By: John Grisham
When is there ever a time to kill? Is it time when someone hurts you or your family? Is it okay if someone tries to kill you? A jury of twelve people must decide if there ever is such a time. Does race have a role in murder? If a white is tried for the same crime as a black person, should the verdict be different for the white person? Such are the questions the jury is faced with in the novel, A Time to Kill.
Tonya Hailey a young black girl, daughter of Carl Lee Hailey, was raped by two white country rednecks. The author states that Tonya, ” was ten and small for her age.” (21) The rednecks bound her hands with nylon rope and her right foot was secured to an oak tree. Her face was bloody and swollen, with one eye swelled up completely and the other shut enough that she could not view the man in the truck. She also could not see the man on top of her. He was on top of her breathing hard, sweating, and cursing at her. When he was finished he slapped her and laughed. The man in the truck also began laughing until they both were on the floor rolling like crazy men.
Then, as it got late, her family got worried and started to search for her. They called Ozzie, the only black sheriff in the state, to start a search for her. She was finally found near on old bridge by a ” couple a Niger’ fishin.” She was crying for her daddy. She uttered in broken words who her father was. They then returned her home to her mother and awaiting brothers.
When the case of the two rapists came to court a local lawyer Jake Brigance, is asked by one of the accused rapists’ mothers to defend the men. Jake turns down the case. He was unable to accept the case because he had previously represented Carl Hailey’s brother. The rapists found another lawyer and the case proceeded. The two men were tried but found not guilty. Right after the trial the two accused rapists, Billy Ray and Willard, were shot. Tonya’s father Carl Hailey was the one accused of killing the two men. Jake Brigance is once again contacted because he was considered to be the family lawyer for the Hailey’s.
Jake Brigance started the proceedings and bond was set at half of a million dollars for Carl Lee. Carl could not post bail so therefore he spent the duration of the trail in jail. Jake hires a new twenty something paralegal looking for experience in the courtroom. She is willing to work for free in exchange for training. Jake Brigance’s prized house is set on fire by the K.K.K. for defending a black man, Carl Lee, accused of killing two white men. After several tiring sessions in court, Jake Brigance watches his client Carl Hailey walk out of the Mississippi court room, a free man.
John Grisham wrote A Time to Kill to show how the legal system, society, and people place an important emphasis and are bias to one particular race. He tires to show that we all in the court of law should be treated as equals and race should have no affect on the rulings. It unfortunately still does have an effect on many trials. I disliked the way that he chooses a southern state. Although racism was more prevalent in the south during that period, I believe that it does not show that racism is a problem throughout the world not just the south. I read that this book was inspired by actual events, that he had studied during his years in law school. Even so, I believe that the case should have been tired in another region. The basic act that he wrote about it being in the south is a prejudice against the south; the south has often been put down as extremely racist.
I would recommend this book to any one of my friends who enjoy a suspenseful yet gruesome and grotesque opening that leads to a sickly gratifying ending. The midpoint of the book gets dull because the action does not move that much. Then the story jumps to a death or a burning. The Klan is always popping up to warn witnesses or the jurors families not to let that ” nigger or his lawyer off.” (254) The story overall is great and I really liked the book.