JAG: Season 9, Episode 8

Posse Comitatus (14 Nov. 2003)

TV Episode  -   -  Action | Crime | Drama
6.6
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A Marine helo gunship intervenes during a standoff at a ranch; Mac prosecutes the pilot, and Harm defends. Bud investigates a Naval Reserve physician who, a conscientious objector, has received his medical education at Navy expense.

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Title: Posse Comitatus (14 Nov 2003)

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
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Maj. Zach Tunney
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Sheriff Brad Driskell (as Wade Andrew Williams)
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Lt. Cmdr. Justin Bentley
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Col. Sandusky
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Deputy Linda Foyo
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General Tillman
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Col. Pittman
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Barclay Cale
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Reverend Ford
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Storyline

A standoff takes place at a barn near Yuma, Arizona, in which the lone gunman (with an automatic rifle) has taken one deputy sheriff as a hostage and wounded another; a helo gunship from the nearby Marine Corps Air Station intervenes and heavily strafes the barn; Harm and Mac investigate; Mac prosecutes the pilot, and Harm defends him. Harriet receives a call to meet with a general at the Pentagon, then she gets new duties. Bud investigates a Naval Reserve physician, a recently converted Quaker, who had received his medical education at Navy expense, and who, after his reserve outfit received orders to Iraq, suddenly has asked for not only the status of a conscientious objector but also a separation from military service. Sturgis represents the doctor, and Sturgis's father, a retired Navy chaplain, contributes much insight and wisdom. Justice again prevails. Written by DocRushing

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criminal justice


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14 November 2003 (USA)  »

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1.78 : 1
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User Reviews

 
Rabb was better as a crop duster
7 December 2013 | by See all my reviews

The issues presented in this episode are as relevant as ever. But with local police becoming more militarized (even police departments of small towns of 5,000 people are being sent mine resistant vehicles used in Iraq and Afghanistan), is the question of military personnel being used on US soil to enforce law a mute point? In this episode, a man with an assault rifle has one sheriff's deputy hostage and has the other deputies outgunned and at bay. Then comes a Marine chopper that cuts him down. This chopper was not called for and not wanted by the sheriff's department; the pilot was acting out of his own volition.

To me, there is no question that such an act is illegal, and the legal arguments made regarding the case are ridiculous. Rabb's argument: after 9/11 state governors had to call in National Guard troops to help with airport security and could not call in the Army; therefore, posse comitatus laws are outdated. The judge says that this is a good argument for repealing the laws, but he's not a legislator. What? This is a lousy argument. It amounts to: the state sucks at protecting people, therefore martial law should be easier to implement.

As well, the defense's other arguments lack force. The defendant says, "I was trying to save lives." Even if he was, this does not justify the ability to use military hardware against civilians. The judge accepting this argument would create a ridiculous loophole through which an armored personnel carrier (or gunship) could fit through. An even worse argument (said by the judge, no less) was that the Marine did not have orders not to engage. Hmm...I guess I'm no expert on the military, but I think the LAW would be more important than orders. What is he doing in a gunship in the first place if he has no orders? Sometimes I think the writers of JAG have run out of ideas for legal issues that are plausibly contentious among rational people and simply make either Rabb or Turner take the rabid statist position in order for their to be confrontations. And yet, it's probably the case that the writers sincerely believe that more use of military force against US citizens is noble and just. The Marine is not only acquitted, but is also made to look like a martyr because he is transferred because "the Marine Corps thinks its image is more important than one man's career." The subplot has Turner and Bud deciding investigating whether a recent Quaker convert's application to conscientious objector status should be accepted. Personally, I don't see why such a thing should matter. Even if it is the case that his unit has been given notice that they might be sent to a combat zone, or even if his commitment to pacifism is feigned, should it matter? Is it really better to either 1) force him into combat, or 2) imprison him? For issues such as these, JAG doesn't really even touch whether or not they are wise or just, yet it will for other issues such as gays in the military or sexual harassment. I wish they would be a little braver here. Indeed, it is quite safe to talk about racism, sexism, or prejudice against gays in the military; but to question more essential traditions of the military, such as prosecuting deserters or conscientious objectors that don't meet the military's standards, is something JAG shies away from.

Another thing I want to point out is that you can bet that pretty much any person finding their way into a JAG court and who wants out of the military is going to be presented in a less than copacetic way. Last season, when the sound engineer wanted out, he turned out to be taking source code from a military contractor and using it to make video games. In this episode, the conscientious objector is threatened with not having his medical practice available to military health insurance coverage, and doesn't like the thought of losing such business.

What the show seems to be implying is that once you are in the military it owns you until it wants to give you up; your will is irrelevant in the matter. And should you want to leave before your term is up, it is always for selfish reasons. If JAG is not yet to the point of promoting outright military worship, it's getting close.


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