Find Me Guilty

Find Me Guilty, directed by Sidney Lumet, is a docudrama of the longest criminal trial in American history, which was held in 1966-1968. After nearly two years of testimony, the jury took fourteen hours to deliberate a 70-count verdict (mostly racketeering) for some twenty New Jersey residents, mostly Italian Americans of the Lucchese family. In short, the film is a courtroom drama. Jacke DiNorscio (played by Vin Diesel) is already serving a 30-year sentence for a drug bust when he is named in the indictment, which implicates his boyhood friends, who are out of prison. Since his attorney did not save him from a conviction in the trial that put him in prison, he decides to be his own lawyer in the 1966-1968 trial. The others are defended by their own lawyers, so every witness for the prosecution can be cross-examined by several defense attorneys. The opening statements in the trial set the tone. The prosecution asks the jury to convict the gang because they are intimidating legitimate businesses. Defense attorneys differ considerably in their skills, but DiNorscio surprises everyone by beginning with the epigram, “I’m a gagster, not a gangster.” His earthy, folksy presentation indeed causes the jury to break out in laughter. Thereafter, the judge (played by Ron Silver) has to manage a courtroom where DiNorscio is a star who engages in unorthodox behavior. The prosecution presents scraps of evidence, including testimony from undercover police and from a former gang member who rats on his friends. Although the defense attorneys raise occasional objections, DiNorscio breaks down the witnesses, one by one, often by going into tangents that erode the credibility of the testimony. For example, the undercover police officer’s stereotyping of Italians undermines his testimony, and the former gang member apologizes to DiNorscio on the witness stand after admitting that he decided to cooperate with the prosecution because he was promised that he could feed his drug habit until being detoxified. The film plays up dissension within the gang as well as frustration within the prosecution team. Final statements again show that the prosecution is eager to convict “bad guys” by burying the jury under a mountain of exhibits and suspect testimony, and the defense attorneys do their part to appear competent. However, DiNorscio tells the jury that he wants to take the fall for his friends; he wants them to convict him so that his buddies can return to their families. After the jury deliberates and announces an unexpected verdict, filmviewers view titles at the end which indicate that DiNo

Scroll to Top