1. Where is Papillon when the story begins and why does he think he is in his current situation?
The story opens in "The Assizes," with Papillion about to enter the courtroom for his trial. He is twenty-five but looks somewhat younger, is well-dressed and polite which prompts the jailers to allow him to walk around without handcuffs. Papillion notes that the star witness against him is a "walking tape recorder" named Polein. Papillion insists that he does not know Polein and holds to the idea that Polein was caught in some illegal action with the police agreeing to drop the charges against him in return for lies against Papillion--a claim supported by the fact that Polein is later arrested for drug trafficking.
2. What is Papillon convicted of and what is his sentence?
Papillion is accused of having murdered "a pimp and a stool pigeon" named Roland de Petit. Papillion is sentenced to life in prison at hard labor, escaping the death penalty because the jury apparently did not believe the murder to be premeditated.
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