Murder in the First is a largely fictitious 1995 film, directed by Marc Rocco, about a petty criminal named Henri Young (played by Kevin Bacon) who is put on trial for murder in the first degree.
As a 17-year old orphan, Henri Young stole $5.00 from a grocery store/U.S. Post Office to feed himself and his little sister, both of whom are destitute. He is apprehended by the store clerk, and his sister is sent to an orphanage. Although Henri's goal was only to steal $5.00 from the store, it doubled as a U.S. Post Office and he was convicted of robbing a post office, which was a federal offense. Henri never sees his sister again and is sentenced to Leavenworth Penitentiary, Kansas. Young is later transferred to Alcatraz where he participates in a scheme to escape.
The plot fails due to the betrayal of a fellow inmate, Rufus McCain, and Young is sent to solitary confinement, where he is left for three years (except 30 minutes at Christmas). During this extraordinary period in solitary confinement (typical confinement lasts no more than 19 days), Young slowly begins to lose his mind. Upon being released from solitary confinement, Henri experiences a psychotic episode in the cafeteria and attacks McCain, who is still in general population, stabbing him to death with a spoon in full view of the prison staff and convict population.
Henri is put on trial for the murder in the first degree, in what is assumed to be an open-and-shut case by both the prosecution and the public defender's office. James Stamphill, a recent law school graduate, is given the case. After discovering the facts behind Henri's case, the young lawyer attempts to put Alcatraz on trial, alleging that the conditions in Alcatraz caused Henry to commit the murder. In a highly politicized and contentious trial, Henri is convicted only of the lesser offense of involuntary manslaughter, but later dies after returning to Alcatraz to serve his sentence. After the events of the film, Milton Glenn, the associate warden in charge of day to day activities of Alcatraz, is convicted of mistreatment and is banned from working in the penal system.
The producers wanted authenticity so Bacon, Slater and Oldman spent some of their free time locked in jail cells while the movie was being filmed. Kevin Bacon even lost twenty pounds for his role as the Alcatraz inmate.
Filming during one of the courtroom scenes was interrupted by the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.
In reality, Young stabbed his victim not with a spoon, as in the movie, but with two knives he made in a prison workshop. What is not disputed is that Young was a person with a murderous anger who was very uncooperative during his trial.
Neither was the real Henri Young convicted of stealing $5 to save his sister from destitution. He had been a bank robber who had taken a hostage on at least one occasion and committed murder in 1933. Before being incarcerated at Alcatraz in 1936, Young had already served time in State prisons in Montana and Washington. He entered federal correctional facilities for the first time in 1935 at the U.S. Penitentiary on McNeil Island, Washington.
The movie ends with the fictional Henri Young being returned to the dungeons of Alcatraz in the early 1940s where he dies. The real Henri Young remained in Alcatraz until 1948, and then stayed in the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners at Springfield, Missouri until 1954. He was then handed over to the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla to begin a life sentence for his earlier murder conviction.
In 1972 Young was released from Washington State Penitentiary but he jumped parole. According to Washington State authorities his whereabouts are unknown. Young therefore might still be alive, but it is unlikely given that he was born in 1918.
*Kevin Bacon - Henri Young
*Christian Slater - James Stamphill
*Gary Oldman - Warden Milton Glenn
*Embeth Davidtz - Mary McCasslin
*William H. Macy - D.A. William McNeil
*Stephen Tobolowsky - Mr. Henkin
*Brad Dourif - Byron Stamphill
*R. Lee Ermey - Judge Clawson
*Mia Kirshner - Rosetta Young Dial
*Ben Slack - Jerry Hoolihan
*Stefan Gierasch - Warden James Humson
*Kyra Sedgwick - Blanche, Hooker
*Alex Bookston - Alcatraz Doctor
*David Michael Sterling - Rufus McCain
*Michael Melvin - Arthur "Doc" Barker
*Leslie Harlow - Viola SolosThis text has been derived from Murder in the First on Wikipedia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0