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A Time to Kill (1996) - Plot Summary Poster

Plot Summary

  • In Canton, Mississippi, 10-year-old Tonya Hailey is viciously brutalized by two white racist rednecks -- James Louis "Pete" Willard and Billy Ray Cobb. Almost immediately after Tonya is found and rushed to a hospital, Pete and Billy Ray are found at a roadside bar, where they had been bragging about what they did to Tonya. Tonya's understandably distraught and enraged father, Carl Lee Hailey, remembers a case from a year ago, when four white men raped an African-American girl in a nearby town, and got acquitted. Carl is determined to not let that happen in this case. While deputy Dwayne Powell Looney is escorting Pete and Billy Ray up a flight of stairs to a court room, Carl emerges from the building's basement with an assault rifle, and he kills Pete and Billy Ray for what they did to Tonya. Carl is later arrested at his house by African-American sheriff Ozzie Walls, and Carl is scheduled to be placed on trial. Despite the efforts of the NAACP and local African-American leaders to persuade Carl to choose some of their high-powered attorneys, Carl wants to be represented by his friend Jake Tyler Brigance, who has a wife named Carla and a daughter named Hannah. Presiding over the trial is white judge Omar Noose, and the prosecution attorney is Rufus Buckley, who would like nothing more than to win the case and swim in the publicity that a win would generate, because Rufus realizes that a murder conviction could help him gain higher office. Helping Jake on the case are his former law professor Lucien Wilbanks, fellow attorney Harry Rex Vonner, and law student Ellen Roark. Ellen has had experience with death penalty cases, and that's exactly what Rufus may be seeking. To start things off, Noose denies bail and denies Jake's petition for a change of venue. Carl has also been fired from his job. Billy Ray Cobb's brother Freddie Lee Cobb wants revenge on Carl, so Freddy gets the help of the Mississippi branch of the KKK, led by Mississippi grand dragon Stump Sisson. Carl's wife Gwen tells Carl that a doctor has said that because of Pete and Billy Ray, Tonya's reproductive organs are damaged enough to where she won't be able to have kids when she grows up. That night, a KKK member is found trying to plant a bomb under Jake's porch. Jake's secretary Ethel Twitty and her husband Bud are also attacked by the KKK. Still, Jake, Harry, Lucien, and Ellen continue to help Carl. On the day the trial begins, there is a riot outside the court building between the KKK and the area's African-American residents, and Stump Sisson is killed by a molotov cocktail that was dropped from a roof by one of Carl's sons, who was not seen dropping it. Freddy and the KKK start burning crosses throughout Canton, and one of the crosses burns Jake's house down while Jake and his family are not home. As a result, the National Guard is called to Canton to keep the peace during the trial. But Freddy is not about to let that stop him. While Freddy continues his efforts to get revenge on Carl for Billy Ray's death, Carl's attorneys put everything they've got into Carl's defense.

    - Written by Todd Baldridge
  • Jake Brigance, young white lawyer defends a black man accused of murdering two white men who brutally sexually assaulted his 10 year old daughter. In the process Jake loses everything but doesn't give up and is determined to prove the accused not guilty.

    - Written by Keith Francis
  • The story of a black man's struggle for justice for himself and his family in America today. After Carl Lee's 10-year-old daughter, Tonya is brutally raped he recalls the case of "four white boys who raped a black girl over in Delta last year." He asks attorney Jake Brigance, "They got off, didn't they?" Jake nods his head. Determined to see that the two rapists get what's coming to them, Carl Lee takes the law into his own hands and guns them down in cold blood inside the courthouse on the day of their arraignments. Young Jake, struggling to keep his law practice afloat, suddenly finds himself defending Carl Lee against murder charges a not-so-popular position with some of the locals in Clanton, Mississippi. Ellen Roark, a stellar law student from Ole Miss, offers her services to Jake just for the opportunity to help with the case and eventually convinces him to take her on. In the meantime, the K.K.K. (at the prompting of a brother of one of the rapists) plants burning crosses on Jake's lawn, attempts to bomb his house, and takes a shot at him. To ensure their safety, Jake sends his wife and little daughter to Gulfport to stay with his in-laws. As tension in Canton reaches fever pitch and the N.A.A.C.P. and K.K.K. riot on the courthouse lawn, a different kind of tension rises between Jake and Ellen.

    - Written by Mark Fleetwood <mfleetwo@mail.coin.missouri.edu>
  • When Tonya Hailey, an innocent little African-American girl is raped and beaten by 2 beer-guzzling rednecks, the town of Canton, Mississippi is shocked. Her father Carl Lee Hailey is outraged, and figuring he could not see those boys set free, decides to take justice into his own hands and kills them in the court house, in front of numerous witnesses. Now it up to Jake Brigance to get Carl Lee off the hook. He has people that help him, but he is up against tough D.A. Rufus Buckley. Will he be able to prove that a black man can get a fair trial in Mississippi?

    - Written by Alexis <LSmith6135@aol.com>
  • A young, attractive and highly-skilled attorney is faced with the toughest case of his life, one that on many occasions may also threaten it. In the southern Mississippi town of Clanton, the K.K.K. is active and the tension is high when the black majority is angered at the rape and beating of a black man's 10-year-old daughter. Against Jake's advice, the distraught father takes revenge, gunning down the two criminals in the local courthouse. Racial hatred heightens with the suspense and conflict threatens to break out regardless of the verdict. Jake must decide, along with his new, eager assistant whether he and his family can run the risk of defending the man.

    - Written by Paul Chard <tox@msn.com>
  • In Canton, Mississippi, a fearless young lawyer and his assistant defend a black man accused of murdering two white men who raped his 10-year-old daughter, inciting a revolt by local racist groups.

    - Written by MadMovieManiac

Synopsis

Two white racists, Billy Ray Cobb (Nicky Katt) and Pete Willard (Doug Hutchison), come across a 10-year-old black girl named Tonya Hailey (Rae'Ven Larrymore Kelly) in rural Mississippi...

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