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THE LAW IS A ASS for 08/01/2000
"The Law is a Ass" Installment # 54
Originally written as installment # 43 and published in Comics Buyer's Guide issue # 575, November 2, 1984 issue
It was Dylan who commented on the Mercurial nature of the temporal flow. Which is why some things have changed since I wrote this column. I'm a lot older and fatter for one. For another, Kid Flash no longer has a secret identity and isn't dying. Instead, it was Barry (The Flash) Allen who died and Wally (Kid Flash) West is now the Flash and everyone knows he's the Flash
Oh, and he isn't dying, either.
Just wanted to remind you, in case you forgot and were confused.
One more point. My closing joke--don't peak, get to it in the natural course, just remember this, when you get there--I didn't know exactly how prophetic it was.
"The Law is a Ass"
Installment # 54
AUTHOR'S NOTE: MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME NEVER TO SHOOT FISH IN A BARREL. THAT'S WHAT HAND GRENADES ARE FOR. SO, WITH THAT IN MIND, I BRING YOU THE FOLLOWING.
I don't know how they do it, but they always find me. No sooner does some comic-book character get in trouble, then he or she, or, in some cases, it shows up at my doorstep more forlorn than orphan in a basket looking for the nearest convenient convent. How they get my address, I'll never know. But they always find me, day or night, rain or shine; usually with worse timing than a phone solicitor. I guess on their respective earths in the Multiverse, their respective comic-book publishers put out The Incredible Ingie-Man with all the pertinent information including my zip code. (Or codes, if you count the separate one I presently need for my stomach.)
Usually, I'm doing something else when they come, and the last thing I want is to be bothered. I was doing something last night, when a sudden wind storm inside my house kicked up all the dust and sent this week's comics skittering under the coffee table. But, for a change I didn't mind. Yes, it was an interruption, but I was reading Grisham, so who cared? And in the long run, this interruption would do me a world of good. It would give me a chance to end eighteen months of personal torture and insure said torture didn't torment me for several more months. No, this comic book character I wanted to see.
"Bob, I need your help," he said. Beggars on the street trying to bum quarters for Ripple have more dignity than this once-proud hero did. "My trial isn't going too well."
The word, "Duh," almost spilled from my mouth before I remembered I'm supposed to show some professional decorum. "I know it's not, Flash. But I must say you're taking the adversity well. You're banging your head against a wall at the speed of sound on the cover of Flash # 341. Now there's a mature attitude. A mach eight mad-on "
"That's not my fault. I'm not responsible for the covers; it's that writer-editor turned sadist who's handling me. If it were up to me, I'd be sunning on the beach at Waikiki on every cover."
"So how can I help you?"
"I don't think Cecile Horton knows enough about the law to help me. I need a real lawyer, Bob."
I let Flash call me Bob instead of Mr. Ingersoll. I grew up reading his adventures. Back then I was just a kid and he was a full-grown adult. And even though I was older than him now, I felt our former relationship was such that he should call me Bob.
"You think? Cecile Horton doesn't know her assumpsit from a hole in the ground. She doesn't even know basic criminal trial procedure.
"I mean look at Page Seven of the aforementioned"--professional decorum requires that we say "aforementioned at least once in every consult--"Flash # 341. Cecile calls Elongated Man as her first defense witness. But on Page Fifteen, after Elongated Man has testified, D.A. Slater calls Fiona Webb as a state witness. Doesn't Cecile even know that the state goes first? She can't call defense witnesses like Elongated Man, until after Slater had called all his witnesses.
"Then on Page Eleven, Slater objects during Cecile's cross-examination of Fiona and Cecile lets him make an damning speech to the jury as part of the objection. Not during closing argument, mind you, but a simple objection, when speeches aren't proper. And Cecile doesn't think to object until he's finished the speech and planted his seeds in the jury. The proper time to object is during the speech, not when it's over and Slater has made his point.
"Moreover, what was Slater's objection? That Cecile was asking leading questions during her cross-examination of Fiona. So what does Cecile do? Does she remind the judge that leading questions are permissible--even expected--during cross-examination to derail the objection? No she lets the objection get sustained. Moreover, she didn't object when Slater was leading Fiona on direct examination just moments earlier.
"It wasn't Cecile's cross-examination that was objectionable, it was her advocacy skills."
"That's not her fault. Someone else writes all her dialog."
"That's no excuse. You'd think with a year-long story line which was to culminate in a trial, someone would have done some elementary research into trial procedure, so that the court room scenes would be right. But no. This trial shows less knowledge than that of a first-year law student. Hell, it shows less knowledge than that of the actors playing first-year law students on The Paper Chase.
"But, do you think you can help me, Bob?"
"Does Captain Cold eat Birdseye? The first thing I'm going to do is get the second degree murder charge dropped back down to manslaughter."
"You can do that?"
"In a--you should pardon the expression--flash. Slater couldn't have increased the charge up from manslaughter the charge the way he did, in the first place.
"Under the American justice system, defendants have an absolute, inviolable right to defend themselves. In order to do that, a defendant has to know what charge he is defending himself against, and the state has to tell him that charge early enough so that he has an opportunity to develop his defense. That's what the constitution calls, notice. It's in the Bill of Rights and everything.
"The state told you the charge was manslaughter. You prepared a defense against manslaughter. Then, the day before trial, when you're not even present, the state says it's changed its mind and is charging you with second-degree murder. That's a different crime which may well require a different defense. The state can't amend the indictment to a new crime with new elements this way, it has to give you proper notice then enough time to prepare a defense to the new crime of murder."
"You mean they can never charge me with murder, only manslaughter?"
"No, they just can't charge you with murder now. If they want to proceed now, they have go with the original charge. If they want to charge you with murder, they have to drop the manslaughter charge, take your case back to the grand jury, re-indict you--this time on second-degree murder--then bring your case back to trial. All of which gives you time to prepare your defense against the charge of murder."
"Hey, that's pretty good."
"That's child's play. Which makes me wonder how Cecile missed it. But I can do better. Remember how Slater destroyed your self-defense theory? He showed that no one could see what happened, because it happened at super speed. So he argued that no one knows positively if you killed Reserve-Flash while saving Fiona's live.
"Kid Flash was there. His super-swift eyesight let him see what happened. We'll just get Kid Flash to confirm that you acted in self-defense."
"Uh, Bob, I don't think Kid Flash will want to testify."
"He wasn't at the wedding as Kid Flash, he was there as Wally West. If he testifies, he might reveal his secret identity."
"And he wouldn't consider that a small price to pay for helping you prove your innocence? Or does he want to see you get a life sentence?"
"He's afraid his family would be in danger. Look, can't you leave the kid alone? He's got enough troubles. He's dying. Isn't there any way you can help me without Kid Flash?"
I thought for a minute. Then I snapped my fingers just the way Carmine Infantino super heroes always do, when they get a brilliant idea. "I've got it, I'll just explain to the court that the state doesn't have any evidence."
"What do you mean no evidence?"
"It's simple. If no one has eyesight fast enough to have seen that you acted in self-defense, then no one could have seen you kill Reverse-Flash either. Slater can't have it both ways.
"All anyone saw was Reverse-Flash lying on the ground with a broken neck and you standing over him. They saw the end result. But they couldn't see the crime, they couldn't see you grab Reverse-Flash or break his neck. For all they know Reverse-Flash tripped while running and broke his neck, when he hit the ground. No state witness can testify that you killed anyone. Slater can't prove his case. He loses."
"What about finger prints? Won't that prove I grabbed him?"
"It has been a long time since this story started, hasn't it? You wrapped your arm around him neck. What are they going to get elbow prints? Anyway, your costume has gloves."
Flash looked chagrined. He couldn't believe he had forgotten his own gloves. Then concern returned to his face. "What about Kid Flash? He saw. He knows I killed Reverse-Flash."
"Remember what you said before? Slater knows Wally West was there, but he doesn't know Kid Flash was there. Hell, even if Slater calls Kid Flash, then we get to prove self-defense again."
"Hmmm. Do you think the judge will buy the argument that there's no evidence, Bob?"
"I don't know. She should. But who knows how she thinks. I mean look at her. She looks like the Old Witch from E.C. comics."
"That's not my fault. I didn't draw her. If it were up to me, the judge would look like Bo Derek."
"Bo Derek?" I cried in exasperation. "Get real!"
I thought we had our problems licked. In fact Flash was about to leave. Then I saw he had a harried expression, not unlike the one I get every April 15th. "What's wrong Flash?"
"There's a problem with our no evidence theory. I think I confessed to killing Reverse-Flash."
"You think? You don't know?"
"Like you said, it was so long ago, I don't remember if I did or didn't."
"I believe that. How is it that the world's fastest man has the slowest, most boring story line ever conceived?"
"That's not my fault. I'm not pacing the story. If it were up to me this turkey would have been a three-parter tops."
"Well, don't worry about a confession. Slater can't introduce it anyway. Not until he proves the corpus delicti."
"What do you mean, corpus delicti? I didn't eat the body."
"Cut it out, Flash, sick humor we don't need."
"It's not my fault. You wrote the line. If it were up to me, I'd be home asleep."
"Corpus delecti is Latin." Professional decorum requires we throw some of that around in the initial consuls, too. "It means 'body of the crime.' It means, that before Slater can introduce your confession against you, first he has to prove that a crime was committed.
"If all the evidence he has is a dead body and witnesses who didn't see anything, he can't prove that a crime occurred. He can't prove that anyone killed Reverse-Flash, as opposed to his having fallen while running and breaking his neck Or running into a close line and getting close lined. As long as he can't prove that Revere-Flash died of a criminal agency, he can't prove that there was a crime. And as long as he can't prove there was a crime, he can't introduce your confession against you. He still has no evidence."
"Well, that's a load off my mind. I have enough to worry about now that my face has been pulped."
"Yeah, about that. Look, I know being hit in the face with Big Sir's metal ball is serious, but is that really, as the cover copy indicated, the 'gravest injury of your career?' Is it more grave than the time you sprained your ankle in Flash # 166? Or the time your broke your leg in Flash # 190, or the time you got turned into a puppet?
"Exactly what does that 'strange feeling' feel like?"
"That's not my fault. I don't write the covers. If it were up to me, my gravest injury would have been a hangnail."
"Fine. I'll see you tomorrow for trial. I'll have you out, before the judge can bang her silly gavel. You'll be back fighting Big Sir, before you know it."
"Thanks, I think."
"Oh, Flash, one more thing. Aren't you bothered by Big Sir? I mean he's an affront to people with learning disabilities. Who's next: a quadriplegic named Veg?"
"That's not my fault. I don't create the villains. If it were up to me I'd fight..."
"I know, Barney Fife."
"Well, maybe Boss Hogg."
The next day the trial ended. As I predicted, the judge threw the whole case out for lack of evidence. Actually, I wasn't sure she'd go for it at first. She wavered. I don't think she wanted to appear prejudiced in the favor of a man who has a museum dedicated to him.
I think I convinced her, when I reminded her that Eobard Thawne, A.K.A the Reverse-Flash, was from the future. He hadn't been born yet. He hadn't even been conceived yet. How could the Flash have killed a man, who was never born?
Flash thanked me on the court house steps. He promised to pay me by making sure that his next story line would only last four issues. I asked him what that story line would be.
I should have guessed. Vigilante tracks him down for getting off on a technicality.
Or have I already used that joke?
AUTHOR'S NOTE: THE PRECEDING WAS, UNFORTUNATELY, AN IMAGINARY STORY. FLASH TRIAL ISN'T REALLY OVER. CECILE HORTON IS STILL HIS LAWYER. AND I IMAGINE I'LL HAVE LOTS MORE TO TALK ABOUT IN FLASH # 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348...
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