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The most serious charge against Tom Robinson is that of the rape of Mayella Ewell, a capital offense in the state of Alabama at the time. Tom may also have been accused of lesser crimes, such as assault and battery and possibly even trespassing. But Tom's real crime was that of being a good neighbor and a helpful, caring man--a man who "felt right sorry" for Mayella and her neglected situation in the Ewell household. Black men and women were not expected to "feel sorry" for white people, and it became clear that Tom "realized his mistake" in making such an admission. "But the damage was done." Tom's other mistake was in not trusting Atticus and remaining in the prison while awaiting a possible appeal, and Tom's attempt to escape gave the prison guards a legal reason to put an end to his life.
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