At the end of Taking Lives

we see that it was James Costa aka Martin Asher who is the real killer. But by that time this is discovered he has had sex with Scott, has taken another life and has escaped. Scott is terminated from her service at the FBI for her conduct. In the last scene, few months later, we see Scott, pregnant, coming from a store to a secluded house living all alone. Asher/Costa arrives there and abuses and threatens her to start fresh with him. Finally he loses his mind and stabs Scott in her belly, but Scott pulls back the scissors and stabs his chest revealing that this whole thing was staged(she isn't pregnant) to nab Costa/Asher. Scott then tells Leclair about their success.

My question is if this whole sacking of Scott and her living secluded, pregnant, was a set up to catch Asher/Costa, as he would come to her, How can Scott kill him? She is bound by the law, this whole thing was a setup by the authorities. She expected Asher/Costa to abuse her when he came and possibly attempt to kill her, but how can she kill him and get away with the law. He is not a convicted murderer. He hasn't undergone a trial.

Also, Leclair must have known that Asher/Costa would try to harm her, so why didn't he have an arrangement to catch the killer alive. Is this setup and most importantly, the killing part, legally justified?

  • she was an active sworn agent fot the fbi
    – user29677
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 22:27
  • you are asking the wrong quections. the interesting thing is whether Illeana always knew that Costa was the killer, if so why sleep with him, and more so had she always planned on killing him??
    – user42487
    Commented Oct 24, 2016 at 19:39

2 Answers 2


In the United States you can respond with lethal force if someone attempts to kill you, in an effort to protect yourself from further harm. The film makes it abundantly clear that this is Asher's intent when he stabs Scott in the stomach with the pair of shears and also tries to strangle her.

While the film ends with the rather dubious showing of Scott (Angelina Jolie) calling someone (apparently the police) and speaking the line (unnecessarily) "It's over" there really is no need for her to do so. Someone breaking into your home and then attacking you is more than satisfactory legal cause for you to defend yourself up to, and including, lethal force.

Also, Pennsylvania (the setting for the end of the film) now has, and always had, strong laws enabling the potential victim of a crime to defend themselves along the lines of Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" legal protection. This means that the victim does not have to retreat if/when they are attacked and that they can use lethal force at any time during an assault.

The only "problematic" portion of the film seems to have been the use of prosthetic abdomen to make it appear that Scott was pregnant. However, Asher's breaking into her home and then assaulting her with a potentially deadly weapon even removes that particular obstacle as she was legally able to "stand her ground" when she was attacked.



  • 1
    I would point out that this answer is localized, as there are different laws in different states regarding what is known as "stand your ground". Many have language limiting force to "that which is the minimum necessary to get out of the situation". This means that if the people that judge the act (If it ever gets to the charging stage) deem that she could have gotten out of the situation without killing, then she is on the hook criminally as well.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 16:13
  • 1
    Actually, that's not correct. The majority of US jurisdictions will allow self-defense up to and including lethal force to be used especially when it comes to home invasions. The film creates its own "problems" by adding the unnecessary plot elements of the prosthetic pregnant abdomen as it MIGHT be argued (if anyone were bothering to do so) that the assailant was somehow "lured" into breaking into her home and attempting to kill her.
    – Mistah Mix
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 23:22
  • "The majority" is not all. Simply saying that "most allow lethal defense" will not help someone that is in a jurisdiction that has stricter laws. Additionally, this is an internet site that is frequented by many people outside of the US. Hence my caution that the answer is localized. Additionally, the stand your ground laws hinge on reasonable versus sincere belief, which can be argued either way.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 16:15
  • Since the ending of the film is set in the United States, then answer is germane to what is applicable in the United States. The fact that some users of this site are not from the US is frankly unimportant as they would have to adhere to the laws of their own nation and not to what is portrayed in a fictional narrative.
    – Mistah Mix
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 23:53
  • @JohnP - I think we have to take the question to mean "are her actions legal in the territory in which it is set". If we don't know precisely where it is set, then it could be expanded to include a plausible US state.
    – iandotkelly
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 0:32

Self defense is legal as far as I know. He tried to harm her and she merely defended herself by stabbing him too. so my answer is yes I think so.

  • 1
    It was pre-planned, a setup to catch him. So, no Commented Dec 27, 2013 at 5:44

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