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THE LAW IS A ASS for 01/21/2003
"The Law is a Ass" Installment # 180
Originally written as installment # 160 and published in Comics Buyer's Guide issue # 800, March 17, 1989 issue
Just for the record, I still don't look like a thin, balding old man. Balding, receding hairline and old, yes. But I've managed to avoid the "thin" part very nicely, thank you.
THE LAW IS A ASS
Installment # 180
I was stumped.
Don and Maggie wanted me to do a special column for issue 800 of Comics Buyer's Guide÷something that tied-in with the 800 motif. I had no ideas.
I couldn't do a column about the legal mistakes in any comic numbered 800. No comic has made it that high.
I considered doing what they did in Flash # 200; write a regular column and sneak in the number 800 as many times as I could, then challenge you to find them all. I considered it. I rejected it. I wasn't that desperate. Yet.
I debated writing about the 800 worst legal mistakes I had ever seen. I didn't. Much as I love writing this column, I couldn't bring myself to re-read 800 awful stories as research for a column. I scaled the idea down and pondered writing a column about the 8 worst legal mistakes I had ever seen, then asking you to read it 100 times. But I couldn't. Some of you might not have time to read the column the requisite 100 times, and if you didn't the 800 tie-in would be lost. Then what would be the point?
Then it hit me. An 800 number. If DC could do a 900 number story, I could set-up a toll-free 800 number in my office that people could use to call me and ask their questions. It would be nothing more than an extension of my letter-answering columns, when people write me letters and ask me their questions.
Now you know exactly how desperate I was.
I called Ma Bell and made the arrangements.
"I am proud to announce that the Official The Law Is a Ass Toll-Free Number is now in effect. Just call 1-800-555-AASS."
"Dum dee dum dum."
"That's 1-800-555-AASS. Operators are standing by to take your calls."
"That's why the lay-dee is a tramp."
"That number again is 1-800-555-AASS."
(I knew I should have really have hired some stand-by operators. This is boring.)
"Hello, Bob, this is Beppe Sabatini in San Francisco. I wanted to talk about your recent column on A Nightmare on Elm Street: the Series. I didn't think it was as dead-on as you usually are."
"Because it was possible that the State's case against Freddy Krueger could have depended on the evidence contaminated by the arresting officer's failure to read Freddy his Miranda rights.
"We know the Officer arrested Freddy, after seeing Freddy attempting to kill the Officer's daughters. What if the Officer asked, 'By the way where do you keep your knives? Tell me and we can cut a deal.' Now Freddy is nervous and intimidated÷"
"Freddy? Nervous and intimidated? Right, and I also believe that Ron Frenz doesn't have a complete set of Jack Kirby's run on Thor."
"What if Freddy didn't know he was entitled to a lawyer and told the Officer everything and the Officer collected all the evidence against Freddy. Then, at his trial Freddy could have claimed he was just playing a joke on the Officer and wasn't really going to kill the kids. Then the Officer wouldn't have had a right to arrest Freddy, so he couldn't use the exigent circumstance of a search incident to a lawful arrest to justify his warrantless search. In that case, the Officer's failure to give Freddy his rights would prevent the court from using anything learned in Freddy's confession. After all, we didn't see what happened, so don't we have to assume that it happened in such a way as to make the story possible?"
"Only if you want to assume that TV writers÷the same breed of supposedly intelligent life that gave us Me and the Chimp, remember÷are incapable of mistake. No, I believe that the writers made the same mistake that Stan Lee recently made in the Spider-Man newspaper strip; that the failure to give the Miranda warnings makes an arrest illegal and invalidates it. In actuality, the failure to give Miranda warnings would only invalidate a confession. An arrest remains valid whether the suspect is Mirandized or not.
As for your practical joke suggestion, it wouldn't work. Even if Freddy was playing a practical joke; he was making it look like he was going to kill the Officer's daughters. As far as the Officer knew, Freddy was in the process of committing a felony. The Officer would have had reasonable grounds to believe that it was more probable than not that Freddy was committing the crime÷he would have had probable cause to arrest Freddy even though he didn't have an arrest warrant. And during the arrest could have made a warrantless search incident to the arrest. Any evidence the Officer saw during the arrest or the search incident to the arrest would have been fully admissible in court.
"It doesn't matter what was really happening. If the Officer had a good-faith, reasonable belief that Freddy was committing a crime, he had probable cause to arrest Freddy. Believe it or not, the probable cause wouldn't have gone away, simply because the Officer was incorrect in his belief.
"Besides, do you think any judge would believe Freddy's story that he was only playing a practical joke and rule his arrest was unlawful? Do you also believe they're going to have a full compliment of twenty-two new Moonlighting episodes this year?"
"Let me ask you another question. Do you think using the fire-scarred Freddy as ugly and evil creates a moral climate in which it's acceptable to ridicule the handicapped? What about your crack that Freddy's face looks like a relief map of the Sierra Madres?"
"I didn't intend that as a crack about Freddy's handicap. I meant it as a slap at Freddy's make-up, which is so exaggerated as to be beyond the point of believability.
"Ingersoll, you fink, stop talking about me!"
"Yeah. What's the idea of not telling when I visited you last week about Robbie's misprison of felony trial that you were the judge presiding over the trial."
"I didn't know."
"What do you mean you didn't know?"
"You visited me in-between the time that The Spectacular Spider-Man # 149 and # 150 came out. They didn't reveal that Robbie's judge was 'the honorable Judge R. M. Ingersoll' until issue 150. I didn't know.
"Besides, that wasn't me. That judge was a thin, balding old man. You saw the picture Don and Maggie used to run of me. Remember, I look like an over-weight, ring-eyed, albino zombie from George Romero's cult-horror-film classic, The Night of the Living Dead. Do I look like a thin, balding old man?"
"So why did you tell me that the judge with your name overruled Robbie's motion to dismiss the charges on Statute of Limitations grounds, when, in reality, Robbie wouldn't let his lawyer assert the defense?"
"Again. I didn't know. They didn't reveal the truth about the Statute of Limitations problem until The Spectacular Spider-Man # 150. When you visited me, I came up with the best explanation I could, even if it was convoluted. How was I to know that the real explanation was simpler. Besides, it was your fault."
"Sure, that's what you get for visiting me in the middle of a continued story. Next time wait until the story is over."
"Well, what about the fact that you÷excuse me, the judge who isn't you who happens to have your name÷sentenced Robbie to the same prison as Tombstone, the hired killer that Robbie squealed on?"
"The judge didn't do that. Judges are part of the federal Judiciary Department. Classification and assignment of federal prisoners is done by the federal Department of Prisons, a branch of the Executive Department. They're separate entities altogether. It was the Department of Prisons which was responsible for putting Robbie and Tombstone in Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary together.
"Incidentally, I don't believe that. I don't care how many strings Tombstone could pull or how long they were, I don't believe that the Department of Prisons would put Robbie and Tombstone in the same institution. In the first, and most obvious place, it's dangerous. They try to avoid that sort of thing, especially when they need Robbie alive to testify against Tombstone for the murder of that informant twenty-years ago. In the second place, Robbie is a white-collar criminal. He'd have gone to one of those minimum security, country club prisons where he could work on his tennis game with Ivan Boesky. Tombstone was a hired killer. He would have gone to a maximum security prison÷you know, one where they, at least, have bars on the windows instead of in the clubhouse."
"So can't you as the judge÷or the judge who isn't you but has your birth certificate÷order Robbie transferred to a new, less-dangerous prison?"
"Nope. Judges lose their authority over the placement of prisoners, once they're delivered to the Department of Prisons. Now it's the Department's responsibility to re-assign Robbie.
"Besides, you don't want Robbie moved."
"If Robbie's moved, what'll you do for a story in Spectacular Spider-Man # 151?"
"Bob, this is Hal Jordan. I was wondering if you could help me?"
"It's my character. First, they take away my uniqueness as Green Lantern by creating an entire corps of Green Lanterns. Then they take away my uniqueness by saying I wasn't the only man without fear who Abin Sur's ring found, I just got the job over Guy Gardner because I was closer and he's psychotic. Then they turn me into a whiner÷'Please let me go back to Earth, Masters.' 'Please be my friend.' Then they say I wasn't perfectly qualified for the job, because I wasn't really fearless, until my ring just took all the fear out of me. Finally, in Action Comics Weekly, they say I wasn't even on Abin Sur's A List and that Clark Kent was Abin Sur's first choice. Me and seven other guys were on the B List. And out of them, I only got the job, because Clark Kent turned it down and gave me a good job recommendation."
"I admit the story was stupid. But what do you want me to do about it?"
"Sue them. Can't I get them for defamation of character?"
"I'm afraid not. They own you. You don't have any character, except what they want to give you."
"Can't you do anything?"
"I'll see if I can get Welfare to look into it. Maybe get DC declared unfit parents for abuse of a dependent or something. Then Welfare can petition for custody."
"Bob, this is Kim Metzger from Columbia City, Indiana. So you don't like Freddy Krueger, huh? I'm kind of fond of him, myself. I thought you were a bit harder on Freddy than you needed to be.
"But I'm not upset. And, just to show you that I'm a good sport, I sending you a copy of a story that you can do a column on. Just think, here's your chance to do an in-depth study of the legal system of the Smurfs. Have fun with it."
"Hello, Ohio Bell. How quickly can you disconnect an 800 number line?"
BOB INGERSOLL, legal analyst, Cleveland-based public defender, comic book fan, and former stand-by operator wants to be fair. Kim Metzger really did send me a Smurf story to analyze. I'd rather floss with a hack-saw blade. But I'll be democratic about it.
You vote. Vote yes, if you want to read a column about the Smurfs--but you'd better not include your address if you do; I'm liable to send the men in white coats after you. Vote no, if you don't want to see a column about those off-colored, bite-sized treacle-miesters.
Yes, you vote. The polls close Saturday April 1. Any vote post-marked on or before that date will be counted. I'll do whatever the majority wants.
So remember, if I do do a column about the Smurfs; it'll be your fault.
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