What cases best describe the judicial system in the 1930's in the South as they relate to To Kill a Mockingbird?This is the time period that "To Kill a Mockingbird" was written.  I need help...

What cases best describe the judicial system in the 1930's in the South as they relate to To Kill a Mockingbird?

This is the time period that "To Kill a Mockingbird" was written.  I need help getting started.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the 1930s the South was segregated and blacks were disinfranchised; Jim Crow was in effect. Blacks could be arrested, harrassed, tried, and sometimes even convicted with little cause. 

Harper Lee's novel was published shortly after an infamous trial in Mississippi, the Emmett Till case, in which a fourteen-year-old black male was accused of harrassing a white woman, and was murdered by two white males.  When these men were brought to trial, as was the case throughout the South, only white males were allowed as jurors, and the trial was held in a segregated courtroom.  While the defense's case rested on the fact that the body could not specifically be identified as Till and the defendants had been framed, it took the jury only one hour to acquit the men of all charges.  Even when the men later admitted to the murder of Till, they were never charged again with any crime.  Till's mother had an open coffin for her son so that people would see what had been done to her boy.

In another infamous case, The Scottsboro Trial, nine black youths, ranging in age from 13 to 21 were arrested in Alabama on March 25, 1931, and charged with raping two white women.  The black males had been riding with other jobless youths on a freight train when a fight broke out between them and white males, resutling in the white males being thrown from the train.  Getting word of this, a sherriff's posse stopped the train in Paint Rock, Alabama; they took the nine youths into custody along with two white women. What followed were a series of trials protested by various groups and countries, especially the International Labor Defense of the Communist Party.  In the first trial, held only two weeks after their arrest, eight of the nine were sentenced to death.  With only one lawyer for all the defendants, there was racial intimidation and a rush to convict the youths.  After this trial made national and international news, the publicity is probably what saved the lives of the defendants.  A second trial was held in early 1933; the attorney representing the ILD, Samuel Leibowitz conducted an aggressive defense contending that the youths could not possibly have a fair trial in the South.  Nevertheless, despite publicity and a competent lawyer, the all white jury voted to convict again.  But, the judge, James Horton, threw out the conviction.  He was replaced by an obviously biased judge for the third trial, but the trial ended in plea bargaining.  Five of the youths were sentenced to 6 to 17 years in prison, while 4 were acquitted.  This trial led to a Supreme Court decision in Powell v. Alabama in 1932 and Norris v. Alabama in 1935.

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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