To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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What does Atticus argue are some of the reasons that Tom should not be convicted?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Throughout the trial, Atticus cross-examines the witnesses and proves Tom's innocence by illustrating that Bob Ewell was Mayella's perpetrator. Initially, Atticus confirms that the majority of Mayella's injuries were to the right side of her face and that Bob Ewell is left-handed, which suggests that he may have been responsible for his daughter's injuries. After cross-examing Mayella, Atticus's questions prove that Mayella and her father are fabricating their stories. Atticus then shows the jury that Tom is handicapped and his left arm is completely useless. In Atticus's closing remarks, he proves Tom's innocence by mentioning the lack of medical evidence, the Ewells' conflicting testimonies, and Tom's obvious handicap. Atticus makes a moving argument that explains Mayella's motivation to blame Tom Robinson by elaborating on the strict social code that forbids interracial relations. He also reminds the jury of Bob's terrible reputation and elaborates on his motivation to conceal his daughter's actions. Despite Atticus's brilliant defense, the jury cannot look past their prejudice and wrongly convicts Tom Robinson of assaulting and raping Mayella.

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raslinger eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Tom's innocence is apparent to readers because of logic. Mayella had a black eye on her right side of her face. This would indicate that a left-handed person struck her. In Chapter 17, Atticus shows the jury that Bob Ewell is left-handed. Yet in Chapter 18, Tom stands up and the courtroom notices, "His left arm was fully twelve inches shorter than his right, and hung dead at his side. It ended in a small shriveled hand, and from as far away as the balcony I (Scout) could see that it wad no use to him."

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myuen | Student

Atticus says the state has not produced any medical evidence that the crime that Tom was charged with ever took place.

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