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.