In Chapter 20 of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, what does Atticus say during his closing remarks to the jury that are similar to the ideas expressed by Judge Horton?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

James Edwin Horton Jr. was the son of a Tennessee slave owner. After studying medicine and law, he began a legal and political career that led to his election as judge of the Eighth Circuit Court in 1922 and his re-election in 1933. Judge Horton presided over the second trial of the Scottsboro defendants during the famous Scottsboro Case of 1931, a case in which nine African-American youths were falsely accused of raping two white women on a train in Alabama. During Haywood Patterson's second trial, Dr. Marvin Lynch, who refused to testify, spoke privately with Judge Horton in his chambers and stated his opinion that, based on the testimony of the examining doctor, Dr. R. R. Ridges, Dr. Lynch did not believe the two women had been raped, just as Atticus did not believe Mayella had been raped by Robinson.

Since Judge Horton was convinced of the innocence of the accused, he spoke very passionately to the jury, just as Atticus spoke very passionately during his closing remarks. Upon instructing the jury, Judge Horton stated the following:

You are not trying whether or not the defendant is white of black--you are not trying that question; you are trying whether or not this defendant forcibly ravished a woman. ("People & Events: Judge James Edwin Horton Jr., 1878 - ?," PBS)

Atticus makes two very similar remarks in his closing statements to the jury. First, he reminds the jury of the racial bias tainting the case by stating the following:

To begin with, this case should never have come to trial. This case is as simple as black and white. The state has not produced one iota of medical evidence to the effect that the crime Tom Robinson is charged with ever took place. (Ch. 20)

In other words, Atticus is arguing that the jury's decision should be plain and simple due to lack of any medical evidence. In addition, his reference to "black and white" is very reminiscent of Judge Horton reminding the jury not to rule based on whether or not someone is black or white.

In a second remark Atticus makes in his closing statements, Atticus reminds the jury that "a court is no better" than its jury, which is also very reminiscent of Judge Horton's reminder to the jury to judge fairly based on evidence, not on race.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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