Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Four fictional trials that subverted the truth

Bonnie Kistler is a former trial lawyer. She spent her career in private practice with major law firms and successfully tried cases in federal and state courts across the country, as well as teaching writing skills to other lawyers and lecturing frequently to professional organizations and industry groups. Her new novel is House on Fire.

One of four classic fictional trials that subverted the truth she tagged at CrimeReads:
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Lee was not a lawyer, but her father was, and he served as the model for Atticus Finch, one of the most admired characters in American literature (at least until he was recently revisited in Go Set a Watchman, the regrettable follow-up to Mockingbird).

Lee’s much-loved first novel is a coming-of-age story, an expose of racial injustice, and a stirring courtroom drama. Atticus is appointed to represent Tom Robinson, a black man who stands accused of beating and raping Mayella Ewell, a poor white girl saddled with the care of her younger siblings and her no-good drunk of a father.

At trial, Atticus succeeds in showing that Mayella and her father are lying, and that Tom with his withered arm was physically incapable of causing Mayella’s injuries. The facts become abundantly clear: what really happened was that poor lonely Mayella tried to kiss Tom, and her father caught her and beat her, then leveled the false charges against Tom.

But even though the trial succeeds in establishing the facts, justice is not done: the jury convicts Tom anyway. Atticus hopes to get the verdict overturned on appeal, but in the final cruel injustice, Tom is shot and killed in prison.

Here the truth was subverted by the jury, the townspeople, and all their collective small-minded bigotry.
Read about the other entries on the list.

To Kill a Mockingbird made Kathy Bates's ten desert island books list, Lavie Tidhar's list of five fantastical heroines in great children’s books, Sarah Ward's ten top list of brothers and sisters in fiction, Katy Guest's list of six top books for shy readers, Jeff Somers's top ten list of fictional characters based on actual people, Carol Wall's list of five books that changed her, John Bardinelli's list of five authors who became famous after publishing a single novel and never published another one, Ellie Irving's top ten list of quiet heroes and heroines, a list of five books that changed Richelle Mead, Robert Williams's top ten list of loners in fiction, Alyssa Bereznak's top ten list of literary heroes with weird names, Louise Doughty's top ten list of courtroom dramas, Hanna McGrath's top fifteen list of epic epigraphs, the Telegraph's list of ten great meals in literature, Nicole Hill's list of fourteen characters their creators should have spared, Isla Blair's six best books list, Lauren Passell's list of ten pairs of books made better when read together, Charlie Fletcher's top ten list of adventure classics, Sheila Bair's 6 favorite books list, Kathryn Erskine's top ten list of first person narratives, Julia Donaldson's six best books list, TIME magazine's top 10 list of books you were forced to read in school, John Mullan's list of ten of the best lawyers in literature, John Cusack's list of books that made a difference to him, Lisa Scottoline's top ten list of books about justice, and Luke Leitch's list of ten literary one-hit wonders. It is one of Sanjeev Bhaskar's six best books and one of Alexandra Styron's five best stories of fathers and daughters.

--Marshal Zeringue