aka: Vigilante Justice
The court is dismissed. The defendant, Dr.
McEvilpants, is set free thanks to a lack of evidence (or worse, gets Off on a Technicality
), suspiciously missing witnesses who fell down an elevator shaft, onto some bullets
, and a jury that just got a significant increase in spending cash
. As he leaves the courthouse steps, a Vigilante Man
, often a victim or loved one of the victim (if not someone who's simply determined to see justice served
), shows up and shoots him
. The gunman just carried out a Vigilante Execution
This can be either the ending to a story, or the setup for a second half or prelude to a larger plot.
See also: The Killer Becomes the Killed
, Vigilante Man
, Framing the Guilty Party
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- This is Lunatic's trademark in Tiger & Bunny, and it's what sets him apart from the heroes, who only seek to arrest criminals for points.
- Kira, at least initially.
- Magog shoots the Joker in Kingdom Come in a manner similar to this — the Joker wouldn't have walked, but he would possibly had pleaded insanity. Again.
- Happens to Speedball about halfway through the Civil War. He survives, though.
- Detective John Hartigan from Sin City tried to kill Junior Roark as opposed to arresting him for this very reason. Unfortunately, it didn't quite happen as planned.
- Criminals in the Marvel universe who get off in court should always be wary, for they are likely to have an encounter with Frank Castle.
- The Boondock Saints ends with the execution of the Big Bad, a Mafia boss, in the courtroom by the McManus brothers and their long-lost father. They get away with thanks to some inside help from Agent Smecker.
- This is the premise of Death Sentence. When Kevin Bacon finds out that his son's murderer faces a maximum of 3 years, he pretends not to recognize the perp in court, so that later on he can track him down and kill him. This ends up backfiring. Badly.
- Pre-empted in L.A. Confidential, where Exley kills Dudley because he's sure that if given a jury trial, he'll be acquitted. Ironically enough, in their first onscreen conversation, Dudley asks Exley if he's capable of such an act, and Exley demurs.
- In New Jack City, druglord Nino Brown walks arrogantly out of the courtroom in front of the police protagonists, confident he will not serve a sentence commensurate with his crimes. The old man who was hounding Brown throughout the film for destroying his neighborhood with his drug trade shoots him dead in the courthouse foyer.
- Eraser - where Arnie kills off the Big Bad in this manner, when it becomes clear he will never be convicted.
- Shooter - where the protagonist hunts down the villains, who have gotten away with everything, and kills them in their cabin - making the entire thing look like a gas leak.
- Combine this trope with a torch-and-pitchfork mob attack, and you get how Freddy Krueger of A Nightmare on Elm Street died, at least the first time around.
- In Outrage, Robert Preston is a father whose daughter was raped and murdered by a man who is released on a technicality because the police made a mistake. After his wife dies because of the trauma of learning their daughter's murderer has gotten off scot free, he buys a gun, drives to the area of town where the man generally hangs out, calls out his name, and when he responds, shoots and kills him.
- In The Departed, Sullivan manages to destroy all evidence of his crimes, so he's not even charged with anything, but Dignam still finds out what he did and kills him.
- Law Abiding Citizen has Clyde doing this to everyone involved with the death of his family and the miscarriage of justice that followed.
- The remake/reboot of Shaft ends this way though in this case, the mother of the victim shot him before the trial, not willing to take the chance that he might get away.
- In Batman Begins of The Dark Knight Saga Bruce Wayne is about to shoot Joe Chill, the murderer of his parents, who is being released in exchange for information on Falcone. What stops him is Joe being shot by one of Falcone's minions first.
- With the killer cops in Magnum Force, this trope is used. The scenario described at the top of the page is the type that describes the Ricca killing at the beginning.
- The premise behind And Then There Were None.
- Also the premise behind Murder on the Orient Express.
- The ending of every Mike Hammer novel. "The Twisted Thing" is an exception in that the killer, a child genius, commits suicide — probably because it would be too much to have even Sociopathic Hero Hammer kill a child, and impossible to claim that it was self defence.
- Most of the 'Home End' of Tom Clancy's Without Remorse consists of an extended series of these ... entirely justified as you would expect from J. T. Kelly (later Clark).
- A Time to Kill follows the trial of the vigilante executioner after he does this. Samuel L. Jackson would like you to know that, Yes, they deserved to die and he hopes they burn in hell.
- In the Dale Brown novel Wings of Fire, Chris Wohl kills Pavel Kazakov, who Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All.
- In Dale Brown's Shadow Command Patrick McLanahan kills Russian president Leonid Zevitin, who for obvious reasons would not be prosecuted, face-to-face.
- The Saint in New York opens with Simon Templar gunning down a murderer on the sidewalk outside the courthouse.
- Happens frequently in the John Sandford Prey series, usually with the protagonist, Lucas Davenport, claiming self defense after gunning the perp down.
- Naturally, one occurs in Abney Park's "Victorian Vigilante".
- In Condemned, SKX's MO, in a nutshell. He is exactly as inhumane as the killers themselves, to the point where he crosses the Moral Event Horizon.
- In the RuneScape quest "The Chosen Commander", a H.A.M. agent tries to kill the goblin children by selling the vendors poisoned food. He is arrested and brought to trial, and Zanik advocates the death penalty for him, but the treaty says they can't kill him. Zanik storms out, waits, and then shoots the agent in the back with her crossbow once he leaves the meeting room.
- In Tales of Vesperia, two high ranking nobles fall "victim" to this trope after kicking one too many dogs and getting away with it. One gets slashed across the chest and dumped into a river, while the other is led by sword point into a quicksand bog and buried alive. Main character Yuri Lowell is the vigilante behind both kills, considered by many to be CMOA's for him.
- The first episode of the Telltale Games series Law & Order: Legacies has one - early in the "Order" segment, a Russian diplomat, whose claim of Diplomatic Impunity is still being determined, is gunned down in the courtroom by the father of the woman he raped and murdered, very narrowly missing Abbie Carmichael. The rest of the game is Michael Cutter's prosecution of the father.
- In The Order of the Stick, Vaarsuvius preemptively executes Kubota as he lays out his plan to get away with his crimes. However, V's interest is not in justice, only in removing a tedious distraction.
- "Ain't that a shame."
- In Superman: Doomsday, Supes doing this to Toyman was the first sign that maybe the Man of Steel hadn't returned from the dead after all.