a juror is prejudiced about the case, he or she can ask the judge to dismiss that juror for cause.
For example, a juror can be dismissed for cause if he or she is a close relative of one of the parties or one of the lawyers, or if he or she works for a company that is part of the lawsuit.”(American Bar Association). If the rules displayed in this book written by a large group of experienced lawyers the case would not have ended differently. If this had been used back then the clerk or the person questioning would have seen that the possible juror was related somehow to the Ewell’s and would be dismissed.All of the evidence above shows that in the end if this would have happened the right way or if the case would have happened now Tom would most likely be free. In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird reader’s experience the trial in whole. Readers see the prejudice felt by Tom Robinson and the other African American people in the 1930’s.
But readers also can be hopeful because they know that we have freedom and people almost always get a fair trial. The juries have become more diverse and they have incorporated all the other races and genders into the process. The rules have also changed and know they jury experts who make the job much smoother.