The latest episode of the long running CBS drama “NCIS” highlights how legal technicalities forward the letter of the law but greatly inhibits the spirit of the law from being enforceable.
Brief Episode Synopsis: “Judge, Jury…”
NCIS Forensic Specialist Kasie Hines (Diona Reasonover) solves a case dating back three decades to when the federal agency was known as NIS (Naval Investigative Service). Because of legal technicalities, Stuart Crum (David Ortiz) walks from the courtroom a free man. Meanwhile, it looks like Special Agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) might be leaving NCIS. An elite technology company has made the senior special agent a tempting offer.
SPOILERS ALERT: If you have yet to watch this episode, please feel free to stop reading at this point in the article. Continue reading after you watch the episode.
Legal technicalities are a real aspect of jurisprudence in these United States and various other countries where the judicial system is held to a high standard. Frequently, in television and film productions, we see defendants avoid justice because of a legal technicality. The same is true in real life but not as often as that seen in fictional courtrooms.
Legal technicality, a commonly used colloquialism, is a reference to technical aspects of the law. The terminology, not have a precise meaning, does not have a formal legal definition. The definition in usage typically depends on the person you ask because their personal views influence how it is employed.
“In light of new information,” Judge Miles Deakin (Mike Farrell) said, “I am surprising all DNA evidence. Further, I am going to strike any DNA related testimony including the testimony we just heard from Miss Hines.”
Is this justice? Is the letter of the law more important than the spirit of the law? NCIS was only able to get match to Crum’s DNA because of a mistake directly attributable to Maryland Police.
When Crum was questioned in connection with a robbery two years ago, he gave a DNA sample. When he was cleared of all charges, “Per an amendment to subtitle 5 of the Maryland Police Code,” Deakin said. “That sample should have been destroyed.” Maryland Police mistakenly added Crum’s DNA sample to CODIS (Combined DNA Index System).
This mistake allowed “NCIS to get a hit which legally should never have happened,” ADA Eliza Hutchins (Anna Khaja) said. The DNA evidence is therefore “fruit of the poisonous tree.” As legal metaphors go, in this case, “fruit of the poisonous tree” is too much on the nose. In American jurisprudence, the metaphor is an accurate description of evidence attained illegally.
“The Scales of Justice Rarely Balance”
After new information arrives, Deakin has no choice but to “declare a mistrial.” The law is the law. NCIS agents must investigate the case as if they are oblivious to Crumb’s involvement.
Hines is right. “While our current justice system is far from perfect, it’s better than blind vengeance.” Crum is every bit as much a victim as the teenager he poisoned thirty years earlier. If justice were not blind, it would not work.
Where you around in 1989? I had completely forgotten the MC Hammer song “U Can’t Touch This” was a 1989 release. I know. That was 30 years ago. Personally, I was prepping for my O-Level exams. I was yet to determine whether my future was to include three to five years of university life. The eight O-Level exams I took led to five A-Levels, the qualifications one needs in the British Isles to attend university. I digress.
The setting is historically accurate. The excitement of having an ice-cream truck arrive on the road you live on is very much a fact of life. We all know this is true. Children everywhere instantly recognise the sound of an approaching ice-cream truck.
When Tommy Larson (Nico Greetham) bit into his Klowny Kakes ice-cream bar, the teenager’s reaction mirrors real life perfectly. It is just as true for most teenagers in these United States. That one moment is what many children and teenagers look for when delighting in their ice-cream of choice. On this occasion, Tommy’s delight comes with his death. The teenager’s death is directly attributable to the poison found in ice-cream bars similar to the one Tommy bought.
McGee’s Personal Day
While certain people at work are under the impression McGee is taking a personal day to spend quality time with his children, the senior special agent is actually in California mulling over the prospect of taking a new job, possibly.
Is McGee going to leave his NCIS position for a California tech job? No. McGree is conducting an undercover operation for NCIS Director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll). Vance reveals to Wesley Clark (Scott William Winters) NCIS has “an inside man looking into account records via a backdoor.”
McGee’s undercover operation goes sideways. As a consequence of accessing sensitive government records, McGee finds himself under arrest. The NCIS senior agent did not read the terms and conditions of his visit before signing. But then, who does? Fortunately, the judge is able to secure McGee’s release.
The Tail End of the Episode
Did anyone see Clark’s death coming? Even though it does not look good for Mallory (Dionne Gipson), first impressions are not always a good barometer for determining guilt.
Did you see the expression on the judges face when he said that he “may have grossly underestimated Agent Gibbs”? It suggests Deakin might have some involvement with Crum’s death. Despite the judge’s involvement being pure conjecture, what is not conjecture is Colt McKinney (Andre Johnson) taking a $3 million dollar payment from SecNav’s secret account. McKinney, the court bailiff, was heading to Berlin. That is where the money was waiting for him.
Then there is Jennifer Larson (Jennifer Marsala). Larson, a public defender, is the sister of the poisoned teenager. It seems like there are too many links to the courthouse to arrive at coincidence. According to Gibb’s rule #39, “There is no such thing as coincidence.”
“Judge, Jury…,” directed by James Whitmore Jr., is the first instalment in a two-part story which concludes with next week’s episode “…and Executioner.” The usage of idiomatic phrases such as “Judge, Jury and Executioner” is commonplace.