Jury Watches Clips of the Town during Trial: From Hollywood to the Courtroom

The 2010 American crime drama film, the Town, starring Ben Afflek caught the attention of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The Town is a story of four lifelong friends from Charlestown, Boston who are involved in numerous robberies. Throughout the movie, the men disguise themselves as nuns and Boston police officers in attempt to successfully complete the robberies.

In 2010, Pay-O-matic a check-cashing store in Queens, New York was robbed and over $44,000 was stolen. In the 2010 robbery, the robbers only wore bandanas. However, in 2012, Pay-O-Matic was robbed again of more than $200,000. In the 2012 robbery, the robbers wore New York City police uniform disguises and special effect makes to influence the employee to gain access to the store. They also poured bleach on the counter to remove fingerprints and DNA. Akeem Monsalvatge, Edward Byam, and Derrick Dunkley were defendants to both robberies.

The prosecution used clips from the movie to show the similarities between the defendant’s actions and the scenes in the movie. The prosecution showed the jurors four clips from the movie. The defendant’s appealed and argued that showing the clips were prejudicial. They stated that playing the scenes at the trial had unfairly swayed the jury.

Judge Debra Ann Livingston for the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit wrote that “the movie was fair game helped to show that the defendants’ modus operandi changed because they decided to incorporate ideas from the movie into their method for committing robberies.” Judge Livingston rejected the argument that the movie clips had the sort of “strong emotional or inflammatory impact” that could have risked unfairly prejudicing the jury. She noted that the clips played at the trial were short and showed only the parts of the movie “relevant to the 2012 robbery.”

Additional Reading:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/08/nyregion/court-allows-use-of-movie-clips-to-win-guilty-verdict.html

https://www.courthousenews.com/robbers-convicted-off-clips-town-lose-appeal/

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/appeals-court-ben-afflecks-town-didnt-prejudice-bank-robbery-trial-984383

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