The novel has a sub-theme of gang violence. How are gangs presented in the novel?
The central gang in the novel is called The Diablos (a Spanish word which translates to "Devils"). The Diablos and other gangs run the Harlem streets, and members of the community consider the gangs to be more of an authoritative presence than law enforcement. This complicated power dynamic explains why the detectives are unable to get unbiased accounts from potential eyewitnesses.
During Osvaldo's testimony, the cross-examiner points to Osvaldo's involvement in the Diablos in order to account for his violent tendencies. In this way, Osvaldo is not seen as "innocent until proven guilty." Rather, his gang involvement suggests that he regularly robs and harms people in his community.
What does Kathy O'Brien's rejection of Steve's gesture of friendship tell us about Steve's expectations?
O'Brien methodically and diligently handles Steve's defense case. Due to her hard work and effort, Steve believes that she truly believes in his innocence. However, O'Brien's behavior demonstrates that she sees her work as Steve's defense attorney strictly as a job. She does not get emotionally involved in the case, and she does not reveal any aspect of her interiority throughout the novel. When Steve learns that he has been acquitted, O'Brien's reaction suggests that she may actually believe that her client is guilty.
Mr. Sawicki believes that Steve's film footage speaks deeply about his character. Is it valid to judge an author's morality based on his or her body of artistic work?
Steve's writing process is his way of coping with the traumatic events in his life. However, Steve also distances himself from his reality by exaggerating the events in the format of a screenplay. The screenplay is a work of art, and thus there is not one objective way for it to be judged. It is clear that Steve's screenplay is an effective mechanism for distraction and creative control. However, it is incredibly difficult to judge someone's character based on their artistic creations. Although art provides an insight into the mind of its creator, its meaning must be seen on its own merits, rather than associating it simply with the views of its creator.
The plot revolves around a story of conspirators and murderers. What is the difference between these two different roles and their respective punishments by law?
A conspirator is someone who is involved in a plan to do something harmful or illegal. A murderer is someone who kills another person. Steve Harmon is on trial for being a conspirator, as he was allegedly the lookout boy in the drugstore robbery. On the other hand, James King is on trial for shooting and killing Arnaldo Nesbitt. They face the same sentence. During her prosecution, Petrocelli argues that all of the four men that are allegedly involved in the murder are equally culpable and should thus receive the same sentence.
Steve's involvement in the murder of Mr. Nesbitt affects more people than just himself. Who are the other people affected by Steve's behavior?
Steve's family suffers as a result of the crime, both as a unit and individually. Steve's younger brother must cope with the absence of his role model. Mrs. Harmon defends her son's innocence, but she is deeply concerned for his emotional and physical well-being. Mr. Harmon's belief and trust in his son wavers, ultimately leading him to abandon his family.