Advertisement

The Jury as a Means of Equity in John Grisham’s A Time to Kill

Chapter
  • 192 Downloads

Abstract

The primary objective of the jury system is to give a voice to the community in legal proceedings in order to prevent governmental oppression and arrive at righteous verdicts. Yet to meet this demanding claim, jurors are not only prompted to decide on facts and evidence, but also to ponder on the application of the law. Although the jury lost its law-making function in the early 19th century, it is still capable of being a means of equity due to its human perspective on the law that ought to guarantee an interpretation in accordance with our sense of justice. In this article, a critical law in literature approach, focusing on John Grisham’s 1989 novel A Time to Kill, will illustrate the role of a fictional jury unbound to the strict codes of the law but still responsible for an equitable decision. It will display the jury as the conscience of the community, torn between “the idea of justice based on common sense, legal nihilism, and innate feelings of what is right and wrong on the one hand and the concept of justice represented by the state and the law on the other” (Hostettler 14). The sense of justice, which ultimately is the only foundation of legal decisions and interpretations for judges and jurors, and its frictions with the law per se will be thoroughly investigated on the basis of the novel. At the same time, this article presents a veritable smorgasbord of legal, ethical, and ethnic issues which are all deeply rooted in America’s cultural and literary heritage. Besides the focus on the jury as embodiment of the community’s sense of justice. a parallel will be drawn between the jurors in A Time to Kill and the readers, who are in a way committed to ‘jury duty’ too, since most literary writings on the jury place them in the role of external jurors, who, like their fictional counterparts, have to harmonize the law and equity.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Bibliography

  1. Abramson, Jeffrey B. We, the Jury: The Jury System and the Ideal of Democracy. New York: Basic Books, 1994.Google Scholar
  2. Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy. Ed. Roger Crisp. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.Google Scholar
  3. The Bible: Authorized King James Version. Ed. Robert Carroll. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.Google Scholar
  4. Cicero, Marcus Tullius. De Officiis. Ed. Karl Atzert. Heidelberg: Quelle & Meyer, 1955.Google Scholar
  5. Clover, Carol J. “Movie Juries”. Law and Popular Culture: Text, Notes, and Questions. Ed. David Ray Papke et al. Newark: Lexis Nexis, 1998. 281–286.Google Scholar
  6. Denvir, John. “What Movies Teach Law Students.” Law and Popular Culture: Text, Notes, and Questions. Ed. David Ray Papke et al. Newark: Lexis Nexis, 2007. 15–17.Google Scholar
  7. DiPerna, Paula. Juries on Trial: Faces of American Justice. New York: Dembner, 1984.Google Scholar
  8. Dubber, Markus Dirk. The Sense of Justice: Empathy in Law and Punishment. New York: New York University Press. 2006.Google Scholar
  9. Grisham, John. A Time to Kill. London: Arrow, 1989.Google Scholar
  10. Grisham, John. “Author’s Note”. A Time to Kill. By Grisham. London: Arrow, 1989. ix–xii.Google Scholar
  11. Gruter, Margaret. “An Ethological Perspective on Law and Biology”. The Sense of Justice: Biological Foundations of Law. Ed. Roger D. Masters and Margaret Gruter. London: Sage. 1992. 95–105.Google Scholar
  12. Hambley, Gwyneth E. “The Image of the Jury in Popular Culture”. Legal Reference Services Quarterly 12 (1992): 171–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hans, Valerie P., and Neil Vidmar. Judging the Jury. New York: Plenum, 1986.Google Scholar
  14. Hostettler, John. The Criminal Jury Old and New: Jury Power from Early Times to the Present. Winchester: Waterside. 2004.Google Scholar
  15. Jonakait, Randolph N. The American Jury System. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.Google Scholar
  16. Jonsen, Albert R., and Stephen Toulmin. The Abuse of Casuistry: A History of Moral Reasoning. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989.Google Scholar
  17. Levi, Ross D. The Celluloid Courtroom: A History of Legal Cinema. Westport: Praeger, 2005.Google Scholar
  18. Mahoney, Anne R. “American Voir Dire and the Ideal of Equal Justice”. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science (Sept–Oct 1982): 481–494.Google Scholar
  19. Masters, Roger D. “The Problem of Justice in Contemporary Legal Thought”. The Sense of Justice: Biological Foundations of Law. Ed. Roger D. Masters and Margaret Gruter. London: Sage, 1992. 1–27.Google Scholar
  20. Masters, Roger D. “Preface”. The Sense of Justice: Biological Foundations of Law. Ed. Roger D. Masters and Margaret Gruter London: Sage, 1992. vii–x.Google Scholar
  21. Melone, Albert P., and Allan Karnes. The American Legal System: Foundations, Processes and Norms. Los Angeles: Roxbury, 2003.Google Scholar
  22. Morawetz, Thomas. Literature and the Law. Austin: Aspen Publishers, 2007.Google Scholar
  23. Papke, David Ray. “Conventional Wisdom: The Courtroom Trial in American Popular Culture”. Marquette Law Review 82 (1999): 471–489.Google Scholar
  24. Papke, David Ray. “The Impact of Popular Culture on American Perceptions of the Courts”. Indiana Law Review 82 (2007): 1225–1234.Google Scholar
  25. Papke, David Ray, et al. Law and Popular Culture: Text, Notes, and Questions. Newark: Lexis Nexis. 2007.Google Scholar
  26. Posner, Richard. “The Ethical Significance of Free Choice: A Reply to Professor West”. Harvard Law Review 99 (1986): 1431–1448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Reisman, W. Michael, et al. International Law in Contemporary Perspective. New York: Foundation Press, 2004.Google Scholar
  28. Robinson, Paul H., and John M. Darley. “Intuitions of Justice: Implications for Criminal Law and Justice Policy”. Southern California Law Review 81.1 (2007): 69–109. University of Pennsylvania Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 07-12. 13 Dec 2007 <http://ssrn.com/abstract=976026>.Google Scholar
  29. Robinson, Paul H., Robert Kurzban, and Owen D. Jones. “The Origins of Shared Intuitions of Justice”. Vanderbilt Law Review 60 (2007): 1633–1688. University of Pennsylvania Law School, Public Law Research Paper No 06-47. Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 08-07. 13 Dec 2007 <http://ssrn.com/abstract=952726>.Google Scholar
  30. Solum, Lawrence B. “Natural Justice”. The American Journal of Jurisprudence 51 (2006): 65–105.Google Scholar
  31. Strahlendorf, Peter. “Traditional Legal Concepts from an Evolutionary Perspective”. The Sense of Justice: Biological Foundations of Law. Ed. Roger D. Masters and Margaret Gruter. London: Sage, 1992. 128–160.Google Scholar
  32. Tasioulas, John. “Justice, Equity and Law”. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy Vol. 5. Ed. Edward Craig. London/New York: Routledge, 1998. 147–153.Google Scholar
  33. Ward, Ian. Law and Literature — Possibilities and Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.Google Scholar
  34. Weisberg, Richard H. “Coming of Age Some More: ‘Law and Literature’ Beyond the Cradle”. Nova Law Review 13 (1988): 107–126.Google Scholar
  35. Ziolkowski, Theodore. The Mirror of Justice — Literary Reflections of Legal Crises. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag/Wien 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Doktorand am Institut für Amerikastudien, American Corner InnsbruckUniversität InnsbruckAustria

Personalised recommendations