Common Reading Committee hosts “To Kill a Mockingbird” panel

Over 75 people attended the lawyer panel discussion hosted by the South Campus Common Reading Committee in collaboration with Central Campus Philosophy Professor, Thi Lam, and South Campus Speech Professor, Cristina Doda Cárdenas. The panel discussed the common reading book, To Kill a Mockingbird and how it has influenced the law today. Dr. Greg Smith, South Campus English Professor and Common Reading Committee Chair, gave a brief overview of the book and showed a powerful clip from the movie.

Mr. Alberto P. Cárdenas Jr. counsel at Vinson and Elkins began the conversation of how the law has been influenced by the book.  He began with an explanation of some of his favorite parts of the book as well as some of the most meaningful for himself.  He then proceeded to talk about some of the visual differences we can now see and experience when comparing the movie and the book to present day in terms of the jury process and the grand jury selection process.  Mr. Cárdenas highlighted the role that several court cases have had in ensuring that we are judged by a jury of our peers.

Mr. Anthony Robinson, a graduate of the Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law and lawyer with RCI Consulting International, graced us with his presence as well. Mr. Robinson also teaches part-time at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law. In 1987, Mr. Robinson  was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault and was exonerated in 2000.  Mr. Robinson was sentenced to twenty-seven years and he was paroled in 1997. Once paroled, he was able to raise his own funds to pay for the DNA test by working as an order clerk at a local oilfield supply company. The DNA testing proved his innocence which then led to the state to conduct its own test, confirming the exculpatory results.  On November 7, 2000, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted unanimously to recommend Robinson’s pardon. Mr. Robinson now serves on the Board of Directors for the Texas Innocence Project.  Mr. Robinson shared his personal story with those in attendance. He also spoke passionately about our rights as citizens and the importance of earning a college degree and voting. He shared with us that it is important to be an active citizen in our political process so that our voice can be heard and consequently change the laws that govern us on a daily basis.