So what happens when due process is turned into nothing more than a grandstanding popularity contest with a jury of several thousand? What if the criminal justice system consisted of nothing more than a television show where people everywhere could text in the verdict for a small fee (which would go to further crime-fighting) and, if the defendant were found guilty, witness the execution live from the comfort of their homes? Citizen Verdict explores just this possibility.
Jerry Springer plays Marty Rockman, a successful businessman who has just purchased a TV channel which he plans to use as a kind of Court TV…but it’s all capital cases where the audience really does decide between life or death for the man on the stand. Their first case, a man accused of brutally raping and murdering a popular cooking show chef. The attorney for the defense (Armande Assante) wholeheartedly believes his client’s story and is ready to go to any lengths to prove his innocence…but is it enough to change the minds of thousands of voters who resent the loss of a popular celebrity?
Citizen Verdict does a good job of making this entire scenario plausible including explanations of how they would prevent any person from voting twice and explaining how only registered voters within the state would be permitted to vote…but also driving home the difference in mindset between a dozen people in a courtroom and thousands watching TV. Unfortunately that’s about all it does…if you’re wanting some entertainment value out of it or anything aside from a conversation film that’ll make you think about the implications of a legal system gone wrong you’ll likely be very disappointed.
Armand Assante did an excellent job acting in this film, but he was about the only one. It actually surprised me that someone so used to being on screen and so experienced in acting (even if it is mainly just as a talk show host) as Jerry Springer would put forth such a wooden and lackluster performance as he did in this film.
The plot itself is very straightforward and fairly predictable but, as previously stated, it is good for presenting a scenario to think about and discuss with others…for anything else there’s plenty of other examples of how the legal system can go wrong that have been made into much better movies that aren’t difficult to find.
Overall this is a decent movie for political discussions only, with lackluster performances and a simple straightforward plot there’s not a whole lot else to keep your attention and is alright if there’s nothing else on.