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Yes, they deserved to die, and I hope they burn in Hell!
~ Carl Lee Hailey's famous quote.

Carl Lee Hailey, also nicknamed "Carl Lee", is the protagonist of both the 1996 legal thriller movie A Time to Kill, and the 1989 legal thriller novel of the same name by John Grisham.

He was portrayed by legendary actor Samuel L. Jackson.


An Afro-American local in Canton, Mississippi, Carl was working when his boss came to him and told him he had a phone call. When Carl Lee returned to his home, he found out his only daughter Tonya was raped. He took her to the hospital and was told that 2 racist male Caucasians Billy Ray Cobb and James Louis 'Pete' Willard, came across her in rural Mississippi. They violently raped and beat Tonya and dumped her in a nearby river after a failed attempt to hang her. She survived and they were later arrested.

After what happened to his daughter, he went to see Jake Brigance to talk to him about the same 2 white men who were released after raping a black girl. Scared that would happen again Carl decided to take the law into his own hands. He recalls a similar case from the year before, where 4 white men raped a black girl in a nearby town and were acquitted. Upon taking justice into his hands, Carl waits in the courthouse for the two men. When he sees them Carl shows up with a caliber, and kills his daughter's rapists. This results in the deaths of both rapists and also in the unintended injury of Deputy Dwayne Looney, who has to have his leg amputated. Carl Lee is soon arrested without resistance.

Brigance agrees to provide defense for Carl Lee for a smaller amount of money than such a trial would usually require. He intends to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. Carl was eventually found not guilty after Brigance makes a speech to the jury about what would happen if the victim was white, which made the entire jury understand exactly what Carl went through after his daughter was raped.

In the end, Carl reunites with his family during a family cookout, inviting Brigance and his family over.