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To ensure peaceful coexistence, every healthy community needs a functioning justice system. The United States' legal system is over a century old and generally recognized as one of the strongest in the world. However, as Doyle (2010) points out, the system is not without flaws. The Night Of is a television series that examines some of the justice and legal issues that the American criminal justice system faces. HBO Television Network produces the script, which was written by Richard Price and Steven Zaillian. A thorough analysis of the film shows several comparisons with the issues that characterize the criminal justice system in the United States. The eighth film in the series follows a young man who is wrongly convicted of homicide. After stealing his dad’s car, Nasir “Naz” Khan, a naïve Pakistan-American college student, decides to pick up Andrea and having a night of romance. Naz wakes up in the morning and finds Andrea stubbed to death by a knife. Letter on, the police pick up Naz for a minor offense and realize along the way that he is an “accomplice” in a murder case. Stone is appointed as Naz's advocate before being replaced by other affordable advocates. One of the advocates, Chandra falls for Naz and kisses him while in prison. Stone, however, does not give up on the case. He pursues the matter and discovers many other unmentioned things in the case including the fact that Andrea had "sinister" father and that a third person who was with the witness was never revealed in the proceedings. Apparently, Ray Halle, Andreas's violent boyfriend, had been following the victim on the night of the murder. Later on, a jury hears the case and drops after hitting a stalemate. A more in-depth insight of the criminal justice system and the people that play a role in it reveal notable flaws that affect the American society.
Firstly, instances of unprofessional conduct are rampant. In the film, most of the advocates and legal representatives appear unethical in their behavior and duties. For example, the advocate represents Naz, John Stone, is heard quieting the accused not to tell him the truth regarding what had happened. While conversing with Naz, Stone, who was supposed to be the advocate, says the following:
“Don't tell me what happened. If they come up with their narrative, we devise ours. The judges get to choose which they see as the best version. Now, the good news is we get to hear what their narrative is first before we have to tell them what ours is. So we do not open our mouths until we know what they're doing" (Price & Zaillian).
The way that Stone conducts himself is questionable. Especially, given that he is an advocate appearing before a United States court. In particular, advocates often take an oath to protect the constitution, which roots for justice and fairness. Also, an instance of unprofessionalism is seen when Chandra becomes affectionate with Naz who was her client. These cases harm both the reputation and effectiveness of the criminal justice system and risk lowering the bar when it comes to upholding the constitution.
Secondly, the system users appear to bend it unfairly on the minority non-whites, especially the Muslim community. While in police custody and in the prison environment, Naz faces several instances of unfair treatment based on skin color. The issue is more pronounced when Naz interacts with the other inmates. It leads the character to adopt the protection of Freddy to keep his enemies at bay. Also, during the trials, the figure is portrayed as an irrational, violent animal without ever mentioning the word "Pakistani" or "Muslim." The issue is not unique to the film (Desta, 2016). After the release of The Night Of, other accounts started arising from the Americans from who felt that Naz's story had empowered them. One such story involves Riz Ahmed who writes a story on The Guardian lamenting how she and her family have faced similar discrimination. She recounted how her brother was held at gunpoint at Luton Airport and how the security guard arm “twisted her brothers arm out of shape” (Karen, 2016).
Thirdly, the users of the system appear unconcerned with the interests of the victimized parties. They seem to "be just doing their duties." From the police officers to the judges and advocates, people are reluctant to pursue the matter beyond what is satisfactory to them. Only Stone seems to expend enough time, energy, and resources towards ensuring that his client gets nothing but justice. The other advocates that come along to represent Naz are only interested in either making a name or money. Alison Crowe is an example of a selfish advocate who is solely interested in media attention and being a public figure. This caliber of advocates is in plenty within the American society (Rawls, 1985). The challenge is that once the media attention dies the client surfers. Moreover, they are more likely to politicize the case and lessen its significance. Additionally, there was the instance when Stone finds new and compelling evidence against the trial that, upon presentation, the district attorney representing trial flatly refuses to consider it.
Finally, innocent accused persons are made to pay the price for a crime they never committed. Even though the trial is stopped, the challenges that Naz undergoes while in custody are life threatening. He becomes a witness and victim of jail violence and attempted molestation. The effect is so big that upon leaving the jail, Naz had changed into a hardened person with less humane feelings. Similarly, reports have shown annually that thousands of young people remain in custody for crimes they did not commit. If the things that Naz underwent at Riker’s Island are anything similar to what the real US prison system looks like, then this young man must be going through extreme conditions akin to an actual jail term.
Overall, The Night Of is a reflection of many of the challenges that the American society faces when going through the justice system. Apparently, the people who ran the system are fairly in their duty to ensure justice and fairness. There is a definite lack of professionalism and due care on some of the advocates and the people responsible are not interested in the truth or in reaching the cause of issues. Moreover, the matter of racial discrimination ought to be looked into as it negates the effectiveness of the judicial process. The system needs reevaluation to identify such behavioral and legal inconsistencies that upon being rectified increase the system’s ability to dispense proper justice to people like Naz.
Desta, Y. (2016) The Night Of star talks of racial profiling in the powerful essay. The Vanity
Doyle, J. (2010). Learning from error in American Criminal Justice, Journal of Criminology
and Criminal Law, 100 (4) Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0e25/db1246d36af10b95c1dbf8fe3da7f7628455.pdf
Karen, F. (2016). “The Night Of” Riz Ahmed details how he has faced similar discrimination as
Nasir Khan. Retrieved fromhttp://www.thefrisky.com/2016-09-15/the-night-ofs-riz-ahmed-details-how-hes-faced-similar-discrimination-as-nasir-khan/
Price, R. & Zaillian S. The Night Of. HBO
Rawls, J. (1985, Summer). Justice as fairness: political, not metaphysical. Philosophy and Public
Affairs, 14 (3), pp. 223-251
Retrieved from https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/09/the-night-of-riz-ahmed-essay
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