As I was reading Monster, many things stuck out to me, one that was especially prominent and that spoke to me was a conversation between the main character, Steve Harmon, and his defense attorney, Kathy O’Brian, which went like this,
O’BRIAN (indicating cuffs) This wasn’t necessary.
STEVE They Just Like to show they’re in charge. How do you think the trial is going?
O’BRIAN It could be going better.
STEVE What’s wrong?
O’BRIAN Well, frankly, nothing is happening that speaks to your being innocent. Half of those jurors, no matter what they said when we questioned them when we picked the jury, believed you were guilty the moment they laid eyes on you. You’re young, you’re black, and you’re on trial. What else do they need to know?
STEVE I thought you’re supposed to be innocent until your proven guilty?
O’BRIAN That’s true, but in reality it depends on how the jury sees the case. If they see it as a contest between the defense and the prosecution as to who’s lying, they’ll vote for the prosecution. The prosecutor walks around looking very important. No one is accusing her of being a bad person. They’re accusing you of being a monster. The jury can ask itself, why should the prosecutor lie? Our job is to show that she’s not lying, but she’s simply made a mistake. How are you feeling? Is your stomach still upset?
STEVE A little better. (78-79)
This stuck out to me because I don’t like the fact that O’Brian said these things or the way in which she said them. This kind of shows how fucked up is the justice system of the United States. She seems to be saying that because he is different from other criminals because of his skin color, it means it is the job of the jury and the prosecution and prosecutor to blame him for the crime and to show that he is wrong and that he is guilty, but it is Steve and O’Brian’s job to prove that guilty sentence to be wrong.
She says these things in a way that shows she is being matter-of-fact about the whole thing. She seems to think that just because this is the way our justice system works, the way it is, it means that this is the way it has to be and it cannot be fixed or made right in way. She thinks that it is this way and thus has to always be that way, it always has to be rigged and fucked up and no one can do anything about it. She stated these things as if they were always true and always will be true no matter what, in spite of what anyone does to change it, as if no one can do anything about the way the justice system in this country is fucked up.
I don’t like what she said and the way she said it because I know that the justice system can be fixed and people can change it. If people make an effort to do something about the way our justice system is run and make an effort to change it then it can be changed. I believe if we don’t assume that someone is wrong or guilty because of skin color and assume people are innocent until proven guilty regardless of skin color then we can have real and legitimate justice, and can have a justice system that actually works; we can have fair trials and criminals that actually learn from their punishments and punishments that actually work, legitimate punishments that match the crime and are deserved based on the crime.
I hate it when people say things like how fucked up our justice system is but don’t do anything about it as if thats the way it is therefore that’s the way it’s supposed to be, that’s the way it’s always been and so it will always be. This is the way O’Brian thinks about our justice system and is thus teaching Steve that this is the way it is and it annoys me that anyone can think this way. I don’t like the fact that she thinks that there is nothing that can be or will be done to change it and is telling Steve this so he thinks this way as well. That’s why this conversation spoke to me, because if something is broken the way our justice system is, there is always a way that it can be fixed, people just have to find it and figure out what what works and what doesn’t, even if people think this way or not.