Innocent Until Proven Guilty 

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee demonstrates life in the south during the 1930s. The story takes place in Maycomb, Alabama, at a time when racial injustice was at a high. One character in the story that undergoes discrimination because of his race and therefore has an unjust trial is Tom Robinson. Robinson was an uneducated black man and had been accused of the rape of Mayella Ewell. One day when Tom was passing the Ewell’s house on his way home, Mayella had asked him for some help inside of her house.

Mayella kissed Tom just when her dad, Bob Ewell, had arrived home. Tom ran away when Bob started screaming and threatened “to kill” Mayella. Shortly after, accusations of Tom raping Mayella begun to spread. Many jumped to the conclusion that Tom committed the crime, only because of his race.

As Scout says, “Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed”. The trial process had begun and it was clear that the jury had already made their decision.

While on the stand, Tom was being questioned by the prosecutor, Mr. Gilmer. He asked Tom why he would run away if he was not guilty. Tom answers saying that he was afraid. Gilmer replies asking if he was afraid of being arrested or if he was a scared to face what he had done. Tom responds saying, “No suh, scared I’d hafta face up to what I didn’t do”. Tom knew that even though he was innocent, he was going to be charged with rape.

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He was terrified to face the consequences of a crime he did not commit.

There was significant evidence brought out throughout the trial that proves Tom’s innocence. Yet, the jury was stubborn and would not change their stance on the situation. As Teresa Godwin Phelps states when she reexamines To Kill a Mockingbird, “Tom Robinson cannot be guilty. The physical evidence of the location of Mayella’s bruises and the withered condition of Tom’s arm leave no doubt that he has been unjustly accused. Yet the jury, at least officially, chooses to accept the Ewells’ version of what happened” (online). The trial had come to its conclusion, and the jury reached its verdict. “Judge Taylor was polling the jury: ‘Guilty… guilty… guilty… guilty’”. The jury could not look past the color of Tom Robinson’s skin and found him guilty solely because he was African American, despite him clearly being innocent.

After being wrongfully convicted, Tom was sent to jail. In an effort to return back to his family so he could continue to provide for them, he attempted to escape. An officer caught him and shot him to death. Not only has racial discrimination led to him being wrongfully accused of a crime he did not commit, but it also led to his death. If Tom had a fair and just trial he would not have been killed and his family would not have to suffer due to his absence.“He has been unjustly accused, found guilty in the light of clear evidence of his innocence, killed by officers of the law” (Phelps online).

The play A Man for All Seasons also features a character undergoing discrimination and an unjust trial because of their beliefs. Thomas More was a highly respected lawyer, Lord Chancellor of England, and the councillor to King Henry VIII. More was also a devoted Catholic and always set aside time in his day for prayer. More is faced with a challenge when Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, since she could not provide him with a son. Henry wants his marriage annulled so he could marry his mistress, Anne Boleyn and hopefully have a son that he can pass his crown to. More disagrees with Henry and will not allow him to have the annulment because it goes against his religious beliefs. More also does not believe that Henry’s reasoning is a good enough reason for an annulment. The feud between More and Henry will cause More to lose his position as Lord Chancellor and councillor to the king.

Henry and Catherine have their marriage annulled, and Henry married his mistress, Anne Boleyn. When the two married, More was asked to take the Oath of Succession. This oath stated the rights of Anne and Henry’s children to succession. More refused to take the oath. When asked what his reasoning was when declining to take the oath, More chose to remain silent. He believed being silent was the safest thing he could do. By being silent he could stay true to his beliefs, but at the same time not commit treason by going against his king and his country. More was urged by many including family members to take the oath so he could avoid being imprisoned or killed. He decided to stand by what he believed was right and never gave into the pressure of others.

Still standing by his decision to remain silent, More was imprisoned. One day while in prison, More was called to be taken into court. He responds to the request saying “Silence is not denial. And for my silence I am punished, with imprisonment. Why have I been called again?” (Bolt 150). More’s silence is being used against him. The Parliament claims that while More remains silent, he is denying the title of any future children between Anne and Henry. The Parliament uses More’s silence as an excuse to begin a trial and charge him with treason, although he has committed no crime.

When the trial begun, it was clear that the outcome would ultimately be a death sentence for Thomas. The Parliament wanted him dead and they would do anything to make sure that it happened. Richard Rich, Thomas’ old friend, was put on the stand for questioning. He was asked if he had ever heard Thomas state his opinion on the oath. Rich lied and said he heard Thomas deny the title of Anne and Henry’s children. When the questioning was finished, Thomas said to Rich “In good faith, Rich, I am sorrier for your perjury than my peril”. Rich committed perjury when he said he heard Thomas deny the title because it never happened. More feels worse for Rich than himself and his own fate. The jury made their decision based upon the “evidence” that were lies to use against More. “Prisoner at the bar, you have been found guilty of High Treason. The sentence of the Court -”.

Although More remained silent, which kept him from committing treason, he is still convicted of the crime because of his unjust and manipulated trial. Right after his sentencing, More decided to finally state his beliefs since he would soon be killed and had nothing to lose. More was beheaded and became a martyr in the Catholic Church. When everyone and everything was against him, he stuck by the one thing that would always be there for him, his faith. Others may not have agreed with his faith and his beliefs, which ultimately caused his death, he never abandoned them. As Scott Walters said, “More maintained his sense of personal integrity and courage in the face of intense pressure and death” (online).

In the short story, “The Pit and the Pendulum”, Edgar Allan Poe writes about the torments and torture experienced by a prison who was just sentenced to death. The prisoner is being held in a prison cell in Toledo, Spain. The story takes place during the Spanish Inquisition. During the inquisition, many people were persecuted and killed due to their religion. When first reading this short story, many questions may arise and theories may be made. Although the readers do not know the crime that the prisoner committed for him to deserve a death sentence, it may be assumed that maybe he was being punished because of his religion. If so he had an unjust trial and is facing cruel and unusual punishments.

As Susan Amper says, “The Pit and the Pendulum tells a story about the cruel torture and suffering of one man at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition” (online). The story first opens with the prisoner saying “The sentence-the dread sentence of death”. The prisoner had just woken up after passing out when hearing his sentence. Since he passed out, he was clearly shocked and was not expecting this punishment. Questions may arise, was he shocked because he committed no crimes? Was he just sentenced because of his faith?

The prisoner tries to examine the dark room. He notices something swinging back and forth. “I supposed to be the pictured image of a huge pendulum such as were on antique clocks. There was something, however, in the appearance of this machine which cause me to regard it more attentively. While I gazed directly upward at it I fancied that I saw it in motion. In an instance afterward the fancy was confirmed”. He discovers the swinging object is a pendulum. He is taken aback by the large weapon and examines it. Once again more questions arise, does the punishment of the pendulum fit the crime? If he is being persecuted because of his religion, is the pendulum a form of a cruel and unusual punishment? The prisoner is nearing death when the pendulum is getting closer and closer to him. Just second before meeting his death, he is saved. “It was that of General Lasalle.

The French army had entered Toledo. The Inquisition was in the hand of its enemies”. General Lasalle, a French Calvary general, saves him. More questions arise, if someone had come to save the prisoner, they must have believed that he had an unfair trial and an unfair sentence of death. “What did he do that got him in trouble? Is he guilty of the crimes with which he is charged?” (Amper online). These questions and many more led us to believe the prisoner had an unfair trial and punishment. Although these questions may never be answered, the readers still feel for the prisoner and the pain and anguish he endured.

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Innocent Until Proven Guilty . (2021, Dec 29). Retrieved from

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