Monday, September 25, 2006

Sharks and Defense Lawyers

I don't know how many of you caught Shark, the new show staring James Woods as a defense lawyer who decides to change sides. It's pretty much exactly what it says on the tin - a new lawyer show starring James Woods. Nothing wrong with that. Except for what it says about our justice system.

The storyline is this - Shark helps a wife-beater beat an attempted Murder charge, so he immediately murders his wife. This upsets Shark. So he gets depressed and lays around his house, until the Mayor of LA gives him a chance to work as a prosecution lawyer, who are, as we know, the good guys. Defense lawyers bad, criminal lawyers good. Trying to keep people out of jail bad, trying to put people into jail good. Simple.

It wasn't always that way. Perry Mason was a defense attorney. Ben Matlock was a defense attorney. When they were created, it was still believed that an officer of the court was an officer of justice, even if he represented an accused person. But we live in more combative times now. Just as the Republicans and Democrats can't conceive of a loyal opposition, our society cant conceive of Defense Lawyers as being anything but low-down snakes.

Shark is hardly the only program with this mentality, of course. 24 has it in spades (Jack is never wrong in who he tortures). So do most cop shows (where the villainous Defense attorney is practically a stock in trade). And David E. Kelly's various lawyer shows about quirky lawyers who obviously don't give a damn probably hasn't helped any. Serious lawyers put criminals away, kooky or depraved lawyers defend criminals.

In this world, the innocent have nothing to fear - because they will never be trapped in the jaws of justice.

I need hardly point out that this mentality is bang up along side the power President Bush and his allies want to have over their citizens.

For another view of Shark, you can check out this review at PopMatters, that is more or less dead on.

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