’61st Street’ Season 1 Recap & Ending, Explained: Was Moses Johnson Found Guilty?


What happens when a Black man is caught in the wrong place and at the wrong time by white cops? Should he make a run for his life or surrender, knowing that he could be shot dead? Created by Peter Moffat, 61st Street explores the dilemma of every Black individual. The series is a legal drama that is centered around athlete Moses Johnson and his tragic encounter with the Chicago Police Department. Moses was all set to get a full scholarship for his college education, but unfortunately, he got caught up in a situation straight out of his worst nightmare.

Spoilers Alert

’61st Street’ Plot Summary: What Is The Series About? 

Michael Rossi was eager to qualify as a sergeant, but for some reason, he never made the cut. He was a dedicated policeman with a perfect record, yet he struggled to get promoted. The Chicago Police Department was making several drug busts, and strangely enough, it was always The Nation gang that was cornered. Rossi did not think much about it before a Nation member he had contact with (Tutu) pointed out that someone from the police department was getting paid by the rival gang, The Faction. The person in question was directing all police operations toward the Nation while giving The Faction a clear pass. There was a dirty cop in the department, and Rossi decided to wear a wire to record any clue that could be helpful in taking action. He had his doubts about Lieutenant Brannigan, and he recorded their confrontational conversation. As usual, Brannigan notified Rossi that he did not qualify, but this time Rossi wanted an explanation. He disclosed the rumor that was going on in the streets and hoped that Brannigan would break his silence, but he did not. All Brannigan was concerned about was getting the name of the gang member who proposed the theory Rossi presented, and his conversation with Rossi ended the moment he had the name.

Brannigan called for assistance for a drug bust, and Rossi and his partner, Johnny Logan, arrived at the scene. Logan could sense that something was bothering Rossi, but Rossi stayed tight-lipped about it. Meanwhile, Moses Johnson was returning home from his practice session. He noticed his little brother, Joshua, engaging with the Nation Boys and tried to handle the situation. Joshua was returning home, but he was stopped by the gang and asked to take a detour. The disagreement gradually escalated owing to the vastly different lives they were leading. Tutu was particularly offended by Moses referring to them as ‘boys.’ He pulled his gun out and attempted to make a statement by firing in the air. Unbeknownst to him, the cops were already in the corner. As soon as he pulled the trigger, Brannigan shot him dead and approached the gang with the rest of the police force.

Moses and Joshua got caught up in the chaos. Joshua followed the police’s instructions, whereas Moses chose to run for his life. Moses feared losing the life he looked forward to for gang activity that he was not involved in. He wanted to protect himself and the life that he and his mother had built with tremendous sacrifice. Rossi chased Moses, and after a while, Rossi caught up with him. Moses could either surrender or run, and once again, he decided to flee. His only way out was by jumping over the containers, and he pushed Rossi to execute his escape plan. Rossi fell to the ground, and his head dashed into an iron rod. A protruding piece of metal pierced through the back of Rossi’s head, and he started to lose blood. The situation had worsened, and Moses was completely lost. When Logan came to his friend’s rescue, Moses jumped over the containers to leave. Logan shot at him, but the bullet missed the target. The medical team tried to resuscitate Rossi, but he was already gone. Moses was still on the run, but the police had Joshua under custody, and they were resolute in finding an answer one way or another through him.

Why Was Moses Johnson’s Case Important To Franklin Roberts?

For over thirty years, Franklin Roberts has been representing wrongfully apprehended Black individuals in court. He chose to study law to contribute to his community, but somewhere deep down, he felt unfulfilled. His emotions often got the best of him, and instead of helping his client, he ended up offending the judge, leading to an unfavorable outcome. With constant throbbing abdominal and back pain, Roberts knew that it was the last leg of his career, and he wanted to give it his best shot. He soon learned that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer, which was aggressive. Even though his health was rapidly degrading, he was not ready to give up. When he learned about Moses Johnson, he decided that the kid needed his expertise. Franklin knew that a Black man running away from the police could not end well, and he was ready to help him fight his case in court. Moses’ mother, Norma, worked as a cleaner at the courthouse, and he had always heard praise for the boy. The news shocked him, and his instinct was to be there for him.

Meanwhile, the police entered Norma’s apartment in the hopes of finding her son. A packet of drugs was planted and retrieved from the scene, and Norma was arrested and brought to the station. Brannigan applied the good cop, bad cop tactics to Joshua. The teenager was dragged out of the station and taken to the river, where he was violated and tortured to give up his brother’s name. Joshua and Norma were allowed to leave the moment Joshua identified his brother. Even though Joshua had returned home, he continued to suffer from the trauma inflicted on him. He blamed himself for risking Moses’ life and started to seek financial help from the Nation gang. Moses was eventually arrested by the police after they tracked down Franklin and Joshua. Moses met his friend, Marquise, who sought help from Franklin. The police had planted recording devices at Norma’s apartment, and when Franklin disclosed that he had met her son, the police were already alerted. Joshua figured out that Marquise’s girlfriend would know about Moses, and the police followed him. Moses was arrested while escaping from the basement of the house, and Franklin declared that he was Moses’ lawyer and that he would see the case through.

What Did The Prosecutor Try To Establish?

Lieutenant Brannigan was fixated on circulating a particular frame from the surveillance footage to portray Moses as a vicious criminal. The despair in Moses’ eyes went overlooked, and all that the Chicago Police Department wanted the jury to remember was that particular frame. The fact that Moses’ father, Speak, was a gang leader made the entire narrative all the more convincing for the prosecutor’s office. Franklin reminded the jury that Moses was not a gang member; he was busy maintaining a good academic score while dedicating himself to his athletic endeavors. He went on to explain how Moses ran not because he was guilty but because he was afraid of being another Black man who died at the hands of the police. He was scared of being murdered simply because of prejudice, and his decision was an act of self-defense.

Franklin Roberts became a little suspicious when the prosecutor offered a deal to reduce Moses’ sentence to 20 years. He revisited the crime scene with Calvin, who had witnessed the entire incident and confirmed that a shot was fired by Johnny Logan. This proved that Moses’ decision to run was an act of self-defense since his life was truly in danger. After studying the entire scenario and calculating the possibilities, they chanced upon the woman who reported a gunshot firing, and lucky for them, she kept the bullet that entered her van. The bullet proved that the shot was fired from a 9-mm slug. During the trial, Franklin confronted Logan about the bullet, but he denied firing the shot. Brannigan had already received information about the bullet, and he had replaced the actual gun that Logan used with a 0.45 caliber gun. Norma’s friend, Big Phil, was the snitch Brannigan planted, and he informed Brannigan about the gun. We later get to know that the Deputy Chief of Police used his influence to get the gun replaced at the last minute. While Franklin failed to prove his point in court, Nicole Carter helped find evidence that proved that Logan was assigned a 9mm slug and not the one that was presented in court. But Franklin could not help but obsess over the snitch who had leaked the information.

The prosecutor tried to take advantage of Joshua’s involvement with The Nation in court. But then again, they fell into their own trap. Joshua joined the gang after his brother was wrongfully framed by the police. They needed money to pay for his trial and to keep the house running. It was a decision made out of necessity and not out of choice. When Franklin asked him to discuss his experience at the police station, Joshua broke down. There was video footage that showed how he was taken out of the station and brought back hours later. Joshua suffered from PTSD after his encounter with the police officers. When he noticed the two officers who tortured him in court, he completely lost control of himself. He was agitated and afraid of being harmed once again. While his testimony would not be carried forward in court due to a lack of cross-questioning, it was evident how far the police officers went to get information.

Brannigan got in contact with one of Nation’s gang members, TJ. He testified against Moses, stating that he was working for the gang. Moses’ life was at risk in prison, and Speak provided him with protection. He was expected to work for the gang if he wanted to stay alive, and Moses got involved in one delivery. Franklin’s condition worsened during the trial, and he was admitted to the hospital. The cancer cells were spreading rapidly, and while Martha wanted her husband to rest and recover, all Franklin cared about was the case. He had received a parcel from a stranger that consisted of Rossi and Brannigan’s conversation that Rossi had secretly recorded. It could be either Logan, who was suffering from guilt and indecision or Rossi’s wife, who also had access to the record. When Franklin studied the surveillance footage, he realized that Rossi was wearing a wire the morning he died, and he assumed that only Logan knew about it. It was obvious that Logan’s conscience made it impossible for him to live peacefully, but he did not have the courage to stand in court and speak the truth. Meanwhile, Martha, Norma, and Janet Porter requested to meet Dante Blake. Dante was the head of the Nation gang, and Martha had information that she needed to discuss with him before Franklin could present it in court. Tutu (Rufus) was in contact with Rossi, and while snitching is unacceptable in gang politics, Martha hoped that Dante would consider it since Rossi’s record was crucial to the case. Dante agreed to spare Janet and allow the record to be used in court.

’61st Street’ Season 1 Ending: Was Moses Johnson Found Guilty?

In episode 8 of 61st Street, Moses Johnson takes the stand. Franklin had been trying to convince Moses all this time to speak for himself in court, and he finally agreed. He admitted that he ran once he realized that his life was in danger. He went on to explain how there was some physical contact when Rossi tried to prevent him from jumping over the containers. Rossi fell back on the iron bar after the contact, and he died. He further added how Logan shot him in the back when he tried to run away, which further confirmed his fear that the police wanted him dead. The prosecutor cross-questioned Moses and established that even after knowing that he was being chased by police officers, he chose to run away. The prosecutor underlined the fact that Rossi had not drawn his weapon, which meant that his intention was not necessarily to harm Moses. When the counselor accused Moses of making assumptions, it led to an argument of sorts. The judge deduced that Moses had confessed to the crime; he had run away from a cop and resisted an arrest. He was convinced that the police followed the law, while Moses disobeyed it. The trial was about to come to an end when Martha stepped in and informed Franklin that he could use the recording in court.

Franklin called upon Lieutenant Brannigan once again to the stand. He was asked about the shooting of Tutu, and Brannigan continued to play innocent. The recording was played in court, and it was clear that Brannigan knew about Tutu. Not only that, Tutu was a threat to his arrangement with the Faction, and shooting him dead benefitted Brannigan. The truth was out in the open, and Brannigan had no choice but to call it fictional. Franklin accused Brannigan of executing Rufus Porter, and he added that Moses’ action was justified considering the entire situation. Norma confirmed that Brannigan knew about Rufus’ connection with the CPD, and he used the knowledge to keep Norma and Janet quiet about the execution. The jury decided that Moses Johnson was not guilty on the count of first-degree murder. Celebration broke out inside the courtroom, and Franklin, Moses, and his family finally breathed an air of relief after their victory. Moses was welcomed back into the community with open arms. Martha and her family had twice the reason to celebrate, considering that she was elected to represent South Side. We can assume that she will face some trouble with Dante since she owes him favor.  

At the end of 61st Street, Phil returns to his home, and we find out that he is married and lives with his two children. We do not know if he suffered from guilt for betraying Norma’s trust, but it is evident that protecting his job was his priority; after all, he had a family to feed. Logan felt conflicted about the decisions he made, and he hoped to mend his relationship with Jessica. Jessica and Logan shared a brief intimate relationship, and she knew about the recording. Jessica chose to protect Logan and confided in Brannigan that it was she who had submitted the recording to Franklin Roberts. She did not wish to cause harm to Logan, but at the same time, she lost her respect for him after realizing that he had been lying in court all this time. Logan wanted to do the right thing, but he was also afraid of losing his job. He had recorded his conversation with the corrupt deputy chief of police, but he chose to remain silent about it. He could either stand up for the truth or continue to be part of the corrupt system. His silence and absence indicated that he chose his career over the truth. Moses was back on track; the lack of practice had affected his form, but the joy of doing what he loved the most would keep him going. While Franklin’s days are numbered, he experienced a sense of relief knowing that he did what he aimed to do even at the very last moment of his career.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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