Double Jeopardy Review

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

            The justice system in the United States is at work everyday in many situations. The justice system is charged with punishing and sentencing those who violate the laws set down by legislatures. These punishments rely on evidence of said crime that proves guilt. Sometimes however the justice system fails in its task. This can be seen in prisons and jails across the country where the innocent are punished for the failures of the system. Movies are often created to depict current events often with fictional twists to separate them from true situations. Double Jeopardy is such a movie. Double Jeopardy is the story of a woman tried and wrongly convicted for her husband’s death.

            The movie is centered on a woman, Libby Parsons, played by Ashley Judd. Libbyleads what appears to be a charmed life. She has a loving husband, a beautiful son, and appears to want for nothing. One night after a romantic evening on their boat, Libby awakens to find her husband gone. While searching for him, she discovers blood all over the boat along with a bloody knife and severed radio wires. She emerges onto the deck of the boat frantically searching for her husband fearing that he is the victim of an intruder, only to find the deck empty and the boat surrounded by the Coast Guard. A search soon begins to find Libby’s husband, Nick. After several fruitless days Nick is declared dead. Libby is suspected of his murder. She is charged and convicted. Maintaining her innocence Libby is sentenced to six years in jail. Because of the circumstances of Nick’s death, Libby is suspicious that he is alive. Six years in jail, separated from her young son, Libby begins to realize she may have been framed for her husband’s murder. And a call to her son’s guardian, Angela, confirms her theory. While in jail Libby learns about the concept of double jeopardy, the fact that once tried for a crime you cannot be tried again. Libby begins to formulate a plan that once out of jail she will take revenge for what was done to her.

            What happened to Libby is only too familiar to those wrongly accused of crimes. She was given council by a friend who seemed inadequate to handle the magnitude of her case. People are often convicted for crimes they do not commit because of the inadequate council who represent them. Public defenders are often ill informed of the necessary evidence needed or overwhelmed by the amount of cases they are given. She was also convicted based on evidence that was circumstantial at best, another situation seen often in the conviction of innocent people. The justice system, meant to seek retribution for victims of crimes, often creates victims of the system when it fails. The reasons most of these cases go unnoticed is because people trust the system. People believe that the system operates on fairness, and it is this perceived fairness that drives people to believe that those convicted received a fair trial and just punishment for their crime. The Belief in Just World theory also contributes to the public’s opinions of the justice system. They want to believe that the justice system is doing its job and is not causing any harm to innocent people, because any contradiction to this theory would cause psychological discomfort for the public.

            After her release, Libby is paroled in the state of Washington under the care of her parole officer, played by Tommy Lee Jones. Libby begins to search for her son, who disappeared along with Angela soon after her incarceration. This search introduces her to the truth of what happened to her husband. Facing financial ruin, Nick decided to fake his death and escape, leaving Libby to deal with the consequences of his plot. Nick then gets together with Angela and disappears from Washington, taking Libby’s son with them. While searching for her son, Libby learns that Angela was killed in a home “accident” leaving Nick, who had taken the name Simon, and her son to move freely again. Libby finally tracks Nick down in New Orleans. Threatening to out his secrets, Libby demands her son and nothing more, but Nick will not go down without a fight. He attempts to silence her by burying her alive. Throughout her journey, her parole officer has been chasing her, seeing as she skipped parole to find her son. He too catches up with her in New Orleans, but he begins to realize that Libby may have been telling the truth about her husband all along. He and Libby plan to reveal Nick’s many indiscretions by recording his confession to Libby’s “murder” and turning him into the police. Libby’s only goal remains to have her son returned. During their interaction with Nick, he attempts to kill both Libby and her parole officer. Libby shoots Nick in her defense and her parole officer’s defense. And in the end is reunited with her son.

            The concept of double jeopardy is complex. The basic structure says once tried, and the trial is carried all the way through, no person can be retried for the same crime. For Libby, she was tried and convicted for Nick’s murder, when she kills Nick at the end of the movie she cannot be tried again.  Libby served prison time for crime she did not commit, but ended up committing in the end she will serve no more time. Confusing, as this all may be, it is legal. Libby is done a great injustice when convicted wrongly. This injustice is then righted in the end through her persistence, and the real criminal, Nick, is punished. Though this situation is similar to many cases in the present it differs when it comes to the end. Most victims of injustice never see that injustice righted.

            Those who become victims of the justice system rarely see their injustices corrected. If it does happen it often comes too late. Innocent people are often the victim of a justice system that is too eager to right wrongs without sufficient evidence of guilt. Police sometimes believe guilt so much that they will formulate evidence to correlate with their theories. Not that police are doing anything illegal or wrong, they are just trying to do their jobs and often are just trying to bring justice to the world. Prosecutors then take this evidence without question and charge people on these grounds alone. To right these injustices perpetuated by the justice system, a reform would have to take place. A reform would revamp the entire system, placing new, more stringent barriers to prosecution so that no innocent could fall through the cracks.