Study Guide

Monster Chapter 18

By Walter Dean Myers

Chapter 18

The Trial/ Screenplay

  • Briggs questions Dorothy Moore, who says that King was at her house at 3:30 (when the robbery went down).
  • Petrocelli swoops in and asks how often King comes to Moore's abode. "About twice a month. He's my cousin" (18.8), she says.
  • Dorothy says King brought her a lamp as a gift, though he didn't have a job. Petrocelli asks why he would use the little money he had on a lamp for her.
  • Petrocelli asks her if she likes King, which Dorothy responds to by saying that she wouldn't lie for him.
  • Petrocelli keeps pounding, and by the end of her questioning, Dorothy has admitted that she hadn't seen King for a few weeks before the lamp visit, that she doesn't know what kind of work he was looking for, and that she can't say whether he has a driver's license. Petrocelli's translation: Dorothy doesn't know much.
  • But Dorothy insists again that she saw him that day; she says she was home from work with a bum ankle.
  • Petrocelli asks to see the lamp, but Dorothy no longer has it. Conveniently, she says it broke.
  • The next witness is George Nipping. Back in the day, he sold King a baseball glove that was for a leftie.
  • Steve writes, "What's that about?" (18.46) on his nifty question pad, and O'Brien tells him that Briggs is trying to prove King didn't shoot the victim because the wound was on the left side of his body. She says it's a pretty lousy argument.
  • It's Petrocelli's turn to question Nipping, and she asks if he has ever seen King shoot. Nope, he says, at which point she confirms that he has no idea what King would do if he grabbed a gun in the heat of the moment.
  • Time for another flashback:
  • We're hangin' with Steve in Mr. Sawicki's film class.
  • Mr. Sawicki tells the class to keep films simple. If a film's too fancy, he says, the story is probably weak.
  • And back to the present again…
  • O'Brien meets privately with Steve. She tells Steve that he will need to take the stand and tell his story, or else they will be dead in the water. Gulp.
  • To have any chance, she says, Steve needs to separate himself from King. He can't play tough—that's what King is doing, and it ain't gonna help him; the jurors need to trust him.
  • Steve asks what happens if King testifies too, but O'Brien assures him that King won't—since he already lied to the police, the prosecution can nail him. The only way to make the jurors separate Steve from King, then, is for Steve to testify.
  • Steve asks if Dorothy Moore's testimony helps King, but O'Brien says no.
  • The prosecution didn't take her seriously—she's King's cousin, she likes him, and she has no proof he was with her other than her word. She's a dead end as far as O'Brien can tell.
  • King is probably going to lose his case, O'Brien says, so Steve has to get himself away from him.
  • To prepare for the witness stand, O'Brien and Steve play the Paper Cup Game. The Rules: If the cup stays up, Steve's answer is good. If the cup flips over, Steve has to figure out what was wrong with his answer. Time to play…
  • O'Brien asks, "Did you know James King?" (18.73), and Steve answers, "No?" (18.74). O'Brien flips the cup down.
  • Steve answers again, "Yeah, casually" (18.76), and O'Brien flips the cup back up.
  • This goes on for a while and the cameras pan out.
  • The next screenplay scene takes place at the jailhouse that night.
  • Inmate #1 complains that the prosecutor called him a liar, arguing that he wasn't about to tell the truth when it would throw him in the big house.
  • Inmate #2 claims that the only thing that's important once you're in is getting out. Truth pales in comparison to fresh air.
  • Inmate #1 asks what truth even is, and Steve says it's "what you know to be right" (18.89).
  • Inmate #2 says he's crazy—once the man's got you, you only care about survival. To him, truth means nothing.
  • According to Inmate #1, the lawyers don't give a patootie about truth either. The prosecutor just wants to toss him behind bars.
  • The next morning, Steve dresses for court; his hands shake as he rides the van to the courthouse.
  • Steve sits on the witness stand… drum roll please…
  • O'Brien asks if Steve acted as the lookout. He says no.
  • She asks if he discussed acting as lookout with anyone. He says no.
  • She wants to know if he was in the drugstore. He says no.
  • She asks if he was he involved at all. He says no.
  • Petrocelli gives Steve a stare before she approaches the stand.
  • She asks Steve questions about his relationship with King, and Steve answers nice and vaguely: yeah, he knows him, but not well; they talk, but it's not about anything worth remembering—mostly stuff like how well dudes play ball on the playground.
  • She asks if he's nervous. He says no.
  • She asks about Bobo. Steve says they are so not BFFs, and that he's never even had a full conversation with the guy.
  • What about Osvaldo? Petrocelli asks. Steve says they also talk about superficial stuff.
  • Petrocelli reminds him that Bobo claimed Steve came out of the drugstore that day; she wants to know if this was just a crazy coincidence.
  • Steve remembers O'Brien turning over the cup. He says he doesn't know exactly when the robbery went down… he just knows he wasn't there.
  • Petrocelli then brings up Osvaldo's testimony—he said Steve was the lookout. Steve sticks to his guns, saying sure, Osvaldo may have heard that, but Steve wasn't there.
  • Petrocelli isn't done with him. She asks where he was, if not at the drugstore, but Steve says he can't remember for sure. He claims he spent most of the day "going around taking mental notes about places I wanted to film for a school film project" (18.155).
  • He admits that no one would be able to back him up on that, though. It wasn't like the cops nabbed him the day afterwards—they waited a few weeks. Steve says he didn't even remember where he was when they came the first time.
  • Petrocelli goes for the kill: If he can't remember what he was doing, how does he know he was taking notes?
  • Steve says he planned to film over Christmas break, so he had to take notes beforehand. Ah, holiday homework—Shmoop always knew it was helpful somehow.
  • Petrocelli notes that Steve was acquainted with everyone "involved," but she is scolded by the judge for assuming everyone is guilty. That's a no-no, and also the end of Steve's questioning.
  • Steve heads back to his seat, shaking so badly he can't even drink water. O'Brien tells him to "TAKE DEEP BREATHS" (18.170).
  • George Sawicki takes the stand and answers O'Brien's questions.
  • He says Steve was in his film club for three years, and that he thinks Steve is the bomb-diggity: "talented, bright, […] compassionate" (18.176), and honest, not to mention a regular Steven Spielberg behind the lens.
  • Petrocelli takes a swing at him. She asks him how he knows Steve's character out of school, given the fact that he only sees him in the classroom.
  • Mr. Sawicki mentions Steve's films, saying Steve portrays his neighborhood with positivity and depth. He says that this speaks volumes about Steve's character.
  • Unfortunately, Mr. Sawicki still can't prove what Steve did on the day of the crime, but he thinks Steve is honest because he makes honest films.
  • He admits that he likes Steve a lot, and Petrocelli ends questioning there.
  • The screenplay shows a clip of Steve sweating and trying to breathe on his prison cot, and then switches back to the courtroom.
  • Briggs finishes his closing argument for King. It goes something like this:
    • Briggs discounts Bobo's accusations by reminding the jury that Bobo is only testifying to cut himself a plea deal, which means he's pointing the finger to save his own skin.
    • In other words, he thinks Bobo's testimony is worth less than an air conditioner in Antarctica.
    • (The camera shows the courtroom, which is pretty empty.)
    • Briggs then discounts Lorelle Henry's testimony, noting that she was worried about her grandchild and could have made a mistake, the police didn't give her many photos to choose from, and the police lineup happened after she'd seen the photo.
    • Then he moves on to Dorothy Moore, his key witness. He argues that being King's relative doesn't mean she's lying, and then asks why the jury would believe a lineup of criminals but throw away an innocent woman's testimony.
    • He reminds the jury of Osvaldo Cruz. Supposedly he was supposed to stop any pursuers, but Briggs argues that Osvaldo could have been the shooter himself. Lorelle Henry mentioned two guys in the store—why not Cruz and Bobo? Briggs reminds the jury that they've both admitted guilt already.
    • In the end, says Briggs, the question is whether the jury should believe hardened criminals looking for a way out—these are the only witnesses the prosecution has to offer.
    • Justice demands more than shady testimonies from monstrous witnesses, Briggs concludes, claiming that, "justice demands that you return a verdict of Not Guilty" (18.204).
  • And now it's time for O'Brien's closing argument:
    • O'Brien thanks the jury for paying attention and reminds them that their job is to figure out who is responsible for Nesbitt's death.
    • Then she moves on to Steve's role, pointing out that nobody is even trying to prove he pulled the trigger. Instead, they are only trying to prove his involvement.
    • She reminds the jury that nobody proved Steve talked with anyone about a robbery. Yeah—he knew the guys. Yeah—they chatted about basketball. But so what?
    • She moves on to Lorelle Henry. According to the State and her testimony, Lorelle was in the store during the robbery. O'Brien points out that if Steve was a lookout, he did a rotten job—there wasn't even a signal. All the witnesses said was that Steve walked out of the store; O'Brien jumps on this fact. Plenty of black men walked out of the store that day besides Steve, so why is he the only one on trial?
    • She reminds them that Steve didn't participate in the chicken dinner afterwards, nor did he get any cash from the job.
    • O'Brien also reminds the jury of Bobo's character: Why should a dude who gorges on chicken after a murder and testifies on a plea deal get any cred at all? Plus, he sold the stolen cigarettes. Bobo is pretty clearly neither the brightest bulb nor the most trustworthy witness.
    • She also claims that Bobo would implicate Steve because—to him—Steve's not a person; Bobo's already shown that he doesn't care when a man is dead. She argues that he feels the same way about Steve—like Nesbitt, Steve is merely a pawn in Bobo's own survival plans.
    • Then O'Brien moves on to the good stuff, namely Steve's character. She reminds the jury that he was open and honest on the stand, that his nervousness was because of how high stakes the trial is, and that he's different from every other criminal the jury has seen.
    • O'Brien concludes by saying, "Guilt has not been proven" (18.222).
  • And now it's Petrocelli's turn to make a closing argument:
    • Petrocelli thanks the jury and reminds them that the case is not about the character of the witnesses: It's about Mr. Nesbitt and his brutal, unfair death.
    • She questions the previous assertions that the testimonies given by witnesses are unreliable, and then argues for the witnesses:
    • Wendell Bolden said cigarettes were stolen, and so did Jose Delgado, the clerk. Nobody doubted Jose, so why is Bolden's testimony false?
    • Bobo Evans was part of the robbery, and Lorelle Henry agreed. Did she catch a break?
    • Bobo also said Cruz was part of it, and Cruz agreed.
    • Bobo said that King killed Nesbitt with Nesbitt's gun, and the City Clerk agreed that the gun used was Nesbitt's.
    • Petrocelli sums her argument up by saying that each witness was backed by another witness, so there's no need to discount what they said.
    • She attacks King's defense next by claiming that Briggs wants the jury to believe that Bobo was by himself or with Cruz.
    • Petrocelli says Lorelle Henry testified that there were two men in the store. She continues by noting that Lorelle is black woman, pointing the finger at a black man as guilty. Petrocelli believes this lends credibility to Lorelle's testimony.
    • In the end, Petrocelli argues that the State's theory of the getover makes most sense.
    • She continues by saying that nobody should feel badly that Steve didn't do a good job as lookout. For Pete's sake, nobody did a good job in this burglary—a man died over a few packs of cigarettes and a little bit of cash.
    • Petrocelli claims that Bobo, Osvaldo, King, and Steve are all guilty. Steve is guilty because he failed to stop the robbery as the lookout—had he done his job, Nesbitt might still be alive. As for King, she says, he's guilty because he hangs out with the wrong kind of dudes and, as a result, Nesbitt is dead.
    • Pettrocelli concludes by attacking Steve again, saying he's guilty no matter how innocent he may think he is. He was part of the job, and that's that.
    • Her final words? Justice is all she asks.
  • Finally—finally—we head the judge's closing remarks, which are basically a reminder to the jury of their job. As the judge speaks, the camera pans the room, passing a painting of George Washington, an American flag, and a wall mural.
  • The camera then shows Steve's mom frantically looking around the room.
  • The scene does a switcheroo, bringing us to Steve and King, sitting in a cell together in their trial clothes.
  • Steve says he's scared; King claims it's nothing—if the man wants you, he'll get you, he scoffs.
  • A guard asks if they want to join a pool going around about their sentences, and laughs as Steve puts his head in his hands.
  • There is violence and bullying at dinner, but Steve doesn't even care.
  • The camera shows Steve sitting in the cell, watching the clock.
  • Some other inmates play dominos.