In Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch accepts the difficult task of defending an innocent black man named Tom Robinson in front of a racist white jury in Maycomb, Alabama. Tom Robinson is charged with assaulting and raping a white woman named Mayella Ewell. On the evening of November 21st, Mayella testifies that she asked Tom Robinson to help bust up an old chiffarobe and that he proceeded to follow her into the house, where he choked, beat, and raped her. During Atticus's cross-examination, Mayella contradicts her testimony, and it becomes obvious that she is fabricating her story.
When Tom takes the witness stand, he testifies that Mayella forcibly kissed him and that her racist father witnessed her actions. Tom says he immediately sprinted out of the house and could overhear Bob Ewell cursing at Mayella. Tom's testimony and the specific location of Mayella's injuries suggest that Bob Ewell was the perpetrator of the assault. During the proceedings, Atticus makes a valiant argument which proves Tom's innocence. Despite Atticus's efforts, the racist jury finds Tom Robinson guilty of assaulting and raping Mayella Ewell, which is a capital offense. Jem, Scout, and Dill all lose their childhood innocence after witnessing racial injustice for the first time, but Atticus believes that Tom Robinson can win his appeal. Tragically, Tom Robinson attempts to escape from the Enfield Prison Farm and is shot to death by the prison guards before the appeal process can begin.