You are an attorney defending Emily Grierson in court for murdering Homer Barron. What could you say to the jury in her defense?You are an attorney defending Emily Grierson in court for murdering...

You are an attorney defending Emily Grierson in court for murdering Homer Barron. What could you say to the jury in her defense?

You are an attorney defending Emily Grierson in court for murdering Homer Barron. What could you say to the jury in her defense?

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e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

No one saw Emily murder anyone. Any evidence against her is circumstantial, at best, unless her servant was a witness. Short of a witness or confession, there is nothing to prove that Emily killed anyone. 

The person in her bed may have died of natural causes. 

The defenses listed above seem plausible and helpful as well, but we probably don't really need to go that far to defend Emily.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

"Charles Dickens more than once made the statement that society is a prison.  Certainly the patriarchal environment in which Emily Grierson grew up was a glass prison.  Her suitors were turned away and she was under the rule of her father as long as he lived.  Victimized by this patriarchal society in which her spirit was not allowed to flourish, Emily clung to "that which had robbed her" by keeping his body with her in their house until the officials forced her to relinquish it.Under the constant scrutiny of the townspeople, Emily could never find herself, so long imprisoned by her social status.  After her father died, Emily yet lost another suitor.  She could not live through losing another."

As support for her mental illness brought about by her victimization by her stultifying environment, the testimony of the old servant,  and the testimony of a psychiatrist, as well as Emily's own testimony, a capable defense attorney should be able to make a case.

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

What about child abuse?  As #2 suggests, her father may have wanted her to grow straight and tall into some genteel woman; instead, he stunted her growth and caused her to grow crooked and sideways.  (Sorry.  The metaphor went a step too far, perhaps, but you get the idea.)

It appeared he wanted her to be a Southern lady of culture and refinement; what he did was isolate her from reality, limiting her options and opportunities for the rest of her relatively long life. 

When Homer comes along, Emily is forced (again, because of her father's abuse) to take drastic and deliberate action in order to preserve her own life and reputation.

It's a given that an all-male jury would not be moved by such an argument. The only real emotional appeal would be the inhumanity of sentencing someone so fragile and genteel (which is in many ways true) to something as horrible and common as prison.  I say, good luck with that, Mr. Defense Attorney.

ask996's profile pic

ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

Since mental disease or defect would be an obvious choice, what if we think outside the box? I think a good lawyer could make a convincing argument for a crime of passion. After all, Miss Emily was a revered member of the “august citizenry”, but Homer Baron took her heart, her time, her good name, and etc. All to no purpose than his own amusement. Not a strong legal stance, but I bet a jury might buy it.

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I'm not sure I'd go with insanity, but I would definitely push the issue that she is not mentally stable...obviously she lives in an alternate universe.  A place where she never pays taxes, men don't take advantage of defenseless women and then leave, and things never change despite the difference in the area surrounding her home and the gas stations, etc. popping up all over.  In her alternate universe, she is not insane...she knows exactly what she's doing when she purchases poison, but she does it in defense of her honor (something her father would have done had he not passed) and her family name.  She does this in a past time...somehow, she has not kept up with the changes that the rest of the town has gone through...she has stayed steadfastly put in the town of her girlhood.  Mental illness, yes; insanity, not so much.

bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I would go with the insanity defense. Unless Miss Emily could have shown other reasons for killing Homer--such as self-defense if he was putting her life in danger--there could have been little sane defense for proving her innocence. She bought rat poison beforehand--showing a premeditated intent--and she must have used it without Homer's knowledge (by putting it in his food, for instance). Emily's actions show a good case for first degree murder, though the evidence left behind would probably have not been enough for a forensic investigation during this time period. An all-women jury may have been sympathetic with Emily, but since all-male juries were the rule of the time, it is unlikely Emily would have been acquitted for any other reason but insanity.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I would plead extenuating circumstances, maybe even insanity, although I am not sure that Emily is that far gone.

What I would say is that Miss Emily's father had warped her mind by his overprotectiveness when she was young.  I would point out how he had deprived her of all chance for love and I would say that that drove her to desperation.

I would speculate that Homer Barron had led her on to believe that he was going to marry her.  I would say that his going back on his promise put her over the edge.

I would point out that she was a lady and he was some uncultured Yankee who took advantage of her in her fragile state and then left her.

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