Moral Dilemmas in Celia, A Slave by Melton McLaurin

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Melton McLaurin’s book Celia, A Slave is the account of the trial, conviction, and execution of a female slave for the murder of her “master” Robert Newsom in 1855. The author uses evidence compiled through studying documents from Callaway County, Missouri and the surrounding area during the middle of the Nineteenth Century. Although much of what can be determine about this event is merely speculation, McLaurin proposes arguments for the different motives that contribute to the way in which many of the events unfold. Now throughout the book the “main characters”, being Celia, her lawyer Jameson, and the judge William Hall, are all faced with moral decisions that affect the lives of two different people. The first of the main characters…show more content…
Despite the risks that one might have associated with his defense of a slave that had killed her master, regardless of the motives, Jameson appears to have made every effort to defend her to the best of his abilities. Even though Jameson appeared to be a good lawyer “according to those who knew him: as a lawyer [Jameson] was not profound” (McLaurin 85), so to aid Jameson in “labor and research” (McLaurin 85) Hall appointed two lawyers that were subordinate to Jameson. Now Jameson may not have been the best at trial research,but when it came to his courtroom skills “his contemporaries nevertheless admired him…” (McLaurin 85). Though not for his presentation, or his cross-examination skills, but for his “almost uncanny ability to read a jury” (McLaurin 85). Due to this skill of reading a jury many who knew him said he was “an excellent judge of men…” (McLaurin 85) which would have given him and advantage during Celia’s trial, unfortunately the prosecution in this case was (also/to) strong, led by Robert Prewitt, they virtually prevented Jameson from making any sort of case for the defense of Celia. Despite the fact that Jameson encountered some resistance from the “presiding judge whose consistent rulings to sustain the state’s objections revealed, if not his hostility toward the defendant, at least a desire for a perfunctory defense

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