Directed by Sidney Lumet, this classic film focuses entirely on a jury's deliberations in a murder case. Better than any lecture on the burden of proof and the presumption of innocence, this movie illustrates the truth of a criminal prosecution, which is that most people are biased against the accused. (After all, if the police arrested someone, he must have done something, right?) This film shows the eagerness of many jurors to convict; the boredom or indifference of others, and the difficulty of dissecting the evidence, especially in a stifling hot jury room. The movie was shot in an actual New York City jury room.
Law professors like to assert that you can't prove innocence. But in virtually every criminal trial, I think, every (male) defendant must overcome a presumption of guilt and prove his innocence. (Women are frequently given the benefit of the doubt). This is a good training film for defenders and prosecutors alike. Avoid all remakes and stick with the 1957 original. Starring Henry Fonda, the film features Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley, E. G. Marshall, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, John Fiedler, a young, handsome Jack Klugman, Edward Binns, Joseph Sweeney, George Voskovec, and Robert Webber.
One of my favorite musicals, both on stage and on screen, this surprisingly substantive drama follows the debates in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1775-1776. Center stage are the arguments surrounding the struggle to declare independence from England, as well as the discussions over the wording of drafts of the Declaration of Independence. Many of the central protagonists, including John Adams, were of course lawyers, and much of the discussion sounds like a Congressional mark-up of a piece of legislation (but with more music). The debates here concern independence, slavery, and war against the mother country. Benjamin Franklin provides welcome humor. Portions of George Washington's despairing missives from the front, and some of the Congress's debate language, are taken directly from transcripts and correspondence. Directed by Peter H. Hunt, based on the play by Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone.
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