Who’s To Blame?

Law Abiding Citizen, directed by F. Gary Gray, depicts the events of a man, who was once a law abiding citizen that decides to take justice into his own hands after the government fails to punish one of his family’s killers. However, not only does he work to exact revenge on the killer, but also on anyone who was involved in convicting him during his hearing. In this film, Gray works to highlight a lot of flaws within our judicial system. For instance, when Shelton was speaking with his attorney, Nick Rice, he learns that his case was compromised due to the fact that he black out during the robbery, and the forensic evidence found was sloppy; therefore, the evidence they have against the two robbers is circumstantial. But, due to the idea that Rice wants to keep his conviction rate up, he makes a deal with the Darby in return for his guilty plea to third-degree murder in return for his testimony to send Ames to death row. It is unfortunate that we have so many stipulations that block victims from getting proper justice for crimes that were committed. So because he passed out during an assault, and the forensic team contaminated his evidence, killers can go free? We’re basically placing the blame on the victims for being able to improperly handle an attack, or holding too much value in the hands of poorly trained investigators that contaminate evidence crime scene after scene.  It is a scary though in the grand scheme of petty crimes that takes place throughout our society. However, like Shelton points out in the court room later in the film, it is an outrage that our supposed justice system make deals with known criminals.

How it that our government can know someone is guilty, without any doubt, but continue to make deal after deal with them to increase the rate of conviction? Is our legal system a competition? But to what cost? Clearly in this film, it cost the trust of a man’s faith in the government. Thus, he took matters into his own hands, like many others do. As a country shouldn’t we be able to trust that our government can know right from wrong, and punish those who are wronging those who are right? When they don’t, they send a message to the people that if you truly want justice, you must handle your problems yourself. However, is it justice that was truly sought, or revenge? At what point should our government punish a man who was doing what the government couldn’t?



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7 responses to “Who’s To Blame?

  1. michaeldepasquale

    The legal system set in place is not perfect, this is clearly pointed out by the movie. While this is a case in which I feel the justice system has failed the citizens involved, they are obligated to follow the codes and laws made for them. Therefore its not so much the human error involved during the case, and prior to the case, but the main problem stems from the system and how it is set up. While it is very hard to create a system that is perfect, it is also very hard to be a part of a system that knows a man is guilty but the evidence cannot prove it. That being said, the justice system does serve its purpose most of the time in this country and is in place for a reason. It is not responsible to blame the people within the system for the outcomes, because they have been preconditioned to follow the rules as well.

    • srayena

      Law Abiding Citizen and the Problem with the Blackstone Ratio

      As pointed out in this post, Law Abiding Citizen tackles the painfully common question of what constitutes justice/just action in a corrupt or inefficient system of government. In the case of the Shelton family, Clyde Shelton is left completely disillusioned with the U.S. justice system after one of the men responsible for his family’s death is set free, and the other put to death by lethal injection. Clyde Shelton, the sole survivor of the robbery gone-wrong, is seen in this clip illustrating how easy it is for an individual who commits murder to go free during the arraignment process. Unfortunately the cases of Ames and Darby were imperfectly handled because of a structural inefficiency in our justice system. The problem with anyone, whether they be the victim of a crime or not, in taking matters into their own hands, is that the very same “inefficiency” that allowed Ames and Darby to go free, namely the rules of evidence in criminal proceedings, exist so that innocent individuals are not railroaded by overzealous police forces and attorneys. Unfortunately, even though Clyde Shelton was correct in pointing out the injustice that a person who murdered two people could be set free, he also illustrates the realistic failing of the rationale which backs our courts rules of evidence, namely the Blackstone ratio. (The Blackstone ratio is the principle that it is better that “ten guilty men escape, than one innocent man suffer” from the justice system). The fact that Darby was able to plea bargain his way free by selling out his co-conspirator and taking advantage of unfortunate elements of the investigation puts a more human face to the cold mathematical principle that Western law has so consistently abided by.
      -Alauna Safarpour

  2. ald3561

    As discussed in the blog post, this movie captures a corrupt justice system. I think that mainly it boils down to integrity, and that Rice was willing to let Darby off easy as long as it meant getting himself ahead. Unfortunately, that is how the legal system works for many individuals and law abiding citizens such as Shelton have to suffer because lawyers are forced into sticking up for criminals that they know to be guilty. It’s not necessarily Rice’s fault, its just the position that he is in and how the legal system works that he has to try to make the best name for himself. Now this raises the question as to whether this is morally right or not. Personally, I think it takes a certain kind of person to want to involve himself in criminal law and be willing to stick up for criminals even if they brutally raped and killed an innocent man’s family. It just proves how much people, especially in this country will do whatever it takes to be number one.

  3. The judicial system in the United States operates on the presumption that all people who appear before a court are innocent until proven guilty by a jury of their peers. Jamie Foxx discusses this idea in the film itself when he tells Clyde “its not what you know its what you can prove in court.” So if the only eye witness to the crime blacked out during the assault after suffering severe trauma, wouldn’t a reasonable jury member question that victim identifying his attackers? It would be likely that the trauma altered his memory and he picked out individuals who were presented to him. Because of this fact and the fact the American justice system is built on conviction beyond all reasonable evidence, it would be unlikely that either man would have been convicted for the assault on Clyde and his family. However, if one criminal was willing to testify against the other, it would provide a corroborating eye witness to Clyde and make an iron-clad case against one criminal. The obvious downside the testifying criminal has to be incentivised to testify, in many cases a reduction of penalty. With the available facts at hand and no other possible means of gaining evidence, Nick Rice made the correct call and made a deal with Darby to ensure both men would pay in some form for their crime.

  4. tjholt7790

    As you think it worthwhile to mention the costs involved when concerning our flawed judicial system, I think you leave out a cost that would better counterbalance your argument. You say that insufficient evidence results in a man’s loss of faith in the judicial system. Conversely, don’t you think you might mention that had these two been been convicted based on the provided evidence, the alternative cost might be imprisoning the wrong person. So ultimately, I think our judicial system has its flaws, but genuinely does well to choose the “lesser evil” through laws and regulations that would be impossible to make absolute.

  5. You make a valid arguement in saying that the blame is being placed on victims for not being able to properly defend themselves against an attack of the corrupt judicial system. I couldn’t help but think of the situation in current news regarding the Trayvon Martin case. Because Trayvon was unarmed and attacked by Zimmerman, Trayvon is not alive to properly defend himself. Zimmerman was not initially thrown in jail, as he should have been. He was able to roam free. After he was arrested, he was allowed to post bond since he has only been accused of 2nd degree murder, not charged. This brings me back to Shelton’s statement in the court room that the judicial system makes deals with known criminals. We know Zimmerman is a criminal, but I honestly feel like the fact that his dad is a retired judge, he is being allowed a bit more leeway. This further elaborates on your statement of whether trust can actually be put in the judicial system.

  6. emilydarst

    It is very true that there are many flaws in the judicial system of our government. Shelton was so upset by the death of his family at the hands of Ames and Darby (and understandably so) that he wanted to see both of the men die. But when the government cut a deal with Darby to sentence Ames to death, Darby was able to go free after little time in prison. I agree with you that many people are upset by the flaws of the judicial system, and take situations into their own hands. However, when taking matters into their own hands results in more broken laws, people like Shelton must be punished as well. The goal of Shelton’s violence was ultimately to prove to Nick Rice that he should not negotiate with criminals, as he did with Darby ten years prior.

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