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Movie Review: Murder in the First (1995)

Murder in the First (dir. Marc Rocco, 1995) – Young attorney James Stamphill takes on the complex case of Alcatraz inmate Henri Young, who stands trial for first-degree murder after three years of solitary confinement.


Its impact undiminished by time, Murder in the First remains a powerful narrative as the often ineffectual punishment of solitary confinement continues today.



When prisoner Henri Young stands accused of murder in the first degree, young lawyer James Stamphill (Christian Slater) refuses to see the case as a lost cause. Against advice, he exposes the inequity behind closed doors and boldly takes on a controversial opponent: the justice system of Alcatraz.

Prison warden Milton Glenn (Gary Oldman) lends a face to the iron bars, having sentenced Young to three years of solitary confinement in the name of upholding the law. He accepts his legal powers with few boundaries set, embodying the abuse of authority in question. Voluntarily blind to his inhumane and violent methods, his actions echo the real-life Stanford prison experiment that demonstrates how power endangers and corrupts.

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