During the trial, how does Miss O'Brien combat racial prejudice and force jurors to look past the color of Steve Harmon's skin?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss O'Brien is quite open about her need to convince the jury that Steve is more than "a Black criminal from Harlem."  She is open about this when she speaks with him:  "You're young, you're Black, and you're on trial. What else do they need to know?"  It become clear that she recognizes the issue of race as something that must be overcome in the presentation of her case.  One way that O'Brien seeks to do this is to depict Steve as someone that is not fully associated with James King and his associates.  O'Brien seeks to put a humanistic face in front of the jury, as opposed to the statistic of another child of color associated with crime.  O'Brien's strategy is to distance Steve from the people who committed murder as much as possible.

In order to avoid the jury looking at her client as a "monster," O'Brien has to conduct thorough cross examinations.  She has to discredit the prosecution's witnesses and ensure that Steve can be seen something more than a caricature.  Her examination of Evans is one such example of this.  Another part of this exists in her own preparation of Steve, in which he learns to understand the importance of answering questions that put distance between he and John King.  Using character witnesses like George Sawicki to testify that Steve is a "good kid" is another way in which O'Brien is able to force the jury to look past the color of Steve's skin and see him as a full person.