Double Jeopardy (film)

Double Jeopardy is a thriller film made in 1999, directed by Bruce Beresford and starring Tommy Lee Jones and Ashley Judd, about a woman who is framed for the murder of her husband.


Libby and her husband Nick, hire a yacht for the weekend. After becoming drunk, Libby falls asleep. She then wakes up and finds that her husband is missing and there is blood on the deck. She is then accused of murdering her husband and sent to prison, though she has never done the act. She holds the belief, subsequently proven correct, that her husband Nick Parsons (Bruce Greenwood) is still alive and staged his own death for the purpose of falsely convicting her of murder and to evade an ongoing scandal revolving around him.

She serves six years in prison before being paroled to Travis' parole house, and emerges bent on finding her husband and son so as to take her revenge on the former and rescue the latter. But with Libby breaking a few rules to seek revenge, Travis is after her on a long journey. She eventually finds out that her best friend, Angela Green (the women for which Nick was having an affair with and helped with the fake murder) was killed in an explosion. But all that Libby wants is to find and revenge her husband and return to her son. Libby encounters and recognizes Nick in a bachelor auction and buys him. He then lies to her telling her that he did it for insurance and he never thought that they would convict her, but she doesn't believe him.

Nick then pays a little boy for Libby to chase in a cemetery, believing that it was her son, after losing the boy, Nick hits her head on a pole knocking her out. Libby wakes up in a coffin confused next to a dead body but easily escapes by shooting the bolts holding the coffin shut. After a while, Travis becomes suspicious of Nick and he and Libby work out a plan for Nick to serve years in prison like she did, they plan a false murder of Libby with evidence and everything so it will look like Nick burned her. But with the quick thinking of Nick, the tables are turned and Travis is shot in the arm, but Libby grabs hold of a gun a shoots Nick twice by surprise. She is not convicted because you can not be convicted twice for murdering the same person. Travis then convinces her to go and reunite with her son at his school and all is at peace.


DVD release

Double Jeopardy was released on DVD by Paramount on 2/22/2000. The DVD included a Behind-the-Scenes Featurette and it's original Theatrical Trailer. It is in the original 2.35:1 Widescreen format.


The film received mixed reviews. It is rated 26% on Rotten Tomatoes as its "consensus" states "A talented cast fails to save this unremarkable thriller. Roger Ebert gives the film two and half stars out of four, indicating a lukewarm reception.

Nonetheless, some critics react to this film with positive reviews. Such as Leonard Maltin, Who gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, calling the film "Slick Entertainment". And Mick LaSalle from San Francisco Chronicle, writing that the film is a "well-acted diversion, directed by Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy) with an intelligent grasp of the moment-to-moment emotion". For her performance in Double Jeopardy, Ashley Judd won the 2000 Favorite Actress of Blockbuster Entertainment Award.

Box office

The film was a huge box office success, the gross domestic box office is 116,741,558 USD while foreign total revenue is 61.1 million USD.

The actual legal theory of double jeopardy

A major criticism of the movie was that the writers misrepresented the legal doctrine of double jeopardy, a constitutional right in the United States granted by the Fifth Amendment to the US constitution throughout the movie. In the movie, a fellow prison inmate advises Libby she could kill her husband in the middle of Times Square and the police would be powerless to do anything about it because of double jeopardy, because she had already been convicted once for his murder and served time. Both Libby and Lehman (Jones) repeat this theory later in the movie in order to frighten Nick in the climactic confrontation scene.

While this makes for good drama, all three characters are completely wrong. Double jeopardy only applies to a single set of facts (a single incident)—a fact that renowned Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz pointed out, in response to this film, as he had been using a very similar scenario in his law classes. Just as it would be two separate offenses (and two separate permissible prosecutions) to steal from someone on two separate occasions, so it would be two separate offenses to murder someone twice. (although as it ultimately plays out, Libby's actual murder of Nick could be ruled as Self Defense) Not only could Libby be charged with murdering her husband a second time, there are a whole host of other crimes she commits during the movie for which she could be charged. Moreover, a parole board can revoke parole based on new information without violating double jeopardy, since parole is not a constitutional right.

Mistake concerning the death penalty

In an attempt to save himself during the climactic scene of the film, Nick states that if Libby murdered him now, Louisiana (the state they're in) would most certainly sentence her to death in the gas chamber. This is incorrect because, at that time, Louisiana used lethal injection for executions. Back in 1991, roughly eight years before the film took place (1999), the state switched from the electric chair to this method. Before the chair, the method of execution was hanging. The gas chamber was never used. Had she been sentenced to death, Libby would have faced lethal injection, if the prosecution can prove aggravating circumstances, such a criminal record and unlawful acts committed while fleeing from the authorities, both of which apply to her in this film. However, since her killing Nick is a textbook case of self-defense, she wouldn't be sentenced to death, if she were charged at all.


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