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Madge Stone worries about the influence that Frank Wilson, a cheap gangster, has on her younger brother Johnnie. Johnnie, who has been hardened by the streets of New York's Hell's Kitchen, is impressed by Wilson's seemingly glamorous life of crime, and accompanies the gangster on a gas station robbery. Madge's worries seem to be at an end when her fiancé, night watchman Fred Burke, announces that he is moving the family to Boston where he has found Johnnie a job. That night, however, Johnnie joins Wilson on a pawn shop robbery, and when the owner of the pawn shop tries to stop him, Wilson kills him with Burke's gun, which Johnnie had stolen. Terrified by Wilson's threats about what will happen if he talks, Johnnie returns home. There Madge is about to tell him about their plans for a new life when the police burst in to arrest Johnnie for the gas station robbery. Wilson and Johnnie are sentenced to Sing Sing, where they learn that Burke has been condemned to the death house for the murder of the pawnbroker. As Johnnie wrestles with his conscience about whether he should exonerate Burke of the murder, Wilson intensifies his threats about what will happen to the boy if he talks. While he awaits the results of Burke's appeal, Johnnie is assigned to work in the library, where he flourishes under the care of Pops, a wise old inmate. Upon learning that Burke's appeal has been denied, Johnnie is on the verge of telling the truth when Burke's lawyer terrifies the boy by accusing him of murder. As Madge wages a battle to save Burke, Wilson, worried that Johnnie will confess, decides to kill him during an attempted jail break. Hours before Burke's execution, Wilson and Johnnie stage an aborted jailbreak and Wilson shoots the boy in cold blood. With his dying breath, Johnnie gives a confession which removes Burke from the shadow of the electric chair and replaces him with Wilson.