Arc of Justice

Arc of Justice

by

Kevin Boyle

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Frank Murphy Character Analysis

Frank Murphy is the judge who presides over both Sweet trials. As a young lawyer and Democratic Party activist, Murphy wins election to the bench of Detroit’s Recorder’s Court (which is responsible for criminal prosecutions) on a promise to wrest control of the court from a conservative majority. Murphy builds a coalition of powerful Irish American interests, and he also earns support from Black and immigrant people on Detroit’s east-side wards. He’s able to appeal to so many different groups because of his promise to bring fairness, justice, and transparency to a people who desperately need a “new deal.” In the Sweet trials, Murphy strives for justice, balanced against a nuanced understanding of the political stakes in a city where the Ku Klux Klan is trying to use nativism and fearmongering to win the mayoral election. He maintains his personal popularity through the trials and their aftermaths, rising to serve as the governor-general of the Philippines, governor of Michigan, attorney general of the United States, and Justice of the Supreme Court. In these positions, he strives to advance civil rights legislation and extend of justice to all American citizens.

Frank Murphy Quotes in Arc of Justice

The Arc of Justice quotes below are all either spoken by Frank Murphy or refer to Frank Murphy. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
).
Chapter 8 Quotes

“Above all I want them to know that they are in a court where the true ideal of justice is constantly sought. A white judge, white lawyers, and twelve white jurymen are sitting in judgment of eleven who are colored black. This alone is enough to make us fervent in our effort to do justice. I want the defendants to know that true justice does not recognize color.”

Related Characters: Frank Murphy, John Smith
Page Number: 249
Explanation and Analysis:

Not once in the many appearances that the newspapers reported did Smith defend the right of colored families to live wherever they pleased, as he had done during the July disturbances; not once did he criticize banks, insurance companies, builders, and real estate agents for hemming Negroes into Black Bottom, nor did he condemn mobs for assaulting those few who managed to break through its boundaries; not once did he talk about the Sweets, although the story was white-hot as the mayoral campaign was coming to a climax. It was a political silence, given white Detroit’s hostility to Negroes crossing the neighborhood color line, a simple act of omission—and an unrepentant sin of commission in the ongoing construction of a segregated city.

Related Characters: Frank Murphy, John Smith
Page Number: 253
Explanation and Analysis:
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Frank Murphy Character Timeline in Arc of Justice

The timeline below shows where the character Frank Murphy appears in Arc of Justice. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5: White Houses
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...political revolt by the lower classes. In the 1923 election, they support progressive, Irish-American Frank Murphy’s campaign for judge to rebalance the court. A fear and smear campaign, launched in the... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Letter of Your Law
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...they can get a motion in front of one of the liberal judges, like Frank Murphy, they will be able to expedite their clients’ release. Meanwhile, the NAACP prepares to bring... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
...dismiss the charges, but this forces the Prosecutor’s hand. His office presents charges to Frank Murphy, revealing that they plan to charge the group with first degree murder. More alarmingly, Murphy... (full context)
Chapter 7: Freedmen, Sons of God, Americans
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
...evidence of conspiracy. Justice demands that the Sweets and their friends be released. Although Frank Murphy carefully considers Rowlette’s motion to dismiss, his instinct for political preservation overrides blind justice. The... (full context)
Chapter 8: The Prodigal Son
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
...public sentiment, giving Walter White fresh hope that the defense may win after all. Frank Murphy’s political career depends, in part, on endearing himself to Black supporters by giving the case... (full context)
Chapter 9: Prejudice
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
...defendants are on trial together, Darrow has 330 peremptory dismissals at his disposal, and Frank Murphy’s determination to be fair means that he’s unlikely to challenge any of the defense’s peremptory... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...acquittal will be far more dramatic than a dismissal. But it doesn’t matter since Judge Murphy rejects the motion. No one knows why, although many have theories: his political career would... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...brief, trying to pull the jury’s attention back to luckless victim Leon Breiner. Then, Frank Murphy instructs the jurors and sends them to their deliberations, which drag, loudly and acrimoniously, through... (full context)
Chapter 10: Judgement Day
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
...Arthur Garfield Hays ask for their clients to be released on bail and inform Frank Murphy they want each defendant to be retried separately. While the mistrial hardly represents a surprise,... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Frank Murphy grants the defense’s request to release the remaining defendants but sets their bail prohibitively high.... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...had the right to live. Finally, on the morning of Thursday, May 13, 1926, Frank Murphy gives the jury its instructions. After the delay and acrimony of the first jury’s deliberations,... (full context)
Epilogue: Requiescam
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Although Detroit’s elite defeat John Smith, they fail to topple Frank Murphy, who becomes mayor of Detroit in 1930 with the support of the same coalition of... (full context)