How did Atticus not do enough during the trial of Tom Robinson to find him innocent? State your viewpoint and back it with evidence from the text.

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a few more things that Atticus could have done in the trial to help Tom Robinson's case. He could have called a character witness, such as Link Deas; next, he could have moved the jurisdiction to another jurisdiction; and finally, he could have called his own expert witness, such as a medical doctor, to discuss Mayella's wounds and Tom's disability.

First, Link Deas speaks out during the trial anyway, so Atticus could have used him as a willing character witness. Link Deas was Tom's employer for years. He would have been one of the best character witnesses to bring forward to discuss how humble and honest Tom is. Deas is also a respected businessman in the community whose opinion would have been taken seriously. Deas' outburst was not used as support for Tom because he wasn't on the witness stand when he said the following:

"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 outa him. Not a speck" (195).

Another thing that Atticus could have done, even though it may have been difficult for the first hearing rather than on appeal, is to get the venue for the case changed to another city (in the north maybe) or federal court where the jury could have been less racist and more sympathetic to Tom's story. As it was, Atticus just banked on the appeals process to save him. Sheriff Tate, Link Deas, and Atticus even spoke of a change of venue as follows:

"Link Deas said, 'Nobody around here's up to anything, it's that Old Sarum bunch I'm worried about. . . can't you get a--what is it, Heck?'

'Change of venue,' said Mr. Tate. 'Not much point in that, now is it?'" (145).

By Sheriff Tate's answer, Atticus must have felt the same way. There was no other venue they could have moved the case to that wouldn't have had a completely white-male, racist jury; so their hands seemed tied. However, maybe Atticus could have had other jurors brought, in or done something along those lines, rather than simply allow the trial go before Maycomb residents.

Finally, rather than calling Tom as his only witness, Atticus should have brought in his own medical doctor as an expert witness. This way, it would not have just been Tom's testimony against the testimonies of the sheriff and two white people. He could have used a doctor to testify that there would have been no way that Tom could have used his crippled arm to hurt Mayella. A doctor also could have shot down the Ewells' claims for Tom beating up Mayella; and, he could have verified Atticus's demonstration of Bob's left-handedness. Further, the doctor could have held up Tom's arm and shown the jury how disabled it was. They could have had a physical demonstration of Tom trying to choke the doctor, or throwing a punch with his left hand, but none of this was done. All Atticus did was call Tom up as a witness and give closing arguments, as follows:

"Gentlemen. . . a court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sounds as the men who make it up. I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion the evidence you have heard, come to a decision, and restore this defendant to his family. In the name of God, do your duty" (205).

He makes an appeal to "what's right"--to do the "right" thing. But for a white man in Alabama in the 1930s, that might mean "teaching a lesson" to the black community by convicting Tom.

In the end, there may have not been anything more Atticus could have done to change the jurors' minds. They were going to convict Tom because he was black no matter what. And as Heck Tate said, there wasn't much point in doing much more than they already had because a conviction was inevitable. However, the whole point of appointing Atticus to the case was to give Tom a fighting chance in such a racist community; thus, he probably should have, and could have, done more than what he did.

 

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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