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  • Writer's picturePeter Lindstrom, Esq.

Lessons from To Kill a Mockingbird for Those Falsely Accused of Sexual Assault


"To Kill a Mockingbird," written by Harper Lee and published in 1960, is a seminal piece of American literature that delves into the heart of racial injustice, moral growth, and human dignity, set against the backdrop of the racially segregated Southern United States during the 1930s. The novel is narrated through the eyes of Scout Finch, a young girl who witnesses the evils of prejudice and the strength of integrity through the actions of her father, Atticus Finch, a lawyer tasked with defending a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman.

Motive to Make a False Accusation

The difficulty of a false accusation of sexual assault is that most people have a hard time understanding why someone would make up the false accusation. The motive to lie can be difficult to discern. Is it necessary to find out the motive? Technically, there is no legal requirement to answer that question in a criminal trial. But you know that the jurors are thinking it. Why would she lie? As a defendant who is falsely accused you are put in a difficult position because the thoughts of the complainant are out of reach. You can’t put thoughts under a microscope and look at it like you can physical evidence.

Motivated by Guilt or Shame

Although you can never know 100% what someone is thinking, there may be circumstantial evidence that can lead to conclusions of what the person is likely thinking. In To Kill a Mockingbird, the complaining witness had kissed Tom Robinson and jumped up into his arms. Her father had observed this and then beat her up. Atticus Finch argued at trial that the feeling of guilt over kissing a black man motivated her to make the false accusations. Of course, there is actually nothing wrong with kissing a black man. But as a white woman in the 1930’s South, shame was a likely emotional reaction and motivation for her false accusations. Shifting the story away from the objective reality of her kissing a black man to the fiction of him sexually assaulting her would distance her from her perceived shame.

Takeaways for the Falsely Accused

It’s unlikely for you to be falsely accused under the exact same circumstances that Tom Robinson was in To Kill a Mockingbird. But looking at what occurred may help jog your mind to think through the important questions of (1) what motivated the false accusation; and (2) what is the evidence to support that motive? If you have the motive but no evidence, the jury will have a hard time believing you. If you have evidence but a weak motive, you similarly may have difficulty with persuading the jury.

Whatever your situation, it is critically important to have a skilled criminal defense attorney when you are accused of something as serious as sexual assault. Contact Subzero Criminal and we can start working on your case as soon as today. Subzero Criminal Defense provides a defense with intelligence, creativity, and grit. (651-248-5142)


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