The section begins with a series of voice-overs discussing the implications of telling the truth during a court case. The people speaking in the voiceovers are actually prisoners in Steve’s proximity. The two prisoners then debate about the nature of truth and question its validity. Steve, the supposed moral compass, chimes in and proclaims that “truth is truth. It is what you know to be right.” One of the fellow inmates responds, “the prosecutor talks about looking for truth when they really mean they’re looking for a way to stick you under the jail.”
In the next scene, O’Brien and Steve practice for when he will testify. O’Brien creates a game when drilling Steve on how to best convey his story. She asks him a series of questions, and when she disapproves of his answer, she flips a cup. Steve replies shortly and concisely, denying his involvement in the murder of Mr. Nesbitt. He is to use this method of consistent denial during the court session the following day.
Sandra Petrocelli begins cross-examining Steve. She asks him if he knows James King or Bobo Evans. Steve replies that he knows them very casually, but he hasn’t shared many conversations with either. During his sporadic conversation with James, Bobo, or Osvaldo, Steve claims that they only really talked about basketball. Steve denies that he was ever in the drugstore on the day of the crime.
Steve tells the court that during the day of the robbery, he was walking around his neighborhood filming clips for one of his movies. After Steve provides neutral and inconclusive answers to Petrocelli’s grilling questions, Mr. Sawicki is called to the stand. Mr. Sawicki is the advisor for Steve’s high school film club. Mr. Sawicki is called to the stand as yet another character witness. Mr. Sawicki argues that Steve’s film footage speaks very deeply and positively of his character. In the words of Mr. Sawicki, “it is my belief that in order to make an honest film, one has to be an honest person.”
Asa Briggs makes his closing statements. He contends that there is no concrete evidence that directly ties his defendant, James King, to the murder of Mr. Nesbitt. Following Briggs’s closing statements, O’Brien offers hers. She explains that there is no evidence that places Steve at the scene of the crime. In addition, she explains that directly following the murder, Steve Harmon was nowhere to be found.
O’Brien brings up the point that immediately following the crime, Steve was not enjoying the fried chicken meal with Bobo and King. O’Brien pointedly instructs the jury to evaluate Steve’s own testimony. She explains that Steve answered questions openly and honestly, which attests to his upstanding moral character. O’Brien places Steve in stark contrast to the other seasoned criminals on trial. She urges the jury to keep all of these facts in mind when coming to a conclusion.
The scene flashes forward to the sentencing hearing. Steve is incredibly nervous, and has experienced anxious episodes in his cell during the previous night. The jury reads the verdict, and Steve is acquitted. Meanwhile, James King is convicted of the murder and escorted out of the prison in handcuffs. In the novel’s closing pages, Steve writes in his diary. It has been six months since his acquittal. Although he attempts to find a sense of normalcy in life after prison, he realizes that many things have changed. For example, his father has moved away from home. Steve begins taking the steps to turn his screenplay into a film. In the novel’s closing sentence, he still wonders if O’Brien ever thought he was innocent, or if she thought he was a monster the whole time.
The last part of the book primarily focuses on Steve’s morality and character. Although there is no concrete evidence as to whether or not Steve was involved in the murder, O’Brien has created a clear defense case. O’Brien’s main tactic focuses on depicting Steve as a relatable young “boy next door.” Thus, the opening of this scene is worthy of analysis. While many of the other prisoners have selfish and jaded opinions concerning the topics of truth and morality, Steve is firm in conveying and upholding his moral opinion.
As a response to Steve’s beliefs, the prisoners in the voice-over express the reasons for their jaded views. Having been in prison for an extended period of time, these individuals realize that truth is often only courtroom jargon and does not translate into legal action. This sentiment is further justified by the training game that O’Brien plays with her client. If all that mattered was the truth, all that strategy and rhetoric would not be necessary.
The manner in which Steve answers questions is highly curated and optimized for approachability. When asked where he was on the day of the crime, Steve explains that he is unable to remember. This response is meant to prompt the jurors to question their own recollection of the events of their daily lives. Further, Steve explains that he only used to talk to Cruz or King about basketball. This heightens Steve’s portrayal as an average teenager with typical interests. Steve is not seen as a criminal through his responses.
When Steve learns of his acquittal, he reaches out to O’Brien and attempts to embrace her. However, his lawyer coldly turns away. This reaction deeply disturbs Steve and causes him to spiral into anxious thinking. Did O’Brien ever see Steve as a person, or just as a file number? Did she ever actually believe in Steve’s innocence, or did she see him as the monster he fears to be?
The novel’s conclusion reveals the residual effects of the prison experience. Although Steve was incredibly depressed and anxious in jail, he is unable to find normalcy following his acquittal. Steve worries about adjusting back into civic society due to the negative reputation of convicted criminals. In addition, he must now cope with the absence of his father from his home and the assumption of the patriarchal role. Still, Steve is riddled with guilt that he has torn his family apart and betrayed those closest to him. He still worries that he is not a human, but rather a monster.