#2. 12 Angry Men
The Crime: Murder
The Ruling: Not Guilty by Reason of Independent Investigation by the Jury.
This is the classic courtroom movie, based on an equally famous play. 12 Angry Men follows the deliberation of a jury on a case we never get to see in the courtroom -- we spend the whole story with the members of the jury. The case they're examining involves a young man accused of killing his father.
"Take the Xbox and see what happens, fucker."
At the start, 11 of the 12 men are convinced the defendant is guilty, but Juror No. 8 is a stubborn bastard who's determined to get this murderer off the hook. He questions every piece of evidence that the prosecution brought forward and even buys a knife similar to the murder weapon to prove to the other jurors that it was not as unique as the prosecution led them to believe.
Slowly he sways each juror, one by one, into the territory of reasonable doubt by making ridiculous claims such as "that witness had glasses indents on her nose, so she probably wasn't wearing her glasses and didn't see anything." He makes a similar claim about an old man who heard the crime happening and as a group they conclude that the old man probably didn't hear anything and made it up to feel important for once in his life.
Justice, brought to you by Ensure.
In the end, after piecing together some radical assumptions about the witnesses and evidence presented, they find the defendant not guilty by reason of not wanting to argue with Juror No. 8 anymore.
The guy should have been kicked off the jury the moment he went out and bought the knife. By law, juries are not allowed to conduct their own investigations, and if the other jurors had just reported Juror No. 8 for that, he'd have been replaced by an alternate. Yes, it's cool for characters in a movie to take the law into their own hands. In real life, you like to leave tasks like that to the people who have years of training and law enforcement experience.
But that aside, Juror No. 8's whole line of reasoning is wrong at almost every step. According to the law, it's the jury's job to determine the veracity of the evidence presented, as is -- not to question and interpret the evidence any way they choose and make wild assumptions about witnesses. For instance, you don't just dismiss blood evidence as "probably planted or some shit" unless you are presented with evidence that it has been planted. Likewise, you can't just hand-wave away jury testimony based on, "Her eyes are probably bad."
It's kind of important that people stick to their roles in the criminal justice system. It's the lawyers' job to pick apart witness testimony and find any inconsistencies, just as it's the cops' job to hunt down evidence, and it's the prosecutor's job to present it. Once a juror decides to start doing all of that stuff himself, it's probably time to find a new juror.
Maybe one who isn't white, male and over 40?
#1. Miracle on 34th Street
The Crime: Assault, Insanity
The Ruling: Sane and Santa Claus
When the original guy who Macy's department store hired to play Santa shows up drunk for the Christmas parade, Macy's hires a guy conveniently named Kris Kringle to be the new Santa and he proves to be the baddest-ass Santa who ever had a child on his knee.
This man eats tinsel and craps candy canes.
People love the new Santa, and the store's business is booming, which shouldn't be that surprising considering they run a department store and it's Christmastime, but OK, the guy in the Santa suit could be helping. The only problem is Kris thinks that he's the real Santa Claus, and the manager wants to fire him because she's worried he's delusional and might hurt someone.
To make everyone feel better, Mr. Macy has Kris sent to a psychiatrist to prove he's not crazy. Unfortunately, jolly old St. Nick ends up putting the smack down on his psychiatrist and hits him on the head with his cane. The manager only just barely refrains from shouting, "I told you so!" before Kris is carted off to jail.
"Don't you dare say it! Every time I hire crazy, homeless strangers without references or credentials, you throw it in my face! Like it's my fault!"
Kris' trial is actually a hearing to prove that he's not crazy and shouldn't be permanently committed to a mental institution. He decides to go with the defense that he's not crazy because he's actually Santa Claus. He backs up this claim with absolutely no evidence except for the fact that a lot of people, including the prosecutor's son, think he looks an awful lot like Santa Claus.
Somehow this overwhelming evidence isn't enough for the judge, though, and just as he's about to rule that Kris is batshit insane, the U.S. Postal Service shows up and delivers 50,000 letters addressed to Santa Claus.
The judge rules that since one guy at the post office wanted to clear out the dead letter basket and drop all these letters off here, then Kris must be Santa. That's the 1947 version. In the 1994, version the judge is similarly about to declare Kris headed for the loony bin when a little girl comes up to give him a Christmas card. It's got a $1 bill inside with "In God We Trust" circled. Ignoring the fact that this kid is obviously trying to bribe him to get Santa off the hook, the judge decides that since America can believe in an entity like God, then "Santa Claus does exist, and he exists in the person of Kris Kringle!"
"All right, you're legally Santa, so where's my air rifle?"
We don't want to come off like dicks here. After all, what's to stop a judge from letting a kindly old man off the hook at Christmas? No harm done. What kind of a stodgy bastard could possibly have a problem with that?
Us. Stop and think about the implications of this. The judge basically gave this one guy the power to lay claim to every Christmas card, decoration and jingle that bears his name or likeness and claim a royalty for its use.
He's shaving his beard, he's buying a flight, he's getting laid in Hawaii tonight ...
And what does this mean for Kris Kringle on a day-to-day basis -- is he now legally sanctioned to break into people's homes once a year to leave them stuff? Will there be ramifications if he doesn't leave a present for every kid who writes him a letter? Oh, and about those letters. Considering the basis upon which the judge made his ruling, this old man now gets all of the tens of millions of letters kids send to Santa every year.
Also, one year this old man is going to die. Try explaining that one to your kids, parents!
That's an even more crashing end to a childhood than finding a dead clown in the ditch out back.
And let's not forget that it also opens up the door for all kinds of whack jobs to announce they're fictional people as well. Hey lady, is that a bag of bloody human teeth you got there underneath your tutu? Don't worry, you're not crazy, you're legally the Tooth Fairy -- we've got a piece of mail here declaring it so. There's precedent for it!
For more movies we went ahead and ruined for you, check out 7 Movies Based on a True Story (That Are Complete Bullshit) and 7 Bullshit Police Myths Everyone Believes (Thanks to Movies).
And stop by Linkstorm because the Internet has destroyed even more beloved fiction of yours.
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