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Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Matinee - Double Jeopardy

Have you ever heard of the phrase 'Double Jeopardy'?

I imagine for most of you, the Jeopardy theme song is playing through your heads right now as you think about the answer to this question.

Of course, one of the possible answers to this question is that it is the second round in a standard episode of the long-running game show, Jeopardy. But, no, the quiz show Jeopardy is not the subject for today's blog.

Now, if one was on Jeopardy, which is a show where you're given the answer, and have to come up with the accompanying question to go with the answer to win money, this term might end up appearing in the law category.

If one were to select Law for, say, $400, the answer would be this.

A procedural defense that forbids a defendant from being tried again on the same or similar charges following a legitimate acquittal or conviction.

That's the basic definition of the phrase 'double jeopardy' in law terms.

If the claim of double jeopardy is raised in court, evidence will be provided for the judge to consider, and if this is proven to be a fact, the trial will cease. In many countries, the guarantee against 'double jeopardy' is a constitutional right, and some of the countries that take this as a constitutional right include the United States, Mexico, and India. Other countries, such as Australia, Canada, and Germany have their own policies regarding double jeopardy, but are tweaked a bit depending on the laws of the country.

So, here's the question for all of you. Given that you now know what the phrase 'double jeopardy' is, I pose this question. If you were accused of doing a crime, and were either found guilty or non-guilty, would you tempt the double jeopardy gods and commit a second crime, or commit the crime that you were accused of doing with the knowledge that you could not be tried for the same offense?

Well, okay, according to some law professors, this isn't truly double jeopardy. A law professor from Harvard University named Alan Dershowitz believes that the above situation that I described is a bit of a misrepresentation of the phrase double jeopardy. It would be committing two separate incidents. He says that someone who was wrongly convicted of a crime and went to jail for it could end up suing the courts, or getting some sort of compensation for it. But if they plan to commit an entirely different crime the second time around, which would lead to getting charged for the very thing that they were convicted for, it would be two separate crimes, and according to Dershowitz, there would be no justification for playing the double jeopardy card.

And that was one of the main criticisms for a movie that was released about this very subject.

Now, let's go back to our pretend Jeopardy game, and decide to choose '90s Movies for $600. And it is appropriately enough a Daily Double. And you wager it all and get this answer.

A 1999 movie starring Ashley Judd, who decides to kill her husband after going to jail for his supposed murder six years ago, with a law term that is sure to 'double' the stakes.

If you guessed that the answer was 'Double Jeopardy', you've successfully doubled your score!

Yes, Double Jeopardy was raked over the coals by critics everywhere, and currently only holds about a 25% rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website. Dershowitz claimed the movie to be an inaccurate representation of 'double jeopardy', and one clear sign of a movie not doing critically well is the fact that it is played about seven times a month on cable television every few months or so.

(Seriously, I think I've seen this movie like 25 times on cable television.)

It's actually kind of a shame that the movie didn't perform better. The movie's director was Bruce Beresford, who directed the Academy Award winning film 'Driving Miss Daisy', and the cast was made up of Judd, Tommy Lee Jones, Annabeth Gish, and Bruce Greenwood. It was a talented cast, with great direction. It really should have done much better.

But the film did make a little more than double the film's budget, so I suppose it couldn't have been all that bad.

The film begins at Whidbey Island. A wealthy couple, Nick and Elizabeth Parsons (Greenwood and Judd) decide to go on a boating excursion, borrowing a friend's yacht, and going on a weekend excursion. Elizabeth (who prefers to go by the name Libby) has never been happier. With a loving husband, a best friend named Angela (Gish), and a fantastic life filled with anything and everything money could buy, it seemed like nothing would knock her down.

The weekend on a yacht with the love of her life was supposed to have been one of those perfect days for Libby...but it didn't end up that way.

After waking up the next morning after having a passionate night with Nick, she finds Nick completely vanished without a trace. Even more disturbingly, she finds herself, as well as the floor of the boat stained with blood. Libby, in absolute shock, searches the yacht, trying to make sense of what has happened. She happens to pick up a bloody knife lying on a deck nearby...where she is conveniently discovered by the U.S. Coast Guard.


Long story short, Libby is arrested, completely torn apart in the media, tried, convicted of murdering her husband, and sent to prison.

Now, if that were the end of the movie, admittedly, it would be one of the most depressing movies of all time. But, there's more to this story.

Such as the fact that Libby's beloved husband isn't really dead...and isn't really the nice, charming guy Libby fell in love with.

Turns out that she finds the truth after a phone conversation with her friend, Angela, who ultimately was never really a friend to her in the first place. The reason Libby was speaking with Angela was to check up on her son, Matty, as the prison sentence Libby was given would have prevented her from looking after him. Angela promised to look after Matty in Libby's absence. Angela lets Matty talk to Libby on the phone, and Libby is overjoyed to hear his voice. But then Libby hears a door opening in the background, and is absolutely stunned to hear Matty react to the noise by screaming the word “Daddy!”

So, you know how it goes. Libby was framed for murder, leaving the path clear for Nick to make his son the sole beneficiary of his life insurance policy (as people who are convicted for murder cannot make a claim on insurance policies). From there, Nick could start up an affair with Angela, and then Nick and Angela would start a new life together with Matty, leaving Libby rotting away in prison.

That bastard.

So, now that Libby realizes that she is being set up, and that her loving husband isn't so loving after all, she wants revenge. Problem is, she's stuck in prison until her parole hearing, and behind bars, there wasn't much one could do.

All Libby can do is serve her time, act on her best behaviour, and do whatever chores she was assigned in hopes of getting an early release. But something else fuels her desire to get out of prison. One of the other inmates in the prison she is in tells her about the double jeopardy clause, and that if she does happen to get paroled for good behaviour, she could then go out, kill her husband for real, and not have to get convicted a second time. The wheels in Libby's brain start to turn, and she is realizing that if she ever wanted a chance to get her son (and her life for that matter) back, the double jeopardy clause could be her ticket.

Approximately six years pass (or approximately 35 minutes in movie time) before Libby gets paroled, and she immediately begins searching for Nick and Matty. Of course, she finds that road to be difficult, as part of her parole conditions states that she has to live in a halfway house where she is supervised by her parole officer Travis Lehman (Jones). So, needless to say, Libby really has to plan her moves very carefully, as she is under a forced curfew, and is under Travis' strict supervision.

One night, Libby comes to the conclusion that since her ex-best friend Angela was shacking up with Nick, she should try to find out where Angela was located.  Having known that Angela was a schoolteacher at a school on Whidbey Island, Libby decides to break into the school in order to check her personal records for a possible address. She is caught breaking in, and security is immediately beefed up as Travis literally handcuffs himself to Libby so that she doesn't try escaping again.

But, she does.

That's only a portion of the clip, because clips for this movie are surprisingly enough quite hard to find. But basically, she ends up breaking free from her handcuffs by driving the car containing both her and Travis into the water, and during the struggle out of the sinking car, Libby separates from Travis, and is able to continue her search. Of course, Travis still manages to follow her closely, because you can bet that he won't let her get away so easily.

At any rate, Libby soon discovers that Angela was killed in a car accident in the state of Colorado, so the theory of Angela being able to lead her to Nick and Matty was a dead end. Literally. But, she also discovers a piece of art in a photo taken for a newspaper article as one that Nick had owned while they were still married. After tracing the piece of artwork through a art dealer database on a computer, she discovers that it belongs to an art dealer named Jonathan Devereaux, based out of New Orleans, Louisiana. But, Jonathan Devereaux was a fake name.

His real name? Nicholas Parsons.

And that was all the evidence Libby needed to head down to New Orleans in order to get her child back. She manages to find him at a bachelor auction where all the proceeds raised went for charity, and she manages to bid ten thousand dollars for a date with him as an excuse to confront her estranged husband once and for all. Libby only had one thing on her mind. She wanted her son, and she told Nick that she would keep quiet about his real identity if he relinquished his parental rights to Matty. Nick, realizing that his back was up against the wall, agreed to bring Matty down to a cemetery where the reunion between mother and child would take place.

But Libby really should have known better than to actually trust her husband again. For when she arrived at the cemetery, Nick had hired an eleven-year-old decoy to play their son, paid him off, and when Libby got close, he attacks her, knocks her out cold, and traps her inside a casket in an out of the way mausoleum.

So, we have our climax. At this point, Travis is starting to believe that Libby may be telling the truth about not killing her husband, and after doing some research of his own, he now wants to find Libby and team up with her to stop Nick's reign of terror once and for all. But with Libby trapped inside a casket where the air quality is poor, will Travis make it in time?

Well, all I can do is tell you to watch the movie's ending to find out for yourself. Just be warned, the movie has a few plot holes, and some parts of the film are somewhat on the unbelievable side. Still, it's an okay movie, and despite the inaccuracies and the wild plot, it's worth checking out at least once.

And given that it airs on cable dozens of times a year, you probably have and may not know it!

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