ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A University of New Mexico School of Law student journal has published a special issue analyzing legal issues related to the story line of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” — and what might have happened if the real-life legal system was imposed on the fictional characters.
An edition of the New Mexico Law Review released this week looks at the war on drugs, the hypothetical arrest of Walter White and questionable practices of defense lawyer Saul Goodman from the television series that generated an international cult following.
Editor Matthew Zidovsky said students wanted to use the fictional show to discuss serious legal issues like the Fourth Amendment and professional lawyer ethics — all features that were central to the series.
“The whole point of the issue is to create a legal dialogue in New Mexico,” Zidovsky said. “Because we know the show so well, it’s easy to break down the legal questions that come up.”
“Breaking Bad” follows former high school teacher Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, producing methamphetamine with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul.
Bob Odenkirk plays sleazy attorney Saul Goodman, who defends drug lords, criminals and those allegedly injured in minor traffic accidents.
Zidovsky said when he watched the show as a law student, he and other students spotted a number of legal problems, from the way Drug Enforcement Administration agents violate constitutional laws during investigations to the unethical lawyering by Saul, who launders money for drug kingpins.
“He was so over the top,” Zidovsky said. “Anything he would do was beyond what is allowed as a professional lawyer.”
Among the articles in the review is a piece by Western State College of Law professor Elizabeth Jones who compares the questionable police tactics by officers in “Breaking Bad” to the U.S. Justice Department’s harsh report into Albuquerque police over excessive force.
Another piece by Utah State University political science professor Greg Goelzhauser looks at the potential prosecution of Walter White to examine how states with no death penalty may affect federal death penalty cases. New Mexico, where “Breaking Bad” is set, does not have the death penalty any longer.
Zidovsky said that article is timely because it comes a week after a federal jury in Boston determined that convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should get the death penalty in the 2013 attack. Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when Tsarnaev and his brother placed two pressure-cooker bombs near the marathon finish line.
Massachusetts abolished its state death penalty in 1984.
New Mexico Law Review faculty adviser professor Dawinder “Dave” Sidhu commended students for executing the idea of the special edition.
“‘Breaking Bad,’ with its popularity and association with New Mexico, offers an accessible and unique lens through which to explore traditional legal and social issues,” Sidhu said.
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