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Atticus had urged them to accept the state’s generosity in allowing them to plead Guilty to second-degree murder and escape with their lives, but they were Haverfords, in Maycomb County a name synonymous with jackass.

-To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

In the passage above, why is "guilty" capitalized?

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    To emphasize the plea: Do you plead "Guilty" or "Not Guilty"? It was a style choice to do that.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 10, 2021 at 13:49
  • @Lambie - A style choice, sure. From the official UK guidance for judges about a reduction of sentence for an early guilty plea: "Where a guilty plea is indicated at the first stage of proceedings a reduction of one-third should be made" Commented Dec 10, 2021 at 20:56
  • @MichaelWokeHarvey Guilty plea is not this "Guilty". This is meant to mirror what a defendant says in court. :)
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 16:14
  • @Lambie from Gov.uk - "Make a plea for a traffic offence Use this service to plead guilty or not guilty to a traffic offence" Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 16:18
  • @MichaelWokeHarvey You aren't listening to your mother. [joke] The capital g seeks to ape the actual speech of a defendant in the text. The judge says: "How do you plead?" Defendant: "Guilty". This has zero do with the fact guilty pleas or the term guilty in legal texts would of course not be written with an initial cap.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 16:21

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"Guilty" here is a technical term in criminal trials - you can choose to plead "Guilty" or "Not Guilty".

If written as a normal word, the sentence would read oddly, because there is nothing for the adjective "guilty" to modify:

* ... allowing them to plead guilty to second-degree murder ...

Using a capital letter is one of several ways to make the word stand out:

... allowing them to plead Guilty to second-degree murder ...

... allowing them to plead "guilty" to second-degree murder ...

... allowing them to plead guilty to second-degree murder ...

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  • The capital g is meant to ape a defendant's actual speech in court.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 11, 2021 at 16:22

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