“Officer On Deck!” Great Cross/Great Re-Direct

In this clip from A Few Good Men, two Marines are on trial for a murder on their training base. The Marines’ defense is that they were ordered by officers to give the decedent, a fellow Marine, a “Code Red,” which is a violent training “tool” used to bring errant Marines in line. The decedent was killed during the performance of the Code Red.

The prosecution (played here by Kevin Bacon) wants to poke holes in the whole notion of a Code Red. When another Marine from the same unit is on the stand, Bacon cross-examines him with two books, The Marine Outline for Recruit Training, and the Standard Operating Procedure applicable to his unit. Bacon elicits admissions that the term Code Red does not appear anywhere in either manual, thus making it seem like something the defense has cooked up or exaggerated.

The defense (played by Tom Cruise) deftly resuscitates his witness by using the same Standard Operating Procedure and asking the witness to locate where in the manual it explains where the mess hall is located. Of course the manual makes no reference to the mess hall, either, crisply illustrating the fallacy behind the argument that a Code Red must be a fiction if not officially recognized in the Marine training manuals.

Oh, and sorry if this contained a spoiler. The movie has only been out for like 25 years.

About Alex Craigie

I am an AV-Preeminent rated trial lawyer. My practice focuses on helping companies throughout Southern California resolve employment and business disputes. The words in this blog are mine alone, and do not reflect the views of the Dykema law firm or its clients. Also, these words are not intended to constitute legal advice, and reading or commenting on this blog does not create attorney-client relationship. Reach me at acraigie@dykema.com. View all posts by Alex Craigie

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