Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Beyond a Reasonable Doubt can be found here.

No. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (2009) is a remake of Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956), which was based on a screenplay by American screenwriter Douglas Morrow. Morrow's version was adapted for this film by American film-maker Peter Hyams, who also directed the movie.

What is this movie about?

Investigative reporter C.J. Nicholas (Jesse Metcalfe) attempts to expose crooked district attorney Mark Hunter (Michael Douglas) by implicating himself for the murder of 22-year old prostitute Doris Ruth Owens, hoping to prove that Hunter has been planting forensic evidence at murder trials in order to obtain guilty verdicts.

CJ decides "tonight's the night," meaning that his partner Cory Finley (Joel David Moore) is supposed to keep his eyes open that night for reports of a murder that fit the plan. The victim must be some anonymous person, such as a junkie or a hooker, where the cops have no suspect, don't give a hoot anyway, and have only circumstantial evidence, such as a tire track. Plus, it must happen at a time when CJ has no alibi. When word of Owens' murder comes through on KRUL's police scanner, Finley wakes up CJ at 4AM, and the plan is put into motion.

His plan is to 1) get charged based on his own planted evidence, 2) lure the DA into using faked DNA evidence against him, and 3) defend himself by revealing his own planted evidence AND showing that he was being framed by an unscrupulous prosecutor using faked DNA evidence. To achieve this, he gains details of Owens' murder from his friend, Detective Ben Nickerson (Orlando Jones), and then purchases identical items -- a pair of Montalvo sneakers, a pair of black Reebok sweatpants, a white-handled switchblade, a black ski mask, and a Jack Russell terrior, all the while filming those purchases while holding a copy of that day's New York Times in order to prove that the items were purchased AFTER the murder.

All by itself, it wouldn't, as the D.A. is first to point out. Just because CJ bought these items several days after the murder doesn't mean that he didn't own the same type of items prior to the murder. However, the testimonies of CJ and Finley would show proof of their story, outlining their intent, detailing their steps, and showing without a doubt what their intentions were. Then it would become the D.A.'s job to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that CJ had all these items BEFORE the murder was committed.

CJ sprinkles a bottle of liquor on his clothes then proceeds to recklessly drive around until a squad car finally stops him for drunk driving. He is charged with a DUI, but Det Nickerson notices that CJ is wearing Montalvo's, the same brand of sneakers that made the footprints at the murder scene. In a search of CJ's apartment, Nickerson discovers the dog bite on CJ's leg, and the police find the switchblade, sweatpants, and ski mask. CJ is subsequently charged with Owens' murder, which is exactly how CJ planned it.

That was Taieesha (Krystal Kofie), the 15-year old whose baby froze to death when her mother kicked them out of the house in the middle of December in Buffalo (New York). It was CJ's story about her that won him the Editor's Award and landed him a job with KRUL as head of their investigative team.

The second bite, after CJ bought Woodward, was made off-camera. He tells Finley to grab a beer, and he then goes into the living room while Finley is in the kitchen. Suddenly, CJ's scream can be heard, he tells Finley that the dog just bit him, and Finley photographs the bite. However, neither the viewer nor Finley actually see the second bite take place.

Obviously, CJ could not have carried a copy, or it would be confiscated during routine pat downs. Finley was told by CJ, on the very first day of the trial, not to get the DVD until he tells him to do so, because they have to wait for Hunter to introduce the fabricated DNA evidence. When that evidence is finally introduced, CJ nods at Finley, giving him the go-ahead, so Finley races home to get it. Reasons why CJ may not have wanted Finley to carry the DVD until that time may be the fear of breaking or losing it, of someone seeing it, or of it being confiscated.

Hunter had it cut out so that the sweatpants couldn't be traced to any particular date of purchase. As the store manager points out, the till is linked directly to the inventory. When a bar code is scanned, it logs both the product and the manufacturer. Any receipt can then be matched to the item purchased, so long as it has the manufacturer's tag on it. That would have shown conclusively that the sweatpants were purchased after the murder so should never have had Owens' blood on it. By removing the tag, however, it could no longer be proven that those sweatpants were the ones purchased on the day CJ claimed.

What is double jeopardy?

Double jeopardy is a procedural defense that forbids a defendant from being tried twice for the same crime on the same set of facts. Double jeopardy is prohibited in the fifth amendment to the United States Constitution.

Finley isn't racing to get to the courthouse because of the trial itself, he's racing because he knows the other conspirator he's trying to expose is now after him. He had just found his apartment had been ransacked, the other copy of the disc was stolen, and Lt. Merchant was spotted outside the front window of the bank. Notice that after leaving the bank Finley was already looking in his rear view mirror before any cars were shown chasing him.

How does the movie end?

After CJ's girlfriend Ella Crystal (Amber Tamblyn) provides evidence that the cigarette was digitally added to the photo of Lucinda Harris, proving that the DNA evidence was planted, Hunter is arrested, and 17 of his previous cases, including that of C.J. Nicholas, are declared mistrials. CJ is released from prison, pending investigation of the evidence presented during his case. Ella is there to meet him, and they go to CJ's apartment where they make love. As CJ lies sleeping, Ella watches the TV news report of CJ's release. When a photo of Doris Owens is shown, Ella notices the tattoos on Doris' fingers and realizes that they are the same tattoos she saw on the fingers of Taieesha. To be certain, she rewatches the video of Taieesha's interview, waking up CJ. Putting two and two together, Ella concludes that Doris/Taieesha was blackmailing CJ, that CJ's award-winning documentary about Taieesha was a complete phony, and that, in order to stop Doris from exposing his lie, CJ killed her. CJ tries to convince Ella that killing Doris was necessary in order to stop Hunter from sending 17 innocent people to prison. Ella points out that it was a brilliant plan -- CJ would either be found innocent because all the evidence was only circumstantial or he would be acquitted after he exposed Hunter for planting evidence. Once acquitted, the double jeopardy law would prevent him from being tried again. However, as she points out, he wasn't acquitted. Sirens can be heard in the background. Ella picks up her purse and opens the front door to reveal numerous police cars parked outside with their lights flashing. In the final scene, she looks back at CJ and says to him,"I just thought of one more thing...FU!" Ella then walks out the door.

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