Bob Ingersoll: The Law Is A Ass #370: BATMAN EXERTS SOME PEERS PRESSURE
First, Mark Filcher was on trial with a name like Filcher. Filcher? From the 16th Century word filch meaning “to appropriate furtively or casually?” Why didn’t Mark just change his name to I. Emma Thief and save us all a lot of trouble?
Second, the jury of Mr. Filcher’s peers included Bruce Wayne; billionaire playboy, corporate CEO, and phila… er, phila… er, yes, er, Good Deed Doer. I’m not saying it was unfair because a billionaire playboy and philanthropist wasn’t exactly a peer of career criminal Mark Filcher. (Although, truth be told, I’m not sure an actual peer is Bruce Wayne’s peer.) I’m saying it was unfair because, this being a Batman comic it should come as no surprise to you that Filcher was apprehended by Batman. And this should really come as no surprise to you; Bruce Wayne is Batman.
Seriously, how fair is it to have the guy who arrested you sitting on the jury which is deciding whether you’re guilty or not guilty of the crime that guy arrested you for?
(Please tell me I don’t actually have to answer that last question.)
Bruce Wayne had personal knowledge about the case. People with personal knowledge of a case aren’t supposed to sit on juries. They might decide the case based on their own knowledge of the case rather than the facts presented in evidence. In fact, that’s one of the standard questions that’s asked of prospective jurors, whether they’ve read news paper accounts or heard new stories about the case or have any personal knowledge about the case. It’s asked to keep people with personal knowledge of the case off the jury.
To be fair, Bruce did try to get off the jury; with an attempt that was more half-hearted than the Tin Woodsman without his testimonial.
Question: “And is there any reason you shouldn’t be on this jury?” Answer: “Yes. I’m Batman.”
That was fine as far as it went. After all, Bruce was under oath and couldn’t lie, and his being Batman was both the truth and a valid reason why he shouldn’t be on the jury. Unfortunately, as far as it went was about as far as Usian Bolt went on that Segway. After the judge admonished Bruce to refrain from further jokes, Bruce ended up on the jury.
It would have been easy for Bruce to get off the jury. He could have said Wayne Enterprises’s business would suffer were he to serve on the jury instead of being its CEO. I’ve seen this excuse used many times by people who want to get off a jury. And successfully. Okay usually by rich people who contributed to the judge’s campaign. But Bruce is certainly rich enough. So, unless he contributed to the trial judge’s opponent, he would have qualified.
Or Bruce could have said, quite truthfully, “I saw Batman arresting Mr. Filcher.” Everyone would assumed Bruce was standing on the street looking up when Batman arrested Filcher and saw what happened. But because he had seen the arrest and had some personal knowledge of the event, he would have been excused from the jury.
Or Bruce could have said, again quite truthfully, that Batman saved his life on more than on occasion, so he tends to believe Batman doesn’t make mistakes. (Remember this is the Batman from Batman the Animated Series we’re talking about, not the sociopathic buffoon who’s been wearing the costume since the New 52 started. It’s possible people would believe animated Batman was incapable of mistakes.) Bruce could have said he believed anyone Batman arrested was probably guilty so his ability to be fair and impartial toward Mr. Filcher would be compromised. Quite truthful. And it would have gotten him bounced from the jury faster than asking, “Can I plug in the electric chair?”
Any of those responses would have gotten Bruce excluded from the jury. Unlike Bruce Wayne or Wile E. Coyote, I am not a super genius. So if I was smart enough to figure out how Bruce could have gotten off Filcher’s jury, what’s Bruce’s excuse for not being excused?
Bruce didn’t try to get off the jury so heard the case. Probably fortunate for justice, but unfortunate for Mr. Filcher. Or any concept of due process. The jury’s initial vote was 11-1 for acquittal. But Bruce knew Filcher was guilty. So in a reverse 12 Angry Men, he filibustered until he was able to convince the other eleven to change their minds and vote 12 to 0 for conviction.
Bruce convinced the jury, in large part, because he established that Filcher lied about his alibi. The attempted kidnapping for which Filcher was being tried occurred in the Stovertown neighborhood of Gotham City at 6:00 p.m. Filcher claimed he was in the Kubrick District until 6:00 p.m. then drove to Templeville where he was arrested at 6:15. So he couldn’t have been in Stovertown to attempt the kidnapping. Bruce found a juror who lived in Kubrick and that juror said in rush hour traffic it would take forty minutes to get from Kubrick to Templeville. Filcher couldn’t have stayed in Kubrick until 6:00 then gotten to Templeville by 6:15, as he claimed. It was more likely that he left Kubrick at 5:00 – which was the last time anyone remembered seeing him in Kubrick – went to Stoverville, attempted the kidnapping, then fled to Templeville. I mention this to point out that personal knowledge of this type – how long it might take to drive from one part of town to another – is not impermissible in jury deliberations.
Jurors are allowed to bring personal knowledge of a general nature to deliberations. They’re not required to forget everything they know; although I swear some of the juries I had did just that. Jurors have general knowledge about things like what time the sun rises, when does Easter fall each year, and what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? Those sort of things, jurors can bring to and use in their deliberations. They just can’t have personal knowledge about the specific facts and details of the case they’re hearing.
I guess we’re supposed to be happy about Bruce staying on the jury, because he made sure the bad guy was actually convicted of the crime he actually committed. I wasn’t happy, because, as I said, Bruce should never have been on the jury. Defendants are entitled to juries that are fair and impartial, not juries that are, to be fair, partially partial.