The Virginian TV show was 90 minutes long, giving it a unique advantage over other western TV shows as it had more time to develop the story and characters. It was almost like a short movie, and indeed, longer that some western movies.
This episode goes back in history about 10 years before the Virginian (James Drury) comes to work for Judge Garth (Lee J. Cobb, one of the jurors in 12 Angry Men). The Judge had not moved out to Shiloh Ranch yet, and was living in town, presiding as judge in the courtroom at Medicine Bow.
Synopsis: The Judge is offered a high position and refuses it. To explain his reasons to his daughter Betsy (Roberta Shore) he tells her a story that happened 10 years ago when she was too young to remember….a guilty man is tried for murder in the Judge’s courtroom and found guilty. This guilty man is one of the well-known and well-hated Careue family.
Two of his brothers (one of them being Clu Gulager) show up to find some way, preferably fair but foul if necessary, to get him released from jail. Discussing things with a lawyer they find there is one legal way out: have the Judge declare a mistrial saying that the jury was prejudiced and was the trail was not a fair ruling of justice.
Finding that the judge is is not one to be swayed when he believes that justice hangs in the balance, they make a vague threat concerning the safety of his daughter should he let their brother hang and head off to intimidate the townspeople and men who served on the jury.
The men of town began to fear for their women and children, all of them having known the Careue family (who are now backed up by other relatives that are arriving in town) and having no doubt of their unscrupulousness.
Filled with fear they turn to the Judge, the one man with backbone that is refusing to budge, and plead with him to declare the trial unjust. After all, they reason, it is better to let one man go (we were prejudiced when we said he was guilty anyway) than to allow the Careues to destroy the town and harm their families. Pressure increases as the time to pass the sentence draws nigh.
Two other characters figure largely in the story as well: The Sheriff, who is a soft, cowardly person that has no moral sense of duty, and no intention of doing anything that could possibly place him in a dangerous situation
The thing that makes this episode stand out is the Judge’s dedication to justice. His character shows clearly in this episode.
He will not bend to the demands of terrorists. Regardless of who stands with him, or even if nobody does, he stands up for right. He is a man of unbending principles, and does not let personal fear interfere with his decisions. Neither does he settle for the lesser of two evils because the right thing to do is hard and will cause a lot of hurt. He knows that justice cannot be sacrificed for safety.
“But gentleman, only if our laws (justice) are respected can our families and our town be safe. If we don’t enforce the laws they’ll be no town, only a jungle where animals like the Careues run wild,” ~Judge Henry Garth
What do you think of The Virginian TV show? Have you seen this episode?