In the novel Monster, written by Walter Dean Myers, we can learn from Steve Harmon’s experiences that sometimes the guilt or the innocence of a person might not be determined by solid evidence but by the onlooker’s opinions and interpretation of the crime. There is not a large amount of scientific evidence in the case against Steve Harmon, so the jury must rely on Steve’s background information, their opinions of guilt and innocence and the testimonies of the witnesses which are mostly criminals.
From Steve’s trial we can learn that the guilt or innocence of a person is often determined by their status in life and even by coincidence. In a journal entry that Steve wrote he ponders, “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” (Myers 115). This quote shows that Steve believes he is innocent and that it was a mere coincidence that he was in the store right before the robbery. Steve Harmon lives in the same neighborhood as “Bobo” Evans, James King and Osvaldo Cruz and he is acquainted with all three of the men. The fact that Steve was in the store and knew all the people involved in the crime leads the jury to believe that he was a part of the crime. According to an old prisoner, “They got to give you sometime. 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?” (Myers 76). This information suggests to the jury that Steve is a young black male who is acquainted with other young black males who are criminals, and that Steve just happened to be in the store at the wrong time. Steve’s innocence or guilt will be partly determined because of these things. The testimonies during the trial will also affect if Steve is guilty or innocent.
The testimony of Mrs. Henry showed the innocence of Steve Harmon. When she was called to the stand Petrocelli questioned her about what she had witnessed.
Mrs. Henry stated, “I saw two young men engaged in an argument. Then I saw one of them grab the drugstore owner by the collar” (Myers 163). This tells the jury that either Steve is an extremely bad look out or that it was a coincidence and he was set up. The jury would think by this testimony that Steve could be innocent or that the witness was questionable and unreliable. Later on Petrocelli asked Mrs. Henry to identify one of the men in the store. She clearly pointed out James King, “Let the record show that Mrs. Henry has indicated that the defendant, James King was one of the men in the drugstore on that day” (Myers 164). This means that there was only one other man in the store who helped commit the crime. That man was Mr. “Bobo” Evans. According to Mrs. Henry’s testimony it could be determined that Steve had already left the area and there was nothing he could do to stop the murder of Mr. Nesbitt. This also means that the jury’s opinions on certain issues can affect the outcome of a trial.
Finally, this book shows that the guilt or innocence of a person may be determined by how the jury feels on political issues, or how they interpret what has been said. In the U.S.A. a person is supposed to have the right to be innocent until proven guilty but O’Brien argues that it isn’t, “but in reality it depends on how the jury interprets the case” (Myers 79). In the case of Steve Harmon the line between guilt and innocence is very hazy, so the jury must come to a verdict by using scientific evidence, the testimonies, background information, their own opinions and finally their interpretation. The difference between guilt and innocence is reflected in the eyes of the jury.