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“I still think your client is as guilty as hell.” — FBI Agent Shaw, Richard Jewell
On the recommendation of @cliffordbrown and others, I went to see Richard Jewell. It is a profoundly disturbing movie.
The protagonist is the kind of person who steps up in a crisis to do the right thing. He’s not perfect; his love affair with law enforcement seems to get him to go into beyond his job duties, and he is trying to help even when the FBI is targeting him – but we would hope that a security officer took his job seriously. Remember “If you see something, say something!” Richard saved lives and really tried his best to do a good job.
For this, the FBI profiled him as a terrorist. All of his idiosyncrasies were turned into signs of guilt, and he was fed into the media wood chipper. For all the complaining about the heartless journalist and portrayal of the media, the journalist actually reconsiders. The FBI agent does not. Even as the situation changes, they stretch the theory of the case. And at no time is there any direct evidence – the FBI decided he was guilty, and that was that. The quote above is as the agent’s hands over a letter clearing Richard’s name.
It is a nightmare. The full weight of the government brought against a law-abiding citizen for doing the right thing. It makes me think of George Zimmerman, who stopped to try to help the police deal with a crime rather than walk on by. He was then put under the microscope for his actions, declared to be white, and prosecuted on shoddy evidence that was revealed to be fraudulent. Incentives work – if you punish good behavior, expect less of it.
This movie is also one of the best portrayals of an annoying defense lawyer as a heroic figure. He’s a jerk, but that’s because he is adversarial. It’s a paean to the adversarial justice system. You need a lawyer because the FBI might just decide to exploit any law-abiding traits to screw you over. I think lawyers would benefit from having defendants watch it, particularly regular citizens.Published in