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THE LAW IS A ASS for 07/24/2001
"The Law is a Ass" Installment # 105
Originally written as installment # 94 and published in Comics Buyer's Guide issue # 681, December 5, 1986 issue
In those early years of my column, I spent months dissecting "The Trial of the Flash" and issue after issue of The Vigilante. But another frequent target of repeated columns back then were those goofy old Mort Weisinger Superman stories. But you know the biggest difference between the Superman stories and The Vigilante or "Trial of the Flash?" Those old Superman stories were a lot more fun.
"The Law is a Ass"
Installment # 105
Once upon a time there was another Superman, who was not the last son of Krypton. Entire cities, numerous criminals, occasional scientists, even dogs, monkeys, and monsters all survived with him. Not to mention half the real estate which turned radioactive. And somehow all these survivors and rocks found their way to Earth. (Let's face it, the only people who really died, when Krypton exploded were Jor-El and Lara. Other than them, Krypton's population was doing just fine and dandy, thank you.)
This Superman is no more. He has been replaced by a Superman whose stories and the execution of said stories are, to my mind, better and more thought out than the former's stories and execution were.
Suddenly, the wrath of all the traditionalists has been stirred. Can I back-up my scurrilous claims, they ask? Did Battlefield Earth deserve the Razzie? Witness the following disasters sent to me by some readers.
"Lois Lane's Last Mile" from Lois Lane 100 (April, 1970 issue) sent in by both Randy Freeman of Riverside, California and Alan Hose of San Francisco, has Lois on trial in Gotham City for murdering Lana Lang. Her defense attorney is Batman and the prosecutor is Superman. The fact that neither Superman nor Batman has passed the bar or is an attorney, so both could be prosecuted for practicing law without a license doesn't matter. The fact that Superman is, according to the title of the comic in which this story was printed, Lois's boyfriend, so could not prosecute her without violating the ethical rule forbidding conflicts of interest, doesn't matter. The fact that each conducts his case with even less skill than my Superman and Batman Kenners Super Powers figures could muster doesn't matter.
What does matter? Some writer thought it would be cute to have Superman and Batman be prosecutor and defense attorney and put that it in the story, whether or not it made sense. (Okay, to be fair to this nameless writer, the idea of Superman prosecuting and Batman defending Lois was on the cover. As then Superman editor, Mort Weisinger, usually came up with his catch covers first and built a story around them, that means we can probably switch the blame from the writer to Mort, as it was his idea.)
But we can blame the writer for coming up with the following story based on the cover. Lois was driving her car across a bridge. Lana was a passenger. It was raining. The car went off the bridge. It went into the river. Lois swam out. Lana did not. They pulled Lana's lifeless body from the car. Now Lois was on trial for murdering Lana Lang. Simple sentences for a simple story. (I suppose, after exonerating the writer for the cover idea, I must now indict him for lifting the springboard for this story from the Ted Kennedy-Chappaquiddick affair. And on this charge, I'm afraid I can't give him a cheap acquittal.)
The prosecution's theory was that Lois drove the car off the bridge intentionally and left Lana to drown. How do they know that Lois left Lana to drown? Simple. Only the driver's side door was open. Works for me. Obviously, Lois should have climbed over Lana, opened the passenger door and swum free carrying Lana. Sorry, but in a situation like this the legal principle of "Every man for himself" is in full force. Lois had no legal obligation to rescue Lana. She can simply get out and leave Lana in the car to drown; and do so quite within the limits of the law.
Now, if Lois drove off the bridge intentionally and left Lana to drown, that would be another matter. Then "Every Man for Himself" wouldn't apply. And that's the prosecution theory; Lois drove off the bridge intentionally. How do they know that Lois drove the car off the bridge intentionally? They don't. No one saw the accident. No one knows how it happened. They simply figured that because Lois and Lana were rivals for Superman's love, Lois, who had never done anything illegal before, must have killed Lana in a jealous rage.
The standard in criminal trials is that the prosecution must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The state's case offered no proof of any crime, just an accident and speculations. It also raised more doubts than a convention of Missouri "Show Me" skeptics. I don't know how the case ever got to trial. But don't worry, whatever doubt the state's case left, the defense case eliminated.
The defense calls Lois as its first witness, then sits back and lets her take a lie detector test on the witness stand. "What is your name" No objection. "Occupation?" No objection. "Where do you live?" No objection. "Did you kill Lana Lang?" Only after the lie detector indicates that Lois' denial is a lie, does Batman object and remind the court that the results of lie detector tests are not admissible in court.
Has anyone ever heard of waiver? Waiver means, if you don't object to something immediately, you can't object to it at all. You've waived the objection.
In other words, Batman couldn't wait until his client flunked the lie box and then object. Then it was too late. He had to object, before she started answering questions. It is not permissible to wait and see what happens, then object only if the client flunks the test.
And, while we're at it, has anyone heard of the Doctrine of Invited Error? That means, if the defense employs a tactic in a trial, which opens the door to the admission of inadmissible evidence, it invited the error and cannot later complain that the inadmissible evidence was admitted. In other words, if the defense calls the defendant, puts her on a lie detector as part of its direct examination, it's inviting the error that she might flunk the polygraph examination and can't object that the resultof a lie detector are not admissible later.
Besides, even though the judge grante the objection, which he did, but should not have done, it's too late. The jury heard that Lois flunked the lie detector test. Oh, to be sure, the jury was told to disregard the test results. Do any of you think they'll be able to do it? If I tell you not to think of Pauly Shore movies, will you be able to do that or will visions of Bio-Dome, Encino Man and Son-In-Law immediately start dancing in your head? (Actually, not thinking of Pauly Shore movies is easier. There's a good reason not to do that and I apologize for violating you in this way.)
At the moment that the jury is about to deliver its verdict, Batman is not present. I know of no trial that would proceed without the defense attorney presence, but don't let a little thing like that worry you. You've got bigger things about which to concern yourself.
Like Batman's dramatic last minute entrance into the courtroom carrying Lana's dead body. Batman explains his absence. He dug up Lana's body, which had never been autopsied to show it had a defect. If an autopsy had been performed, it would have proven that Lana's right thumb was missing. This proves that the body is not really Lana's, but that of a lifeless android. Lois can't be guilty of killing a thing which never lived.
If an autopsy had been performed? There's an autopsy in every instance of accidental death. It's required by law. But, of course, the same writer who couldn't be bothered researching enough to find out Superman and Batman couldn't be lawyers couldn't be bothered with researching autopsy requirements. Why that might have taken all of ten minutes work!
Moreover, why did anyone need an autopsy to see that the body was missing one of its thumbs? Is everyone in Gotham City except the Coroner blind?
The stunning denouement of this story is that some alien race was playing chess with pieces that looked exactly like the people involved in the trial. They kidnaped the real Lana and substituted the android to frame Lois. Had she been executed, one side would have won. I don't know what the other side had to do in order to win. Maybe it was to figure out a way to escape from this stupid story.
The story ends with the judge dismissing the charges and ripping up the verdict. We never find out what it was. In fact the final caption asks us for our opinion, was the verdict guilty or not guilty. I know.
It was guilty. Not Lois. The cretins who created this monstrosity of a story were all guilty of crimes against humanity. No punishment is too cruel or unusual for their crime.
At this year's Chicago Convention, Craig Boldman, one time Superman writer gave me a copy of Superman # 225 (again, April 1970--apparently an infamous month for Superman stories), "The Secret of the Superman Imposter" and asked me how Superman could get away with what he did legally.
Here's what he did. Some alien created a duplicate of Superman, which lacked Superman's invulnerability and in which he placed a Corsican twin circuit, so that Superman felt any pain the duplicate felt. When Superman found out about it he kidnaped the duplicate and imprisoned it in the Fortress of Solitude. Eventually, the duplicate discovered that it was a duplicate, not the original. When it did, it deactivated the Corsican circuit and killed itself.
So how could Superman get away with what he did, kidnaping and false imprisonment? Easy. The duplicate killed itself. Not only did no one know about what happened, no one was left to sign a complaint, even if someone did know. And that's how he got away with it
Hey, Craig didn't ask whether what Superman did was against the law, he only asked how Superman got away with it. That question I answered.
ROBERT M. INGERSOLL, lawyer and CBG legal analyst has only one question: do you still miss those old Superman stories?
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