Sunday, May 2, 2010

"Star Chamber" as reviewed by Andy

I don't care for movies like "Star Chamber." I suppose it's true for any person whose profession is depicted in film, but as a criminal defense attorney, I can't stand "Star Chamber." In fairness to my friend Karl, he did not recommend the movie as a good movie, rather, it it came up in a discussion that we had.

The jist of the movie is that one judge in California (played by Michael Douglas) is feeling overwhelmed by decisions he had to make that led to the dismissal of a couple of murder cases. The evidence that was supressed (which resulted in the dismissals) were based on illegal searches (one scenario would not now be an illegal search). He feels frustrated because he doesn't believe "justice" is being done. Apparently, in this alternate reality, several judges in California are having this same problem. All kinds of murderers are getting off scott-free.

Another judge who was his mentor invites him to join a group of judges called the Star Chamber. The chamber passes judgment against those defendants who "get off" on technicalities (i.e. the constitution), and if they judge someone to die, they send out an assassin to get the guy.

I guess what bothers me is this idea that a constitutional violation of the law is a "technicality." The fourth amendment is alive and well and protects us all from an encroaching government because illegal searches result in suppressed evidence. The fact of the matter is that good defense attorneys make sure the game is played fairly. As long as cops and prosecutors do their jobs, the bad guys go to jail. And fortunately for all of us, most cops and prosecutors are honest, and very good at what they do, and as a result, our country is a nice place in which to live.

Anyway, my soap box speech could go on and on, but that's the sum of it. And really, I'll bet nobody can think of a single murderer who escaped punishment because of a constitutional violation or a judge's ruling on the admissibility of evidence. And I do appreciate that the film has the decency to show some of the inherent problems with the chamber.

My favorite quote from the film: While watching a LA Dodgers ballgame, Emily says to Adrian, "Was that a homerun?" Adrian replies, "No, that was a single."

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