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Authors: Walter Dean Myers


Walter Dean Myers
Illustrations by Christopher Myers

To John Brendel

for his long friendship


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.


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.




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.



The Story of






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




Written and directed by Steve Harmon



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




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.




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.




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?




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.




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




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.




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.




How are you doing?




I'm scared.




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?




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




Whatever. Make sure you pay attention. Close attention.




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.




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.




Ready, Your Honor.






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.








Ready, Your Honor.




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?




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




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




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.




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.




I liked the ending.




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?




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.




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.

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