The Night Of

The Night Of is a series about the main character Nasir “Naz” Khan who is accused of murdering Andrea Cornish. The story starts off with Naz getting a phone call from his friend about a party, though Naz is a very disciplined and overall a good guy he is hesitant at first, but decides to go thinking not much will happen, but little does he know what awaits. He steals his dad’s cab and goes to Manhattan for the party. On the way he gets lost and stops by the side of the road to find the destination, in that time a young girl hops into the cab thinking he is a cab driver, but Naz does not tell her to get out of the cab due to the fact he thought she was very attractive and just went along took her where she wanted to go. Their connection starts to grow and they start getting more fond of each other as the night goes on. He buys her beer, even though he does not drink himself and they go sit by the Brooklyn Bridge. Andrea offers Naz some type of drug, though he has never taken any before he ends up taking the drug. As the night progresses they go back to Andrea’s place. When they get to her place, they take more drugs and drink. Andrea starts playing a game with a knife and ends up stabbing herself in the hand. They both end up going upstairs and start making love. What seems to be later on in the night, Naz who has been blacked out wakes up in the kitchen and realizes he’s been out too late and goes upstairs to say goodbye to Andrea but when he enters her bedroom she is covered in blood with stab markings all down her back. The room is covered with blood stains, starting from the back wall all the way to the curtains. Like any normal person Naz freaks out and does not know what has happened. He is trying to figure out what happened in the time between they were together and now. He is sure of the fact that he did not kill her, but he is so freaked out he grabs the knife that has blood stains on it and the pills, so the police do not have evidence of who might have done it. Naz gets caught in an unexpected way. He originally gets stopped by the police for drunk driving, but during the same time the cops gets a call about a break in the same area and because they are the closest cop car to that scene they have to go, and end up taking Naz with them in the back seat of the car. As they approach the scene it ends up being Andrea’s apartment. A neighbor saw a man trying to break in who was Naz trying to get his keys. The cops go inside and end up finding Andrea dead in a pool of her own blood. The investigation then starts and because it has been so long since Naz has been in the back they cannot perform the drink test on him, so the cops decide to let him go, but before he is let go they have to check him for unarmed weapons, and as the cop is searching him she finds the knife that Naz took from the apartment covered in blood; and from there Naz is the main suspect of the crime.

         Naz is taken into custody and is questioned by detective Dennis Box. The audience can see that Naz is in shock and does not understand what has happened. He went from hanging out with this random girl and the next thing you know he sees that she is laying in her own blood, but deep down he knows that he did not kill her, but the authorities think otherwise. After his questioning he is sitting in the cell, while he is there attorney Jack Stone walks by him and sees he is in need of help. Jack offers to help Naz unaware of the fact that he is accused of homicide. Jack is trying his best to help when attorney Alison Crowe decides to take on the case and help out Naz. Naz now has been transferred into Riker’s Island jail. This series gives us a glimpse to the way jails run in America. We see the real truth of how inmates are living with each other and how hard it can be for many of the inmates. On Naz’s first night he is given many death threats and at one point the bed he sleeps on is put on fire while he went to the bathroom. Throughout his time in jail we see that he starts to change, the once so innocent Naz is starting to get influenced by the people he is surrounded with. He starts getting tattoos and then goes on to doing weed while he is in there. You can see his whole mannerisms start to change and he is starting to look like a criminal, but throughout the whole time he stands his ground and does not plead guilty, which leads us to the corruption of how attorneys and lawyers work. Naz’s lawyer meets with prosecutor Helen Weiss and is negotiating the sentence Naz would get if he pleads guilty. She gives Naz the news and explains to him that this is the best offer he will get if he wants to get out and have a life. If he does not plead guilty, he is risking the possibility of having a life sentence. This type of occurrence is very common in cases, which is very sad. People are forced to plead guilty for crimes they have not committed to ensure that they can be free some point in their life. These types of situations tell us a lot about how America’s legal system works, and how all lawyers really care about is winning their cases, not about the people they are trying to defend. Innocent people are forced to plead guilty for crimes they have not done just so they do not have to spend the rest of their lives in jail. But throughout the show Naz does not give up and pleads not guilty. At the end of the series the grand jury ends up having a tie 6 to 6. The judge gives prosecutor Helen the option to do another trial with a new jury, but she denies the offer which makes Naz a free man. Helen and Box decide to take on the lead that homicide detective Box found earlier who is the man that we see is the first guy they meet walking down the street in the first episode and is the guy who killed Andrea. This series pinpoints many different themes and problems that are occurring in America and its legal system now. Overall this was a very interesting show and I am glad this assignment finally gave me a chance to finish this very well put together series.

To Kill a Mockingbird and Death and the Maiden

Watching the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird was an extremely different experience than reading the novel. While the plot stays deceptively similar to the book’s–several things are cut, but it sticks largely true to what it does show–seeing the action take place was jarring in a way reading the novel was not. This speaks to the true strength of Harper Lee’s version: Scout’s perspective and her singular, childlike view on everything around her. Without this guiding the story, the film is largely centered around and led by Atticus. The movie paints a wide picture of his life as both a single father and a lawyer in the Deep South in the 1930s. Through focusing on Atticus and the trial rather than Jem and Scout’s youth, the story takes a much different turn for the viewer. Instead of being ensconced in Scout’s innocent, simple life, there is no longer any buffer between the viewer and the dark, disturbing happenings in Maycomb.

I am not sure whether it was because of my own naivete, or Scout’s, but while reading To Kill a Mockingbird, I did not grasp the significance of the scene with the crowd outside of Tom’s holding cell. Not until we discussed it virtually did I fully understand that Mr. Cunningham and his friends tried to lynch Tom Robinson before his case had even come to trial. I did not understand, as Scout did not, what exactly the stakes were for Atticus as he sat on the steps and threatened them with the sheriff. I knew there was danger, but the vague feelings of discomfort and forbearance were replaced by an immediate sense of fear and disgust in the film’s version. Seeing it played out, it is clear and repugnant. Mr. Cunningham, the man who doesn’t like to be thanked, tells Atticus: “You know what we want.” Instead of being somewhat in the dark with Scout, this time I knew what he wanted, too. Replacing the perspective of the story entirely changes the tone, though the outcome remains the same. 

Likewise, when seeing the ending with Bob Ewell and Boo Radley, I was similarly disenchanted. Scout sees Boo as a kind of talisman, protector-like figure, perhaps even an imaginary friend. He represents the curiosity and daring of her childhood, and his rescue of her and Jem is a heroic moment, though he speaks little. Seeing him in the movie, he was actually kind of scary, and it hit me for the first time: he actually murdered a man. Not that Bob Ewell deserved less for his numerous crimes, including being basically responsible for Tom Robinson’s death and attempting to kill two children. The fact remains, though, that Boo Radley came out of his house, for the first time since stabbing his own father, and killed a man with a kitchen knife. It made me wonder if perhaps Atticus had been right to tell his children to stop obsessing over him, and if maybe there was a reason he had been locked away for so long. Without the veneer of childhood, the happy ending in the movie falls short in a way that I don’t think the novel’s ending did. Without Scout running the progression of events and narrating them in her own way as they related to her, the movie simply told a sad story and did nothing to fix it. Not that it could have been fixed; the damage was done. We even see Tom Robinson’s family react to his untimely death, in perhaps the scene hardest to watch. The film sorely missed Scout’s ability to seamlessly pair awful stories with the mundanities of school, summer, and her neighbors; the resilience of a child.

In comparing Atticus’s court scene to the other such representations of trials we have studied, I was drawn to thinking about Death and the Maiden. The cases involved are utterly and completely different, but both victims–Paulina and Tom Robinson–face obstacles that they know the law cannot, or will not, overcome for them. I am conflicted about the comparison between Atticus and Gerardo, but it begs to be made. They are both operators for the state with an interest in seeing the right thing happen, but both fall short in this pursuit. Of course, it is difficult to blame Atticus for the jury’s vote, and impossible to fault Gerardo for trying to dissuade Paulina from killing someone. However, Atticus’s ultimate loyalty is to justice more than to individuals, which reminds me of Gerardo in a sense. Gerardo was affected by his wife’s sufferings, and Atticus by Tom’s, but as lawyers devoted above all else, to the peaceful carrying out of the law, both of them lost something in the process.

Someone else talked about Atticus’s reaction to losing the case, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. He was resigned, not angry, which he had every right to be. Whether or not in the novel this was simply because he hid his anger from his children, in the film we see him grapple with Tom’s sentence and Tom’s death–he is affected, but not changed. He and Gerardo, while committed to justice as they see it, are ultimately serving a future that does not include the current grievances of their clients. Paulina, while on the opposite side of the “courtroom” than Tom, has a lot more in common with Tom than Mayella, her obvious counterpart. Though comparing Mayella and Paulina would reveal an interesting dichotomy; a woman seeking vengeance though held back by her husband, and a woman seeking a wrong vengeance under directions from her father. In Mayella’s case, her testimony did lead to the eventual death of the innocent man she accused. In Paulina’s, we never find out whether or not Roberto died, or whether or not he was innocent. Both show vastly different scenarios of the aftermath of a woman being sexually abused, but showcase the power–whether welded correctly or not–victims have when they say their piece. At the same time, they show the powerless; Paulina is never allowed to fully put Roberto on trial, and Mayella, in the end, put the wrong man to death because of her father’s continued hold over her. Atticus and Gerardo, though they might have won or lost their respective cases, have the power in both the play, the film, and the novel. With the law on their side, right or wrong, they are the heroes of their respective stories, and the ones with the most ability to affect change in their respective worlds.

Eichmann Was You But Normal-er

Eichmann in Jerusalem seemed most notable to me for it’s subtitle, A Report on the Banality of Evil. We discussed this in class but I noticed a few passages in the book went undiscussed and so I would like to bring them up here. What was brought up in class was the idea that Banality, as a word, is referring to unoriginality. Some comments being made referenced the fact that while what the Nazi’s did was clearly atrocious and horrible, it is regrettably far from unique in its goals, though it is unprecedented in scope. Certainly this is true and ought to be talked about and dealt with, but something else that was brought up and I think deserves a little more of our time is that this book doesn’t really deal much with the crimes of the Nazi’s as a whole, or as in idea, and deals much more with one man, Eichmann. He is the one who is so unremarkable, so unoriginal. 

Eichmann wasn’t crazy. That’s the problem. He likely wasn’t even unusually malicious. Chapter 2 of the book spends a great deal of time painting a picture of the life of this dull-witted unremarkable desk jockey. He was a mostly unsuccessful man his whole life, who only fell into position because of his family connections, and fell into the National Socialist Party (Nazi’s) more or less the same way. He doesn’t seem to have sought it out, it just sort of happened to him and he went with it. 

Pages 25 and 26 were, for me, the most interesting part of the entire reading. Arendt says

As for base motives, (Eichmann) was quite sure that he was not what he called a…dirty bastard in the depths of his heart.

Eichmann believes, and in fact believes correctly in some sense, that he committed no criminal act, and did the things he did out of no base motives. And what’s more, he isn’t crazy. Arendt goes on on the same pages to say that, 

Half a dozen psychiatrists had certified him as “normal”…his whole psychological outlook, his attitude towards his wife and children, mother and father, brothers, sisters, and friends, was “not only normal, but most desirable.”

Arendt touches on the significance of this in her epilogue. She states that it is an almost axiomatic principle of modern legal systems that, for a crime to be committed (and therefore punished), there must be on some level the intent to commit a crime. She says on page 277

Where this intent is absent, where, for whatever reasons, even reasons of moral insanity, the ability to distinguish between right and wrong is impaired, we feel no crime has been committed.

Eichmann had no such intent. No such conceptualization that he was doing anything either criminal or morally reprehensible. And as established, he was quite sane. 

The significance of this cannot be overstated. The worst crimes in history were committed by men and women who truly did not believe they were doing anything wrong. Who did so with no malice. How can we hold guilty before the law someone who did not have the desire to commit a crime or the knowledge that they were doing so because in fact, under their laws, they were not? 

And yet we must. 

So a completely normal man, an unoriginal, banal man, not at all unlike you or I, perpetrated in, supported, and carried out the Holocaust. And he did so without any base feelings of rage or hate or malice, and technically committed no crime to do so. That’s hard to deal with. 

Where are Women in the Law?

The question that I pose in the title is one that has been left for us in almost all of the readings. We read about what justice does for men (The Furies) and what the law provides for men (Declaration of Independence). What we don’t see is where the law has left room for women. This question is asked in Death and the Maiden and answered in an interesting way. Paulina has been unable to see justice for the horrible crimes committed against her. She shows serious disillusionment with the justice system which leads her to kidnap her abuser to put on her own trial. She sums up her thoughts at the end of the play by asking, “And why does it always have to be people like me who have to sacrifice, why are we always the ones who have to make concessions when something has to be conceded, why always me who has to bite her tongue, why?” (Dorfman 66). Because she knows that the actual commission won’t help her, Paulina tries to invent her own system of justice that still lets her down. I think here she is giving her own answer to the presented question. She says that it’s not as easy as women just being left out of the justice process, but they are the ones to lose the most. Not only is Paulina brutally tortured and raped, but then she has to be labelled as “sick” and irrational. She is lied to by her husband and her rapist who conspire against her. The system of justice that she invents, still finds a way to re-victimize her. I think an interesting and bold claim that Dorfman could be trying to make is that justice is sexist. The plotline features two men conspiring against a survivor of sexual assault who is just trying to heal. Rather than listening and believing her, Gerardo automatically believes the other man in the situation. There is a moment that he believes her, but it still seems that he turns on her. The law, and justice in the law, does not leave room for women so women have to make room for themselves. Still, however, the system is stacked against survivors hiding behind the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” which Gerardo brings up in the play. I think I am ending with even more questions than I began with about the law being sexist. Why do women have to find justice for themselves/why aren’t they believed? Why haven’t we fixed this? Where do we draw the line at innocent until proven guilty?

Eichmann’s punishment and justice

Reading “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” I immediately found myself wondering what the punishment for Eichmann would be since it is clear he is presumed to be, and is in fact, guilty of these crimes. As I continued reading about these crimes, I began to feel as if there is no punishment fit to his crimes, that no individual can ever receive such a severe punishment for suffering caused against an entire group of people. Ardent addresses these concerns. Some critics against the death penalty state, “The most common arguement was that Eichmann’s deeds defied the possiblity of human punshiment” (250). Others who attempted to address this gap between the severity of the crimes committed and the absence of an equivalent punishment propose more creative punishments such as “Eichmann should have spent the rest of his life at hard labor … (250). However, I feel this would not be fitting as it implies that law has the capability of closing the gap between justice and the crimes committed through various punishments, which I don’t believe is not possible in the case of Eichmann. 

Ardent also addresses those who called this punishment, “unimaginative,” which caught my eye reading because it is synonymous to banal, the essence, Ardent argues, of Eichmann’s evil. Ardent herself does not believe this is a reason to not inflict the death penalty (in her ideal version of the trial in her epilogue, she states he “must hang” (279)). In this framing, I do not think Ardent criticizes the punishment, but rather the trial and audience which failed to explore alternative manners of conduct in the courtroom, such as questioning Eichmann’s testimony of his lack or guilt, lack of hate, and lack of agency in his crimes. Reading this part of the book in particular, it seemed that critics looked for alternative punishments to close this gap between his crime and punishment, when Ardent perhaps wants them to embody this alternative approach to looking at things in trial and future for different ways of measuring justice. As a reader, it seems Ardent wants me to look at the development of the law different going forward, in manners such as the creation of “an international penal law” (273) reckoning with the fact that justice for the victims through punishment of the criminal may not ever be possible in the aftermath WW2 and could occur again.

Presentation of Law in Two Constitutions

While reading, I was drawn to do a close reading comparison of the Haitian Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. I am currently in a Constitutional Law class so I couldn’t help but note the differences between the document from Haiti and here. Specifically, the biggest difference is in how the law is presented. One aspect of the United States Constitution that is frustrating in a Con Law class, but I found an appreciation for after reading the Haitian document, is the fluidity of it. The US Constitution is crafted in a vague way, especially in the Bill of Rights. I think that this vagueness and introduced elasticity is actually beneficial for the law. The law in the U.S. Constitution becomes malleable in a way that is still firm, but also open to interpretation. It opens it to changing times and beliefs so that it is not stuck in tradition, but able to move forward with the people. For example, the First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” which may seem specific, but is not. It brings up the questions of “what is a religion”, “can Congress allot tax money to religious organizations with secular aims”, etc. These are all questions that have answers that can change with the time because the law, in this case, is how it is interpreted. The Haitian Constitution does not have this flexible aspect. It seems that the clauses are very specific. Article Two says that “slavery is abolished forever”. This applies to the list of duties of the government as well. The U.S. Constitution lists vaguely again the roles of each branch of government, but the Haitian Constitution gets specific. Article 15 says that “The Empire is one and indivisible; its territory composed of six military divisions”. I should also note that there are some strangely vague parts like the article about the “good father”, but for the most part, I see this Constitution as something very specific. There is little room there for potential change. I am not here to argue that one is better than the other, but it is interesting that the U.S. Constitution opens the law to change, while the Haitian Constitution sets it more firmly. 

The Furies – Role of the Patriarchy

In Aeschylus’s The Furies, the concept of the patriarchy doesn’t fully extend to the exclusion of female entities in terms of law and politics. While among the gods, Zeus is the father of most gods and his word and will are practiced and held at the highest standard, as said by the god Apollo many times in his argument against the revenge-seeking Furies, some women in this society, and even among the gods, still hold some sort of powerful influence over the idea of justice. The goddess of wisdom, Athena, is sought out by Orestes for shelter and protection from the Furies, who are pursuing Orestes for committing matricide. The retributive justice that the Furies seek in Clytemnestra’s name asserts a high level of respect for women in society, especially mothers, which allows them to use the law and justice system to correct or settle wrongdoings done unto them. The goddess Athena also serves as a judge or mediator in the trial scene of the play, and her word is understood as the final say in the matter of Orestes’ fate. Athena seems to have more authority than the god Apollo does, considering Apollo and Orestes ask Athena for her guidance and judgement. While the women (or female entities) in this part of the drama clearly hold some sort of high authority, it is also clear that the patriarchy is still most powerful in Greek politics. Apollo often times refers to Zeus as the highest power and Athena casts her vote in favor of Orestes based on her relationship to her father Zeus and lack of relationship to any sort of motherly figure. Apollo even goes so far to say that mothers essentially have no role in parenthood, and are strangers to their children, only existing to birth and feed their young. The presence of a patriarchal society is also clear through the anger of the Furies, who furiously defend the concepts of motherhood and womanhood, and are angry and repulsed at the men in this play for holding little importance on the criminality of matricide. At the end of the play, Orestes is found not guilty and the power of the male authority is reinforced through this holding.

Justice is blind: An eye for an eye for an eye?

Being someone who has read only a few Greek playwrights, Aeschylus’s The Furies gave me a vast take on vengeance and tragedy that was unanticipated, but worthy of talking about. There are many things that could be addressed in this playwright such as the blatant gender inequality or the lack of consistency between the characters, but what I was quick to recognize was the series of “normalized” violence that took place throughout this play. Agamemnon sacrifices his youngest daughter, Iphigenia solely so that he can go to war.  Clytemnestra, the wife of Agamemnon is upset at him for sacrificing his daughter, so she decides to stab him to death. Orestes the son of Clytemnestra and Agamemmno, decides to kill Clytemnestra for killing his father. This, among other things in this play is what puzzled me, but made me think about a real-world situation. Our society is set up in a way where in order to feel avenged, we must retaliate against those who hurt us, much like this and other Greek tragedies. 

As you dive deeper into this tragedy,  you start to see the major misogyny taking place when it comes to The Furies and their  way of thinking. The Furies claims that Orestes paying for what he did is justified because he killed his own blood, but Clytemnestra killing her husband for the murder of their daughter isn’t. Apollo, Orestes lawyer argues that Orestes and his mother aren’t really blood and uses Athena as an example of someone who doesn’t have a mother. This scene was very interesting to me because Apollo gives a convincing argument, despite the reader maybe thinking different before. Once again, I was able to relate this tragedy to the real world and how things in society and in a courtroom are never just black and white. This goes to show the most unjustifiable claims can be justified in a court of law. 

For such appalling and murderous acts that took place in this play I thought this play had an acceptable ending. It started with the furies form of justice as revenge, but ended with a legal system being set in place. This proves how important having a legal system is and how without it a society as a whole would fail. Although, vengeance and retaliation is something people will always have a hand in, justice will prevail.

Is justice even possible in the world of The Furies?

The word “justice” is thrown out numerous times in The Furies, by nearly every character, but what it truly means never seems to be agreed upon. There are a lot of legal ideas to unpack in the play, and a seemingly never ending slew of moral dilemmas, but while a verdict is eventually reached, I would argue that the “resolution” of the story is still unclear and unsatisfying.

For one thing, I find it highly circumspect and not impartial that Athena votes on his side simply because of her own lack of experience with having a mother. I also find it hypocritical of the Furies to try to “end the bloodshed,” only by spilling more blood. Apollo is also hypocritical in his derision of the Furies for being involved in this matter where he claims they have no place–what right does he have to mortal affairs that they don’t? Especially when, according to Orestes, he led him to killing Clytemnestra in the first place. Honestly, I see nothing in this play that I would want a true legal system to replicate, but I think that is also because of the fact that it is almost impossible to translate “law” as we understand it to gods and goddesses and mythical creatures. By their very definitions, they are outside of human law, as we clearly see in the text, in how they do whatever they want at any time they want to anyone they want.

The only character I can somewhat sympathize with is Clytemnestra. From my admittedly limited understanding of the events which led up to the start of the play, the sole point where “justice” had been reached was right after she murdered Agamemnon, but before Orestes murdered her. I say “justice” because I don’t know if I fully believe that true justice means more killing, but in her circumstance, I understand why she felt that her husband deserved to die. Some broken version of justice had been reached: her daughter was dead, killed in cold blood, but Iphigenia’s killer was also dead. I don’t argue that Clytemnestra was a murderer, but of the three murderers, she was the only one who wasn’t a parent killing a child or a child killing a parent. In that sense, I agree with the Furies that Orestes’ crime was of a higher caliber than his mother’s. What obligation does someone have to a spouse who literally killed their child? Any marital bond between them was broken the second Agamemnon even considered killing Iphigenia, and demolished when he did.