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Judge, Jury, and Executioner

Walker: Name's Walker, son. Know it. Fear it. Obey it. I am your judge, executioner, jury, executioner, jailer, and if necessary, your executioner.
Danny: Uhh... you said executioner three times.
Walker: I like that part of the job.

In modern legal systems, the power to render judgment is usually spread among many people: a judge decides questions of law, a jury decides questions of fact, and someone else carries out the judge and jury's verdict—in the case of capital punishment, an executioner. It takes time and careful consideration, but proper legal procedure can be such a drag sometimes, can't it? You have to arrest and house 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.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Zoids: New Century, the Judge robots have complete authority over zoid battles... up to and including firing a Kill Sat at persistent offenders. Harsh.
  • Gundam 00 has the Trial System, outfitted in the mecha used by Tieria Erde in the first and second season. It's purpose is to interfere with a supercomputer's remote assisted piloting. Tieria can turn off a Gundam's remote assistance, necessary to use it at full strength. Until the implementation of a Veda-free OS, this would shut down any Gundam that Tieria wanted... letting him kill them at his leisure. Considering that the Gundams in question belonged to his teammates, it's intentional that the pilot given that ability was an obsessively loyal artificial human.
    • Gundam Exia is designed with solid-edge GN Blades, as opposed to the common Beam Saber used in most series. (Though, he has those, too.) GN Blades, covered in a layer of GN Particles, can cut through "GN Field" energy shields... which are supposedly only usable by Gundams. Ultimately, Exia was designed to be particularly good at destroying enemies built with stolen Celestial Being designs... or traitorous teammates. Obviously, this is very useful fighting a traitor to Celestial Being who's slapped enough CB tech together to make a small battleship with equivalently powerful shields and cannons. It also makes a lot more sense why Setsuna, the loose cannon of the team, would be given these weapons, when it was originally intended to use an Innovade - an obsessively loyal artificial human, like Tieria - who was too self-centered to put himself on the front lines when he could use a far more obsessively loyal stunt double.
  • This exists in three different forms in One Piece. All of CP 9 have the unique authority to execute any civilian or pirate on the spot without trial at any time they want, unless told otherwise by the higher ups. And seeing as how all of them are, they use this frequently with impunity. Secondly, though seemingly not legal, the higher ranking of the marines (mainly the admirals) also do this with minimal consequences; Akainu even murders his own men on the spot for deserting and nobody blinks twice (because, after all, who wants to get in the way of a guy who shoots lava from his fists?). Lastly, all marines present at a Buster Call ( a military order to bombard an entire island with cannon fire until nothing remains) have permission to kill anyone deemed a target of the Call or anyone who stands in the way of executing the Call without warning.

    Comicbooks 
  • 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. Marvel Comics also has The Punisher, an anti-hero and Vigilante Man who is occasionally labeled as the judge, jury, and executioner.
    • Also Ronan The Accuser of the Kree empire. As he puts it, "Accusation is punishment!"
  • 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.
  • In Hawkman comics, the Wingmen often act as this. Especially the Elite Hawkman Force.

    Films — Animated 
  • 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!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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." Although when he does find Roger, he skips straight to the "execute" step, because he seems to like that step. Even when he delivers that speech, he painfully murders a cute cartoon shoe by lowering it into a barrel of acid-like D.I.P.
  • 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.
  • Lampshaded in Hot Fuzz.
  • 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. Near as an attentive viewer can determine, Operatives are given functional carte blanche in the service of the Alliance.

    Literature 
  • The Gunslingers in The Dark Tower.
  • Jefferson Hope in A Study in Scarlet actually describes himself using these words.
    • "It's enough that they were responsible for the deaths of two human beings...I determined that I should be their judge, jury, and executioner all rolled into one."
  • 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.
    • Fortunately, it soon turns out he doesn't care about keeping people in prison.
  • 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 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 dogs, and is treated to a poem on how a terrier acts as both prosecutor, judge and jury to a mouse it has encountered. Presumably the dod would have been executioner too, but since Alice got distracted and stopped listening, we will never know the end of the poem.
    Said the Mouse to the cur,
    "Such a trial, dear sir,
    With no jury or judge, would be wasting our breath."
    "I'll be judge, I'll be jury,"
    Said cunning old Fury,
    "I'll try the whole cause and condemn you to death."
  • 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 conventional law. This usually involves a summary execution by the members of Company Z.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, it was the custom of the First Men that "the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword". This tradition is carried on by Northmen in general, and by House Stark in particular.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 S.P.D. 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: The Next Generation: 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...
    • In the episode "Justice", Wesley Crusher accidentally enters a forbidden area on a peaceful planet. It turns out the punishment for all crimes is death on this world, and ignorance is no excuse. The peacekeepers are about to inject Wesley with some poison when the rest of the away team interferes. They actually chastise the away team for causing psychological harm to Wesley by letting him know he was about to be killed.
    • A close examination of Q's dialogue in All Good Things implies that the Q Continuum as a whole partly serves the judge/jury role (and the executioner role is done by manipulating Picard and allowing him to take actions that would kill humanity rather than the Q killing humanity themselves), while the Q we know and love placed himself in a fourth role: defence advocate.
  • 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.
  • Actually used as a plot point in Xena: Warrior Princess, despite feeling guilt for being responsible for Callisto's insanity Xena allows her to die when they fall into quicksand. The follow-up episode has Ares calling her out on this with this trope specifically, Xena admits guilt allowing Ares to switch Xena and (at the time) dead Callisto's bodies. Xena is later able to wash her hands of it, accepting her fault for what she did to Callisto's village, but not for all the people Callisto harms.

    Multiple Media 
  • Judge Dead from the Noob franchise is naturally this, being the head Game Master for the MMORPG in which the story is set. The name is likely intentional as he has said "I am the law" a couple of times in the webseries. A couple of other Game Masters have been seen in the comic version, one of them giving his name as "Judge Love".

    Music 
  • 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

    Tabletop Games 

    Theatre 
  • 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.

    Videogames 
  • The Judges in Final Fantasy XII, who are sort of like a whole squadron of Darth Vaders. Their official position are the vanguards of House Solidor, the Imperial family, charged with keeping order in the Archadian Empire. In practice however they're generals of the army and personal envoys of the Empire, and have the power and training to be worthy of the positions. Their status as this trope is lampshaded by Balthier, who notes "They're more like Executioners than Judges", and in Dissidia: Final Fantasy, Gabranth's title is "The EXecutioner". And though you only meet six Judge Magisters in the game, there are apparently six more, as a woman in Bhujerba will say there are only a dozen Judge Magisters in the Empire! Yeesh, maybe they didn't show up because they're just too powerful.
    • 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, though they are also bound by an immense code which is used to dictate all of their actions. There has been at least one instance of a Spectre and Justicar clashing over this as well.
  • 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 with the 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:
    Glacier: 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]
    Glacier: I, Glacier Le Cactank, of Weil's Numbers, have reached a verdict. The punishment for thievery is death!
    • The Maverick Hunters of the previous series were forced into this trope more often than not due to both extreme circumstances and the complete unwillingness of their targets to cooperate. Needless to say X was very unhappy about this fact.
  • 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 III: Nocturne, within the ranks of the Mantra Army Court Thor fills this role.
  • The Enforcers of APB are these in the city limits of San Paro, thanks to a law enacted by the mayor.
  • In Dragon Age, when it comes to Darkspawn and especially Blights (where Darkspawn come out in force led by an Archdemon), Grey Wardens are called to do whatever it takes to end the Darkspawn threat. Mage wardens are beyond the authority of the Chantry, and they can even conscript kings (though warden-commanders are wise not to overstep their de-facto bounds, no matter what the law says). Darkspawn are that dire a threat. Even the Dalish Elves, who normally shun the thought of bending knee to human lords, will answer the call of the Wardens.
    • In Dragon Age II, the Kirkwall Templars turn into this under the leadership of Knight-Commander Meredith. They're already breaking their own rules at the start of the game - by the end, Meredith is sending hit squads into the slums to summarily execute mage sympathizers. She comes this close to the trope name at one point:
    "We must be judges, jailers, and even executioners."

    Webcomics 
  • In Schlock Mercenary, the legal system of Mahuitalotu is said to involve a "Prosexecuting Attornicator".
  • In Sluggy Freelance Oasis was "protector" of a small town that used to be a haven for organized crime. The locals were absolutely terrified of her as she killed every criminal she came across.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 defendant 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.
  • In an episode of Super Friends, Mxyzptlk puts Superman and Batman on trial, and immediately says, "As Judge, Jury, and Executioner, I pronounce you: Guilty, Guilty, GUILTY!"

    Real Life 


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