Disgusted with criminals escaping the judicial system via technicalities, an idealistic young judge investigates an alternative method for punishing the guilty.
User Reviews: ********SPOILERS******** This movie really takes the saying "I would rather have a hundred guilty go free then have one innocent found guilty" to the limit. Judge Hardin, Michael Douglas,is disgusted with how the law is administrated when he’s forced to let criminals go free due sloppy police work.
A case that comes before his bench is that of a ten year old boy, David Lewin, who was found tortured and murdered in a city park. The two suspects Monk, Don Calfa, and Cooms, Joe Regalbuto,arrested were found to have a bloody sneaker belonging to David in their van but because the police had no cause to arrest them at the time all the evidence against them had to be thrown out and they let free. When Judge Hardin announced his decision the dead boys father Dr. Lewin, James B. Sikking, goes berserk and pulls out a gun and tries to shoot the two released defendants but misses and shoots a cop instead. Later in jail Judge Hardin visits the distort father who tells him that another young boy, like is son, was murdered the same way an that he’a as as guilty as those that killed him because he let them go free. Judge Hardin later watching the TV news learns that Dr. Lewin committed suicide in his cell.
Sick and depressed Judge Hardin is told by a fellow jurist Judge Caulfield, Hal Holbrook, that there’s a Star Chamber that secretly holds trials on persons who escaped the long arm of the law and if there found guilty there secretly dealt with. Caulfield then asks Judge Hardin if he would want to join since one of the members died, he actually committed suicide, and there was a opening for him. Judge Hardin accepts and when the Star Chamber meets to preside on cases he brings up the David Lewin case and they vote that the two suspects that were let go are guilty and they are sentenced to death.
The Star Chamber sends out a hit-man, Keith Buckley, to do the job. Later the police find that the Van where the bloody sneaker of the murdered David Lewin was found was stolen and returned to those who were charged with the murder, Monk & Cooms, after the crime was committed without their knowledge. Judge Hardin gets in touch with the detective who cracked the case Det. Lowes, Yaphet Kotto, who tells the judge that the evidence was overwhelming that they caught the real killers. Even more upsetting to the Judge is that one of the suspects gave a full confession and that both Monk & Cooms were innocent all along.
Judge Hardin shocked that he unleashed a hit-man to kill two innocent men tries to stop the "hit" on Monk & Cooms but he’s told by the members of the Star Chamber that it’s too late and he’ll just have to live with what happens to them. Finding out where the duo lives Judge Hardin runs there to warn them of the danger. When the, what seems like, less then stable Judge tries to get in contact with them they attack and beat him. Monk & Cooms think that he’s nuts and being high on drugs as well as paranoid lunatics, they were also operating a drug lab, they weren’t very receptive to what Judge Hardin was trying to tell them.
With Judge Hardin trapped Monk pulls out a gun and is about to shoot the Judge when a policeman pops up and shoots and kills him and his partner Cooms. It turns out that the policeman is really the hit-man sent out by the Star Chamber to do the hit. Seeing Judge Hardin with them the hit-man turns his gun on him but before he can shoot theirs a shot fired, off screen, from Det. Lowes and he falls to the ground dead.
The movie ends with the Star Chamber discussing another criminal to be executed but Judge Hardin is not with them. He’s outside in a car with Det. Lowes recording what their saying to be used against them when their on trial for breaking the law that they were sworn to uphold.