Finally, Tom Milton starts calling his own witnesses to the stand. He begins by speaking to Sarah Singletary, an employee at the Piggly Wiggly who saw Kya board the bus to Greenville on October 28th and return on October 30th. When Judge Sims asks Eric if he’d like to cross-examine Mrs. Singletary, he declines, saying that the prosecution accepts that Kya went to Greenville. For this reason, he says, there’s no need to hear from the next several witnesses that Tom intends to call upon, since these witnesses will only further prove this point. Because the prosecution’s case rests on the theory that Kya secretly returned during the night—not that she never went to Greenville in the first place—he has no argument with what Tom is trying to establish. In response, Tom agrees not to call his next few witnesses to the stand.
As Tom calls his first witness to the stand, it’s worth remembering that Sarah Singletary used to help Kya count her change when the young girl came to the Piggly Wiggly to buy grits. This serves as a good reminder that there are people in Barkley Cove who are willing to treat Kya with kindness and acceptance, something that is made even clearer by the fact that Mrs. Singletary has agreed to testify to corroborate Kya’s alibi.
Tom calls the owner of the Three Mountains Motel to the stand. His name is Lang Furlough, and he says that Kya stayed in his hotel in Greenville from October 28th to October 30th. Furthermore, he says that he was working both nights and never saw her slip out of her room, making it impossible for her to have snuck back to Barkley Cove to kill Chase. However, Eric’s cross-examination reveals that Mr. Furlough was quite busy on both nights, often dealing with customers or stepping away from the desk at the hotel’s reception area to attend to various matters.
The interesting thing about Kya’s trial is that it’s quite hard to discern whether or not she’s guilty. Although there’s ample reason to believe that she’s innocent, Eric manages to poke holes in her defense, causing readers to wonder if she is, in fact, capable of having exacted violent revenge upon Chase. In this moment, Eric makes Mr. Furlough seem rather unreliable, thereby reopening the possibility that Kya could have secretly returned to Barkley Cove to murder Chase.
When Kya’s trial resumes after a lunch break, Scupper enters the courtroom and sits next to Tate, feeling bad that he didn’t support his son—and the woman his son loves—sooner. As the trial continues, Tom calls Kya’s editor, Robert Foster, to the stand and asks him to confirm that he met Kya for dinner on the night of Chase’s murder. He explains that he dropped her off at her hotel at 9:55 p.m. and met her for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. the following day.
The vast majority of Where the Crawdads Sing focuses on whether or not Kya can find people to support her in life. Now, though, Owens calls attention to Tate’s relationship with his father, suggesting that it’s important for the people supporting Kya to feel as if they, too, have their own support networks. In other words, in the same way that a worldview of division and prejudice easily spreads from one person to the next, love and encouragement perpetuate themselves if people are willing to emotionally support each other.
During Eric’s cross-examination, Robert says that Kya specifically requested that her publisher book her a room at the Three Mountains Motel instead of the fancier Piedmont, which is where Robert himself stayed. Eric claims that this must be because Three Mountains is close to the bus station, making it easy for Kya to return to Barkley Cove in the middle of the night to kill Chase. When Tom is given a chance to respond to this, though, he reminds the jury that Kya has always lived a private life. Establishing that the Piedmont Hotel is always swarming with guests, he argues that it makes sense for Kya to want to stay in a hotel that exists off the beaten path. Plus, he says, Kya isn’t accustomed to navigating public transportation, which is why she would have liked having the option to walk from the station to her hotel.
In this moment, Tom uses the very things that the townspeople usually hold against Kya to argue for her innocence. Rather than treating her reclusive nature as a bad thing, he calls upon it to explain why she wouldn’t want to stay at the Piedmont Hotel, thereby challenging the idea that the only reason she chose to stay at Three Mountains Motel is because it would have made it easier for her to return to Barkley Cove to kill Chase. In this way, Tom repurposes the prejudiced and disapproving narrative that the townspeople have created so that it actually works in Kya’s favor.
Tom calls Ed as his next witness. Before he begins to question him, though, he notices Kya begin to slump in her chair. She is exhausted, partially becomes she has just realized that Ed is one of the last witnesses, meaning that there isn’t much more time before her fate will be determined. Quickly, then, Tom calls for a short recess and whisks Kya into a private room. She tells him she doesn’t want to be present for the trial, but he informs her that this isn’t an option. When he tries to soothe her by saying that everything will be over soon, she says this does nothing to make her feel better. After all, the idea of appealing a guilty verdict overwhelms her, and though she doesn’t fear death in and of itself, she hates the idea of somebody else deciding when she will die.
It’s unsurprising that Kya detests the idea that other people might have the power to decide when she will die. She has spent her entire life depending upon herself and fighting for her own survival, prospering against all odds. Now, though, she’s forced to sit idly by while strangers—who have never even bothered to try to understand her or the things she’s been through—determine her fate. Above all, this strikes Kya as deeply unfair and troubling.
Back in the courtroom, Tom talks to Ed about the prosecution’s main argument, ultimately suggesting that the time frame they have presented is highly questionable. Going on, he says that the time Kya would have had to commit the murder wouldn’t have given her enough time to get from the bus station to the fire tower. To make this clear, Tom outlines the fact that Kya would have to somehow make up 20 minutes. In response, Ed presents theories for how Kya could have gotten to the fire tower quickly, but Tom discounts his speculations, saying that only facts and evidence matter in a murder trial.
Once more, Tom rejects any kind of speculation when it comes to whether or not Kya is guilty. In doing so, he subtly urges the jury to consider the various biases that might be informing Ed’s imprecise and unlikely calculations, ultimately encouraging them to approach the case with a sense of complete objectivity that is uninfluenced by the myriad speculations and prejudices that have surrounded Kya ever since people started calling her the “Marsh Girl.”