"Maybe you'll see that we ain't all monsters," he said. "We're just family men. We got to look out for our women and protect what's rightfully ours." (77.15)
According to Jacob, the KKK is full of family men who are just trying to do what's right. His comments are particularly upsetting because he's just helped lynch a man, but it's interesting to think about the fact that he believes he's bringing justice about in doing just that. Creepy.
Everyone knew that Judge Corbett was "fair" and "honest" and "sensible." Judge Corbett "understands the true meaning of justice."
"That is exactly what I am afraid of," I said. (92.5-6)
Too bad the real meaning of justice doesn't mean all that much in Eudora. While everyone praises Judge Corbett for being fair, we see him help the defense cover up a fake search warrant. Justice is often tangled up with white supremacy in this book, only making it harder to Black people to get any justice.
Dominating the wall above the judge's bench was an enormous Fattorini & Sons regulator clock nearly as long as a grandfather clock, with a carved dark-wood case, elegant Roman numerals, and a pair of gleaming brass pendulums. Growing up, I always thought of it as the Clock of Justice. (97.9)
It's funny how Ben's ideals haven't changed over the years, but his assessment of the courts have. He still wants justice just as much—if not more—as when he was a kid, but he realizes that sometimes that's not what is offered in the courts.
"One of the men they killed was white. The other was black. I didn't mention any of this to you. And do you know why? I'll tell you why—because the pursuit of justice knows no color! The pursuit of justice admits only that which is fair, and honest, and true." (103.20)
Wouldn't it be awesome if race didn't matter in the trial? Unfortunately, justice isn't the name of the game in Eudora; it's just a figurehead that everyone pretends they want. Jonah only mentions race as a way of addressing the elephant in the room.
Since the night we had convinced Phineas to arrest the White Raiders, I'd known that if this trial ever came about, winning three guilty verdicts would be close to impossible. But this was the first time I had ever considered that it might be completely impossible. (112.1)
He could say that again. Ben isn't fighting in a fair system that allows for impartiality. From the time the case begins, it's clear that the Judge is on the defendant's side and doesn't care much about what's right or true.
He did the honest, moral, upright thing—and that's not always easy to do. He arrested these men and charged them, and he saw that they were brought to trial. He may have changed his mind since then about some things, but the fact remains that Chief Eversman knew instinctively that these men had to be stopped. (121.7)
In his summation, Ben points out that the chief of police stood up for what's right, but that his decision to do so was unusual. And since that night, he's done nothing but help the other side. Perhaps the reason justice is so hard to come by in Eudora is because no one cares about doing what's right.
"And what you decide in that jury room will influence…for a very long time…the way we live our lives in this town." (123.7)
This comes to us straight from Judge Corbett to the jurors. He knows the weight of their decision and wants to make sure they understand it, too. Notice how he focuses on the impact the decision will have on their society, not on making a fair decision. Ugh.
I know that this might anger you, but I must tell the truth. I am convinced beyond any doubt that I am doing the right thing when I try to use my skills as a lawyer to help those who can't find justice anywhere else. (124.26)
Ben's letter to Meg is honest but gives her a tough pill to swallow. In it, he tells her that he cares about the work he's doing, because someone needs to give justice to Black people in a world where no one will.
"I know you're going to think I'm nothin' but a cold, ungrateful girl. But I don't just feel bad—I'm angry. Damn angry. Oh yeah, you did your best. And Mr. Curtis did his best. And Mr. Stringer spent all that money…but those murderers walked away free." (128.8)
After the trial, Moody gives it to Ben straight. She's ticked off. Yep, change takes time, and everyone worked really hard on the case, but it's not good enough—there's nothing fair about murderers walking away without getting in trouble. We couldn't agree more, Moody.
Every blow they struck was violent payback for a lynching, a hanging, a beating, a murder. I heard the thud of club against flesh, the crack of rock striking bone. Terrible cries erupted as the colored men overwhelmed the Raiders, avenging the lynchings of their brothers, the oppression and torture and murder of fathers and friends. (132.22)
As the Black people respond to yet another White Raider attack, Ben thinks about what they are doing. He pictures their fight as a form of justice—finally people in the Quarter get a chance for a little payback for what they've suffered over the years.