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Maycomb Tribune – All Negroes Lie?

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  • Pages: 9
  • Word count: 2116
  • Category: Books

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Yesterday, in the courthouse, the vigorous trail on whether Tom Robinson raped Mayella Ewell inevitably ended with Judge Taylor who, from polling the jury, received a, ‘Guilty…guilty…guilty… guilty…,’ verdict. Maycomb’s Mr. Atticus Finch put up a very tough fight but ‘somehow’ it did not seem to convince the jury and Abbotsville’s Mr. Gilmer left victorious along with his employers – the Ewells.

The courthouse was packed with many people; not a single seat was spared. The trial commenced with Mr. Gilmer extracting a testimony from the sheriff, Heck Tate. Mr. Gilmer had a slight cast in one of his eyes, which he used to his advantage. When he was not looking at the jury thought they were under close observation and paid attention.

Mr. Tate explained the events that took place during the night of November twenty first: “Mr. Bob Ewell came in and said to get out to his place quick, some nigger’d rapped his girl.” On arriving at the house he, “Found her in the middle of the front room…She was pretty well beat up, but I heaved her to her feet… I asked who hurt her and she said it was Tom Robinson…Asked her if he took advantage of her she said, ‘Yes he did.’ I brought him to her and she identify him as the one, so I took him in.”

This was followed up by a round of questions from Atticus. These questions revealed, “she was beaten around the head. There was already bruises comin’ on her arms, it happened about thirty minutes before” Mr. Tate knew this because,” that’s what they said…and she had a black eye comin'” These questions were slowly but surely leading somewhere. After much testing Mr. Tate positively announced that, “she was bunged up on the right side of her face.” Mayella’s other injuries consisted of finger marks on her gullet, all around her throat and the back of her neck. With this the questions from both sides were completed and everyone began shuffling about until the booming voice of the clerk called upon Robert E. Lee Ewell.

Mayella’s father now described what took place on November twenty first: ” I was comin’ in from the woods…I heard Mayella screaming…Well Mayella was raising this holy racket…I run up to th’window and I seen,” He the stood up and pointed at Tom Robinson, “I see that black nigger yonder ruttin’ on my Mayella!” Mr. Ewell said he had a clear view of the room and it was in a mess. And realising who he was Mr. Ewell ran after him but, “he run out the front door just ahead of me.” That is when Mr. Tate was called.

Mr. Finch asked the same question as he asked Mr. Tate to Mr. Ewell. ” Did you, during all this running, run for a doctor?” However Mr. Ewell did not have a proper answer and gave having to pay five dollars as an excuse for not calling the doctor. Atticus moved onto a vital clue to the answer to the case. As lawyers do Atticus took Mr. Ewell through a series of questions leading upto whether he agreed with Mr. Tate saying that Mayella had bruised her right eye and then onto whether Mr. Ewell can read and write. A positive yes was given in reply. Mr. Finch then requests Mr. Ewell

to write his name down on an envelope in full view of the jury. This small ‘experiment’ portrayed to everyone that Mr. Ewell was left-handed and due to the fact that Mayella was beaten mainly on the right side it is more likely that a left-handed person did it.

The ‘victim’, Mayella Ewell, was called to the stand. Bit by bit Mr. Gilmer slowly made the very emotional Miss Ewell explain the events that took place on November twenty first: “I was on the front porch doing nothing …Papa told me to chop up an old chifarobe for kindlin…and he[Tom Robinson] came along…I said, ‘Come here nigger and bust up this chiffarobe for me, I gotta nickel for you…I went in the house to get the nickel… an’fore I knew it he was on me… I fought ‘n’hollered but he had me around the neck. He hit me again and again…he chocked me n’took advantage of me…kicked and hollered loud as I could…next thing I kneww Papa was over me hollerin,’Who done it?’…he done what he was after.” Miss Ewell seemed to have gained some confidence-emotionaly but then came Mr. Finch’s turn.

After much persuasion, Miss Ewell agreed to co-operate with Mr. Finch. Thereafter he began questioning the witness. Mr. Finch began by asking a few questions regarding her family. By this, he was gradually building up a picture of the Ewell’s home life for the jury. The questions covered Mayella’s age-again, education and family. The most revealing piece of information was that Mr. Ewell drank – he would sometimes go off into the swamp and not return for days, but when he would come back he would be sick. She also described their poor living conditions and how they used old tyres for shoes. Atticus progressed further with some personal questions and arrived at the important question, from his point of view: “Do you love your father, Miss Mayella?” Miss Mayella replied, “He’s tollable, ‘cept when-…nothing.” The court noticed Mr. Finch was on the verge of making another vital clue in the answer to this case. “Except when he’s drinking?” was what Mr. Finch followed up with. Miss Mayella hesitated but firmly stated, “My paw’s never touch a hair o’my head in my life. He never touched me.”

Mr. Finch then continued to consider the relationship between Miss Mayella and Tom Robinson. “I knew who he was, he passed the house everyday…I certainly did not ever ask him to come inside the fence.” Mr. Finch asked Miss Mayella if she remembers Tom Robinson beating her around the face? Miss Ewell answered this direct question very vaguely; she seemed as if she did not have an answer to the question. Finally she answered, “No, I don’t recollect if he hit me. I mean yes I do, he hit me…Yes, he hit- I just don’t remember, I just don’t remember…it all happened so quick.” Miss Mayella burst out into another batch of tears.

To round up Atticus summed up the events Miss Mayella said took place and asked her to ‘identify the man who raped’ her. She pointed directly at Tom Robinson. Whilst doing so Mr. Finch requested the defendant, Tom Robinson, to rise. A gentle murmur broke out through the court. He did not have a left arm therefore it would have been highly unlikely that Mr. Robinson could have been able to rape Miss Ewell. Mr. Finch addressed this very point to Miss Mayella but she burst out in a rage and repeated, ” It all happened too fast.” Mr. Finch allowed Miss Mayella, ‘to reconsider her testimony?’ But the answer was ‘No.’ Now for the last time Mr. Finch ran through the occurrence, in detail, with Miss Mayella. He enlightened on the fact that this time she was able to recollect more or less everything that took place very clearly in comparison to a few moments ago. Mr. Finch had moved up a gear and began rapidly asking so many questions, which Miss Mayella could not answer he ended with an unanswered question, “Didn’t Bob Ewell beat you up?” Miss Mayella left the stand sobbing.

The completion of a ten-minute break produced the last witness of the case: Mr. Tom Robinson. This time Mr. Finch begun questioning the witness. Mr. Finch asked questions of which the answers provided a clear description of how Mr. Robinson’s left arm was lost and why he spent thirty days in jail. At the same time Mr. Finch was proving to the jury that Mr. Robinson had nothing to hide. Mr. Robinson seemed to be a polite because when he was asked a question he would always put in a, ‘Yes, suh,’ or a, ‘No, suh,’ in all his answers. Next Mr. Finch asked him If he was, ‘aquatinted with Mayella Violet Ewell?’ “Yes suh, I had to pass her place goin’ to and from the field everyday…I pick for Link Deas… I works in the yard fall and wintertime…and there’s none other way I know of to go”(to the fields).

Mr. Finch proceed to ask another crucial question which lead to some even more interesting answers, ” Tom, did she ever speak to you?” “Why, yes suh, I’d tip my hat when I’d go by and one day she asked me to come inside the fence and bust up a chiffarobe for her…Mr. Finch, it was way back last spring, way over a year ago. I remember it because it was choppin’ time and I had my hoe with me…she had a hatchet…and I broke up the chiffarobe. She said, ‘I reckon I’ll hafta give you a nickel.’ But I said, ‘there ain’t no charge.’ Then I went home.” “Did you ever go on the place again?” inquired Mr. Finch. “Yes suh…I went lots of times.” This created a gentle murmur but it quickly faded away. “She’d call me in, suh. Seemed like every time I passed by yonder she’d have some little somethin’ for me to do- choppin’ kindlin’ totin’ water for her…I was glad to do it …the chillun watch me work, some of’em…she talked to me.” “did you ever set foot on the Ewell property without an express invitation from one of them?” said Mr. Finch. “No suh, I never did, I wouldn’t do that.”

Mr. Finch’s next question begun Mr. Robinson’s testimony, “I was goin’ home as usual…Miss Mayella was on the porch…it seemed real quiet an’ I didn’t quite know why. I was just passin’ by when she says for me to come there and help her a minute…she says, ‘ Naw, I’ve got somethin’ to do for you in the house. The old door’s off its hinges.” I said, ‘You gotta scrwedriver Miss Mayella?’ She said she sho’ had…I went in the front room an’looked at the door…those hinges were all right. Then she shet the door in my face…I said I best be goin’ I couldn’t do nothin’ for her, an’she say to just step on the chair yonder and get that box from on top of the chiffarobe…so I done what she told me…the next thing I knows she’d grabbed me round the legs…she scared me so bad I hoped down from the chair an’ turrned aroun’ an’ she sorta jump’d on me…she hugged me around the wiast…she kissed me ‘side of th’face…she says kiss me black nigger. I says lemme outa here…when Mr. Ewell yonder hollered through th’window…I was running so fast I didn’t know what happened.” Mr. Finch completed his interrogation with once again clearly stating that he did not rape or harm Mayella Ewell.

As Mr. Finch sat down Mr. Gilmer arose. Suddenly Mr. Link Deas shouted out: ‘I just want the whole lot of you to know one thing right now. That boy’s worked for me eight years an’ I ain’t had a speck o’trouble outta him. Not a speck.” Judge Taylor was very angry and expelled him from the court. Mr. Gilmer’s first few questions were trying to plant an idea into the jury’s mind that anyone convicted of disorderly conduct could easily have it in his heart to take advantage of Mayella Ewell. But then Mr. Robinson made a fatal error; he said he felt sorry for her. Mr. Gilmer, like a nervous reaction, immediately ‘attacked’ Mr. Robinson by questioning him and pounding it into his head- “you felt sorry for her?” He also started trying to confuse Mr. Robinson but Mr. Robinson took control of the situation.

The trial ended with Mr. Finch’s last gasp for victory when he addressed the jury saying, “The state has not produced one iota of medical evidence to the effect that the crime Tom Robinson is charged with ever took place…The defendant is not guilty but someone in the court-room is…confident that you gentlemen will go along with assumption- the evil assumption- that all Negroes lie, all Negroes are basically immoral beings, all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption one associates with minds of their calibre…Thomas Jefferson said that all men are created equal.”

Despite Mr. Finch’s courageous attempt he failed and Tom Robinson was sent to prison on the charge of raping Miss Mayella Ewell on the eve of the twenty first November.

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