So I just finished watching The Fugitive. At the end of the film

Sam Gerard realizes that Kimble is innocent

and takes him into custody. However, at that moment, in the eyes of the law, Kimble is guilty of murdering his wife.

How would Dr. Kimble go about getting himself declared innocent? He's already had a trial, so he can't be tried again for the same offense. He obviously needs to appeal, but on what grounds? The trial was conducted properly (we presume), the evidence that would clear his name simply hadn't been uncovered.

1 Answer 1


You can be tried again for the same offence; double jeopardy only applies if you are found "not guilty". It is not uncommon for appeals courts to invalidate a guilty verdict and require a retrial. Similarly a mistrial can result in a new trial at the prosecution's discretion. In addition, some jurisdictions have abolished double jeopardy for crimes like murder (e.g. New South Wales, Australia).

New evidence coming to light can be grounds for appeal - in the case of the Fugitive where there have been no appeals this is one avenue open to Kimble.

Where appeals have been exhausted; this is more problematic. One of the principles of justice is that there should be finality to the verdict. Kimble has gone from presumed innocent to presumed guilty - enough evidence would need to be gathered to demonstrate a clear and unambiguous miscarriage of justice. This may not be within the purview of the judicial branch of government - he may need a pardon from the executive. In real life (as opposed to Hollywood) Dr. Kimble is still in serious trouble.

In some jurisdictions there may be some "innocence" laws that can allow review of convictions outside the appeal process.

Notwithstanding, Dr. Kimble is going away for a long time for "escaping lawful custody" anyway.

  • 1
    Unless, of course, the prosecutors decline to pursue the escape charges.
    – cpast
    Commented Jul 11, 2015 at 11:09
  • In real life, Dr. Kimble died 35 years ago.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 7:49
  • The U.S. explicitly forbids Double Jeopardy for any crime in both state and federal courts. Australia might remove it, but Dr. Kimble is being tried for a Crime in America (Illinois specifically). The appeal to vacate would be granted, and no retrial would occur for the murder, because they arrested the guys who did it. Can't say what would be up with the escaping custody thing. It's still a crime, even if the reason for your jail time was a wrongful conviction.
    – hszmv
    Commented Oct 23, 2018 at 20:26

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