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THE LAW IS A ASS for 09/26/2000
"The Law is a Ass" Installment # 62
Originally written as installment # 51and published in Comics Buyer's Guide issue # 590, March 8, 1985 issue
My, I sound almost gleeful, don't I. Finally after months of waiting, I get to write a column about a comic. I sound almost perturbed that the comic in question made me wait so long.
I suppose I could offer an explanation of what I really meant, but let's not. If I just leave things alone, I come off sounding mean-spirited. And mean-spirited is good for the image of a lawyer!
"The Law is a Ass"
Installment # 61
Well, it's about time!
When Eclipse announced it was going to publish Crossfire, a comic book about a bail-bondsman turned super hero, I thought: "Bingo!" Finally a comic that will deal with the day to day workings of the legal system. Because, irrespective of whether Crossfire got the law right or wrong, I could write about it--either criticizing the wrong law or lauding the right law. It looked to be a comic that would provide me with an endless supply of column material. A comic that will be the equivalent of General Motors having me on permanent retainer.
I figured I was in the money!
But it's taken seven issues for Crossfire to give me anything I could write about.
Now don't get me wrong, I like Crossfire. I like all the books that Mark Evanier writes. And I don't get any special pleasure out of looking for legal errors in his books. I get pleasure out of writing about legal errors in everyone's books. Let's face it, writing this column is fun. And profitable. But enough about me: back to Crossfire # 7.
The plot centers around Benjamin Wright, a right wing, Bible thumping TV evangelist, who makes Jerry Falwell look soft on pornography by comparison. Wright shot Dave Krugger, the man accused of murdering Wright's daughter. It was the cold-blooded act of a calculating vigilante. (Note the small V, please!)
You see, after the police arrested Krugger, Wright gave interviews saying that if Krugger didn't receive the death penalty, than Wright would kill Krugger himself. No, Wright didn't use those exact words, but his meaning was clear. Several days later, when the police were transferring Kruggger to another jail, Wright stormed into the station house and shot Krugger point blank.
Now, this was before any trial, before a jury could have found Krugger guilty, and before the "soft-headed liberal judges" had made any decision on what penalty Kruger should receive. Come on, fella, if you're going to blast the justice system for doing wrong, at least give it a chance to do the wrong. Don't take our fun away. As I said, a cold-blooded, premeditated, indefensible act of vigilante injustice.
When Wright came up for his arraignment the judge, no doubt one of the "soft-headed liberal" variety, suspended the charges and referred Wright for psychiatric evaluation. I don't think that's how it would happen. (In the legal profession that's known as a qualified statement, ie. hedging one's bets). I know that's not how it would happen in Cleveland, but with Crossfire, we're talking about California. We're talking about Los Angeles. We're talking about a place which, according to Page 6 Panel 5 has an All Porky's cable channel. If they don't have any respect for the laws of decency, why should we expect them to respect any other laws?
Arraignment is when the defendant enters his plea and a bond is set. The arraigning judge doesn't deal with the merits of a case; he accepts the plea and sets the bond. No arraignment judge would, on his own motion, suspend the charges against a man who shot someone in cold blood, no matter how distraught the assailant was. After all, did the arraigning judge suspend the charges against Jack Ruby?
The judge would especially not suspend the charges against a man who shot someone inside a police station. The police are real touchy about people bringing loaded guns into the station. They like to come down hard on the people who do. I don't care how prominent Wright was, the police wouldn't be real thrilled to learn that the charges against him had been suspended.
What would really happen, of course, is that the judge would accept Wright's not guilty plea, set a personal bond on him, and then refer him to the shrinks for evaluation. But suspend the charges? The judge would probably wind up with a suspended license.
Another problem I had with Crossfire # 7, was Jay Endicott's thought that Wright would get off on a defense of justifiable homicide. Jay is a bail-bondsman, he should know the law better than that. Justifiable homicide is any homicide that the state deems, under the circumstances, to be justified rather than criminal. The most common example is self-defense. A man is justified in killing another man, when defending himself against a lethal attack. Killing the enemy during a declared war, or undeclared "police action" is a justifiable homicide. Another example is when a policeman kills someone, provided that the kill is "righteous" (Come on, you've watched enough Hill Street Blues to know what a "righteous killing" is.)
An enraged man shooting a handcuffed prisoner in cold blood is not justifiable! Like I said, Jay Endicott should have known better.
Another person, in another comic, who should have known better is Matt (Daredevil) Murdock. In Daredevil # 216, Matt learns that his present girlfriend, Glorianna O'Breen, is really The Old Woman of Beare, a travel agent for the IRA. That is she made "travel arrangements for the Irish Republican Army's agents in America," or, to be even more specific, illegal travel arrangements for persons without visas and who didn't exactly want to go through customs on their way in because they intended on committing acts of terrorism and didn't want to leave a trail--paper, slime or otherwise.
This upset Matt. It should have. The IRA agents that Glorianna smuggled in committed acts of murder and arson. Glorianna claimed that she simply made travel arrangements. She, "wasn't helpin' 'em... not with the shootin' and the bombin'. [She didn't] have the stomach for the likes of that!"
Matt wanted to "be certain" if Glorianna was "as innocent as she claim[ed]." So, he asked the Black Widow to investigate. Widow did. In DD # 217, she assured Matt that Glorianna was "the soul of innocence. Glorianna never committed a terrorist act in her life." Matt was relieved and in DD # 218 was even able to forgive Glorianna her transgressions. Or if not forgive, to ignore them.
Given that Matt is a criminal defense attorney, he should have known that Glorianna is hardly "the soul of innocence," She is, in fact, guilty of the same shootings and bombings. That her clients committed. I mean, as a criminal defense attorney, somewhere in his career, Matt must have heard of the concept of aiding and abetting. It's in all the law books and everything!
An aider and abettor is anyone who willingly and knowingly helps someone else commit a crime. The aid can consist of nothing more than counseling or encouraging the crime. So if Glorianna was with these people and said, "Yes go ahead and kill, tis a right thing you're doin'" she'd be an aider and abettor. Or aiding and abetting can consist of doing something which actually helps the criminal commit the crime. Under the law an aider and abettor is just as guilty of the resulting crime as the principle who committed it. Indeed, the aider and abettor can be convicted of the crime, even though the principle is found not guilty.
To put it in simple terms, the getaway car driver is just as guilty of bank robbery as the man who entered the bank with a gun, even though the driver did not himself rob the bank. In the same way, a "travel agent" who arranges illegal entry into the United States for terrorists she knows are going to commit acts of murder and arson, is just as guilty of the murders and arsons as the men who committed the crimes.
Maybe Glorianna didn't kill anyone herself. But she knowingly helped persons who did. She might just as well have pulled the trigger herself. She is not innocent. Matt's willingness, even eagerness, to forgive a murderess bothers me. I don't know whose adventures I've been following in Daredevil recently, but they're not of the same red suited super hero, that I grew up with. The Daredevil I knew had great love for justice and wouldn't forgive a person who confessed to aiding murder just because he happened to love her too.
Speaking of red-suited super heroes...
Yes, this is my monthly "Trial of the Flash" commentary. Wait! Don't run from the room screaming. It's not what you expect.
I'm not going to chide Flash for thinking that Kid Flash betrayed him, simply because Kid Flash testified truthfully under a state subpoena. I'm not going to point out that the only alternative for Kid Flash was a contempt of court conviction, if he ignored the subpoena, or a perjury conviction, if he lied to help Flash. I'm not going to remind the Flash that if Kid Flash had done anything other than testify truthfully, he'd be breaking the law and it is, at the very least, dishonorable of Flash to hope his protegee commits perjury.
No, I'm not going to say that.
And I'm not going to write that, despite Flash # 344 being a reprint issue and having only three and two-thirds pages of new material, it still managed to slip in a major inaccuracy about the law. I'm just not going to tell you that DA Slater's argument that Flash didn't act in self-defense, when he killed Reverse-Flash, because he could have stopped Reverse-Flash without killing him is so much bantha poodoo. I'm not going to remind Slater, a lawyer who must have learned criminal law and affirmative defenses at the same law school that taught Matt Murdock the elements of crimes, that in self-defense the question of whether deadly force was necessary--that is could the actor have stopped his attacker without killing him?--is immaterial.
(If I were, I'd point out that self-defense looks at how much force is justified--that is how much is allowable under the law not how much is necessary. I'd add that as Reverse-Flash was going to use deadly force against Fiona Webb and kill her, the law allowed Flash to use the same amount of force, deadly force, in defending Fiona's life. I'd remind you that, even if deadly force wasn't absolutely necessary in order to apprehend Reverse-Flash--even if Flash didn't have to kill Reverse-Flash to stop him, deadly force was still justifiable, because Reverse-Flash was using deadly force. Flash was allowed to respond with the same force--deadly force--that Reverse-Flash was going to use.)
Don't worry, I'm not going to write any of that. I realize that by now the Flash-murderer story must be as boring for you as it is for me. No, I'm not going to do that at all. Instead, I'm going to answer a question that has puzzled the world for years. St. Swithin's Day is July 15.
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