In Harper Lee’s famous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, which became an Academy Award winning movie, the story revolves around a married black man, Tom Robinson, who is on trial after being falsely accused of raping and beating a young white woman, Mayella Ewell, in a small Alabama town. The reader or movie viewer learns from the evidence produced at trial that the putative victim and accuser is a poor, uneducated daughter of the mean town drunk. The marks observed on her by the sheriff after the beating were on the right side of her neck, face and body, and finger marks around her neck showed they had to have come from both the right and the left hands. Her injuries were thus inflicted mainly by the left hand of someone who also grasped her by the neck with both hands at one point during the beating. No evidence is ever produced at trial that she was sexually assaulted other than her allegation, and though she claims she screamed throughout the assault, she cannot explain why none of the other children in her family heard her.
Tom Robinson’s defense lawyer, Atticus Finch, establishes in court that Tom could not have committed the crime because his entire left arm and hand are paralyzed and useless due to a prior accident. Continue reading