If you look at the first line of this short story, "The Lady or the Tiger", semi-barbaric is the word used to describe the king. When you consider that one word, you know that the fairy tale story with the fairy tale ending is not in the cards for the end of this story. Stockton is turning the fairy tale expectations upside down. I think with clues or foreshadowing that strong, the trial is fair. What frustrates most readers is not knowing the ending. Yet, that was exactly what the author wanted-- a discussion of what the ending should be and why the person thought that. He was provoking the reader into thinking, and I believe that is a good thing, making the trial system fair as, after all, the king is semi-barbaric.