How does the book Monster by Walter Dean Myers relate to the Constitution or to specific amendments?

The Constitution secures for all Americans the right to a fair trial by an impartial jury. This right is reflected in the text of Monster, by Walter Dean Myers, when Steve Harmon and James King are provided with counsel and the ability to call witnesses. The Sixth Amendment also provides that defendants have the right to a speedy trial, which is reflected in the novel as Steve and King are given many opportunities to have their cases heard.

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Monster by Walter Dean Myers covers the trial of Steve Harmon through the lens of a movie script written by Steve. The book provides a vivid picture of Steve’s experiences through the court system, including conferences with his counsel, trial scenes with witnesses, judge, and jury, and his stay in prison between court dates. Myers worked to make the scenes realistic to what might be experienced during a real trial, and as a result, his work reflects the protection granted to Americans under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution.

The Sixth Amendment focuses on the rights of Americans accused of criminal offenses. The Amendment states that the accused have the following rights:

the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Steve and King are provided with counsel to represent them in the form of Asa Briggs and Kathy O’Brien. They can call witnesses to support their innocence, face their accusers in court, and receive a trial with an (ideally) impartial jury. The rights granted to Steve and King are upheld and represent an accurate picture of how the justice system attempts to guarantee those rights to the citizens of the United States.

While the Constitutional rights guaranteed to Steve Harmon and James King are fulfilled in the text, it is important to note that implicit biases of the jury and judge are also reflected in the novel. O’Brien tells Steve that he is considered guilty by the jury because he is a young black man, despite the judge’s insistence that the jury should consider him innocent until proven guilty. Myers, while showing how the system attempts to bring justice, also shows how our culture and society counteract the search for justice via bias and racism.

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Throughout the novel Monster by Walter Dean Myers, Steve Harmon, the novel's protagonist, is on trial for the robbery and murder of Aguinaldo Nesbitt. Since the majority of the novel describes Steve's trial, it was important for Myers to depict the American justice system accurately. There are numerous provisions and rights granted to individuals that are written in the United States Constitution in regards to legal proceedings. Throughout a trial, the Constitution guarantees a fair process in all hearings and equal treatment under the law. The Constitution requires a speedy trial by an impartial jury, provides the accused with a lawyer, and allows them to call witnesses to the stand on their behalf. In the novel, Kathy O'Brien is Steve's lawyer, and Mr. Sawicki testifies to Steve's character during the trial. One of the Constitution's most important amendments states that a...

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person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. At the beginning of the trial, O'Brien takes the podium and says,

"As Mr. Harmon's attorney all I ask of you, the jury, is that you look at Steve Harmon now and remember that at this moment the American system of justice demands that you consider him innocent. He is innocent until proven guilty. If you consider him innocent now, and by law you must, if you have not prejudged him, then I don't believe we will have a problem convincing you that nothing the State will produce will challenge that innocence" (Myers 31).

As the novel progresses, Steve's attorney represents him well, and the jury finds Steve Harmon not guilty. Steve was granted all of his individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution, and an impartial jury judged Steve fairly.

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