Friday, October 09, 2009

Injustice Cannot Be Abided

In Law Abiding Citizen, Gerard Butler and director F Gary Gray send a message to the world's criminal justice systems that should not be ignored.

In the film, Clyde Shelton (Bulter) is an unassuming engineer living out his life with his wife and child until the night Clarence Darby (Christian Stolte) and Rupert Ames (Josh Stewart) invade his home. Darby rapes and kills his wife, then slays his child.

Wanting to preserve his 96% conviction rate and unwilling to risk a defeat, prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) opts to accept an offer by Darby to testify against Ames. Darby even perjurs himself on the stand by insisting that Ames committed the murders.

As any man would be, Shelton is devastated.

10 years later, however, Shelton returns to attempt to correct the system. Darby has served a mere three years for the murders he convicted, and Ames has finally exhausted his appeals and is about to receive a lethal injection.

Shelton compromises the solution injected into Ames, resulting in an agonizing death for the condemned man, then slowly tortures Darby to death.

When police come to arrest him he goes without a fuss, then promptly swings a minor deal with Rice in return for a confession that doesn't promptly come. Despite his promise of a confession, Shetlon nearly recieves bail before his indignant berating of the judge results in being held in contempt of court.

He quickly beings demanding more deals. His skills as a CIA master assassin help him quickly amass a bodycount even as he remains in solitary confinement.

Rice is issued an ultimatum: cut another deal -- drop all charges against Shelton -- or eventually face his own death, but not before watching all of his colleagues taken before him. Detective Dunnigan (Colm Meaney) suggests that Shelton is saving Rice for last.

Rice quickly learns the consequences of disappointing a man who -- despite having taken many lives during his time with the CIA -- simply cannot abide injustice.

Plea bargains have long been controversial in matters of criminal justice. They can secure convictions in cases where perpetrators may otherwise go free, and are considered to help relieve the population demands on prisons.

But in cases where perpetrators may be willing to fallaciously testify against accomplices it can lead to the wrong people being convicted of the wrong crimes. In cases such as the real-life case of Jessie Misskelley, the member of the famed West Memphis Three who was badgered and intimidated into testifying against his fellow accused, it can be used to attain convictions that are not justified by evidence.

In cases of crimes that are comparatively minor, a plea bargain can be defensible. But in cases of murder -- where lives have already been taken and further lives are at stake -- plea bargains should be judged to be utterly unacceptable in a court of law.

Injustices like the one perpetrated in Law Abiding Citizen simply cannot be abided. Fortunately, incredibly skilled sociopaths like Clyde Shelton are few and bar between in real life.

Otherwise, this is a lesson unscrupulous justice officials would likely learn in blood.

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