The story of a young girl protecting her sister and defying her government
has swept the nation. The audience undeniably roots for the main character
to survive the grueling conditions of the game and return to her family.
But, in rooting for her to survive, the audience must endure the deaths
of others because in the Hunger Games, it is a fight to death.
There is no doubt that the raved about movie The Hunger Games has its fair
share of gory death scenes. The plot circles around a wealthy Capitol
punishing the poorer surrounding 12 Districts for past rebellion. In punishing
the Districts, each District offers up a boy and a girl between the ages
of 12 and 18 to compete in the Hunger Games in which only one person comes
Violent? Disturbing? Inhumane?
Despite the movie's excellent reviews, the plot line does contradict
values we tend to hold as a society. This is because the actions taken
by many of the characters in The Hunger Games would be sufficient to amount to a
criminal charge under our laws in Texas.
Besides the obvious charges of
murder – that we will discuss later – I think we should start with
the criminal responsibility of some of the characters. Under the Texas
Penal Code §7.01, a person is considered a party to the offense if
he commits an offense or if someone else that he is criminally responsible
for commits an offense. Each party to an offense may be charged with the
commission of that offense. It also states in the Penal Code §7.02
that a person is criminally responsible for someone else's actions
when he acts with the intent to promote or assist the other's offense,
he solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the other person
to commit the offense.
Having said that, it is feasable that the government officials may be criminally
responsible for the deaths of the participants during the Hunger Games.
The government encourages, directs, and aids in the killings of the Hunger
The participants could be charged with
murder under the Penal Code § 19.02 here in Texas. To be charged with murder
a person must intentionally or knowingly cause the death of an individual.
All of the participants are intentionally taking the lives of the other
participants in order to be the winner at the end. Participants that kill
multiple times could even be charged with capital murder (§ 19.03).
For a murder to be considered a capital murder, a person must have committed
the crime of murder plus one of the nine aggravating factors. For this
circumstance, the aggravating factor that would apply to the Hunger Game
participants is the murdering of more than one person pursuant to the
same course of conduct – that being the Hunger Games. A charge of
murder is a first degree felony and a capital murder is a capital felony
punished with a
death sentence of life without parole.
Although some of the participants, like Katniss, could be charged with
the murder of other participants, she could use the affirmative defense
of self-defense as well as defense of others. An individual is justified
in defending themselves against another if the individual reasonably believes
force against another is immediately necessary to protect against the
use or attempted use of unlawful force (§9.31). Meaning that for
self-defense to be a valid defense, the individual defending themselves
must believe that their reaction is immediately necessary against unlawful
force. Also, in order for an individual's belief to be presumed reasonable,
the individual must have known or had reason to believe that the person
they used force against was, in Katniss's situation, committing or
attempting to commit aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated
sexual assault, robbery or aggravated robbery. The individual must also
not provoke the force against them or be engaged in criminal activity.
During the Hunger Games, Katniss had reason to believe that all of the
other players had the intention to kill her. Without her provoking anyone,
she had reason to believe that the other players had deathly intentions
simply because of the terms of the game.
It may seem to go hand in hand. But self-defense doesn't always mean
that an individual is justified in using deadly force. Under the Penal
Code §9.32, an individual is justified to use deadly force against
another if they would be justified to use force under the self-defense
statute AND when the individual reasonably believes that deadly force
is immediately necessary to protect against unlawful deadly force or to
prevent the other's imminent commission of aggravated kidnapping,
murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated
robbery. The difference between using force as self-defense and using
deadly force as self-defense is when the individual reasonably believes
that the deadly force is necessary.
In Katniss' situation, she could reasonably believe that deadly force
was immediately necessary in keeping herself safe. She also could reasonably
believe that deadly force was necessary to keep other people safe. Such
as Rue, the little girl who befriends Katniss, and Peeta, the male tribute
from her District. When the two of them were in trouble, it was reasonable
for Katniss to reasonably believe deadly force was necessary to protect
her friends. Under our Penal Code §9.33, an individual is justified
in using deadly force against another to protect a third party if that
individual would be justified in using that force under the self-defense
and deadly force statutes. The individual must also believe that their
intervention is immediately necessary to protect the third person.
For Katniss, it was reasonable for her to use deadly force when trying
to protect Rue and herself. This is obvious because of the other participant
using a bow and arrow against them and resulting in the death of Rue.
It would also be reasonable for Katniss to use deadly force against Cato
when he was threatening to throw Peeta to the dogs. The deadly force used
against Peeta and Rue justifies Katniss using deadly force against their
All in all, there was a lot of criminal activity happening in the movie
The Hunger Games. If our laws were in place, many characters would be
thinking twice before participating or encouraging the conduct.