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Tom Robinson's Trial in To Kill a Mockingbird and the Scottsboro Trials

Comparison of Scottsboro Trials and To Kill a Mockingbird

Rachel Heick

on 7 September 2016

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Transcript of Tom Robinson's Trial in To Kill a Mockingbird and the Scottsboro Trials

Scottsboro Trials
Tom Robinson's Trial in To Kill a Mockingbird
Atticus Finch
Mayella Ewell
Tom Robinson's Trial
The Scottsboro Trials

Mayella Ewell is believed to be the representation of both, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates. Mayella embodies both people to create a shy, hostile, yet emotionally unstable person.
Samuel Leibowitz
Samuel was a huge asset in the Scottsboro Trials. He stood up for what was right and justice. Although he was placed there by the International Labor Defense (the legal branch of the Communist Party), he did believe in what he was fighting for. He took the case to "defend the basic rights of man."
Atticus is very similar to Samuel. He is just. He is kind. He seemed to be soft spoken, but could still be very severe. However, Atticus is a resident of Maycomb, unlike Samuel who was an outsider from the North. Both men faced rejection, but for different reasons.
The Scottsboro Boys
The nine men accused of raping the two girls during the Scottsboro Trials all came from slightly differents walks of life. Only one could read and write, a few knew each other before the incident but the others did not. One was only 13. One was nearly blind. One was very weak from syphilis.
Tom Robinson
Tom Robinson takes characteristics from all nine of the accused, although he was older than the boys. Also, Tom was a well-built, solid man. However, he had an obvious handicap.
Scottsboro, Alabama
Although Maycomb is a fictional city, it holds many similarities to Scottsboro. Both were small Alabama towns in the 1930's. The governor did not have to call in the National Guard in To Kill a Mockingbird, but Atticus did have to sit in front of the jail to protect Tom Robinson.
As a child, Harper Lee was constantly surrounded by news of this famous trial. The trials had a big impact on her life; an impact which is reflected in her novel.
Ruby Bates
Victoria Price
Ruby Bates was 17 at the
time of the accused rapings. Victoria Price was 22 and was the lead witness responsible for the boys conviction. Their testamonies were inconsistent and evasive. Both were known to be "loose women." Despite this fact, the prosecution displayed them as the epitomy of white southern womanhood.
Tom Robinson is accused
of raping Mayella Ewells.
Atticus Finch defends Tom Robinson.
Tom Robinson is convicted
despite countering evidence.
Tom dies while trying to escape from prison before his appeal goes through.
The alleged gang rape of two white girls by nine black teenagers on a Southern train on March 25, 1931.

Both the nine boys and the two white girls had been "hoboing" (riding the rails illegally).

The two girls' names were Victoria Price and Ruby Bates.

The first trial took place 12 days after their arrest in an Alabama courtroom.

The boys were tried in groups of 2-3.

They were defended by an appointed Alabama lawyer.

All were convicted and sentenced to death except the youngest who was only 13. He received a mistrial.

The cases were appealed to the United States Supreme Court which overturned the convictions in the landmark case of Powell vs Alabama. The Court, 7 - 2, ruled that the right of the defendants under the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause to competent legal counsel had been denied by Alabama. There would have to be new trials.

The American Communist Party then became involved in the case. They saw the case as providing a great recruiting tool among southern blacks and northern liberals.

The Communist Party organized protests and demonstrations throughout the United States and Europe giving the Scottsboro trials world-wide fame.

Samuel Leibowitz, a Jewish lawyer from the North was appointed. He served as the main defense attorney for the next trial.

Despite his noble efforts to prove that the boys were innocent, he was not accepted by southern juries and actually contributed to their second and third convictions.

Victoria's testamony was picked apart and Ruby eventually even became a witness for the defense. However, the boy's fate was already sealed due to the fact that they were black boys being tried in a very racist Alabama in the 1930s.

The publicity of the trial and the continual appeals and overturned verdicts only served to strengthen the Alabama court's resolution to have their way and convict the boys.

In 1937, during the fourth round of trials, 4 of the boys were found innocent and released. They had been in prison for 6 years.

Over the next 10 years, as the trials faded into obscurity, 4 of the remaining boys had their sentences appealed and were released.

The final boy, now a grown man, escaped from a work prison in 1948 and fled to the north. He was never recaptured.
Scottsboro was a small city in the early 1930's. On March 25 the Governor had to call in the National Guard to protect the prisioners from the outraged white population in Alabama.
Maycomb, Alabama
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