Thursday, September 20, 2012

Worst Courtroom Drama: No. 2 The Untouchables

The Untouchables (1987) was an outstanding movie.  Exciting, entertaining, and an Oscar-winning performance by Sean Connery.

"He pulls a knife, you pull a gun.  He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.  That's the Chicago way."
Click HERE for the clip.

But the concluding scene may be the worst single legal scene in the history of movies. 

The premise: Al Capone's trial for tax evasion is scheduled to begin. Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) discovers the jury has been bribed. Ness bluffs to get a new jury, telling the judge that his name is in Capone's coded book listing public officials who have received payoffs from the mobster. The judge orders the jury switched with one in another courtroom.

Capone (Robert DiNiro) screams at his lawyer to do something. The lawyer announces to the court that he's changing Capone's plea to guilty.  Mayhem ensues. Click HERE for the clip of the scene.

Problem: A lawyer would be disbarred for entering a plea of guilty against his client's wishes. Moreover, a court could never accept such a plea, and any judge who did would be removed from the bench and possibly disbarred.

This would be like making the movie 1492, only Columbus actually does sail off the edge of the world.  It is that absurd. And I think most of the people in the audience probably knew it.   This is such a perversion of what happens in court  that it goes a long way to spoiling an otherwise wonderful movie.

And just for a little extra, a judge could never simply switch juries without giving an opportunity for the lawyers to question the prospective jurors.

But then, I guess when you have Sean Connery waxing poetic about guns, morgues and "the Chicago way,"  and the image of a weird looking baby in his carriage bouncing down the steps at Chicago's Union Station while Ness and his boys dispatch bad guys with sterling marksmanship, maybe you don't care about legalities.

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