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The best time to cry is at night, when the lights are out and someone is being beaten up and screaming for help. That way even if you sniffle a little they won’t hear you. If anybody knows that you are crying, they’ll start talking about it and soon it’ll be your turn to get beat up when the lights go out.

There is a mirror over the steel sink in my cell. It’s six inches high, and scratched with the names of some guys who were here before me. When I look into the small rectangle, I see a face looking back at me but I don’t recognize it. It doesn’t look like me. I couldn’t have changed that much in a few months. I wonder if I will look like myself when the trial is over.

This morning at breakfast a guy got hit in the face with a tray. Somebody said some little thing and somebody else got mad. There was blood all over the place.

When the guards came over, they made us line up against the wall. The guy who was hit they made sit at the table while they waited for another guard to bring them rubber gloves. When the gloves came, the guards put them on, handcuffed the guy, and then took him to the dispensary. He was still bleeding pretty bad.

They say you get used to being in jail, but I don’t see how. Every morning I wake up and I am surprised to be here. If your life outside was real, then everything in here is just the opposite. We sleep with strangers, wake up with strangers, and go to the bathroom in front of strangers. They’re strangers but they still find reasons to hurt each other.

Sometimes I feel like I have walked into the middle of a movie. It is a strange movie with no plot and no beginning. The movie is in black and white, and grainy. Sometimes the camera moves in so close that you can’t tell what is going on and you just listen to the sounds and guess. I have seen movies of prisons but never one like this. This is not a movie about bars and locked doors. It is about being alone when you are not really alone and about being scared all the time.

I think to get used to this I will have to give up what I think is real and take up something else. I wish I could make sense of it.

Maybe I could make my own movie. I could write it out and play it in my head. I could block out the scenes like we did in school. The film will be the story of my life. No, not my life, but of this experience. I’ll write it down in the notebook they let me keep. I’ll call it what the lady who is the prosecutor called me.

Monday, July 6th

Monster!

FADE IN: INTERIOR: Early morning in CELL BLOCK D, MANHATTAN DETENTION CENTER. Camera goes slowly down grim, gray corridor. There are sounds of inmates yelling from cell to cell; much of it is obscene. Most of the voices are clearly Black or Hispanic. Camera stops and slowly turns toward a cell.

INTERIOR: CELL. Sixteen-year-old STEVE HARMON is sitting on the edge of a metal cot, head in hands. He is thin, brown skinned. On the cot next to him are the suit and tie he is to wear to court for the start of his trial.

CUT TO: ERNIE, another prisoner, sitting on john, pants down.

CUT TO: SUNSET, another prisoner, pulling on T-shirt.

CUT TO: STEVE pulling blanket over his head as screen goes dark.

VOICE-OVER (VO)

Ain’t no use putting the blanket over your head, man. You can’t cut this out; this is reality. This is the real deal.

VO continues with anonymous PRISONER explaining how the Detention Center is the real thing. As he does, words appear on the screen, just like the opening credits of the movie Star Wars, rolling from the bottom of the screen and shrinking until they are a blur on the top of the screen before rolling off into space.

Monster!

The Story of

My

Miserable

Life

Starring

Steve Harmon

Produced by

Steve Harmon

Directed by

Steve Harmon

(Credits continue to roll.)

The incredible story

of how one guy’s life

was turned around

by a few events

and how he might

spend the rest of his life

behind bars.

Told as it

actually

happened!

Written and directed by Steve Harmon

Featuring…

Sandra Petrocelli

as the Dedicated Prosecutor

Kathy O’Brien

as the Defense Attorney with Doubts

James King

as the Thug

Richard “Bobo” Evans

as the Rat

Osvaldo Cruz, member of the Diablos,

as the Tough Guy Wannabe

Lorelle Henry

as the Witness

José Delgado…

he found the body

And Starring

16-year-old Steve Harmon

as the Boy on Trial for Murder!

Filmed at the Manhattan Detention Center

Set design, handcuffs, and prison outfits by the State of New York VO

Yo, Harmon, you gonna eat something? Come on and get your breakfast, man. I’ll take your eggs if you don’t want them. You want them?

STEVE (subdued)

I’m not hungry.

SUNSET

His trial starts today. He up for the big one. I know how that feels.

CUT TO: INTERIOR: CORRECTIONS DEPT. VAN. Through the bars at the rear of the van, we see people going about the business of their lives in downtown New York. There are men collecting garbage, a female traffic officer motioning for a taxi to make a turn, students on the way to school. Few people notice the van as it makes its way from the DETENTION CENTER to the COURTHOUSE.

CUT TO: PRISONERS, handcuffed, coming from back of van. STEVE is carrying a notebook. He is dressed in the suit and tie we saw on the cot. He is seen only briefly as he is herded through the heavy doors of the courthouse.

FADE OUT as last prisoner from the van enters rear of courthouse.

FADE IN: INTERIOR COURTHOUSE. We are in a small room used for prisoner-lawyer interviews. A guard sits at a desk behind STEVE.

KATHY O’BRIEN, STEVE’s lawyer, is petite, red-haired, and freckled. She is all business as she talks to STEVE.

O’BRIEN

Let me make sure you understand what’s going on. Both you and this King character are on trial for felony murder. Felony murder is as serious as it gets. Sandra Petrocelli is the prosecutor, and she’s good. They’re pushing for the death penalty, which is really bad. The jury might think they’re doing you a big favor by giving you life in prison. So you’d better take this trial very, very seriously.

When you’re in court, you sit there and you pay attention. You let the jury know that you think the case is as serious as they do. You don’t turn and wave to any of your friends. It’s all right to acknowledge your mother.

I have to go and talk to the judge. The trial will begin in a few minutes. Is there anything you want to ask me before it starts?

STEVE

You think we’re going to win?

O’BRIEN (seriously)

It probably depends on what you mean by “win.”

CUT TO: INTERIOR: HOLDING ROOM. We see STEVE sitting at one end of bench. Against the opposite wall, dressed in a sloppy-looking suit, is 23-year-old JAMES KING, the other man on trial. KING looks older than 23. He looks over at STEVE with a hard look and we see STEVE look away. Two GUARDS sit at a table away from the prisoners, who are handcuffed. The camera finds the GUARDS in a MEDIUM SHOT (MS). They have their breakfast in aluminum take-out trays that contain eggs, sausages, and potatoes. A Black female STENOGRAPHER pours coffee for herself and the GUARDS.

STENOGRAPHER

I hope this case lasts two weeks. I can sure use the money.

GUARD 1

Six days—maybe seven. It’s a motion case. They go through the motions; then they lock them up.

(Turns and looks off camera toward STEVE.)

Ain’t that right, bright eyes?

CUT TO: STEVE, who is seated on a low bench. He is handcuffed to a U-bolt put in the bench for that purpose. STEVE looks away from the GUARD.

CUT TO: DOOR. It opens, and COURT CLERK looks in.

COURT CLERK

Two minutes!

CUT TO: GUARDS, who hurriedly finish breakfast. STENOGRAPHER takes machine into COURTROOM. They unshackle STEVE and take him toward door.

CUT TO: STEVE is made to sit down at one table. At another table we see KING and two attorneys. STEVE sits alone. A guard stands behind him. There are one or two spectators in the court. Then four more enter.

CLOSE-UP (CU) of STEVE HARMON. The fear is evident on his face.

MS: People are getting ready for the trial to begin. KATHY O’BRIEN sits next to STEVE.

O’BRIEN

How are you doing?

STEVE

I’m scared.

O’BRIEN

Good; you should be. Anyway, just remember what we’ve been talking about. The judge is going to rule on a motion that King’s lawyer made to suppress Cruz’s testimony, and a few other things. Steve, let me tell you what my job is here. My job is to make sure the law works for you as well as against you, and to make you a human being in the eyes of the jury. Your job is to help me. Any questions you have, write them down and I’ll try to answer them. What are you doing there?

STEVE

I’m writing this whole thing down as a movie.

O’BRIEN

Whatever. Make sure you pay attention. Close attention.

VO (COURT GUARD)

All rise.

The JUDGE enters and sits behind bench. He is tall and thin. He pushes his fingers through wisps of white hair and looks over the COURTROOM before sitting. He is a 60-year-old New York judge and already looks bored with the case. The COURT GUARD signals for people to sit.

JUDGE

Prosecution ready?

SANDRA PETROCELLI, the prosecutor, stands. She is dressed in a gray business suit. She looks intense while still being attractive. Her hair and eyes are dark.

PETROCELLI

Ready, Your Honor.

JUDGE

Defense?

ASA BRIGGS, the lead counsel for the defense of JAMES KING, stands. He is dressed in a dark-blue suit and a light-blue tie. His eyes are also blue, and his hair is white.

BRIGGS

Ready.

O’BRIEN

Ready, Your Honor.

JUDGE

All right. I’m ruling the kid’s testimony is admissible. You can bring up your motions relative to that ruling this afternoon or if there’s a break. Hope everyone had a good Fourth of July?

BRIGGS

The usual barbecue and a softball game that reminded me that I can’t run anymore.

O’BRIEN

With all the fireworks, it’s my least favorite holiday.

JUDGE

Bring in the jury.

CUT TO: FILM WORKSHOP at Stuyvesant High School. A film on a small screen is just ending. It is a class project, and the camera is shaky. We watch as a girl on the screen walks slowly away. Screen goes black, then dazzling white, then normal as lights go on.

We see MR. SAWICKI, film club mentor, and 9 STUDENTS, who are casually dressed.

SAWICKI

In a juried competition the ending would have hurt this piece, but otherwise it was interesting. Any comments?

We see STEVE raising his hand, looking much the same as he does in court.

STEVE

I liked the ending.

SAWICKI

I didn’t say it was bad, but wasn’t it predictable? You need to predict without predicting. You know what I mean? When you make a film, you leave an impression on the viewers, who serve as a kind of jury for your film. If you make your film predictable, they’ll make up their minds about it long before it’s over.

CUT TO: COURTROOM. We see the JURORS filing in and taking their seats.

STEVE (to attorney)

You think they look all right?

O’BRIEN

They are what we have for a jury. We have to deal with them.

CUT TO: LONG SHOT (LS) of PETROCELLI. She stands at the podium in front of the JURY. She smiles at the JURORS, and some smile back.

PETROCELLI

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Sandra Petrocelli and I’m an Assistant District Attorney for the State of New York. I am representing the people in this matter, which you were informed during jury selection is a case of felony murder. We’re here today basically because this is not a perfect world. The founding fathers of our country understood this. They knew that there would be times and circumstances during which our society would be threatened by the acts of individuals. This is one of those times. A citizen of our city, a citizen of our state and country, has been killed by people who attempted to rob him. To safeguard our society, a system of laws has been created. You, the jury, are part of this system of laws. I represent the State of New York and I am part of that system, as are the judge and all the participants in this trial. I will do my best to bring you the facts of this case, and I know you will do your best to judge the merits of the case.

Most people in our community are decent, hardworking citizens who pursue their own interests legally and without infringing on the rights of others. But there are also monsters in our communities—people who are willing to steal and to kill, people who disregard the rights of others.

On the 22nd of December of last year, at approximately 4 o’clock in the afternoon, 2 men entered a drugstore on 145th Street in Harlem. The State will contend that one of those men was Richard “Bobo” Evans. The State will contend that the other man who entered the store at that time, and who participated in the robbery and the murder, was James King.

PETROCELLI points to the table at which JAMES KING sits.

Mr. King is the man sitting at that table who is wearing a brown suit and is sitting at the right of the table. You were introduced to him during the jury selection process. He is one of the men on trial here today. The purpose of the 2 men entering the store on that Monday was very simple. They were going to rob the owner, 55-year-old Alguinaldo Nesbitt. We will show that although the 2 men did not have a gun with them, the owner of the store did have a gun for which he had a license, and produced it to defend his property.

Mr. Evans, who participated in the robbery, will testify that there was a struggle, which resulted in the gun being discharged and Mr. Nesbitt being killed. Mr. Nesbitt had every right to defend his property, every right not to be robbed. We all have that right.

Further, there will be evidence that prior to the robbery there was a plan, or conspiracy, to rob the store. Mr. Evans and Mr. King were to enter the store and do the actual robbery. Another of the planners of this crime was to stand outside the drugstore and impede anyone chasing the robbers. The young man who had this assignment will testify to his role in the affair. Yet another of the conspirators, the planners of this robbery that left a man dead, was to go into the store prior to the robbery to check it out, to make sure that there were no police in the store. To make sure that the coast was clear, as they say.

Two of the conspirators will testify to their understanding of this fact. The man who was to enter the store and check it out is sitting at the other table. His name is Steven Harmon.

CUT TO: STEVE HARMON. Then: CU of the pad in front of him. He is writing the word Monster over and over again. A white hand (O’BRIEN’s) takes the pencil from his hand and crosses out all the Monsters.

O’BRIEN (whispering)

You have to believe in yourself if we’re going to convince a jury that you’re innocent.

CUT TO: MS of PETROCELLI.

PETROCELLI

A medical examiner will testify to the cause of death, showing that the gunshot wound was fatal. Even though it was Mr. Nesbitt’s gun, it was not Mr. Nesbitt who caused his own death. This was no suicide. This death was a direct result of the robbery. Very simply put, this is a case of murder. It is, moreover, a murder committed during a felonious act. The 2 defendants you see before you will be shown to be participants in that act and are being charged with felony murder. Later, the judge will give you instructions on how to consider the evidence presented. But there is no doubt in my mind, and I believe by the end of the trial there will be little doubt in yours, that these 2 men, James King and Steven Harmon, were all part of the robbery that caused the death of Alguinaldo Nesbitt. Thank you.

CUT TO: LS of COURTROOM. O’BRIEN is at attorneys’ podium.

CUT TO: STEVE’s MOTHER, on wooden bench in the gallery area, listening intently. Her face looks worried.

O’BRIEN

The State correctly says that the laws of a society provide protection for its citizens. When a crime is committed, it is the State that must apply the law in a manner that offers redress and that brings the guilty parties to justice. But the laws also protect the accused, and that is the wonder and beauty of the American system of justice. We don’t drag people out of their beds in the middle of the night and lynch them. We don’t torture people. We don’t beat them. We apply the law equally to both sides. The law that protects society protects all of society. In this case we will show that the evidence that the State will produce is seriously flawed. We will show not only that there is room for reasonable doubt—and you will hear more about that idea at the end of this trial—but that the doubt that Steve Harmon has committed any crime, any crime at all, is overwhelming.

As Mr. Harmon’s attorney all I ask of you, the jury, is that you look at Steve Harmon now and remember that at this moment the American system of justice demands that you consider him innocent. He is innocent until proven guilty. If you consider him innocent now, and by law you must, if you have not prejudged him, then I don’t believe we will have a problem convincing you that nothing the State will produce will challenge that innocence. Thank you.

CUT TO: BRIGGS.

BRIGGS

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Asa Briggs, and I will be defending Mr. King. Miss Petrocelli, representing the State, has presented this case in very broad and grandiose terms. But you will soon see that her key witnesses are among the most self-serving, heartless people imaginable. Some of them will begin their testimony by swearing that they are criminals. You will have the unpleasant task of listening to people who have committed crimes, who have lied and stolen, and in at least one instance has been an admitted, and let me emphasize this, an admitted accomplice to murder. But in the end you will have the opportunity to judge the State’s key witnesses and to deliver a just verdict. What I am asking you to do is just that. Judge what they bring up on the witness stand, and then deliver your just verdict. Thank you.

CUT TO: WITNESS STAND. JOSÉ DELGADO is on the stand. He is young, very well built, and articulate.

JOSÉ

I’m on until 9—the store closes at 9. So in the afternoon I either go home and grab a bite or go out for Chinese. That night I went out for Chinese. Usually I get something and eat it in the back. When I went out, everything was okay.

PETROCELLI

What time did you leave the drugstore?

JOSÉ

Four thirty, maybe 4:35 at the latest.

PETROCELLI

And what did you discover on your return?

JOSÉ

At first I didn’t see anything—which I knew was weird because Mr. Nesbitt wouldn’t leave the place empty. I went around behind the counter and I saw Mr. Nesbitt on the floor—there was blood everywhere—and the cash register was open. A lot of cigarettes were missing, too. Maybe 5 cartons.

PETROCELLI

And did you call the police?

JOSÉ

Yeah, but I knew Mr. Nesbitt was dead.

PETROCELLI

Mr. Delgado, are you familiar with the so-called martial arts?

JOSÉ

That’s my hobby. I have a black belt in karate.

PETROCELLI

Is that fact pretty well known in the neighborhood in which the drugstore operated?

JOSÉ

Yeah, because whenever I was in a match and it made the papers, Mr. Nesbitt used to put the paper in the window.

PETROCELLI

Did police ever visit the drugstore?

JOSÉ

Sometimes they would come in and sneak a smoke.

PETROCELLI

Nothing further.

BRIGGS

You state that 5 cartons of cigarettes were missing?

JOSÉ

That’s right.

BRIGGS

Five, not 6?

JOSÉ

Afterward I checked the inventory. It was 5.

BRIGGS

What medical school did you attend?

JOSÉ

None.

BRIGGS

But you said you knew that Mr. Nesbitt was dead. You were sure of it. That right?

JOSÉ

Pretty sure.

BRIGGS

Sure enough to stop and do inventory before trying to help your boss?

JOSÉ

I didn’t take inventory right away, I just noticed. You work in a store, you notice if something is missing.

BRIGGS

How long did it take?

JOSÉ (pissed)

I don’t remember.

BRIGGS

Nothing further.

O’BRIEN

No questions.

PETROCELLI (as JOSÉ steps down)

The state calls Salvatore Zinzi.

CUT TO: SAL ZINZI on the stand. He is nervous, slightly overweight. He wears thick glasses, which he touches over and over again as he testifies.

PETROCELLI

Mr. Zinzi, where were you when you first became involved with this case?

ZINZI

Riker’s Island.

PETROCELLI

Why were you there?

ZINZI

Stolen property. A guy sold me some baseball cards. They were stolen.

PETROCELLI

You knew they were stolen?

ZINZI

Yeah. I guess.

PETROCELLI

While you were at Riker’s Island, did you engage in a certain conversation with a Wendell Bolden?

ZINZI

Yes, ma’am.

PETROCELLI

You want to tell me about the conversation?

ZINZI

He said he knew about a drugstore holdup where a guy was killed, and he was thinking of turning the guy in to get a break.

PETROCELLI

And what did you do as a result of this conversation?

ZINZI

I called Detective Gluck and told him what I knew.

PETROCELLI

Because you wanted a break too. Is that right?

ZINZI

Yeah.

PETROCELLI

So Bolden told you he knew about the crime. Was there anything else?

ZINZI

That was it.

PETROCELLI

Did he tell you about some cigarettes?

ZINZI

Yeah, he—

BRIGGS

Objection! She’s leading.

PETROCELLI

Withdrawn. What else did he tell you?

ZINZI

That he got some cigarettes from this guy. Two cartons.

PETROCELLI

Did he tell you the name of the person he got the cigarettes from?

ZINZI

No, just that he was sure the guy was involved in the holdup.

PETROCELLI

Nothing further.

CUT TO: BRIGGS at the podium.

BRIGGS

You wanted a break, Mr. Zinzi. Why did you need a break? You only had a few months to do; isn’t that right?

ZINZI

Some guys were…sexually harassing me, sir.

BRIGGS

Sexually harassing? Were they calling you a sissy? What does “sexually harass” mean to you?

ZINZI

They wanted to have sex with me.

BRIGGS

So to save yourself from being gang raped—Is that what they wanted to do to you?

ZINZI

Yeah.

BRIGGS

And you were afraid?

ZINZI

Yeah.

BRIGGS

You were afraid, and you would have said just about anything to get out of that situation. Isn’t that right?

ZINZI

I guess so.

BRIGGS

Would you lie?

ZINZI

No.

BRIGGS

Let me get this straight, Mr. Zinzi. You’d buy stolen goods for profit, rat on somebody to save your own hide, but you’re too good to lie. Is that right?

ZINZI

I’m not lying now.

BRIGGS

As a matter of fact, this Bolden was going to see what he could get out of this, but you stole his chance, too. Didn’t you?

ZINZI

I guess.

BRIGGS

No further questions.

O’BRIEN

Mr. Zinzi, how long were you in jail?

ZINZI

Forty-three days.

O’BRIEN

Do people in jail look for stories to report to the police?

PETROCELLI (calmly)

Objection. The question’s too vague.

O’BRIEN

Well, let me put it this way, Mr. Zinzi. This Mr. Bolden was going to use this story for his own benefit, is that right?

ZINZI

Right.

O’BRIEN

And you decided to use it for your benefit?

ZINZI

Right. Lots of guys in jail do that.

O’BRIEN

You use stories and you use people, right?

ZINZI

Sometimes.

O’BRIEN

And the outcome of your talking with the detective in question is that you were able to reach the District Attorney’s office and strike a deal. Isn’t that right? You were able to strike a deal that got you out of jail early? Isn’t that right?

ZINZI

That’s right.

O’BRIEN

You happy with the deal?

ZINZI

Yeah.

O’BRIEN

Nothing further.

PETROCELLI

Mr. Zinzi, do you know when you’re lying and when you’re telling the truth?

ZINZI

Yes—sure.

PETROCELLI

You telling the truth now?

ZINZI

Yeah.

PETROCELLI

Nothing further.

FLASHBACK of 12-year-old STEVE walking in a NEIGHBORHOOD PARK with his friend TONY.

TONY

They should let me pitch. I can throw straight as anything. (Scoops up a rock.) See the lamppost? (Throws rock. We see that it bounces in front of the post and careens slightly to one side.) STEVE

You can’t throw. (Picks up rock and throws it. We see it sail past the post and hit a YOUNG WOMAN. The TOUGH GUY she is walking with turns and sees the 2 young boys.) TOUGH GUY

Hey, man. Who threw that rock? (He approaches.)

STEVE

Tony! Run!

TONY (taking a tentative step)

What? (TOUGH GUY punches TONY. TONY falls—TOUGH GUY stands over TONY as STEVE backs off. YOUNG WOMAN pulls TOUGH GUY away, and they leave.) TONY and STEVE are left in the park with TONY sitting on the ground.

TONY

I didn’t throw that rock. You threw it.

STEVE

I didn’t say you threw it. I just said “Run.” You should’ve run.

TONY

I’ll get me an Uzi and blow his brains out.

Tuesday, July 7th

Notes:

I can hardly think about the movie, I hate this place so much. But if I didn’t think of the movie I would go crazy. All they talk about in here is hurting people. If you look at somebody, they say, “What you looking at me for? I’ll mess you up!” If you make a noise they don’t like, they say they’ll mess you up. One guy has a knife. It’s not really a knife, but a blade glued onto a toothbrush handle.

I hate this place. I hate this place. I can’t write it enough times to make it look the way I feel. I hate, hate, hate this place!!

CUT TO: INTERIOR: COURTROOM. WENDELL BOLDEN is on the stand. He is average height but heavily built with large, ashy hands. He acts like he’s mad and wants everybody to know it.

PETROCELLI

Mr. Bolden, have you ever been arrested?

BOLDEN

Yeah. For B&E, and possession with intent.

PETROCELLI

Possession is obviously drugs and the intent to distribute. Can you tell the jury what B&E means?

BOLDEN

B&E. Breaking and entering.

PETROCELLI

And what were you in for when you spoke to Mr. Zinzi?

BOLDEN

Assault.

PETROCELLI

But the charges were dropped?

BOLDEN

Yeah, they were dropped.

PETROCELLI

Can you tell us about the conversation between you and Mr. Zinzi?

BOLDEN

I got some cigarettes from a guy who told me he was in on a drugstore robbery up on Malcolm X Boulevard. I knew a dude got killed, and I was thinking of trading what I knew for some slack.

PETROCELLI

As a matter of fact, didn’t Mr. Zinzi also try to use that information himself?

BOLDEN

He called a detective he knew.

PETROCELLI

Can you name the person involved in the robbery?

BRIGGS

Objection! He can testify to the conversation—not the robbery, unless he was there.

PETROCELLI

Withdrawn…. So who gave you the information that he was involved in a robbery?

BOLDEN

Bobo Evans.

Camera pans to KING, who gives BOLDEN a dirty look.

CUT TO: EXTERIOR STOOP ON 141ST STREET. There is a small tricycle on the sidewalk. It is missing one wheel. The garbage cans at the curb are overflowing. Three young girls jump rope near the trash.

JAMES KING and STEVE are sitting on the steps.

A heavy woman, PEACHES, sits slightly above them, and a thin man, JOHNNY, stands. He is smoking a blunt.

KING (almost a drawl)

I need to get paid, man. I ain’t got nothing between my butt and the ground but a rag.

STEVE

I hear that.

PEACHES

You can’t even hardly make it these days. They talking about cutting welfare, cutting Social Security, and anything else that makes life a little easy. They might as well bring back slavery times if you ask me.

KING

If I had a crew, I could get paid. All you need is a crew with some heart and a nose for the cash.

PEACHES

Banks is where the money is.

JOHNNY

Naw. Bank money is too serious. The man comes down hard for bank money. You need to find a getover where nobody don’t care—you know what I mean. You cop from somebody with a green card or an illegal and they don’t even report it.

PEACHES

Restaurant owners got money, too. That’s the only things left in our neighborhood—restaurants, liquor stores, and drugstores.

KING

What you got, youngblood?

STEVE

(Looks up at KING.) I don’t know.

JOHNNY

Yo—what’s your name? Steve. Since when you been down?

CUT TO: INTERIOR: COURTROOM. BOLDEN is still on the stand.

BOLDEN

So he turned me on to 2 cartons for 5 dollars each. I asked him how he copped and he said he was in a robbery in a drugstore. I didn’t say no more because all I wanted was the smokes.

PETROCELLI

Did he tell you when the store was robbed?

BOLDEN

He said it just went down.

PETROCELLI

And when did this conversation take place?

BOLDEN

The day before Christmas. I remember that because I gave a carton of cigarettes to my moms as a present.

PETROCELLI

No further questions.

BRIGGS

How well do you know Mr. Evans?

BOLDEN

I know him when I see him.

BRIGGS

Did you know him before Christmas?

BOLDEN

Not really.

BRIGGS

Let’s see, now. You don’t know this man, and yet when you ask him where he got the cigarettes, he’s going to tell you that he got them from a holdup in which he was involved and in which a man was killed?

BOLDEN

If he wants to run his mouth, that’s his business.

BRIGGS

And didn’t you think it strange that a man would give out information that could be harmful to him if he had actually been involved in this case?

CUT TO: CU of JUROR looking bored.

CUT TO: CU of BOLDEN.

BOLDEN

Hey, I don’t even care.

BRIGGS

Your assault charge was dropped—is that correct?

BOLDEN

Yeah.

BRIGGS

The maximum sentence for the assault was how long? Do you know?

BOLDEN

I wasn’t convicted.

BRIGGS

Do you know the maximum sentence?

PETROCELLI

Objection.

JUDGE

Overruled; it’s pertinent.

BRIGGS

So you saved yourself some heavy jail time by pointing a finger at Mr. King, isn’t that right?

BOLDEN

I just wanted to do the right thing. You know, like a good citizen.

BRIGGS (showing anger)

You were in jail trying to be a good citizen? Or were you really just trying to get out of jail and not caring who you put in? Isn’t that what you’re really doing? Well, isn’t it?

PETROCELLI

Objection! Defense counsel is stepping over his bounds.

JUDGE

This is a good time for a break. I have some administrative tasks to get done this afternoon. Let’s adjourn until tomorrow. I want to remind the jury not to discuss the case with anyone. We’ll reconvene 9 A.M. tomorrow.

CUT TO: INTERIOR: DETENTION CENTER. It is night; the lights are out except for dim night-lights placed along the walls. We hear the sounds of fists methodically punching someone as the camera goes slowly down the corridor, almost seeming to look for the source of the hitting. We see two inmates silhouetted, beating a third. Another inmate is on lookout.

CUT TO: CU of STEVE lying on his cot. The sounds are in his cell, but he is not the one being beaten. We see the whites of his eyes, then we see him close his eyes as the sounds of the beating stop and the sounds become those of a sexual attack against the inmate who was beaten.

FADE OUT.

FADE IN: INTERIOR: STEVE’s HOME. It is neatly furnished, clean. STEVE is watching TV with 11-year-old JERRY, his brother.

JERRY

You ever want to be a superhero? You know, save people and stuff?

STEVE

Sure. You know who I’d want to be? Superman. I’d be wearing glasses and stuff and people would be messing with me and then I’d kick butt.

JERRY

I bet you’d be a cool superhero. You know who you should be?

STEVE

Who?

JERRY

Batman. Then I could be Robin. (STEVE gives Jerry a brotherly shove.) FADE OUT.

Wednesday, July 8

They take away your shoelaces and your belt so you can’t kill yourself no matter how bad it is. I guess making you live is part of the punishment.

It’s funny, but when I’m sitting in the courtroom, I don’t feel like I’m involved in the case. It’s like the lawyers and the judge and everybody are doing a job that involves me, but I don’t have a role. It’s only when I go back to the cells that I know I’m involved.

Miss O’Brien says that Petrocelli is using Bolden’s testimony as part of a trail that will lead to me and James King. I think she is wrong. I think they are bringing out all of these people and letting them look terrible on the stand and sound terrible and then reminding the jury that they don’t look any different from me and King.

I like the last scene in the movie, the one between me and Jerry. It makes me seem like a real person.

The man they called Sunset asked me if he could read the screenplay, and I let him. He liked it. Sunset said he liked the name of the screenplay. He said when he gets out, he will have the word Monster tattooed on his forehead. I feel like I already have it tattooed on mine.

A preacher came to the recreation room with a guard this afternoon. He asked if anyone wanted to talk with him or share a moment of prayer. Two guys said they did, and I was just about ready to say I would when Lynch, a guy who is going on trial for killing his wife, started cursing at the preacher and saying that everybody wanted to talk to him and act like they were good when they were just criminals. “It’s too late to put up your holy front now,” he said.

In a way he was right, at least about me. I want to look like a good person. I want to feel like I’m a good person because I believe I am. But being in here with these guys makes it hard to think about yourself as being different. We look about the same, and even though I’m younger than they are, it’s hard not to notice that we are all pretty young. I see what Miss O’Brien meant when she said part of her job was to make me look human in the eyes of the jury.

When Lynch started cursing at the preacher, the guards took the preacher out, and then they came back and turned the television off and made us go back to our cells.

Notes:

I couldn’t sleep most of the night after the dream. The dream took place in the courtroom. I was trying to ask questions and nobody could hear me. I was shouting and shouting but everyone went about their business as if I wasn’t there. I hope I didn’t shout out in my sleep. That would look weak to everybody. It’s not good to be weak in here.

Every morning we get up and put on our court clothes. The talk is lawyer talk, with all the older guys talking about appeals and “mistakes” that the judge made.

I feel terrible. My stomach is gassy and bloated. I still can’t go to the bathroom in front of everyone.

When we got in the court, there was a delay because the stenographer had brought the wrong power cord. The court officer was talking about termites.

FADE IN: COURTROOM. STEVE and KING are cuffed to a bench. COURT OFFICERS, PETROCELLI, STENOGRAPHER, JUDGE, BRIGGS, and O’BRIEN are present.

OFFICER 1

So this guy comes to the house and tells Vivian we got termites. I get home and she’s all upset. I said no way we got termites. No way.

JUDGE

You ever see any termites?

OFFICER 1

What the heck’s a termite look like?

O’BRIEN

Like an ant with wings.

OFFICER 1

Then I’ve never seen one.

OFFICER 2

I heard they hide in the wood.

JUDGE

What I don’t understand is why they have wings if they stay in the wood.

PETROCELLI

Are you going to let us do the affidavit on the crime scene?

JUDGE

Any objections?

BRIGGS

Who’s going to read it in court?

JUDGE

The clerk.

BRIGGS

No objections.

O’BRIEN

What’s with the detective?

PETROCELLI

He’s having problems with a hemorrhoid operation.

BRIGGS

Wait—I didn’t know that—maybe we can keep him on the stand for an hour or 2.

CUT TO: CU of PETROCELLI.

PETROCELLI

Detective Karyl, can you describe the scene when you entered the drugstore?

CU: KARYL.

KARYL

It was pretty gruesome.

CUT TO: INTERIOR: Camera pans down aisles of neighborhood DRUGSTORE.

CUT TO: MS of JOSÉ DELGADO. He moves in slow motion. He is pale, glancing nervously at a point out of sight of camera. He is explaining something to DETECTIVE KARYL, who stands leaning against counter. The DETECTIVE is heavy, stooped.

CUT TO: A shot of open cash register.

CUT TO: COURTROOM.

PETROCELLI

Are these the pictures you took at that time?

KARYL

The crime-scene photographer took them.

O’BRIEN

May I see them?

MS: PETROCELLI hands pictures to O’BRIEN, who places them before her on desk.

CUT TO: CU of photos. We see legs of the slain drugstore owner, NESBITT.

CUT TO: BLACK-AND-WHITE SHOTS from various angles of body in grotesque position. Pictures flash in an increasingly contrasty and grainy format until they are hardly recognizable.

PETROCELLI

Detective Karyl, when you discovered the body, were there any signs of life in the victim?

KARYL

No. But I called the Emergency Medical Service, which is standard procedure.

PETROCELLI

And you noted the open cash register?

KARYL

That’s correct. And at that time I asked the clerk was there anything else missing. Often in these cases you might find some cough medicine missing, or some attempt to open a restricted-drugs case. There’s a market for drugs of any kind.

PETROCELLI

Did you look for other clues, and did you find any?

KARYL

We looked for other clues, but we didn’t actually find anything.

PETROCELLI

Eventually you began questioning suspects in this case. How did you come across the suspects?

KARYL

We questioned a number of people we felt might have some knowledge of the crime. Then we received a tip from a person who claimed he knew what happened to the cigarettes.

PETROCELLI

That would be Mr. Zinzi?

KARYL

That’s correct. He told us about Mr. Bolden. Then Mr. Bolden told us about Mr. Evans and Mr. King.

PETROCELLI

And both Zinzi and Bolden had their own motives in doing this?

KARYL

We often use information from informants, especially in murder cases.

PETROCELLI

And did you talk to Mr. King?

KARYL

To Mr. King and to some of his associates.

FADE OUT.

FADE IN: INTERIOR: 28TH PRECINCT. STEVE is sitting on a long, dark bench. He is dressed in cutoffs, sneakers, and a T-shirt. There is a basketball on the floor near him. DETECTIVE KARYL is sitting across from STEVE. He is eating a cheeseburger. Sometimes he talks with his mouth full. A Black detective, ARTHUR WILLIAMS, sits on the edge of the table. He is dressed much as STEVE is and looks only a few years older.

KARYL

They’re saying that you pulled the trigger. King said the score was over but you turned back and shot Nesbitt. Why did you do that? I can’t figure it.

STEVE

I don’t know what you’re talking about, man. I didn’t do any stickup.

KARYL

You figured you didn’t want to leave any witnesses, I guess.

WILLIAMS

What are we playing with this guy for? We don’t need him. We got the case locked.

KARYL

The DA is thinking death penalty.

WILLIAMS

Death penalty? Chances are the judge will push for life without parole. And if they come clean, he might even go for 25 to life. You save a lot of time and money that way.

KARYL

I don’t know. The victim was well respected in the neighborhood. Hardworking Black guy, worked his way up. He even sponsored a Little League team. The judge could go for the death penalty if they plead not guilty.

WILLIAMS

This guy’s only 16. They won’t kill him.

KARYL

What are you, a pessimist? Hope for the best.

CUT TO: Weird shot of INTERIOR: DEATH ROW. STEVE is seen walking down the hallway between two guards. He is brought into the death chamber. The guards are pale, almost greenish. They lay STEVE on the table for the lethal injection and strap him down.

CU of STEVE’s face. He is terrified.

VO (as camera focuses on STEVE’s face)

Open your legs; we have to plug up your butt so you don’t mess yourself as you die.

STEVE’s face grimaces with pain as they put in the plug.

CUT TO: INTERIOR: COURTROOM. KARYL is still on stand as BRIGGS cross-examines.

BRIGGS

Did you dust the area for fingerprints?

KARYL

It’s my understanding that the crime-scene technicians didn’t find any fingerprints they could establish as belonging to a perpetrator.

BRIGGS

Isn’t it true that what you did in this case was to skip the investigation and run to your stoolies?

KARYL

We treat each case carefully. We don’t just go through the motions.

BRIGGS

The cash register was handled, but you didn’t find fingerprints, is that right?

KARYL

Not clear prints.

BRIGGS

How about the counter—was that dusted for fingerprints?

KARYL

Nothing clear enough to use.

BRIGGS

And it really isn’t that hard to find people who are in jail or whom you arrest to swear that somebody else is a bad guy? Isn’t that right?

KARYL

We check every story. We give everybody the benefit of the doubt.

BRIGGS

But you don’t check fingerprints?

KARYL

We check them when we find them.

BRIGGS

Right. Nothing further.

CUT TO: INTERIOR: JAIL. An OLDER PRISONER sits on the john, his pants around his ankles.

OLDER PRISONER

They got to give you some time. A guy dies and you get time. That’s the deal. Why the hell should you walk? And don’t give me young. Young don’t count when a guy dies. Why should you walk?

STEVE

’Cause I’m a human being. I want a life too! What’s wrong with that?

OLDER PRISONER

Nothing. But there’s rules you got to follow. You do the crime, you do the time. You act like garbage, they treat you like garbage.

PRISONER 2

Yo, man. You acting like you a preacher or something—but guess where you at? This ain’t no hotel.

OLDER PRISONER

But I ain’t complaining.

PRISONER 2

But suppose he innocent?

OLDER PRISONER

You innocent?

STEVE

Yes.

OLDER PRISONER

Yeah, well, somebody got to do some time. They’re going to lock somebody up.

PRISONER 3

How’s he gonna say he’s innocent? That’s why they holding the trial—so the jury can say if he’s innocent or not. What he says now don’t even count.

OLDER PRISONER

Whatever. Anyone got a newspaper?

FADE OUT

FADE IN: INTERIOR: WAITING ROOM. O’BRIEN enters and sits on bench with STEVE. STEVE’s wrist is handcuffed to bench.

O’BRIEN (indicating cuffs)

This wasn’t necessary.

STEVE

They just like to show they’re in charge. How do you think the trial is going?

O’BRIEN

It could be going better.

STEVE (surprised)

What’s wrong?

O’BRIEN

Well, frankly, nothing is happening that speaks to your being innocent. Half of those jurors, no matter what they said when we questioned them when we picked the jury, believed you were guilty the moment they laid eyes on you. You’re young, you’re Black, and you’re on trial. What else do they need to know?

STEVE

I thought you’re supposed to be innocent until you’re proven guilty?

O’BRIEN

That’s true, but in reality it depends on how the jury sees the case. If they see it as a contest between the defense and the prosecution as to who’s lying, they’ll vote for the prosecution. The prosecutor walks around looking very important. No one is accusing her of being a bad person. They’re accusing you of being a monster. The jury can ask itself, Why should the prosecutor lie? Our job is to show that she’s not lying, but she’s simply made a mistake. How are you feeling? Is your stomach still upset?

STEVE

A little better.

O’BRIEN

This afternoon we have an important witness scheduled. This Osvaldo Cruz character. What do you know about him?

CUT TO: EXTERIOR: NEIGHBORHOOD STOOP. Fourteen-year-old OSVALDO CRUZ is slim, well built. He has a tattoo of a devil’s head on his left forearm and a tattoo of a dagger on the back of his right hand between the thumb and forefinger. FREDDY ALOU, 16 and tough, sits fiddling with a beeper he is trying to repair. STEVE is sitting with them.

FREDDY (to STEVE)

What school you go to?

OSVALDO

He goes to that faggot school downtown. All they learn there is how to be a faggot.

FREDDY

You let him dis you like that, man?

OSVALDO

He don’t have no choice. He mess with me and the Diablos will burn him up. Ain’t that right, faggot?

STEVE

I can kick your narrow butt any day in the week.

OSVALDO

Well, here it is, so why don’t you come and kick it?

FREDDY

You better chill; he hangs with some bad dudes.

OSVALDO

He don’t hang with nobody. He’s just a lame looking for a name. Ain’t that right, Steve? Ain’t that right?

STEVE

Why don’t you shut up?

OSVALDO

You ain’t got the heart to be nothing but a lame. Everybody knows that. You might be hanging out with some people, but when the deal goes down, you won’t be around.

STEVE

Yeah, and you will be, huh?

CUT TO: INTERIOR: COURTROOM. OSVALDO is on the stand.

OSVALDO (softly, timidly)

So Bobo said to me if I didn’t help him, he’d cut me up.

CUT TO: STEVE writing on pad.

CU: OSVALDO.

OSVALDO

He said he would cut me up and get my moms, too. I was, like, really scared of him.

PETROCELLI

Have you ever seen Bobo hurt anyone?

OSVALDO

I heard he messed up a dude in the projects.

BRIGGS

Objection.

JUDGE

Sustained.

PETROCELLI

Do you know as a matter of fact if Bobo has hurt anyone in the hood?

BRIGGS

Objection! Unless the prosecutor is going to pass out glossaries to the jury, I want her to use standard English.

JUDGE

Overruled.

OSVALDO

He told me he did some time for cutting a guy in the projects.

PETROCELLI

Do you know how old Bobo is?

OSVALDO

Twenty-two.

PETROCELLI

And how old are you, Osvaldo?

BRIGGS

Objection! Why are we suddenly on a first-name basis?

PETROCELLI

And how old are you, Mr. Cruz?

OSVALDO

Fourteen.

PETROCELLI

You live on 144th Street; is that correct?

OSVALDO

Yeah, across from the school.

PETROCELLI

I’m going to give you a series of names, and you will tell me if you know any of them. James King?

OSVALDO

Yeah, that’s him at that table in the blue suit.

PETROCELLI

Let the record indicate that Mr. Cruz has identified Mr. King. Steve Harmon?

OSVALDO

He’s the Black guy sitting at the other table.

PETROCELLI

Let the record show that Mr. Cruz has identified Steve Harmon. (Turning back to Osvaldo) All right. Did Mr. Evans, or Bobo, make a proposition to you?

BRIGGS

Leading!

PETROCELLI

Your honor, Mr. Cruz is a juvenile!

BRIGGS

He’s hostile? He’s a juvenile. Do you mean to say he’s hostile?

PETROCELLI

No, but you are.

JUDGE

That’s not necessary, Miss Petrocelli. You haven’t established Mr. Cruz as a hostile witness.

PETROCELLI

Mr. Cruz, how real did you think Mr. Evans’s—Bobo’s—threat was?

OSVALDO

I thought it was the real deal. You know, like I thought he would mess me up.

PETROCELLI

Were you afraid of Mr. King?

BRIGGS

Objection! If she wants to testify instead of the witness, fine. Swear her in, but she can’t lead the witness like that.

JUDGE

Sustained.

PETROCELLI

Did you participate in this robbery?

OSVALDO

Yes, I did.

PETROCELLI

Why?

OSVALDO

Because I was afraid of them. They were all older than me.

PETROCELLI

Who exactly were you afraid of?

OSVALDO

Bobo, James King, and Steve Harmon.

PETROCELLI

And was Bobo the only one who actually threatened you?

BRIGGS

There she goes again!

JUDGE

Where’s she going? That’s not leading! You think that’s leading? Look, I think it’s a good time for a break, folks. Maybe we’ll all be a bit more civil after a good night’s sleep.

LS as JURY files out. Then the GUARDS come and cuff STEVE and JAMES KING. MS of OSVALDO passing STEVE. The two young men look at each other for a brief instant; then OSVALDO turns away.

FADE TO BLACK.

Thursday, July 9th

Miss O’Brien’s saying that things looked bad for me was really discouraging. I wonder if the prosecutor knows what Osvaldo is really like. I wonder if she knows what I’m really like, or if she cares.

This morning one of the guys in the next cell expects a verdict. His name is Acie. He was telling everybody that he didn’t care what they said about him. He held up a check-cashing place and shot the guard.

“All they can do is put me in jail,” he said. “They can’t touch my soul.” He said he needed the money and intended to pay it back once he got on his feet. He said that God understood and would give him another chance. Then he started crying.

His crying got to me. Miss O’Brien said the judge could sentence me to 25 years to life. If he did, I would have to serve at least 21 years and 3 months. I can’t imagine being in jail for that long. I wanted to cry with the guy.

As I got dressed, I felt sick to my stomach. Mama leaves clean shirts and underwear for me. I thought of her in the kitchen ironing the shirts. I think about myself so much, about what’s going to happen to me and all, that I don’t think about my folks that much. I know she loves me, but I wonder what she’s thinking.

Mr. Nesbitt. I thought about Mr. Nesbitt and remembered the pictures they showed of him. When they were passing them to the jury I didn’t look at them, but afterward, when the jury left, Miss O’Brien took them out and put them on the table in front of us. She made notes about them, but I could tell she wanted me to look at them. I looked at them.

Mr. Nesbitt’s right foot was turned out. His left arm was lifted and bent at the elbow so that his fingers almost touched the side of his head. His eyes weren’t completely closed.

Miss O’Brien looked at me—I didn’t see her looking at me but I knew she was. She wanted to know who I was. Who was Steve Harmon? I wanted to open my shirt and tell her to look into my heart to see who I really was, who the real Steve Harmon was.

That was what I was thinking, about what was in my heart and what that made me. I’m just not a bad person. I know that in my heart I am not a bad person.

Just before I had to go back to the cell block yesterday, I asked Miss O’Brien about herself. She said she was born in Queens, New York. She went to Bishop McDonnell High School, and then St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn. After that she worked her way through New York University Law School.

“And here I am,” she said.

It sounded like a good life even though she said it like it was nothing special.

In the holding pen, across from where we enter the courtroom, the guards were talking about their lives. One wanted to talk about how much money his kid’s teeth were costing to have them fixed. The other guard didn’t have any kids and he wanted to talk about how the Yankees were doing.

We didn’t start on time because one of the jurors was late.

“The little blonde,” the guard who wasn’t married said. “Her old man probably had something for her to do before she left the house.” They laughed. It must have been funny.

While we were waiting, they brought King in and handcuffed him near me. I thought of the movie, of what kind of camera angle I would use.

I could smell the different scents of him. He had on aftershave lotion and some kind of grease on his hair. I could separate the smells. Please don’t speak to me, I prayed.

“They ain’t got nothing yet,” he said. “Osvaldo don’t mean nothing ’cause they let him walk. Anybody can see that.” I didn’t answer.

“You thinking about cutting a deal?” he asked.

King curled his lip and narrowed his eyes. What was he going to do, scare me? All of a sudden he looked funny. All the times I had looked at him and wanted to be tough like him, and now I saw him sitting in handcuffs and trying to scare me. How could he scare me? I go to bed every night terrified out of my mind. I have nightmares whenever I close my eyes. I am afraid to speak to these people in the jail with me. In the courtroom I am afraid of the judge. The guards terrify me. I started laughing because it was funny. They do things to you in jail. You can’t scare somebody with a look in here.

A court officer came in and got us. When I went into the courtroom, I saw a group of kids sitting in front. It looked like a junior high school class.

“Once the trial actually begins there will be no talking,” the teacher with them said. “This is part of the American judicial system, and we have to respect every part of it.” When I looked at the kids in the class, they turned away from me quickly.

I sat down and looked straight ahead. It was easy to imagine myself sitting where they were sitting, looking at the back of the prisoner.

FADE IN: INTERIOR: COURTROOM. MS of JURORS. CU of a PRETTY BLACK JUROR. She is smiling.

CUT TO: CU of STEVE. He smiles.

CUT TO: CU of PRETTY BLACK JUROR. She stops smiling and looks quickly away.

MS of COURTROOM. STEVE has put his head down on the table. O’BRIEN pulls him up.

O’BRIEN

If you give up, they’ll give up on you. (Then angrily) Get your head up!

STEVE lifts his head. There are tears on his face. As he wipes away the tears, we hear a VO of PETROCELLI as she continues with OSVALDO’s testimony.

PETROCELLI

So what did Richard Evans, the man we are referring to as Bobo, suggest to you?

OSVALDO

He said he had a place all lined up. He said all I had to do was to slow anybody down who came out after them. I was going to push a garbage can in front of them.

CUT TO: PETROCELLI, who appears very confident. Then MS of front of COURTROOM.

PETROCELLI

When Bobo mentioned the other participants, did he specify what part they were to play in this robbery?

OSVALDO (getting tougher as he speaks)

He said that him and James King were going to go into the store and do the thing. Steve was going to be the lookout.

PETROCELLI

And how were the proceeds of this robbery going to be divided?

OSVALDO

Everybody was going to get a taste. I don’t know how much exactly. But everybody was going to get a taste.

PETROCELLI

And is that taste, or share of the take, the reason you participated in this robbery?

OSVALDO

No, I was in because I was scared of Bobo.

PETROCELLI

Mr. Cruz, you’re testifying against people you know. Are you testifying because you’re getting a deal from the government?

OSVALDO

Yeah.

PETROCELLI

Nothing further.

MS of BRIGGS as he walks slowly to the podium. OSVALDO is obviously an important witness, and BRIGGS treats him like one.

BRIGGS

Mr. Cruz, when you were apprehended, did you make a statement to the police about your part in this crime?

OSVALDO

Yeah.

BRIGGS

You admitted to the police that you were a participant in this crime, isn’t that true?

OSVALDO

A what?

BRIGGS

You were one of the people involved with the crime?

OSVALDO

Yeah, that’s right.

BRIGGS

So for all practical purposes you were up to your neck in a crime in which a man was murdered. Is that right? Is that how you saw it?

OSVALDO

I guess so.

BRIGGS

And now that you’re in trouble, you’d do pretty much anything to get out of trouble, wouldn’t you? And when I say anything, I mean tell lies, get other people in trouble, anything?

OSVALDO

No.

BRIGGS

And when the Assistant District Attorney offered you a deal that would keep you out of jail, you jumped at it, didn’t you?

OSVALDO

I wouldn’t lie in court. I’m telling the truth.

BRIGGS

Well, I’m certainly glad you’re telling the truth, Mr. Cruz. But let me ask you, Mr. Cruz, hasn’t the prosecutor given you a choice? You go to jail or you put somebody else in jail? Isn’t that your choice?

OSVALDO

I don’t go around lying to people. Especially when I swear.

BRIGGS

And you did swear today, isn’t that correct? And it wouldn’t be right to lie under oath?

OSVALDO

Right.

BRIGGS

It wouldn’t be right to lie under oath, but it would be just fine to go into a drugstore and stick it up? That’s cool, isn’t it?

OSVALDO

That was a mistake.

CU of BRIGGS’s face showing absolute disgust.

BRIGGS

Nothing more.

O’BRIEN stands and takes her place at the podium.

O’BRIEN

Osvaldo, do you know how you were apprehended?

OSVALDO

I had a fight with my girlfriend and she called the police.

O’BRIEN

A fight? You mean an argument? A disagreement?

OSVALDO (quietly)

She found out I got another girl pregnant.

O’BRIEN

Are you a member of a gang?

OSVALDO

No.

O’BRIEN

So the information I have about you belonging to a gang called the Diablos is wrong?

A beat.

OSVALDO

No, that’s right. I belong to the Diablos.

O’BRIEN

So your first answer was a lie?

OSVALDO (Looks toward Petrocelli.)

It was a mistake.

O’BRIEN

You also said that the robbery was a mistake. Perhaps you can tell us the difference between a mistake and a lie?

OSVALDO (ruffled)

Hey, I’m just trying to turn my life around. (Looks toward jury.) I made a mistake and now I figure it’s about time I did the right thing.

O’BRIEN

How do you get into this gang, Mr. Cruz? Is there something you have to do to become a member?

OSVALDO (getting even tougher)

You have to fight a guy who’s already in the club to show you got the heart.

O’BRIEN

And don’t you have to do something else? Something involving a knife?

OSVALDO

You got to leave your mark on somebody.

O’BRIEN

Can you tell the jury exactly what it means to “leave your mark” on somebody?

OSVALDO

You have to cut them where it shows.

O’BRIEN

So to be a member of this gang, the Diablos, you have to fight a gang member and then cut someone. Usually that’s done to a stranger, and the cut is made in the face, is that right?

OSVALDO

They don’t do that anymore.

O’BRIEN

But Mr. Cruz, that’s what you had to do, isn’t it?

OSVALDO

Yeah.

O’BRIEN

But now you want us to believe that you participated in this robbery because you were afraid of Bobo, and not because this is what you do?

OSVALDO

I was afraid.

O’BRIEN

Did you tell the Assistant District Attorney who questioned you that you were a member of the Diablos?

OSVALDO

Yeah, they knew.

O’BRIEN

You weren’t afraid to fight a member of the Diablos to get into the gang. You weren’t afraid of cutting a stranger in the face. You weren’t afraid of beating up your girlfriend. But you were afraid of Bobo, is that right?

OSVALDO

Yeah.

CU of JUROR shaking her head.

DISSOLVE TO: INTERIOR: VISITORS’ AREA of DETENTION CENTER. There is a table in the shape of a hexagon. One side leads to a tunnel through which the PRISONERS can enter. They sit on the inside while the VISITORS sit on the outside. We see STEVE sitting among the prisoners. He is wearing his orange prison garb. MR. HARMON, his father, sits on the outside of the table.

MR. HARMON

How are you doing?

STEVE

All right. You talk to Miss O’Brien?

MR. HARMON

She doesn’t sound that positive. There’s so much garbage going through that courtroom, she thinks that anybody in there is going to have a stink on him.

STEVE

She said she’s going to put me on the stand. Give me a chance to tell my side of the story.

MR. HARMON

That’s good. You need to tell them that…

His voice fades away.

STEVE

I’m just going to tell them the truth, that I didn’t do anything wrong.

A beat as the father and son try to cope with the tension.

STEVE

You believe that, don’t you?

CU of MR. HARMON. There are tears in his eyes. The pain in his face is very evident as he struggles with his emotions.

MR. HARMON

When you were first born, I would lie up in the bed thinking about scenes of your life. You playing football. You going off to college. I used to think of you going to Morehouse and doing the same things I did when I was there. I never made the football team, but I thought—I dreamed you would. I even thought about getting mad at you for staying out too late—there you were lying on the bed in those disposable diapers—I wanted the real diapers but your mother insisted on the kind you didn’t have to wash, just throw away. I never thought of seeing you—you know—seeing you in a place like this. It just never came to me that you’d ever be in any kind of trouble….

MS: STEVE and MR. HARMON. An incredibly difficult moment passes between them. STEVE searches his father’s face, looking for the reassurance he has always seen there.

STEVE

How’s Mom doing?

MR. HARMON

She’s struggling. It’s hard on all of us. I know it’s hard on you.

STEVE

I’ll be okay.

STEVE puts his head down and begins to weep. MR. HARMON turns away, then reaches back and touches STEVE’s hand. A GUARD crosses quickly and moves the father’s hand away from his son.

MR. HARMON (choking with emotion)

Steve. It’s going to be all right, son. It’s going to be all right. You’re going to be home again and it’s going to be all right.

The scene blurs and darkens. There is the sound of STEVE’s FATHER sobbing.

Notes:

I’ve never seen my father cry before. He wasn’t crying like I thought a man would cry. Everything was just pouring out of him and I hated to see his face. What did I do? What did I do? Anybody can walk into a drugstore and look around. Is that what I’m on trial for? I didn’t do nothing! I didn’t do nothing! But everybody is just messed up with the pain. I didn’t fight with Mr. Nesbitt. I didn’t take any money from him. Seeing my dad cry like that was just so terrible. What was going on between us, me being his son and him being my dad, is pushed down and something else is moving up in its place. It’s like a man looking down to see his son and seeing a monster instead.

Miss O’Brien said things were going bad for us because she was afraid that the jury wouldn’t see a difference between me and all the bad guys taking the stand. I think my dad thinks the same thing.

FADE IN: EXTERIOR: STEVE’s NEIGHBORHOOD. Camera pans. Homeless men have built a cardboard “village” on rooftops. Then: to edge of roof, where we see a crowd in the street below. As camera zooms in, we pick up a cacophony of sounds. Gradually one sound becomes clearer. The accent is West Indian, and a ground-level camera comes up on two dark, somewhat heavy and middle-aged WOMEN.

WOMAN 1

I think it’s a shame, a terrible shame.

WOMAN 2

What happened?

CUT TO: STEVE; he is holding a basketball and is within earshot of the 2 women.

WOMAN 1

They stuck up the drugstore and shot the poor man.

WOMAN 2

Oh, these guns! Is he all right?

WOMAN 1

Miss Trevor say he dead. They had 2 ambulances.

WOMAN 2

Two people got shot?

WOMAN 1

I don’t think 2 people got shot, but 2 ambulances came. One came from Harlem Hospital.

WOMAN 2

It’s probably those crack people. They say they’ll do anything for that stuff.

WOMAN 1

Was he married? I didn’t see no woman working in the store.

WOMAN 2

That young Spanish boy? I don’t think he married.

WOMAN 1

No, girl, he ain’t the owner. The old man owned that place. I think he from St. Kitts.

WOMAN 2

Oh, you know it’s a shame. You know it is.

LS: STEVE makes his way through crowd. He does not have the basketball. He is walking, then trots as the camera pulls back. He is running as camera looks from high angle, and we can no longer distinguish STEVE. We hear VO of women as above.

WOMAN 1

I’d move away from here, but there’s no place to go. I wouldn’t live in California.

WOMAN 2

California is a lot worse than Harlem.

WOMAN 1

But they say the weather is nice.

Camera pans down the street, past playing kids and stores to a basketball that lies in the gutter.

CUT TO: Television news; the shot is grainy, the reception poor as if it is in the home of a ghetto resident.

VO (NEWSCASTER)

In New York’s Harlem, yet another holdup has ended in a grisly scene of murder. Alguinaldo Nesbitt, a native of St. Kitts, was found shot and killed in his drugstore.

CUT TO: Television shot of front of drugstore. Small children are gathered around trying to get a peek inside.

CU: NEWSCASTER. He is a handsome, light-skinned Black who speaks with a precise television-newscaster accent.

NEWSCASTER

Late yesterday afternoon 2 armed and masked bandits rushed into this neighborhood drugstore behind me. They first demanded money and, when the store owner, 55-year-old Alguinaldo Nesbitt was slow in handing over the money, viciously ended his life. Residents of the neighborhood are in absolute dismay. (To NEIGHBORHOOD RESIDENT) Sir, can you tell me just how shocked you are by this tragedy?

CUT TO: NEIGHBORHOOD RESIDENT.

NEIGHBORHOOD RESIDENT

I ain’t shocked. People getting killed and everything and it ain’t right but I ain’t shocked none. They killed a little girl just about 2 months ago and she was just sitting on her stoop.

CUT TO: STEVE’s APARTMENT. We see him sitting and watching the news program. We see his brother pick up the remote and change the program. We watch 30 seconds of a Road Runner cartoon.

CUT TO: CU of STEVE. He is staring straight ahead, mouth open, in absolute shock as the reflected colors from the cartoon move across his face.

DISSOLVE TO: TWO WEEKS LATER; INTERIOR: STEVE’s KITCHEN. Door opens. MRS. HARMON enters with a bag of groceries. She puts it down.

MRS. HARMON

Mrs. Lucas said they got those guys that killed the drugstore owner. (She turns on the television.) You have anything to eat?

STEVE

I had some cereal. See if you can find the news. You think it’s on the news?

MRS. HARMON is putting away the groceries when an image of the front of the drugstore appears on the screen. She sits down, obviously pleased that the culprits have been caught.

FEMALE NEWSCASTER

An arrest has been made in the robbery and murder in an uptown drugstore. The police announced today the arrest of Richard Evans, known in the community as Bobo. Mayor Rudy Giuliani says that he is determined to stop crime in all areas of the city.

CUT TO: PRESS CONFERENCE with MAYOR GIULIANI and POLICE BRASS.

MAYOR GIULIANI

The idea that we’re just trying to stop crime in white or middle-class areas is nonsense. Everyone living in the city deserves the same protection.

CUT TO: EXTERIOR: MS of a sullen BOBO handcuffed and being led to police van. He glowers at camera. Prisoner he is handcuffed to winks at camera.

CUT TO: INTERIOR: STEVE’s BEDROOM. He is lying on his bed, eyes open but not seeing anything. We hear first the doorbell ring and then his mother calling him, but he doesn’t react.

CUT TO: MRS. HARMON, who wipes her hands on a towel and heads toward door. She stops and looks through peephole. CU on her face. There is a worried look as she opens the door.

MRS. HARMON

(Calls to him.) Steven?

STEVE

Yeah? (He comes out and sees DETECTIVES WILLIAMS and KARYL.)

WILLIAMS

We need you to come down to the precinct with us. Just a few questions.

STEVE

Me? About what?

WILLIAMS

Some clown said you were involved with that drugstore stickup just before Christmas. You know the one I mean?

STEVE

Yeah, but what do I have to do with it?

WILLIAMS (as they handcuff Steve)

You know Bobo Evans?

MRS. HARMON (mildly panicked)

Why are you handcuffing my son if you just want to ask him a few questions? I don’t understand.

WILLIAMS

Ma’am, it’s just routine. Don’t worry about it.

MRS. HARMON

What do you mean don’t worry about it, when you’re handcuffing my son? (There is panic in her eyes as she looks at STEVE, who looks away.) What do you mean don’t worry about it? I’m coming with you! You’re not just snatching my son off like he’s some kind of criminal. Wait till I get my coat. Just wait a minute! Just wait a minute!

CUT TO: JERRY standing in doorway, holding comics. He looks from MOTHER to STEVE. He reaches out toward his brother as the detectives hustle the handcuffed teenager out the door.

CUT TO: MS of STEVE sitting in back of patrol car.

CUT TO: Two OLD MEN in front of John-John’s Bar-B-Q looking at the scene as the car drives off.

CUT TO: LS of block engaged in normal activity. THEN: MRS. HARMON rushes from house, looks desperately around, and moves quickly down the street. She gets almost to the corner, then stops, realizing she doesn’t know where STEVE is being taken.

Friday, July 10th

Miss O’Brien was mad today. She said that Petrocelli was using a cheap trick. The judge said he was calling a half-day session because he needed to hear pleas in another case. O’Brien said that Petrocelli wanted to leave as bad an image in the mind of the jury as she could. She brought up the photographs again and made sure that the jury saw them a second time. Miss O’Brien said she wanted the jurors to take the bad images home with them over the weekend and live with them.

The photos were bad, real bad. I didn’t want to think about them or know about them. I didn’t look at the jury members when they were looking at the pictures.

I thought about writing about what happened in the drugstore, but I’d rather not have it in my mind. The pictures of Mr. Nesbitt scare me. I think about him lying there knowing he was going to die. I wonder if it hurt much. I can see me at that moment, just when Mr. Nesbitt knew he was going to die, walking down the street trying to make my mind a blank screen.

When I got back to the cell and changed my clothes, I had to mop the corridors with four other guys. We were all dressed in the orange jumpsuits they give you and the guards made us line up. The water was hot and soapy and had a strong smell of some kind of disinfectant. The mops were heavy and it was hot and I didn’t like doing it. Then I realized that the five guys doing the mopping must have all looked alike and I suddenly felt as if I couldn’t breathe. I tried to suck the air into my lungs, but all I got was the odor of the disinfectant and I started gagging.

“You vomit—you just got more to clean up!” the guard said.

I held it in and kept swinging the big mop across the floor. To my right and left the other prisoners were doing the same thing. On the floor there were big arcs of gray, dirty water and swirls of stinking, brown bubbles. I wanted to be away from this place so bad, away from this place, away from this place. I remembered Miss O’Brien saying that it was her job to make me different in the eyes of the jury, different from Bobo and Osvaldo and King. It was me, I thought as I tried not to throw up, that had wanted to be tough like them.

FADE IN: Four-way SPLIT-SCREEN MONTAGE: Three images alternate between shots of witnesses and defendants. We hear only 1 witness at a time, but the others are clearly still talking on other screens. In upper left screen is DETECTIVE WILLIAMS. Lower left is ALLEN FORBES, a City Clerk. Lower right is DR. JAMES MOODY, Medical Examiner. The upper right screen is sometimes black, sometimes a stark and startling white. Occasionally the images of those not speaking are replaced with images of KING or STEVE, and we get REACTION SHOTS.

FORBES

It was a registered gun. Our records show that Mr. Nesbitt applied for a license to have a gun on the premises in August of 1989. That permit was still in effect. The gun was licensed to him from that time.

VO (PETROCELLI)

So there was nothing unusual or illegal about the gun being in the drugstore? Is that correct, Mr. Forbes?

FORBES

Presumably he wanted it for the store. That is correct.

SWITCH TO: DETECTIVE WILLIAMS.

WILLIAMS

I arrived at the crime scene at 5:15. There was some merchandise on the floor of the drugstore in between the counters. The body of the victim was lying halfway…his legs were half sticking out from behind the counter. I looked around the counter and observed a middle-aged Black male of approximately 200 pounds. It was pretty clear that he was dead. There was an emergency medical crew there, and they were just packing it in when I arrived. I looked around the scene and saw the gun. A uniformed patrolman pointed it out to me. I didn’t know at the time if it was the gun that killed the victim or not. There wasn’t any way to tell without tests.

The cash register was open. The change was still in there, but no bills. Also, there were several cartons of cigarettes on the floor, and the clerk mentioned that several cartons of cigarettes were missing. We chalked the body, then had it turned.

VO (PETROCELLI)

What do you mean when you say you chalked the body?

WILLIAMS

That’s when you put a chalk mark around the perimeter of the body to show the position you found it in. We had photos taken, then we chalked the body so we could turn it over and see if there was any possible evidence beneath the victim. I didn’t see anything there. From the money being gone from the register, I figured it was a stickup and homicide. The guys from the Medical Examiner’s office wanted to move the body. It was time for them to get off, and I allowed them to take it.

VO (PETROCELLI)

Detective Williams, during the course of your investigation of the crime did you have occasion to speak to a Mr. Zinzi?

WILLIAMS

My partner got a call from this guy on Riker’s Island. That was Sal Zinzi. He was doing 6 months on a stolen property charge. There were a few guys in there who were giving him a hard time. He wanted out pretty bad. He told me about a guy who had told him about a guy who was selling cigarettes. It was a slim lead, but we followed it up until we found a Richard Evans.

VO (PETROCELLI)

Known on the street as Bobo?

WILLIAMS

Known on the street as Bobo, right. We picked him up and he admitted involvement in the stickup.

SWITCH TO: DR. MOODY.

MOODY (Nods constantly as he testifies.)

The bullet entered the body on the left side and traversed upward through the lung. It produced a tearing of the lung and heavy internal bleeding and also went through the esophagus. That also produced internal bleeding. The bullet finally lodged in the upper trapezius area.

VO (PETROCELLI)

And were you able to recover the bullet from that area?

MOODY

Yes, we were.

VO (PETROCELLI)

Dr. Moody, can you tell with reasonable certainty the time and cause of death?

MOODY

Death was caused by a combination of trauma to the internal organs, which put the victim into a state of shock, as well as by the lungs filling with blood. He wouldn’t have been able to breathe.

VO (PETROCELLI)

You mean he literally drowned in his own blood?

REACTION SHOT: STEVE catches his breath sharply.

REACTION SHOT: KING has head tilted to one side, seemingly without a care.

Saturday, July 11th

Before she left, Miss O’Brien warned me not to write anything in my notebook that I did not want the prosecutor to see.

I asked Miss O’Brien what she was going to do over the weekend, and she gave me a really funny look, and then she told me she was probably going to watch her niece in a Little League game.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to cut you off.” She smiled at me, and I felt embarrassed that a smile should mean so much. We talked awhile longer and I realized that I did not want her to go. When I asked her how many times she had appeared in court, her mouth tightened and she said, “Too many times.” She thinks I am guilty. I know she thinks I am guilty. I can feel it when we sit together on the bench they have assigned for us. She writes down what is being said, and what is being said about me, and she adds it all up to guilty.

“I’m not guilty,” I said to her.

“You should have said, ‘I didn’t do it,’” she said.

“I didn’t do it,” I said.

Sunset got his verdict yesterday. Guilty.

“Man, my life is right here,” he said. “Right here in jail. I know I did the crime and I got to do the time. It ain’t no big thing. It ain’t no big thing. Most they can give me is 7 to 10, which means I walk in 5 and a half. I can do that without even thinking on it, man.” It’s growing. First I was scared of being hit or raped. That being scared was like a little ball in the pit of my stomach. Now that ball is growing when I think about what kind of time I can get. Felony murder is 25 years to life. My whole life will be gone. A guy said that 25 means you have to serve at least 20. I can’t stay in prison for 20 years. I just can’t!

Everybody in here either talks about sex or hurting somebody or what they’re in here for. That’s all they think about and that’s what’s on my mind, too. What did I do? I walked into a drugstore to look for some mints, and then I walked out. What was wrong with that? I didn’t kill Mr. Nesbitt.

Sunset said he committed the crime. Isn’t that what being guilty is all about? You actually do something? You pick up a gun and you aim it across a small space and pull a trigger? You grab the purse and run screaming down the street? Maybe, even, you buy some baseball cards that you know were stolen?

The guys in the cell played dirty hearts in the afternoon and talked, as usual, about their cases. They weighed the evidence against them and for them and commented on each other’s cases. Some of them sound like lawyers. The guards brought in a guy named Ernie who was caught sticking up a jewelry store. Ernie was small, white, and either Cuban or Italian. I couldn’t tell. The police had caught him in the act. He had taken the money and the jewelry and then locked the two employees in the back room with a padlock they used on the front gates.

“But then I couldn’t get out because they had a buzzer to open the front door,” Ernie said. “I didn’t know where the buzzer was and I had locked the two dudes who knew up in the back.” He waited for two hours while people came and tried to get into the store before he called the police. He said he wasn’t guilty because he hadn’t taken anything out of the store. He didn’t even have a gun, just his hand in his pocket like he had a gun.

“What they charging you with?” somebody asked.

“Armed robbery, unlawful detention, possession of a deadly weapon, assault, and menacing.” But he felt he wasn’t guilty. He had made a mistake in going into the store, but when the robbery didn’t go down there was nothing he could do.

“Say you going to rob a guy and he’s sitting down,” Ernie went on. “You say to him, ‘Give me all your money,’ and then he stands up and he’s like, seven feet tall, and you got to run. They can’t charge you with robbing the dude, right?” He was trying to convince himself that he wasn’t guilty.

There was a fight just before lunch and a guy was stabbed in the eye. The guy who was stabbed was screaming, but that didn’t stop the other guy from hitting him more. Violence in here is always happening or just about ready to happen. I think these guys like it—they want it to be normal because that’s what they’re used to dealing with.

If I got out after 20 years, I’d be 36. Maybe I wouldn’t live that long. Maybe I would think about killing myself so I wouldn’t have to live that long in here.

Mama came to see me. It’s her first time and she tried to explain to me why she hadn’t been here before, but she didn’t have to. All you had to see were the tears running down her face and the whole story was there. I wanted to show strong for her, to let her know that she didn’t have to cry for me.

The visitors’ room was crowded, noisy. We tried to speak softly, to create a kind of privacy with our voices, but we couldn’t hear each other even though we were only 18 inches away from each other, which is the width of the table in the visitors’ room. I asked her how Jerry was doing and she said he was doing all right. She was going to bring him tomorrow and I could see him from the window.

“Do you think I should have got a Black lawyer?” she asked. “Some of the people in the neighborhood said I should have contacted a Black lawyer.” I shook my head. It wasn’t a matter of race.

She brought me a Bible. The guards had searched it. I wanted to ask if they had found anything in it. Salvation. Grace, maybe. Compassion. She had marked off a passage for me and asked me to read it out loud: “‘The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.’” “It seems like you’ve been in here so long,” she said.

“Some guys have done a whole calendar in here,” I said.

She looked at me, puzzled, and then asked what that meant. When I told her that doing a calendar meant spending a year in jail, she turned her head slightly and then turned back to me. The smile that came to her lips was one she wrenched from someplace deep inside of her.

“No matter what anybody says…” She reached across the table to put her hand on mine and then pulled it back, thinking a guard might see her. “No matter what anybody says, I know you’re innocent, and I love you very much.” And the conversation was over. She cried. Silently. Her body shook with the sobs.

When she left I could hardly make it back to the cell area. “No matter what anybody says…” I lay down across my cot. I could still feel Mama’s pain. And I knew she felt that I didn’t do anything wrong. It was me who wasn’t sure. It was me who lay on the cot wondering if I was fooling myself.

CUT TO: EXTERIOR: MS of MARCUS GARVEY PARK in HARLEM. STEVE is sitting on a bench, and JAMES KING sits with him. KING is bleary-eyed and smokes a joint as he talks.

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