The trial of Dmitri Karamazov begins at ten o’clock in the morning at the district court. Visitors arrive from the provincial capital and from numerous cities around Russia, including Moscow and Petersburg. The tickets sell quickly to lawyers, noblemen, and ladies. Nearly all of the ladies favor Dmitri’s acquittal. This is probably because they have an idea of him as “a conqueror of women’s hearts.” For this reason, Katerina Ivanovna becomes a person of interest. They are also excited to get a look at Katerina’s rival, Grushenka. The ladies regard her as the person who destroyed both Fyodor Pavlovich and his son. On the other hand, the ladies’ husbands dislike Dmitri. Some had been personally insulted by him during his stay in town.
Dostoevsky again makes a dramatic shift in the narrative as he jumps from Ivan’s descent into a mental hell to the ridiculous spectacle of the trial. The trial is essentially entertainment, which is indicated by the fact that tickets are sold to the event. The murder has made news all over the country, both due to the scandalous nature of the crime and because of the famous attorneys who have taken the case. The ladies favor Dmitri because he seems to be a passionate romantic hero who killed over a woman he loved. Instead of blaming Dmitri for his behavior, they blame Grushenka, in keeping with the sexist standards of their time.
Everyone is excited by the arrival of the famous lawyer Fetyukovich, whose legal talents are widely known. Supposedly, Ippolit Kirillovich fears going against the famed defense attorney, who may cause the prosecutor to lose the case that could save “his flagging career.” The presiding judge is “an educated and humane man.” He’s vain but concerned with social progress.
The legal authorities in the court have competing interests. For the judge, his interest is in presiding over a case whose decision could reveal something significant about the fate of Russia, whereas the lawyers are more interested in what the case can bring to their reputations.
The courtroom is a lofty space. The jury sits to the right of the judges, and the defendant and his attorney sit on the left side. In the center is all of the material evidence, including the brass pestle, Fyodor’s bloody dressing gown, and Dmitri’s bloodstained shirt and frock coat. The pistol and the envelope that contained the three thousand roubles are also there. The twelve jurors consist of four officials, two merchants, and six local peasants and tradesmen. The presiding judge announces the start of the hearing, and a marshal brings out Dmitri. The tall, bird-like Fetyukovich comes out with the defendant.
Again, the left side is symbolic, as the defendant sits on the left because he is presumed to be guilty (like the guilty who are sent to the left side of Christ in the Bible). Here, however, the symbol is used ironically; for Dmitri is actually innocent. The jury is mixed, consisting of people from the wealthier class, the middle class, and the lower class.
The list of persons called for questioning is read. Four of the witnesses are absent, including Pyotr Alexandrovich Miusov, who is in Paris, Madame Khokhlakov, Maximov, who is ill, and Smerdyakov, who is dead. Most people don’t yet know about his suicide. The prosecutor asks Dmitri how he pleads. He pleads guilty, but only to “drunkenness and depravity.” All of the present witnesses are then brought in to take the oath. The Karamazov brothers are permitted to testify without the oath.
Miusov hasn’t been heard from since his visit to the monastery, which he took only to reach a settlement about his land rights. Madame Khokhlakov imagines herself to be too fragile to appear in court. Dmitri knows that the evidence is against him and he has wronged many people, but he still maintains his innocence in the fundamental act of murder.