Snow Falling on Cedars


David Guterson

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Snow Falling on Cedars: Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Back in the courtroom, Nels Gudmundsson, Kabuo’s defense attorney, cross-examines Art Moran. Nels is 79 years old, “with a slow and deliberate geriatric awkwardness” about him. He verifies several of the facts to which Moran just testified: that all the lights on the Susan Marie were on, that it was foggy the night of September 15, that the fog was still there the next morning, and that the boat’s engine had no trouble starting up. Gudmundsson asks Moran whether he thought it was odd, with all the lights on, that the batteries hadn’t been run down. Moran admits that it was a little odd. He also asks Moran to verify that there’d been a spare six-celled D-8 battery on Carl’s boat; there had been, and it’d been dead. There were also two D-8 batteries on Kabuo’s boat.
Nels’s “slow and deliberate geriatric awkwardness” shouldn’t matter, but it will influence how the jury sees him, and how much they trust his ability to competently and truthfully deliver Kabuo’s defense. Nels’s strategy is to paint Moran’s seemingly air-tight testimony in a light that allows for more doubt and room for error. Guterson emphasizes the charged batteries on Carl’s boat because this detail will be especially important later in the trial, as the defense will claim that Kabuo had loaned Carl a battery when Carl’s had died while on the open sea.
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Gudmundsson asks whether it’s possible that Abel and Moran might have given Carl the bump on his head in their attempts to bring him aboard the ship when they discovered Carl in his net. Moran can’t remember. Nels asks again whether Carl might have “any uncertainty at all” about the matter. Art responds that yes, it’s possible, “but not likely.” Kabuo watches Nels silently.
Nels identifies more holes in the testimony Art gave to Alvin Hooks. He asks Art whether he has “any uncertainty” about possibly creating Carl’s head wound, in order to emphasize to the jury that Art’s facts aren’t absolutely true: they leave room for reasonable doubt. Guterson emphasizes Kabuo’s unreadable face to show how unaffected his disposition is by development of the trial.
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