Judge, Jury, and Executioner
Proper legal procedure can be such a drag sometimes, can't it? You have to arrest the perp, go through the expense of a trial... plus it means you have to get lawyers involved.
Perhaps this is why so many societies, particularly those with dystopian or evil leanings, go for the alternative: empowering a group of official agents with near-limitless authority to detain, sentence and punish offenders.
Depending on the morality of their government, these organizations may be anything from noble Jedi-like protectors who pursue only serious threats to society, to the sort of Terror Squads that make the Gestapo look like paragons of justice and who get called out to use deadly force on jaywalkers.
When a private citizen acts as Judge, Jury, and Executioner without official sanction, he's a Vigilante Man.
Not to be confused with Judge Judy and Executioner.
Comic Books[edit | hide]
- Judge Dredd is probably the most iconic example, exemplified by his Catch Phrase: "I am The Law!"
- Marshal Law is similar to Dredd. In the purview of people with superpowers, he has unlimited jurisdiction and is licensed to kill in any situation he feels necessary. And he feels it's necessary a lot.
- The Law Machines in Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire.
- Marvel Comics has The Living Tribunal, who can destroy planets or whole realities to maintain the greater Marvel multiverse.
- During the course of events in Kingdom Come Superman is essentially trying to cure this very mentality.
- Brat Pack features Judge Jury, who dresses like an executioner.
- In the Predator comic books produced by Dark Horse Comics (specifically the comic Bad Blood), the Arbitrators of the Predator nation are essentially the assigned Predator cops plus this. If you are a Predator and you are bad, they will come for you. And they will get to kill you. No questions.
- Tetragrammaton Clerics from Equilibrium.
- Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?: "I'll catch the rabbit, Mr. Valiant, and I'll try him, convict him, and ex...ecute him."
- In The Proposition, Cpt. Stanley appoints himself judge and jury, but not executioner, using the titular proposition as a rather creative way of fighting crime. Unfortunately, the governor thinks that he should be judge and jury, but not executioner.
- Parodied in Disney's version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, in the character of Clopin. When Phoebus and Quasimodo find their way into the Court of Miracles, an energetic Clopin does a quick, jolly, and almost frightening song involving three changes of costume:
Justice is swift in the Court of Miracles!
I am the lawyers and judge all in one!
We like to get the trial over with quickly,
Because it's the sentence that's really the fun!
- Lampshaded in Hot Fuzz. See page quote above.
- In A Fistful of Dynamite John Mallory acts as this to Sean Nolan, his friend, deciding his fate on the spot when as an informant he attempts to have him arrested by British forces. Serving him his sentence via shotgun. John later expresses guilt over having judged him so coldly.
- The Operative from Serenity fits. Near as an attentive viewer can determine, Operatives are given functional carte blanche in the service of the Alliance.
Literature[edit | hide]
- The Gunslingers in The Dark Tower.
- Jefferson Hope in A Study In Scarlet actually describes himself using these words.
- The Lensmen (especially the Gray Lensmen) from E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series.
- Slyly parodied in The Phantom Tollbooth: Officer Shrift (who is very short) arrests Milo, then prepares to try him. When Milo protests that 'only a judge can sentence you', Shrift agrees and slips into judicial robes on the spot. As he's leading Milo away to serve his six million year sentence, Milo informs him that 'only a jailer can put you in prison'. Again, the officer agrees, pulls out a bunch of keys, and leads Milo triumphantly away.
- Neal Stephenson's postcyberpunk novel The Diamond Age has the neo-Confucian Judge Fang, who has the powers of a judge from when China was an empire (or rather, Neal Stephenson's dubiously researched conception of such.) He himself says that he combines the roles of detective, judge, jury and executioner. The accused is not allowed to speak in his own defense.
- The White Council's Wardens in The Dresden Files. If you break any of the Laws of Magic, they're basically free to kill you where you stand. Only another wizard can ask for something resembling a trial, and they put their own life on the line in doing so.
- Redwall's Warden of Marshwood Hill. "These are my marshes and I alone am the laaaaaaaaaaaaaw!"
- The Executioner series of action novels by Don Pendleton. Vigilante Man and One-Man Army Mack Bolan is offered a 'license' for his Mafia-busting activities by Justice Department boss Hal Brognola. He turns it down as he "doesn't want to drag the country into hell with him". Later on however he becomes a government anti-terrorist operative under the Stony Man program.
- Thomas Theisman, from Honor Harrington, took this role when showing State Sec head Saint-Just an abbreviated legal procedure.
- 71-Hour Ahmed from the Discworld book Jingo. While Vimes criticizes his methods, Ahmed mentions to Vimes that their situations are different. His beat is a city that you can walk in half an hour; Ahmed's beat contains two million square miles of desert and mountain where he is alone against bandits and murderers and thus must inspire dread by striking fast once since he won't get a second chance. Vimes eventually relents that the two of them simply has different views on how justice should be served.
- Death often refers to something in this direction ("THERE IS NO JUSTICE. THERE IS ONLY ME."), although he strictly upholds the "law" of only "taking lives" and not ending them, thus being an aversion.
- Referenced in Alice in Wonderland. Alice asks a mouse why the mouse dislikes cats, and is treated to a poem on how a bored cat acts as both prosecutor, judge and jury to a mouse it (the cat) has encountered. Presumably the cat would have been executioner too, but since Alice got distracted and stopped listening, we will never know the end of the poem.
- The Alvin Fogg novels of J. T. Edson feature Company Z of the Texas Rangers, charged with dealing justice to those whose crimes cannot be punished by coventional law. This usually involves a summary execution by the members of Company Z.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, it is the custom of Winterfell that if the Lord of Winterfell sentences a man to execution, he must do the deed with his own hands.
- In The Wise Man's Fear, we learn about the Ciridae, a sect of the Church Militant Amyr whose actions are "above reproach", to the point that if they walk up to someone on the street and kill them, no one would question their decision.
- The Judoon are mercenary versions of this in Doctor Who. In their first appearance, they transport a hospital from London to the Moon so they can go after the alien hiding within and make no attempt to explain their actions to the humans they examine. When a terrified civilian tries hitting one of them with a vase, it has absolutely no effect, but they still vaporise him on the spot.
- Arthur Spooner of The King of Queens declares in one episode he has been called upon to serve as Judge, Jury, and Executioner. Well, okay, not so much the first and last ones.
- The Inquisitor in Red Dwarf is a unique version of this; a rogue android that has taken upon itself to travel through the universe judging every single living thing to determine whether it has led a worthwhile life. However, as it acknowledges that it wouldn't be fair if it judged everyone, as there would be no guarantee of a fair hearing, it assumes the personality of the person it is judging whilst they are being judged; in essence, everyone acts as their own judge, jury and executioner.
- Which results in decent people with high standards for themselves such as Kryten and Lister are slated for death while completely selfish people with low standards for themselves such as The Cat and Rimmer are allowed to live.
- The Power Rangers in Power Rangers SPD use their Delta Morphers to judge a criminal on the spot then miniaturize them into an prison cell within an small card (implied to be filed away). Considering the sentence, Death seems like a more humane option.
- In the original Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger, the sentence is death, or rather "Deletion", but the trope is averted by the slimmest of technicalities. The SP License sends all available information on the case to a judge elsewhere, and returns the verdict.
- Mirai Sentai Timeranger and Power Rangers Time Force do something similar, except that instead of placing them in cards, they get "freeze-compressed" into tiny figurines. Indeed, both series were kicked off by a jailbreak from a freeze-compression prison. Thus, there's no need for judgment, as they're all escaped convicts.
- Lost: in the episode "Stranger in a Strange Land," we meet the Others' "Sheriff," Isabel. She conducts the inquiry into Juliet's killing of Danny, and appears to be the sole authority in the matter—until Ben intervenes with a pardon.
- Star Trek TNG: Q in "Encounter at Farpoint", and by extension, the judges in the 21st century of the Trekverse. He reprises this role in the series finale "All Good Things...".
Q: The trial never ends...
- The Professionals. CI5 use just the kind of tactics condemned by numerous Royal Commissions into police conduct, but it's OK because they only use them against bad guys. They draw the line with assassination and planting evidence (except in minor cases to pressure a criminal) presumably because such tactics would make the audience a bit nervous. Their limits are probably best lampshaded in an episode where Bodie and Doyle investigate a town where the police have been using extralegal means, such as planting evidence and beating up members of a gay rights group. Bodie and Doyle eventually gain evidence of the latter, and when the main culprit decides to murder them to avoid prison, another officer steps in and stops him, as murder is going too far.
- The ITV series The Fixer has a ex-special forces soldier turned Vigilante Man being released from prison on condition he serve as an assassin for an unnamed government unit tasked with killing those the law cannot reach. However the choice of target appears to be based not on any sense of morality, but on a need to keep British society stable.
- The song "Dirty Window" by Metallica has the chorus line
I'm judge, and I'm jury, and I'm executioner too...
- "Welcome to the Family" features the line "Grandpa's the local sheriff, yeah, he's the judge and the jury too." No mention of executioner, but the next line is "Uncle Bill's the undertaker"...
- "I Am the Law", by Anthrax, is an obvious example, given that it's a tribute to Judge Dredd. The trope's name is cited in the lyrics:
The book of law is the Bible to him
Any crime committed is a sin
He keeps the peace whith his law-giver
Judge, jury, and executioner
- The Imperium of Warhammer 40,000, perhaps unsurprisingly, includes several organizations and individuals with this power. The Adeptus Arbites (who rather resemble the Judges of Mega City) who govern the populace, the Commissars of the Imperial Guard, the Ecclesiarchy (who tend to favor some of the more unusual punishments) and, of course, the Inquisition.
- To be more specific of the Inquisition, they have executed billions of people, be they guilty or not of whatever crime they were accused of. And they also have an extreme measure that they will use to purge a planet of taint when it is considered "irredeemable" (and the philosophy behind it specifically states that the billions of innocent casualties that are often included is acceptable collateral damage).
- The titular "Dogs" of the RPG Dogs in the Vineyard.
- Referenced on the Magic the Gathering card Harvester of Souls
He is judge, jury, and executioner because he killed them all
- Ko-Ko of The Mikado is Lord High Executioner, as well as, presumably, judge and jury. Pish-Tush is... noble something-or-other. Pooh-Bah is Lord High Everything Else. Subverted, as Ko-Ko is a bit squeamish about executing people, leading him to sentence people less often (as opposed to most of the other trigger-happy juries on the rest of the page).
- And also because Ko-Ko is himself under a sentence of death for ... flirting.
Video Games[edit | hide]
- The Judges in Final Fantasy XII, who are sort of like a whole squadron of Darth Vaders.
- Also in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. They're not quite as bad in this version, though. While the "laws" they enforce are ludicrously arbitrary, at least they never kill anybody. Directly.
- The Spectres of Mass Effect. The asari justicars too, at least in asari space.
- The Inhibitor of Bloodline Champions, as well as being a Church Militant, does this.
- Mega Man Battle Network 4 has Duo, a sort of super-Navi created by an ancient civilization and written onto a satellite computer to go around erasing planets as he sees fit. Too bad he happens to fly by Earth during The Syndicate's main operation: spreading Psycho Serum and creating a sudden influx of EVIL all over the world. Good thing we've got Lan and MegaMan to kick his ass and make him spare us! Along, of course, with the entire world at once yelling at him to stop.
- Mega Man Zero 3 gives us the Eight Gentle Judges, who rule Neo Arcadia alongside X (both the real one and his Evil Knockoff). They were as much Knights Templar as the rest of the series' antagonists, until they were turned Brainwashed and Crazy by Dr. Weil to become his Quirky Miniboss Squad. Glacier le Cactank, in particular, provides us with this quote:
Has the legendary hero stooped to thievery? How deplorable. As king of the Snow Plains, I do hereby judge your crime.
(cue One-Winged Angel)
I, Glacier Le Cactank, of Weil's Numbers, have reached a verdict. The punishment for thievery is death!
- Pathologic features an Inquisitor who is the very embodiment of this trope.
- "When we find Santa, leave the talking to me. And the hasty trial, the harsh sentancing and the immediate execution!"
- The Death Squads from Liberal Crime Squad. Only appearing when Death Penalty and Police Regulation laws are Arch-Conservative, they execute any criminal they catch on the spot.
- In Grand Theft Auto IV, NOOSE officers sometime declare themselves to be "the judge and the jury, MUTHAFUCKA", although any law enforcement officer in the Grand Theft Auto series qualifies.
- In Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne, within the ranks of the Mantra Army Court Thor fills this role.
Web Comics[edit | hide]
- In Schlock Mercenary, the legal system of Mahuitalotu is said to involve a "Prosexecuting Attornicator".
- Walker the ghost warden in Danny Phantom provides a quote at the top.
- Two-Face becomes one of these under the guise of the Judge, in Batman: The Animated Series. He tries to execute several super-villains including himself, as a result of a third personality developing because of Harvey's former sense of justice, despising that he had become Two-Face. It ends with Two-Face sitting in a cell, and his third voice demanding what he pleads. "Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.. Guilty.."
- Batman himself comes right to the edge in an early episode of the series. After chasing down a man who keeps children underground and uses them to steal things for him, he tells him that, while he'll never betray his values of Thou Shalt Not Kill and that he'll still turn him over to the courts for judgment, he was very tempted.
- The Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Avatar Day" features a town where the justice system is called "justice" because it involves "just us," as in the same man is the prosecutor, judge, and jury. Punishment is decided by the Wheel of Punishment, however, which ranges from "boiled in oil" to "community service."
Katara: Community service! Please stop on community service!
- In an episode of Garfield and Friends, Jon is stopped by a Corrupt Hick for driving faster than the posted limit of 8 mph (incidentally obscured by overgrowth.) The selfsame sheriff that arrests him proceeds to prosecute him, defend him, judge him, and act as several different members of the jury.
- "Monkey Dust" - The Paedofinder General's entire career is spent accusing people of being pedophiles.. His evidence is always based on completely spurious coincidences or otherwise innocuous irrelevancies. He then pronounces the sentence which is always death. The fact that he is a parody of actual UK paedo witch-hunt logic is somewhat worrying.
- The five-faced Quintesson Judge in Transformers: The Movie. Whether the defendent is guilty or innocent, they get thrown into the Shark Pool.
- On Captain N: The Game Master: MotherBrain takes over in one episode and declares herself Judge, Jury, and Executioner of Videoland as she puts the heroes on trial.
- Medieval knights and Feudal Samurai had pretty much absolute power over those living in their lands (technically you could complain to the person above them, but in practice even getting a word to that person could be impossible), and in case of Samurai, were legally entitled to kill anybody for pretty much any reason, such as showing disrespect.
- The Samurai could be this to themselves in cases of extreme dishonour.
- The Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais (BOPE) elite police unit in Rio De Janeiro is known for such a reputation, according to the book (and later a film) Tropa de Elite.