Rage Against the Legal System

So you've been caught and punished for robbing a bank, assaulting someone, or driving slow in the fast lane. What do you do? Some quietly accept their punishment. Some actively work to rehabilitate themselves and make up for their wrongdoing during and after paying their debt to society.

Others decide to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the justice system for punishing them.

Usually, the criminal doesn't see whatever they did as being wrong; they see the police, the prosecution, the judge and so on as being responsible for their predicament. The revenge usually includes (but is not limited to) the police who arrested them, the prosecutor who prosecuted them, the witnesses who testified against them, the jurors who convicted them, the prison guards who incarcerated them, and the judge who sentenced them. What's worse is that they may also go after the families of the above.

A frequent variation is when a criminal is acquitted or released from prison early to kill again and a relative or lover of the victim goes on a rampage against the judges, lawyers, police officers, etc as well as the criminal.

This is Truth in Television. While this MIGHT be justifiable if the authorities are corrupt or outright evil, doing this in many places is considered a Moral Event Horizon in the eyes of the law and society. Any crimes against officials of the legal system are punished harshly and penalties can go Up to Eleven if they were motivated by revenge.

Can overlap with Revenge by Proxy and Revenge Before Reason. Often overlaps with Cop Killer.


  • A DirecTV advertisement claims that having cable TV will eventually lead to your house blowing up (in their bizarre Rube Goldberg-esque logic: you're a lawyer, not having good reception will cause you to go to work irritated, you'll lose your case, the guy that goes to prison will dwell on getting even with you when he gets out...).

Comic Books
  • Batman
    • In one early appearance, The Joker kills a police chief who had arrested him once in the past.
    • In a 1960s story, Batman's enemy the Mad Hatter commits crimes based on the occupations of the jurors who convicted him as a rather oblique form of revenge. the story was adapted into an episode of the live-action television series as well.
  • In the final arc of Top 10, Joe Pi invokes this trope to subtly manipulate the Superman-analogue Atoman into committing suicide by telling him that when he's arrested, depowered, and jailed, he'll be at the mercy of the various supervillains he defeated.
  • In Watchmen, a number of jailed criminals try to avenge themselves on the recently-imprisoned Rorschach. It doesn't go well.
  • Flash: The Weather Wizard, already a three-time convict when awesome weather powers dropped into his lap, spent his first appearance going after police officers who had arrested him.

  • The original 1962 Cape Fear had this as Max Cady's motive for tormenting the protagonist, Sam Bowden (the later was a witness to the former's rape). The 1991 remake inverts it, by making Boden Cady's lawyer (who the later thought didn't do a good enough job of defending him).
  • Law Abiding Citizen: After a plea deal sets one of his wife's killers free, a man targets the killers, their lawyers, and the judge and D.A. who approved the deal.
  • This is pretty much a stock Plot on Western movies (for example, High Noon): The Sheriff puts bad guy in jail, bad guy escapes or finishes his sentence, comes to town with a bunch of Mooks to kill sheriff (or whoever replaced said Sheriff).
  • Jimmy Conway's homicidal rampage against the police and inhabitants of the town of Red Hill for putting him in jail because he murdered his wife. Turns out that it was a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against Dirty Cops-who murdered his wife.

  • The Count of Monte Cristo is a classic example. Edmond Dantès is framed by his colleges Danglars (who is jealous of his rapid rise to captain), Fernand (his fiancé's cousin and a rival for her affections), and the corrupt prosecutor Villefort. After six years of being unjustly imprisoned in the Château d'If, befriends the Abbé Faria ("The Mad Priest"), who gives him hope again, and over the course of eight more years, teaches the younger man an extensive education in language, culture, and science, along with the reasons why the three conspirators had reason to hate him. Before he dies of old age, Faria gives Dantès a map to a hidden horde of treasure; Dantès is able to escape by taking the place of his body, finds the treasure, makes a new life for himself as the Count of Monte Cristo, and spends the second half of the book plotting revenge against the three conspirators, ultimately succeeding. (He exposes horrific crimes committed by Fernand and Villefort, driving the former to suicide and the latter mad and committed to an asylum; Danglars is bankrupted and his reputation is ruined by Dantès manipulation of the markets, and tries to embezzle from a hospital; but when he finally repents to Dantès and returns the money, he's forgiven, but left with only 50,000 francs.
  • In Me and My Little Brain a gang of outlaws whom John Fitzgerald's father helped put away tries to take revenge on the Fitzgeralds and the judge.

Live-Action TV
  • The Famous Jett Jackson episode "Something to Prove" has a bully named Robert tormenting Jett. Jett's father, the local sheriff, reveals that he had personally arrested Robert for assault and sent him to juvenile prison. This bully holds a grudge against both father and son for what happened to him, but targets Jett rather than the sheriff.
  • Averted with Judge Judy. That's surprising for someone who makes a career of publicly humiliating wrongdoers on national television. Judge Judy even verified in interviews that not once has she ever been threatened on TV with retaliation for her decisions (and the vicious words that go along with them).
  • On NCIS, the "meat puzzle" cases Ducky works on turn out to be someone's revenge upon the prosecutor, judge, and jury foreman who'd jointly put a sicko away. As Ducky was the M.E. whose evidence clinched the conviction, he suspects (correctly) that he's the last target on the vengeful killer's list.
  • In the Blue Bloods episode "Re-Do" a serial rapist whom Erin put away but then had his conviction thrown out on a technicality targets her in revenge. In hindsight, targeting a woman who isn't just an A.D.A. but has four current or former NYPD officers in her immediate family wasn't exactly bright of him.
  • The Closer: In the episode "Off the Hook", a woman kills a member of the California Parole board after she lets out a criminal who then robs and kills her son.
  • In an episode of The X-Files a convict is executed, then returns as a spirit (or something) to take revenge on the witnesses/lawyers/judge/prison staff/executioner.
  • CSI: NY Season 8 Episode 8 "Crossroads". A judge is killed in a drive-by shooting and evidence first points towards a Russian mob hit, only to finally lead to a pair of young men which had been put in a hellhole juvenile detention center by the judge, who had an arrangement with the warden to be paid for every kid sentenced to serve time there. The murderer had been sent there because he stole a pack of gum.
  • Played with in the episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia "Dennis Looks Like a Registered Sex Offender", where Mac's father, after having been released from Prison, goes to "take care of" several people that took part in sending him to prison in the first place. Mac and Charlie then freak out, thinking he's going to kill them too, until it turns out that he was just trying to make up with these people for causing trouble in the past.
  • The first episode of Zen had a man who was hunting down the judge, the attorney and the police officer who got him convicted for a crime he did not commit. He agrees when Zen points that he has killed lots of people and got away with it but is angry they were not playing "the game" and they wouldn't have got him otherwise.
  • Law & Order:
    • Initially suspected in a Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode where the Body of the Week is a superior court judge's son. The judge had just sentenced a rapper for armed robbery and there was a prominent shot in The Teaser of the rapper's posse verbally threatening the judge. Turns out to be a Red Herring, though.
    • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, season 11, episode 3, 'Solitary': A guy (played by Stephen Rea) wants revenge on Stabler for spending years in solitary, especially because all of the time spent there had driven him borderline insane (and when the judge's sentence is to be sent back to solitary, he begs for death instead). A rare episode where Stabler develops sympathy for the crook, especially after taking some time in solitary as well.
    • This happened in another episode with Olivia. In this case it was a slightly-more-justified version where the episode's villain was a man who was wrongfully convicted because Olivia railroaded the case and did the show's usual side-stepping of constitutional rights.
  • On Grimm Oleg Stark was a Siegbarste (Ogre) who was sent to prison for murder after evidence that could have exonerated him was "misplaced" in police custody. After he escapes prison he kills the prosecutor, judge and jury forman who helped convict him. It turns out that Hank was the one who destroyed the evidence but only because Oleg really did commit the murders and then fabricated the exonerating evidence.

  • Implied in the "R.I.P." Remix by Young Jeezy (feat. YG, Kendrick Lamar & Chris Brown). Precisely YG's verse:
    R.I.P I wanna kill the judge
    Tryna lock the homie up, they don't feel the thug

  • In one of the Green Hornet radio episodes, the crook du jour was targeting Britt Reid because he blamed Reid for his conviction

Western Animation
  • In Dynomutt Dog Wonder, Ironface sought revenge against Blue Falcon and the city officials who sent the villain to prison.
  • The He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) episode "It's Not My Fault" has an angry soldier named Raigo who looks to get back at a local chieftain for incarcerating him. Said soldier was punished for dereliction of duty, which happens to tie into the episode's moral about accepting responsibility for one's actions.
  • Sideshow Bob has tried to get revenge on Bart Simpson numerous times during the run of The Simpsons for sending him to prison.
  • The Family Guy episode "To Love and Die in Dixie" has a robber breaking out of prison, namely to target Chris Griffin whose testimony put the robber away.
    • In "One If By Clam, Two If By Sea", when Peter and friends end up in prison for a frameup, one of the inmates Joe arrested intends to kill all four of them.
  • In the Justice League episode "Only a Dream", it's implied that Dr. Destiny wants revenge on the Leaguers for locking him up. (The thing is, not only was he guilty of the crime, the one he probably should have blamed was Lex Luthor for convincing him to do it.)