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"Common" from 2014 sports a strong cast, including Michael Gambon, Michelle Fairley, Nico Mirallegro, Susan Lynch and others in this story about a law on the British books known as Group Enterprise. We have a similar law here though I believe it operates a little differently. If you go into a bank to rob it, and one of your group kills someone, you all get life.
In this story, a young man, Johnjo (Mirallegro) is asked by some friends to drive them to a pizza place for pizza. He does so, and stays in the car while they go in. During an ensuing fight, a young man is murdered. All of them are arrested, and the Judge wants to try them under Group Enterprise. Johnjo's attorney argues that he wasn't even in the pizza place, but the Judge (Gambon) refuses to consider the boy's innocence.
This is a story about how the law works, and frankly, it makes the law look pretty shabby. Which, in my opinion, it is, having had some experience with this type of situation myself.
Johnjo is urged by his parents to go to the police and tell them the truth. He doesn't need a lawyer because he's done nothing. I don't know who puts this into people's heads, Nancy Grace probably, but it's a prevailing thought and it's wrong.
Whether or not you are guilty or innocent, EVERYONE needs a lawyer if they are speaking to the police. Why, you ask. Here's why: here in the U.S. we say anything you say can and will be used against you. They say something similar in England. Read it again. They mean it. The police will twist anything you say, the most extraneous detail, and turn you into an ax murderer.
The second reason is, if you don't have a lawyer, the police can keep you in a room for hours on end until you say you're guilty. Nobody understands how you can plead guilty to something you didn't do. Well, if it's the only way to get out of a room after 16 hours, you'll do it. It's been done.
An attorney would not have allowed this young man to speak to the police, who of course pretended he was doing the right thing and then arrested him on the spot.
In order to wangle a guilty plea out of these people, the threat of Group Enterprise was used. If they would all plead guilty, they would get less time. And that's the way the law gets people to plead guilty when they're not.
So often we read someone has plead guilty and you think, wow, he really did it. It doesn't mean that. It means the person is sick of the harassment, the harassment of friends and family, the constant going to court, so when a deal is offered, they take it.
This film was a good example of what happens when you don't get legal advice, period, and what the law can do to you even if you're not guilty.
I won't tell you how all this works out. The acting is superb, with strong emotional performances throughout from the accused young men and their families.
During the movie, one of the mothers comes to see Johnjo's mother (Jodhi May) and screams at her that if she googles Group Enterprise, she'll see that in order to get the poor and lower middle class out of society, people found guilty of GE get life. At that point, Johnjo is thinking of pleading not guilty.
Sadly, this is true as well.If you have money and influence, as in one case I worked on, the police will put all of their power behind you and make sure that anyone you accuse of anything is put through hell. The law is different for the wealthy and influential. Very different.
In the case I was involved in, the police told someone accused by a political fundraiser of a misdemeanor, that if he did not turn over certain documents to them (with no warrant) they would start talking to him about terrorism. Let's hear it for Homeland Security - the Go Directly to Jail card for anyone you don't happen to like.
I highly recommend people seeing this film. And if you're ever even on the periphery of a crime, get an attorney.
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