The story takes place in Manhattan and Harlem, New York City, mostly in a city lockup, but sometimes in the neighborhood where Steve Harmon lives.
Steve Harmon - He is a sixteen year old young Black man who has been arrested for acting as the look-out in robbery that goes bad and ends in a murder. He is the narrator for the story, writing it in the form of a screenplay interspersed with his journal entries.
Kathy O’Brien - She is Steve’s defense attorney who uses his character traits before the crime and makes sure she distances him from the other defendants as way of getting a not guilty verdict.
Sandra Petrocelli - She is the Assistant District Attorney who prosecutes the case against Steve and James King. She labels them “monsters.”
James King - A black man who is also young, but older than Steve, he encourages Steve to be a part of his “crew” which will rob the drugstore. He is accused of being in the drugstore, wrestling Mr. Nesbitt for the gun, and ultimately shooting the older man to death.
Richard “Bobo’ Evans - He is the other young man accused of being in the store at the time of the murder. He is stealing the money from the register and grabbing the cartons of cigarettes when the gun goes off. He makes a deal with the prosecution to testify against King and Steve to get a lighter sentence.
Osvaldo Cruz - He is another participant in the crime. It was his job to stand outside and trip up anyone who tries to catch them after they rob the store. He claims he did it, because he was afraid of Bobo, but he is a member of a street gang and slashed someone’s face to be accepted into the gang.
Lorelle Henry - She is a grandmother who was in the drugstore at the time of the murder. She testifies that she saw two men there and picks James King from a handful of pictures and then out of a lineup.
José Delgado - He worked in the drugstore and found Mr. Nesbitt’s body. He also determined that several cartons of cigarettes had been stolen along with money from the cash register.
Steve’s parents - They are depicted as hard-working people who have tried to raise their sons right. Steve’s mother continues to believe in him no matter what, but his father looks at him like he doesn’t really know him.
Dorothy Moore - James King’s cousin, she testifies that James had brought her a new lamp for Christmas at the time of the murder.
George Nipping - He testifies that James King is left-handed which creates reasonable doubt that King did the crime, since it was more likely that Mr. Nesbitt was shot by a right-handed perpetrator. His testimony is weak, however, because the perpetrator was wrestling with Mr. Nesbitt over the gun.
Alguinaldo Nesbitt - The victim of the crime, he is depicted as a decent, hard-working citizen who lost his life in defense of his property. However, his character isn’t well presented, because the focus of the story is Steve and other young men on trial.