Killers of the Flower Moon

by

David Grann

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Killers of the Flower Moon can help.

Killers of the Flower Moon: Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At the end of July 1926, as the summer heat climbs to “infernal” temperatures, the trial of Hale and Ramsey for the murder of Henry Roan begins. The press remains transfixed by the whole affair as the drama and violence continue to escalate. White is forced to station extra guards at the jail, after attempts are made to break out the outlaws who plan on testifying against Hale. Hale attempts to bribe Blackie Thompson into refusing to testify, offering to break him out of jail if he will take Ernest to Mexico and off him there. White fears that the jury, too, will be firmly under Hale’s influence, and ensures that the judge probes prospective candidates as to whether they have been approached by anyone from Hale’s team before confirming them.
As the forces of the law zero in on Hale, he does everything in his power to try and bribe his way out of facing the consequences of his actions. He is truly a corrupt man who will stop at nothing to get his way.
Themes
American Entitlement, Greed, and Corruption Theme Icon
Another crucial but unspoken question looms over the proceedings: will a jury of twelve white men ever unanimously agree to punish another white man for killing an American Indian? Members of the press and of the Osage tribe alike publicly express their doubts that justice will ever truly be served.
Corruption is not the only problem White and the prosecution are up against—they must also contend with the deeply-ingrained, dehumanizing racism the Osage face.
Themes
Racism and Exploitation Theme Icon
American Entitlement, Greed, and Corruption Theme Icon
Related Quotes
As the proceedings begin, Hale and Ramsey seem relaxed and even bemused. On July 30, when Ernest Burkhart is called to the stand, many wonder whether he will fold again—but this time, Burkhart answers the prosecution’s questions honestly, and his testimony at last makes public what many Osage have long known: members of their tribe have been systematically killed and poisoned.
Burkhart has already been convicted, and now has nothing left to lose: he stands strong against his uncle and testifies to Hale’s guilt and his own.
Themes
Racism and Exploitation Theme Icon
American Entitlement, Greed, and Corruption Theme Icon
Family, Legacy, and Trauma Theme Icon
On August 7, the prosecution rests—but not before begging the jury to understand that “the richest tribe of Indians on the globe has become the illegitimate prey of white men,” and that they must “do [their] part” in securing justice for the Osage. On the 20, the jury begins its deliberations, but as the days go by, they remain deadlocked. The judge learns that more than one member of the jury has indeed been bribed by Hale’s people, and orders them dismissed, and the defendants held for further trial. White is stunned and disappointed, and the Osage are outraged.
Even with all the precautions taken to safeguard against Hale’s influence figuring in the case’s outcome, corruption has won out, and a retrial is needed if justice is to truly be secured.
Themes
American Entitlement, Greed, and Corruption Theme Icon
Get the entire Killers of the Flower Moon LitChart as a printable PDF.
Killers of the Flower Moon PDF
White begins investigating the corruption in the first trial and uncovers a series of bribes and threats. In early October, a grand jury tries to charge the defense attorney, Jim Springer, with “flagrant attempts to obstruct justice,” but the man is never charged, even as several witnesses are indicted and convicted.
Corruption continues to permeate the trial even in the midst of uncovering and rooting out more corruption.
Themes
American Entitlement, Greed, and Corruption Theme Icon
As the trial begins again, the defense attempts to implicate Ernest Burkhart—not Hale—in all of the killings, calling into question whether or not Burkhart could have been responsible for the death even of his own daughter, Little Anna. As the more streamlined trial comes to a close and the new jury plans to start deliberations, the judge orders them, once again, to do their jobs, warning them that the failure of justice in the courts is the failure of the entire country to thrive.
Hale’s people are trying every trick in the book to get him off scott-free, but the judge in the case remains determined to see that justice is done and to stamp out the evils of corruption.
Themes
American Entitlement, Greed, and Corruption Theme Icon
By the end of October, the jury delivers their verdict. They find John Ramsey and William K. Hale guilty of the murder of Henry Roan in the first degree. The jurors, however, have recommended a sentence of life imprisonment rather than death. Hale and Ramsey are taken away, and reporters fly out of the courtroom to file their stories.
Hardly anyone can believe it when Hale is at last convicted. In a case so plagued by corruption and misdeeds, it seemed that the forces of evil would win—and yet justice has at last been served.
Themes
American Entitlement, Greed, and Corruption Theme Icon
A year later, Anna Brown’s murder is prosecuted. Mollie attends the trial and sits and listens to the “gruesome details” of how Bryan Burkhart, her own brother-in-law, conspired to kill Anna. Bryan takes the stand and recalls returning to the scene of the crime a week after the shooting, with Mollie and her family, to identify the corpse. Morrison, the man who pulled the trigger and killed Anna, is convicted. After the trial, Mollie divorces Ernest, and for the rest of her life is seen to “recoil in horror” at the mere mention of her husband’s name.
Mollie continues her pursuit of justice, emboldened by the toppling of Hale. She and the rest of the prosecution are determined to see justice done, once and for all, and to witness the truth as it is brought to light.
Themes
Racism and Exploitation Theme Icon
American Entitlement, Greed, and Corruption Theme Icon
History, Truth, and Lies Theme Icon
For Hoover, the Osage murder investigation becomes “a showcase for the modern bureau,” and the press, reporting on the bureau’s involvement, states that once Hoover’s men got onto the scene the law “became a thing of majesty” in the face of corruption and failure. Hoover does not disclose the bureau’s false starts with the case, and instead uses it to create “a pristine origin story” in which the bureau, under his direction, “emerged form lawlessness and [overcame] the last wild American frontier.”
Hoover doesn’t seem to really care so much about justice—he wanted to use this case to consolidate power at the federal level, and he did so in the end after all, constructing a “pristine” narrative which all but deifies him.
Themes
American Entitlement, Greed, and Corruption Theme Icon
History, Truth, and Lies Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The press and radio praise Hoover and the bureau, dramatizing the Osage case for listeners around the country and spreading far and wide the news of the bureau’s success. Hoover privately commends White and his men for their success—but in the public dissemination of information about the case, covers up their involvement, knowing that White and his men don’t “quite fit the profile” of the college-educated recruits Hoover wants to be a part of his own mythology.
This passage shows how Hoover continues to manipulate information about the case in order to cast the image of the bureau he wants in the public imagination forever, and to secure his claims to power in so doing.
Themes
American Entitlement, Greed, and Corruption Theme Icon
History, Truth, and Lies Theme Icon
The Osage Tribal Council is the only governing body to single out and praise White and his men as they pressure Congress to pass a new law barring anyone who is not at least half Osage from inheriting headrights from a member of the tribe. 
White’s sacrifices and hard work on behalf of the Osage have not gone unnoticed—he has been instrumental in helping them secure justice and reform.
Themes
American Entitlement, Greed, and Corruption Theme Icon
History, Truth, and Lies Theme Icon
Shortly after Hale and Ramsey’s conviction, White is offered a position as warden of Leavenworth prison in Kansas—the oldest federal penitentiary and one of the country’s “most dreadful places to be incarcerated.” There have been allegations of corruption there, and the assistant attorney general wants White to come in and help stamp it out. Hoover doesn’t want White to leave the bureau, but White decides to take the new job and follow in his father’s footsteps. Soon after White begins his tenure there, in November if 1926, Hale and Ramsey arrive at Leavenworth as prisoners.
White’s decision to follow in his father’s footsteps not just career-wise but in terms of his values shows one of the more positive aspects of the theme of family and legacy. 
Themes
American Entitlement, Greed, and Corruption Theme Icon
Family, Legacy, and Trauma Theme Icon