Potentially fascinating courtroom yarn is bogged down in overlong setup; device giving “Double Jeopardy” its title doesn’t show up until close to the end , and at that point it’s unnecessarily muddled.
Joe Penny stars as John Dubroski, Baltimore cop who becomes involved with teenager Julia Marie Neuland (Brittany Murphy). She becomes pregnant by him, eventually suing for child support. He kills her, and is arrested for the crime shortly thereafter. Trial begins past the two-thirds mark.
What is said to be based on a true-life story itself comes to life in the courtroom, when what seems to be easy prosecution goes adrift as Dubroski’s wife , Cindy (Teri Garr), and stepson, Derek (Shawn Hatosy), take the stand. Though Derek has been demonstrably resentful of John since long before the affair, and Cindy was well aware of the liaison and paternity suit, both suddenly offer testimony that could save him.
Why either would act as they do is never made clear in Deborah Dalton’s script, and the term “double jeopardy” doesn’t come into play until within moments of jury’s verdict. Having the story narrated by Julia, from beyond the grave, doesn’t add to its credibility.
Other aspects of “Double Jeopardy” are stronger. Penny turns in a notable performance under Dalton’s direction, ranging from charming to hard-edged, and Murphy is convincing as the naive girl who attaches herself to him. Frederic Forrest and Rutanya Alda stand out as Julia’s parents, and Hatosy is a young actor worth watching. Garr fans might as well not tune in until last half-hour, but she performs up to expectations in her brief courtroom scene.
It might surprise many observers to learn that Baltimore police stations evidently use dial telephones well into the ’90s.