False Accusations

June 1, 2009
By nadia pelayo BRONZE, Atascadero, California
nadia pelayo BRONZE, Atascadero, California
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

What would it feel like, to be falsely accused of rape? Would it be scary? Enraging? Confusing? How would it feel if, no matter what, the outcome of the trial led to one thing: a death sentence? The men in the following cases knew exactly how it felt. The case of Tom Robinson in Harper Lee’s, To Kill A Mockingbird, parallels the Scottsboro Boys trial and also has significant differences.

One important difference in these trials is the number of defendants. The Tom Robinson case was made up of just Tom Robinson. On the other hand, the Scottsboro boys were nine young men, ranging from the ages 13 to 20. Their names were: Andy and Roy Wright, Haywood Patterson, Eugene Williams, Charlie Weems, Willie Roberson, Ozie Powell, Olen Montgomery, and Clarence Norris (Horne). Their nickname was the Scottsboro boys because of the town their first trial was held in: Scottsboro, Alabama (“The Scottsboro Boys”).

In both trials, the defendants were wrongly accused of rape. Tom Robinson was accused of raping Mayella Ewell. The Scottsboro boys were accused of raping Victoria Price and Ruby Bates. In both cases, the people who supposedly got raped were the accusers. Neither of the accusers had much evidence, if any. It was basically the word of white people against the word of black people.

One major difference in the cases is the outcome of the trials. Tom Robinson ended up getting a death sentence and then he tried to escape, which led to him being shot. In the Scottsboro boys case six out of the nine boys were freed. The other three had to spend most of their lives in prison (Horne). Unlike Robinson, none of the Scottsboro boys died because of their trials.

Another similarity between the cases is that the testimonies of the witnesses counteracted obvious evidence. Mayella and Bob Ewell claimed that Tom Robinson beat Mayella, but that is not possible because Tom had a problem with his arm. In the trial, when he had to swear on the Bible, he couldn’t even keep his arm on the book. In the Scottsboro case, the prosecution’s eyewitness, Ory Dobbins, said he saw the boys grab the two women. When he was asked how he knew that he saw women, he said that they were wearing women’s clothing. Everyone who followed the case knew that Bates and Price were both wearing overalls (Linder).

The last major difference in these two very similar cases is the legal help they received. While Robinson got a competent, prepared representative Atticus Finch; the Scottsboro boys got Stephen Roddy and Milo Moody. Roddy was unpaid, unprepared, and on the first day of the trial, was “so stewed he could hardly walk straight.” Moody was a seventy-year-old local attorney who hadn’t tried a case in decades. Eventually the boys received a decent representative thanks to the International Labor Defense (ILD) who appointed the criminal lawyer Samuel Leibowitz (Linder).

False accusations caused the men in both cases to be scared and confused. Everyone seemed to be against them and nobody seemed to believe them. The Tom Robinson case parallels strongly with the Scottsboro boys case because of this, despite all their differences. Thankfully, because of advances in criminal science, fewer people have to go through what these ten men had to go through. Nobody should have to feel the fear and terror.


Horne, Gerald. Powell v. Alabama: the Scottsboro Boys and American Justice. Danbury, Connecticut: Historic Supreme Court cases, 1997.
Lee, Harper. To Kill A Mockingbird. New York, New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1982.

Linder, Douglas O. “‘The Scottsboro Boys’ Trials.” Famous American Trials. 1998. 18 May 2009 .

“The Scottsboro Boys.” The Black History Museum. The Afro-American Newspaper. 21 May 2009 .

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