The following summer, Meursault’s trial begins. Meursault is surprised to find the courtroom packed with people. Even the woman he saw checking off radio programs at Celeste’s is there. The press has given his case a great deal of publicity because the summer is a slow season for news.
The judge asks Meursault why he put his mother in a home. Meursault replies that he did not have enough money to care for her. When the judge asks Meursault if the decision tormented him, Meursault explains that both he and his mother became used to their new situations because they did not expect anything from one another.
The director of the home confirms that Madame Meursault complained about Meursault’s decision to put her in the home. The director says that he was surprised by Meursault’s “calm” during his mother’s funeral. He remembers that Meursault declined to see his mother’s body and did not cry once. One of the undertaker’s assistants reported that Meursault did not even know how old his mother was. Meursault realizes that the people in the courtroom hate him.
The caretaker testifies that Meursault smoked a cigarette and drank coffee during his vigil. Meursault’s lawyer insists the jury take note that the caretaker had likewise smoked during the vigil, accepting Meursault’s offer of a cigarette. After the caretaker admits to offering Meursault coffee in the first place, the prosecutor derides Meursault as a disloyal son for not refusing the coffee. Thomas Perez takes the stand and recalls being too overcome with sadness during the funeral to notice whether or not Meursault cried. Celeste, claiming Meursault as his friend, attributes Meursault’s killing of the Arab to bad luck. Marie’s testimony reveals Meursault’s plan to marry her. The prosecutor stresses that Marie and Meursault’s sexual relationship began the weekend after the funeral and that they went to see a comedy at the movie theater that day. Favorable accounts—of Meursault’s honesty and decency from Masson, and of Meursault’s kindness to Salamano’s dog from Salamano—counter the prosecutor’s accusations. Raymond testifies that it was just by chance that Meursault became involved in his dispute with his mistress’s brother. The prosecutor retorts by asking if it was just chance that Meursault wrote the letter to Raymond’s mistress, testified on Raymond’s behalf at the police station, and went to the beach the day of the crime.
In his closing argument, the prosecutor cites Meursault’s obvious intelligence and lack of remorse as evidence of premeditated murder. Reminding the jury that the next trial on the court’s schedule involves parricide (the murder of a close relative), the prosecutor alleges that Meursault’s lack of grief over his mother’s death threatens the moral basis of society. In a moral sense, the prosecutor argues, Meursault is just as guilty as the man who killed his own father. Calling for the death penalty, the prosecutor elaborates that Meursault’s actions have paved the way for the man who killed his father, so Meursault must be considered guilty of the other man’s crime as well.
Meursault denies having returned to the beach with the intention of killing the Arab. When the judge asks him to clarify his motivation for the crime, Meursault blurts out that he did it “because of the sun.” Meursault’s lawyer claims that Meursault did a noble thing by sending his mother to a home because he could not afford to care for her. Making Meursault feel further excluded from his own case, Meursault’s lawyer offers an interpretation of the events that led up to the crime, speaking in the first person, as though he were Meursault. Meursault’s mind drifts again during his lawyer’s interminable argument. Meursault is found guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced to death by guillotine.