A Fact-Check for the Four-Color World

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Daredevil: The Trial of Dante Jackson

Daredevil: The Director's Cut

Now for part two of my movie review. The biggest change in the Director's Cut of the movie is the inclusion of an entire subplot about Matt and Foggy defending a murder defendant named Dante Jackson.

It's a very substantial and worthwhile addition for two reasons. First, as Sean Whitmore pointed out in the comments of my earlier post, the Theatrical Cut gave Matt Murdock, Super-Lawyer, just a single, lousy scene in a courtroom. This subplot fixes that. Second, it ties into the main Kingpin plot in a way that addresses a major plot hole from the Theatrical Cut.


Dante (played by Coolio) stands accused of murdering a woman, having been found in an alley, unconscious, with the murder weapon in his hand. Not the makings of a strong defense. But Matt knows that Dante is telling the truth when he says he's innocent.

Several weeks back, I said I was laying off the speedy trial complaint because of the soap demands of the serial medium. That reasoning, however, doesn't apply to movies. So consider how fast Dante gets to trial.

As Matt goes to bed after killing Quesada, he hears the attack on the woman that Dante is accused of committing. The next day (Foggy shares the newspaper story about Quesada's death) they meet Dante, who is accused of the "August 9th murder of Lisa Tazzio." Matt and Foggy clearly waste no time in signing up clients. (And as they explicitly offer to take his case, they're not merely acting as public defenders.)

It's a good thing, too, because while no explicit dates are given, it seems like Dante's trial began the very next day. Not a bond hearing, or an arraignment, but his actual 12-person jury trial. The 'next day' presumption comes from the movie's pacing. Matt's first meeting with Dante takes place concurrently with the Kingpin instructing his men to fly in Bullseye for a hit. And the murder trial begins immediately after a scene with Bullseye on his flight to NYC, and before he does what he's been hired to do.

So if we assume the murder took place on a Saturday night, it would seem that the murder trial began on Monday morning. Maybe Tuesday. It's a good thing Daredevil's justice is blind, or else it would get vertigo from moving so fast.

To be fair, there's one other date subtly dropped in the movie. Matt's invitation to the Natchios' gala is dated July 24. That would put it nearly a year after the "August 9th murder," and that's a perfectly fair pace for a trial. Unfortunately, that's almost certainly an internal continuity mistake, because there's no room in that part of the script for time to jump ten months ahead.

We don't get to see much of Dante's actual trial. It's pretty much limited to Matt's opening statement, a few questions from the prosecution for a police witness, and Foggy's questioning of Dante on the stand. At the least, everything takes place in the right order. And the jury is suitably diverse.

Matt's opening has that high-minded attitude that is sometimes expected of legal speeches, but it's remarkably free of facts specific to the case being tried. Then again, it's not like Matt had much to work with. One can't help but wonder what kind of evidence he expected to put forward. When the defendant was found in such an incriminating position, merely asking the jury to conclude that reasonable doubt exists is a bad trial strategy. Matt needs some kind of exculpatory evidence to present, because asking the jury to believe in a frame-up without presenting a lick of evidence to support the existence of a frame-up isn't going to win an acquittal with most juries.

Nothing really struck me about either witness examination. Criminal defendants are usually discouraged from taking the stand in their defense, but it makes sense for Dante to do so. When there's no other evidence to present in a case this bad, it's worth the gamble to put the defendant on the stand to tell his side of the story, and pray that the jury might just believe him. Foggy asked a couple of incredibly objectionable leading questions, where he was basically feeding answers to Dante.

And while Dante got off in the end, that scene with Foggy was the end of the movie's dealings in the courtroom. From all appearances, Dante was framed, charged with murder, tried, and cleared all within a week or so.