This movie is a good depiction of how a corrupt system operates and how it is very hard to dismantle it. Even using the law doesn’t always work the way it should because when the people in power are using the law on their terms, it’s even harder to fix these problems. Almost every system within the town was racist and in some way corrupt, and so it made it very hard to achieve anything. What made it even harder is that whenever someone didn’t submit to those in power, they were eliminated from the equation or threatened to comply. The reason McMillian was in jail was because of the testimony of that one man. He didn’t want to do it in the first place but he was put between a rock and a hard place because he was forced to choose between his life or McMillian’s. And then there was the police officer who knew McMillian was innocent but he was fired from the police force when he tried to prove that. When the only people left in the system are those that don’t care about achieving justice but their own agendas, how are you supposed to fight that? This leads me to a point that Stevenson was trying to prove to the district attorney. A conviction doesn’t mean justice and so defending a conviction isn’t always the right thing to do. The police department felt like just because they were able to get a conviction, that meant they had done their job. In reality, what they were doing was the furthest thing from justice.
I think an important character of this movie is the young officer who worked at the prison McMillian was being held. At the very beginning, it was obvious that he was no different from everyone else around him who were undeniably racist. What took for him to change was watching the execution of Hebert Richardson. His character is representative of what complacency in a corrupt system looks like. Him being outwardly being racist was more than just feeding his ego because he was in a position of power, it was a lot more damaging than that. While he was not one of the people who put McMillian in jail, he was still a player in the corrupt system. Once he saw how damaging the system he worked for was, I think what caused his character change was recognizing that he played a role in it. Up until the execution, he would probably argue that his acts were just “harmless jokes,” but after seeing that racism being played out in a corrupt system was not at all harmless, it changed his behavior.