The day of the court’s judgment of Absalom arrives. The judge begins with the issue of the other two men in question, Absalom’s cousin and the other accomplice. Despite the fact that Arthur’s struck-down servant identified one of them, the judge maintains that this evidence is not conclusive, nor the evidence that the three of them met afterwards at Baby Mkize’s house. He says that while these men clearly have criminal associations, there is no evidence that they participated in this crime, and so the charges against them are dismissed.
The judge appears to desire to follow the strictest letter of the law, and says that the state has not conclusively proved that the other men were with Absalom at all. And so, his adherence to the law causes guilty men to walk free. The Judge allows the law to guide him to not listen to the only truth-teller—Absalom—and to be manipulated by those who lie.
The judge continues on the issue of Absalom. He admits that Absalom has confessed to, in a very straightforward manner, the crime that he committed, and shows deep remorse. He talks about how Mr. Carmichael is trying to make an argument for a simple boy mislead by Johannesburg. But the judge argues, society has created laws, and if those laws are broken, then society must fix itself and fix the laws—but until then, such laws are just. In other words, judges cannot do anything but enforce the law, even if it’s is broken in a way that reflects society’s brokenness.
The judge hand-waves towards the fact that perhaps there is something wrong with their society, but acknowledges that it is his job to enforce the existing laws, not change them.
But, he continues, the issue at the heart of the case is whether or not Absalom intended to kill. Though he insists that he did not, the evidence of him bringing a loaded revolver to the crime scene suggests otherwise. While he may not have intended to murder, he brought along a means to hurt someone very badly. Thus, he must be found guilty of murder. On the issue of mercy, the judge claims that he finds no extenuating circumstances, and thus cannot recommend mercy. He sentences Absalom to death. Absalom falls to the ground, weeping. Msimangu and the young white man from the reformatory lead a weak Stephen from the courtroom, breaking the custom of whites and blacks leaving separately.
It is tragic, then, that the same adherence to the law, with no considerations for age or social forces or honesty, remorse, or confession, leads to the guilty conviction and death sentence for Absalom. The custom of racial separation in the courtroom is broken when a white man and black man must help Stephen stand—only the depths of this tragedy can disrupt the cycle of harmful, artificial separation of the races.