Jake awakens before dawn on the morning of the trial. He is sick to his stomach with nervousness, but remembers that his mentor Lucien taught him that "it was okay to be afraid - just don't show it". Jake spends time reviewing notes skillfully prepared by Ellen Roarke, a law student and clerk at his office. His friend Harry Rex brings breakfast, and the two wait for dawn.
At daybreak the army arrives at the courthouse to keep peace among the onlookers interested in the trial. Church buses bring crowds led by their ministers, demonstrating in support of the black defendant, Carl Lee Hailey, and the Ku Klux Klan also makes an appearance in their intimidating white robes and hoods. There is a circus atmosphere outside the courthouse,carefully controlled by rows of troops.
Inside, Jake greets his client's family, including the young daughter who was raped. When the trial begins, Jake asks for a change of venue, which is denied. He then asks that the panel of prospective jurors be dismissed, on the grounds that the Klan has conducted cross-burnings at twenty of their homes. This motion is also denied, although the twenty who have been terrorized are excused. As the jury is seated, Jake is not happy with the draw; a large majority are white females, who typically would not be sympathetic to his client. The chapter ends with the attorney for the prosecution addressing and interrogating the panel at length.