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A Time to Kill

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Closing summations are usually a time reserved to revisit the major points of a lawyer's case. It is the last chance for him to prove his point, to compel the jury, to allow those twelve individuals to see the case through his own eyes. In the case of Carl Lee Hailey, Jake Brigance effectively utilized only two of those three modes of attack. Brigance's entire case was based around the insanity of Carl Lee. During the trial, his case was wounded and bleeding by the prosecution. Yet, it was by means of his closing summation that he was able to compel the jury and to force those people to see the case through his eyes while ignoring the point of his case: insanity.

Brigance took a very clever approach in addressing the jury. He openly admitted that he had a wonderfully articulate speech scripted already, but he had chosen to speak to them not as a lawyer but as a fellow individual of the state of Mississippi. Brigance argued that every man is biased--it's not our fault, only a vice that each man must live with. He tells them that because Carl Lee is a black man, he has already lost this case. Brigance asks only of the jury to see this man not as black, but as just a simple individual. A man with a family, a job, a house, and most importantly, a man with a daughter who has been viciously raped and tortured.

Once Brigance is able to eliminate some of the preliminary discrimination against Carl Lee, he works toward regaining the credibility of his witnesses. He clarifies his error of putting a felon on the witness stand by explaining how the psychiatrist's so-called victim has been his wife and mother of his child for over thirty years. This rebuilds some of the credibility lost from the testimony of the psychiatrist, and brings his opinion of Carl Lee's temporary insanity back into discussion.

The last section of Brigance's closing summation is the visual parade of images from the day Carl Lee's daughter was raped. Brigance does not introduce his story as that of Carl Lee's daughter. He does not say that the criminals who perform such violent acts are the two men Carl Lee killed. What Brigance does is lead the jury, step by step through the events that Carl Lee's daughter had to endure. Every cut, punch, broken bone, destructive thrust, even sweat, blood, and urine are all exposed to the jury. He forces those men and women to sit there and listen to what that little girl



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