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Contribution to Book
A Witness to Justice
Studies in Law, Politics and Society, Vol. 46, Special Issue: Symposium on Law and Film (2009)
  • Jessica M Silbey, Suffolk University

In the 1988 film The Accused, a young woman named Sarah Tobias is gang raped on a pinball machine by three men while a crowded bar watches. The rapists cut a deal with the prosecutor. Sarah's outrage at the deal convinces the assistant district attorney to prosecute members of the crowd that cheered on and encouraged the rape. This film shows how Sarah Tobias, a woman with little means and less experience, intuits that according to the law rape victims are incredible witnesses to their own victimization. The film goes on to critique what the "right" kind of witness would be. This article explains how the Accused, therefore, is also about the relationship between witnessing and testimony, between seeing and the representation of that which was seen. The article elaborates the relationship between the power and responsibility of being a witenss in law -- one who sees and credibly attest to the truth of their vision -- as well as the significance of bearing witness to film -- what can we know from watching movies.

  • law and film,
  • jurisprudence,
  • evidence,
  • witness,
  • rape,
  • criminal law,
  • prosecutorial misconduct,
  • law and humanities,
  • law and literature
Publication Date
Winter January, 2009
Austin Sarat
JAI Press
Citation Information
Jessica M Silbey. "A Witness to Justice" UKStudies in Law, Politics and Society, Vol. 46, Special Issue: Symposium on Law and Film Vol. 46 (2009)
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