What are three similarities between the Tom Robinson trial and the Scottsboro trial?

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Three similarities between the trial of the Scottsboro Boys and the trial of Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbirdare the following:

  1. Mob leaders threatened to break out the nine boys in Scottsboro, Alabama, and take them if the sheriff refused to "let them at these boys." In Harper...

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Three similarities between the trial of the Scottsboro Boys and the trial of Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird are the following:

  1. Mob leaders threatened to break out the nine boys in Scottsboro, Alabama, and take them if the sheriff refused to "let them at these boys." In Harper Lee's novel, the Old Sarum Bunch threatens Atticus at the jailhouse because they want Tom Robinson handed over to them. 
  2. Both the trials in the lower courts are travesties of justice. The claims of rape made in the real trial by Ruby Bates and Victoria Price against the black boys who were on the train with them were false. The women made these charges out of fear of being prosecuted for their sexual activity with the white men who were thrown off the train by the young black men. Likewise, the fictional trial of the innocent Tom Robinson is a travesty because Mayella Ewell brings false testimony against Tom. 
  3. Judge Taylor of Maycomb desires an impartial trial that provides the accused the protection of the court. When, for instance, Link Deas stands in the courtroom and makes a statement about the good character of Tom Robinson, the judge has Mr. Deas removed so that there will be no mistrial. Similarly, Judge Horton of Northern Alabama, in the interest of fairness, went so far as to set aside the verdict against one of the black boys, Haywood Patterson, because he did not believe Patterson had committed any crime. In addition, during the jury selection, one of the members of the selection, Fred Morgan, the postmaster, stood, waved his arms, and complained, "Us jurors in Morgan County are not accustomed to taking the charge from the defendant's attorney and we don't like it."

Judge Horton was surprised by this outburst. He peered over the top of his glasses as he said with sternness in his voice, "There is nothing improper about any of this. Please take your seat again.”

In another instance, during the interrogation of Victoria Price at the trial, she accused Patterson of raping her. Solicitor Bailey pulled from his briefcase a pair of "step-ins" and asked Ms. Price if they were hers. Then, leaping to his feet, defense attorney Leibowitz objected because this was the first time in the two years of this trial that this undergarment had been shown. The Attorney General then tossed them onto the lap of a juror and the courtroom erupted in laughter. Like Judge Taylor, Judge Horton quickly threatened to clear the courtroom in order to maintain order.  

When the courtroom exploded with laughter, Horton struck his gavel for quiet. "The Court has the right to clear the courtroom," the judge sternly announced, "and if necessary to keep order, the Court will not hesitate to do it.”           

The Limestone Democrat of Athens in northern Alabama praised Horton's "unusually equable nature," great legal ability, and fairness. These traits are not unlike those of Judge Taylor of Maycomb in southern Alabama.

 

Additional Source: 

Haggerty, Andrew. Writers and Their Works: Harper Lee:   To Kill a Mockingbird. Mew York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2010. Print.                               

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Both the Scottsboro trials and the Tom Robinson trial were set in 1930s Alabama, a highly segregated society. Both involved accusations of rape against African American men. In addition, both juries were entirely white, no surprise in the Jim Crow South, but it was a factor in the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the convictions in Powell v. Alabama (1934). Additionally, both cases involved a principled white man, Atticus in the book and Judge James Horton, an Alabamian, in the Scottsboro cases, that went against public opinion. Horton overturned one of the jury's verdicts in the 1933 trials.

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There is no question that Harper Lee based the Robinson trial upon the actual trial of nine young African American men charged with rape in Scottsboro, Alabama. Like the Tom Robinson trial, the original arrests and charges were based solely upon the word of a white woman. This woman, who was a known sex worker, had been riding illegally on a train with another young woman; she made her charges of rape against the Black men who were also riding on the train because she had been traveling with a minor and was trying to avoid prosecution under the Mann Act, an act prohibiting anyone from taking a minor across state lines with immoral purposes. While Mayella Ewell was not a sex worker, she did try to deflect the blame for her actions onto an innocent African American man.

This infamous first trial resulted in the conviction of all the defendants. However, it was taken to the Supreme Court of Alabama, but despite Chief Justice John C. Anderson's dissent, the ruling did not change. Appeals were made, but seven of the nine men went to prison. In another similarity to Tom Robinson, one of the inmates attempted escape and was shot by a guard, although he was not killed.

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