Legal approach to “A Few Good Men”
A Few Good Men The movie, “A Few Good Men,” Is a story about a pair of U. S. Marines that are charged with murder. They feel that their innocence prevails because their acts were committed as direct orders from their superiors, and these types of orders are not disobeyed. As the story unravels, there are many legal issues that we have covered in our class, 81-111, The Legal Environment of Business. In this paper, I plan to go over the main legal elements which occur throughout the film. Starting off with the facts of the movie, case that Is being presented Is a criminal one. Two Marines, FPC.
Louder Downey and Lance Cap. Harold W. Dawson, are charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and conduct unbecoming a Marine. The reason I mentioned this fact is because they are not only on charge for the acts which they have committed, but also their negligence as Marines, which will be shown in the final verdict. Being a criminal case, they need a defense attorney, someone who will represent them and prove beyond a reasonable doubt their Innocence. Let. J. G. Daniel Gaffe (Tom Cruise) Is assigned this role. One main factor that needs consideration is the fact that this trial is a military one.
Most of the same rules apply, but there are some variations. For instance, the Judge presiding over this case is a Colonel in the military. They are better known as JAG’s, or Judge Advocate Generals. Another variation from a regular criminal trial is that the Jury Is composed of only military personnel. That Is done so the defendants have a Jury of their peers. “Code Red” means nothing to any civilian that hears it, but to a Marine station in “Get-go,” or Augmentation Bay, as we know it, it is an unofficial hazing ritual that teaches new recruits how to pick up their slack.
This command is usually given by a period officer, and is carried out by fellow Marines to “remind” the unfortunate soldier his duty. This Is the premise on which the defense bases their case that the acts FPC. Downey and Lance Cap. Dawson have committed were done solely to obey a direct order. This may confuse many civilians, but soldiers do not carry the burden of command, that is to say, that the commanding officer is responsible for actions carried out by soldiers who are executing direct orders. Thus in this case, whoever gave the order for the “Code Red” is truly guilty of murder.
The hard part is proving omen gave the order. Let. Gaffe does not undergo this great ordeal on his own. He has co-council in the form of Let. CACM. JoAnne Galloway (Deem Moore). Let. CACM. Galloway requested to have sole representation in this case, but being that she is from internal affairs, her superiors split the role, for reasons that will soon be disclosed. Let. CACM. Galloway is sure of FPC. Downer’s and Lance Cap. Dawson innocence. However, Let. Gaffe is not guilty to a lower charge in order to receive a lowered sentence. That is why Let. Gaffe was selected.
He had a court record of 44 plea bargains in his 9 months as an attorney for the armed forces. Fresh out of Harvard Law, and with a deceased father who was attorney general, he had his sights set. The people who had assigned him to the case did so intentionally because they didn’t want this case to “see the inside of a courtroom. ” The prosecution, Cap. Jack Ross (Kevin Bacon), tries to get Gaffe to enter the plea bargain by bringing the charges down from murder, to involuntary manslaughter. Instead of serving 12 years, the prosecuting attorney has clearance to grant a 2 year sentence, which they will be out in 6 months.
Gaffe finds this as an opportunity not to be missed, but the Marines he is representing have a code. That is: unit, core, God, country. That is their priority levels starting from least, and increasing, with country as their highest ranking. The defendants wish not to accept the plea bargain and plea not guilty to all charges. Most of the first half of the film was actually about plea bargaining. It would seem that the litigation’s society we live in wishes to get things done with before they start. At this point, Let.
Gaffe wishes to find other representation for his clients because he olds the right to withdraw from the case if his clients refuse to cooperate. After a night of thinking it over, he decides to represent them and enters a plea for not guilty at their arraignment. That brings us into the trial, which is called a general court marshal. The main argument the defense is planning to use is that the Marines standing trial were executing an order in which they didn’t think would result in harm. In his opening statement to the Jury of nine, Cap. Ross drives the facts of the case into the jury.
This would seem normal because for the prosecution, this case is based heavily on facts. The facts are that one Marine is dead, and two other are standing trial for his death. The defenses rebuttal points out that the actions carried out by the Marines were orders by their commanding officer. The prosecution, representing the U. S. Government, calls the first witness. A N. I. S. (Naval Investigative Service) officer states that he received a letter from the victim, Private First Class William T Santiago, requesting a transfer off the base.
In exchange, the victim would provide evidence of an illegal shooting over the fence line. The offender of the fence line shooting was Lance Cap. Dawson. The prosecution was trying to show motive by their line of questioning. The defense makes the point in their line of questioning, that why wasn’t Lance Cap. Dawson charged with an additional charge of shooting over fence lines. The witness states because there was not sufficient evidence. The second witness the prosecution calls is a fellow corporal from the barracks. The prosecution’s line of questioning was meant to show the intent of the commanding officer.
There was an assembly before FPC. Santiago was murdered, in which Let. Marines not to touch FPC. Santiago. The prosecution is trying to show that the pendants acted on their own when they killed Santiago. The defense, however, shows that the witness was not in the room of Lance Cap. Dawson and FPC. Downey, when Let. Generics specifically ordered the men to carry out a “Code Red” on FPC Santiago. After the line of questioning is through, they adjourn for the day. The next day in court, the prosecution calls an expert witness in the medical field, Commander Stone, M. D. Dry.
Stone testifies that Santiago had died from a chemical reaction when the lungs burn sugar instead of oxygen, which cause FPC. Santiago to choke on his own blood. Dry. Stone testifies that a rag which was stuffed in Santiago mouth, in order to gag him, was doused in poison maliciously. Let. Gaffe states that this condition could also have been caused by underlying medical conditions, which symptoms Dry. Stone had identified on base before Santiago death. After this line of questioning is done, the prosecution rests. The defenses first witness was called to explain what a “Code Red” is, and that it does exist. Let.
Gaffe thoroughly examines the witness and even proves that he had been subject to a “Code Red” for dropping his weapon due to sweaty hands. The prosecution tries to discredit the notion of a “Code Red” by asking the witness to find it in a Marine handbook, and also a Marine guidebook for Augmentation Bay. The soldier fails to do so because it is not included in the handbook. Let. Gaffe then counters by asking the witness to find the mess hall in the same handbook, and the witness is also unable to find that topic matter in the handbook. The reason being is that when its chow time, he follows everyone else to mess hall.
That was done to imply that there are unwritten guidelines in Marine life, and it is those same deadlines that the defendants were following when they killed Santiago. There are key witness’s the defense wished to call from the base in Augmentation, among those are Colonel Nathan R. Jeeps Jack Nicholson), Let. Generics, and Let. Colonel Matthew Markings, who seems to have disappeared. All witnesses have been subpoenaed, that is to say, they are required to come to court and testify. The first witness from the base to testify is Let. Generics. The defense tries to get Let. Generics to admit that he was the one that ordered the “Code Red. In doing so, Let. Gaffe has been warned about accusing an officer, and that he could be charged with professional misconduct. Since this is a military case, the closest tort found would be malicious prosecution. When Let. Colonel Markings commits suicide, the only way the defense has a chance of clearing the defendants’ name is by getting Colonel Jeeps to admit that he gave the order. Let. Gaffe felt this could be done by leading him on. Let. Gaffe had already insulted the Colonel on a previous occasion, and felt that if he pushed the right buttons on Colonel Jeeps, he could get him to admit his guilt.
He successfully does so by undermining the Colonel and gets him to admit that he in fact ordered the “Code Red. ” The Judge at that time requests that the Jury leave the room and wait for Santiago. When the Jury finishes deliberating, the have come to a verdict. They found the defendants innocent on charges of murder and on conspiracy to commit murder. However, they found them guilty on the count of conduct unbecoming a Marine. That is, they conducted in a way that Marines should not. Instead of protecting people like FPC Santiago, they obeyed a bad order and ended up killing them.