Before the trial, Atticus recognizes that he has no chance of winning the case because of the community's overwhelming racism, but he intends to "jar the jury" a bit and hopefully win the appeal. During the trial, Atticus valiantly defends Tom Robinson by proving his innocence and suggesting that Bob Ewell was his daughter's attacker. Typically, cases involving a black man's word against a white person's are quick, and the jury immediately makes the decision in favor of the white person. However, Tom's jury deliberates for an extended period of time, which gives Atticus a sliver of hope that the culture is changing in the right direction.
Although Tom Robinson is wrongly convicted of assaulting and raping Mayella, Atticus feels that there is hope in the future. In chapter 22, Atticus and Jem discuss the trial, and Jem insists that they should completely do away with juries. Jem then comments that Tom's jury made up its mind in a hurry, and Atticus responds by saying,
No it didn't...That was the one thing that made me think, well, this may be the shadow of a beginning. That jury took a few hours. An inevitable verdict, maybe, but usually it takes ‘em just a few minutes. This time—...You might like to know that there was one fellow who took considerable wearing down—in the beginning he was rarin’ for an outright acquittal.
The fact that a jury member was arguing for Tom's acquittal and that the prejudiced men debated for an extended period of time gives Atticus hope that racial equality will someday prevail. In addition to the small sliver of hope surrounding the verdict, Atticus also believes that Tom has a good chance of winning his appeal. Unfortunately, prison guards shoot and kill Tom while he is attempting to escape the Enfield Prison Farm, and he never gets a chance to appeal the verdict.