Alvin Hooks gives his closing statements. He claims Kabuo murdered Carl in cold blood. He emphasizes how much motive Kabuo would’ve had to murder Carl, citing the land dispute between Kabuo and the Heines.
Hooks paints Kabuo as a cold- blooded murderer. This sentiment confirms the jurors’ racist comparison of Kabuo’s physical appearance to that of the photos of Japanese soldiers they remember from WWII propaganda.
Hooks goes through the night of the murder, step by step, emphasizing how patiently and carefully Kabuo orchestrated the event. Enraged by Ole’s decision to sell the strawberry fields to Carl, Kabuo decided to take matters into his own hands. He followed Carl’s boat to the Ship Channel Bank, laying out his net near Carl’s. He’d waited to strike until it was late at night, “watch[ing] while the fog concealed everything.” When the moment was right, Hooks postulates, Kabuo cut his engine. He signaled to Carl, who’d been not more than 100 or so yards away, that his battery had died and that he needed help. Because both men adhered to a fishermen’s code that required them to help a man in trouble, Carl would’ve set aside his differences with Kabuo to lend him a hand.
Hooks goes through the night of Carl’s death step by step in order to present a logical narrative of “facts” for the jury to follow. Hooks brings up the fishermen’s code in order to paint Carl as an even more hapless victim. In Hooks’s account, Carl is but an innocent, honest man trying to honor his obligation to help another man in need. Hooks’s presentation of Carl as blameless renders Kabuo’s supposed act of treachery even more sinister in the jury’s eyes.
Hooks repeatedly calls on the jury to “imagine” placing themselves in the scene: he asks them to picture Carl “stopping to help his enemy” late at night, only to be attacked with the fishing gaff.
Hooks knows it will be easy for the jury to “imagine” they are in Carl’s shoes because they consider Carl—a white man of old island stock—to be one of them. Hooks’s portrayal of Kabuo, in contrast, evokes the image of an “enemy” Japanese soldier with which the jury would be all too familiar. Hooks scenario appeals to the jury’s prejudice, even as he pretends to present an unbiased account of the facts.
Hooks ends his remarks by expressing that there is “no uncertainty any more,” as both the defense and the prosecution have disclosed all the facts there are to disclose. It’s the jury’s job, Hooks emphasizes, to “ask [themselves] what [their] duty is as citizens of this community” and call the truth as they see it.
Hooks’s remark that there is “no uncertainty any more” aims to convince the jury that there is no reasonable doubt present in Kabuo’s case—and to erase the reality that no one can know for sure exactly what happened. He calls on the jury as “citizens of this community” to reinforce both their (and Carl’s) insider status as well as Kabuo’s outsider status.
It’s Nels Gudmundsson’s turn to give a closing statement, and he rises to do so “with a geriatric awkwardness that was painful for the citizens in the gallery to observe.” Nels delivers his statement “in measured tones, as soberly as he [could].” He outlines how Kabuo had gone to Ole Jurgensen and then Carl Heine about the land; how then fate had brought the two boats together at Ship Channel Bank. Kabuo had helped his childhood friend, they’d resolved their land issue, and Kabuo had gone on his way to fish for the rest of the night. Finally, the next day, Kabuo “found himself arrested.”
Nels’s “geriatric awkwardness” affects the way the jury perceives his closing statement—it might appear to them that Hooks’s remarks are more valid because he was able to deliver them with more outward confidence. Nels refutes Hooks’s claim that Kabuo hunted down Carl when he offers that it was “a circumstance of fate” that caused them to cross paths the night of September 15. Nels further highlights Kabuo’s lack of agency by insisting that he “found himself arrested” (as opposed to having “gotten himself arrested,” for example).
Nels emphasizes that the prosecution hasn’t provided any evidence that Kabuo] planned to commit murder. There were no witnesses to attest to Kabuo’s mental state before Carl’s death. Above all, Nels emphasizes that the prosecution hadn’t proved Kabuo’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Nels tells the jury that Hooks’s case encouraged them to “be open […] to an argument based on prejudice.” Hooks had depended on the prejudice the jury would impose onto Kabuo’s face. Nels sympathizes with this prejudice—conceding that, yes, it hasn’t been so many years since the U.S. was at war with Japan. Still, he reminds the jury, Kabuo served the United States in this war.
Nels notes that the prosecution hasn’t presented any evidence of premeditation on Kabuo’s part—the best they could offer was speculate on Kabuo’s mental state. Nels’s assertion that the prosecution hadn’t proven Kabuo’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” refutes Hooks’s claim that the trial leaves the jury with no uncertainties. Nels also reminds the jury of Kabuo’s military service in attempt to lesson Kabuo’s outsider status: yes, he is of Japanese descent, but he is also a citizen of the United States.
Nels suggests that “perhaps there is such a thing as fate.” It might’ve been fate that led Carl and Kabuo to come together under such a series of coincidences, and fate, ultimately, that led “an accident of some kind [to befall] Carl Heine at a moment that could not be less propitious or less fortunate for the accused.” Still, Nels emphasizes, these things happened. Fate might be beyond humankind’s control, but it is completely within the jury’s ability to choose what happens now: they can choose to honor or ignore the reasonable doubt present in the prosecution’s case against Kabuo, and they can choose to honor or to look past their racial prejudices.
Nels plays up the role of fate to further downplay the prosecution’s notion that Kabuo intentionally hunted down and murdered Carl. He then reframes the trial’s narrative to be matter of humanity vs. fate, rather than Kabuo vs. Carl (or Japanese vs. White). Nels posits that the jury holds the power to get back at fate: they can use their agency to free a man who has been imprisoned by fateful circumstances beyond anyone’s control. Along these lines, Nels also emphasizes the role choice plays in prejudice; prejudice is not an instinct, Nels argues, but a choice.
Nels ends his closing statement. He tells the jury he is an old man who may not live much longer. He tells them this because, in his old age, he is “prone to ponder matters in the light of death” in a more serious way. He sees now how “human frailty” and “hate” dictate all things on earth. “In such a world you have only yourselves to rely on,” asserts Nels. He ends his statement by emphasizing the weight and power of the jury’s ability to choose Kabuo’s fate.
Nels tries to use his age to his advantage, establishing credibility based on the wisdom he holds in his old age. His basic argument is that in a world of so many powerful, uncontrollable forces (such as prejudice and chance) one must use the power of choice in the rare moments when the opportunity to do so presents itself. Now is one of those moments: the jury—not fate or chance—will decide whether Kabuo lives or dies.
Judge Lew Fielding sits at his bench and looks down on the scene before him. He’s very tired and bothered by the fear that he hasn’t done well in this case. He has high standards. He’s never presided over a first-degree murder case, and he thinks he didn’t handle it well. He’s not comfortable with the fact that Kabuo’s life is on the line.
Judge Fielding seems to acknowledge the role prejudice and speculation played in Kabuo’s trial and finds that he didn’t do enough to maintain a fair, objective courtroom.
Before Fielding dismisses the jury to make their deliberations, he emphasizes that they must be certain that Kabuo is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” if they are to convict him. They must also “keep in mind the specificity of the charge and address that charge exclusively.” In other words, they must be able to identify the presence of “planned intent” if they are to convict Kabuo of murder in the first degree. Fielding tells the jury this is a very difficult distinction to make.
Fielding explains to the jury that they must determine that Kabuo is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” in attempt to mitigate his own failure to maintain a completely fair, objective courtroom. He makes reference to the idea of “planned intent” as it is a particularly difficult aspect to prove, given that the court can only speculate as to Kabuo’s mental state leading up to Carl’s death.
Fielding reminds the jury that they were selected to serve because they were deemed unprejudiced and fair. They have to make their decision with these qualities in mind, and they have to listen to each other. Because the trial is a criminal case, the jury’s decision must be unanimous. Fielding then makes his closing remarks: “The storm […] is beyond our control, but the outcome of this trial is not.” He reminds them that the outcome is in their hands and tells them to begin deliberating.
Fielding reminds the jury how privileged they are to be able to choose. He makes the point that, in so many ways, one’s life is often at the mercy of fate and the uncontrollable whims of the universe. The snowstorm that unfolds outside is an example of one of these uncontrollable forces. Kabuo’s trial, in contrast, offers the jury the rare opportunity to act honorably and have a real impact on the world around them.