The Law Is A Ass #309: Reverse-Flash Belongs In The All-Whiners Squad
I don’t know whether he was a super villain or a sommelier, because in his origin story Reverse-Flash served a rather poor whine.
(Yes, I said that.)
First, we’re not talking about your father’s Reverse-Flash, Eobard Thawne. Or your older brother’s Reverse-Flash, Hunter Zolomon. We’re talking the New 52 Reverse-Flash, Daniel West. The one whose secret origin, which appeared in The Flash 23.2, was the biggest batch of bad whines since Mr. Boone got himself a farm.
(Yes, I said it again.)
Daniel narrates his own origin and makes a real sob story out of it. His mother died in childbirth. Daniel’s father blamed Daniel for his wife’s death so hated him. Daniel hated daddy back. Daniel did, however, love his sister, Iris West; yes, that Iris West. Daniel pushed his father down the stairs and daddy became a paraplegic. Then Daniel’s relationship with Iris soured. (Can’t you just feel the tears welling up?)
Years later, Daniel joined a criminal gang but his sad lot in life didn’t improve a lot. He and his crew committed armed bank robbery on the day that the Flash made his debut. After a high speed chase, which included the gang shooting from their moving getaway car, they became Flash’s first collars. Then, because Daniel was “over eighteen years old – by two days,” he was tried as an adult and sentenced to five years in prison. (Boo freaking hoo.)
After he served his sentence, Daniel landed in the middle of a battle between Gorilla Grodd, who was invading Central City, and Flash’s Rogues Gallery. During the course of super human events, Daniel crashed into a Speed Force battery, which exploded giving him and several people around him the ability to tap the Speed Force. Danny’s power was that he could go back in time.
Now Daniel hunts down anyone who can tap the Speed Force so that he can kill them and gain their power. Not because there can be only one, but because the more Speed Force he gains, the farther into the past he can travel. And he wants enough to go far enough into the past that he can kill his father before he paralyzed his father. Not for revenge, mind you, but so he can regain the love of his sister.
Just when you thought an Oedipus Complex couldn’t get any creepier…
But why, you may ask am I writing about Daniel – No, not Daniel, Danny; he doesn’t deserve an adult name! – West’s sad past. After all, this is “The Law Is a Ass” not a whine and jeez Party. It’s because of one very specific whine Danny made. His lament that “Naturally, being over eighteen years old – by two days – landed me in the state pen. Some luck, huh?”
Well, yes, Danny, you were an adult; even if only by two days. So does it surprise you that the law treated an adult like an adult? If so, perhaps a refresher course in the rationale behind juvenile law is necessary. Although it’s probably not a refresher course. I bet you didn’t learn this, or much of anything else, in the first place.
American jurisprudence is founded upon the concept of moral culpability. In order to commit a crime a person must have a combination of both a criminal act, that is the illegal thing being done, and a criminal intent, that is the intent to commit the act while knowing it is illegal. For this reason if a person commits a crime but has a mental illness and doesn’t know the wrongfulness of his act, thus has no moral culpability, the law judges him to be not guilty by reason of insanity.
In the same way, the law presumes that young children don’t have a sufficiently developed sense of morality – of right and wrong – to be able to realize that what they’re doing is a crime. So they, too, lack moral culpability. People under the age of majority – 18 in most states – who commit crimes are prosecuted under the juvenile justice system, a system which treats them less harshly, because of their presumed diminished ability to distinguish right from wrong.
But when you reach the age of majority, even if it was only two days ago, the presumption of youthful indiscretions is gone and you get charged as an adult. So boo hoo to you, Danny.
But guess what, Danny Boy? Wouldn’t have mattered if you had been two days younger than 18. In fact, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if you has been two or three years younger than 18, you would probably still have been tried as an adult.
The basic principle of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation and reintegration; the hope is that with guided intervention the juvenile can be turned from a life of crime and become a productive citizen. As a juvenile gets older, the law may find that the juvenile is no longer amenable to being reformed by the juvenile justice system. In that case, and especially when the crime committed is a serious offense, the law will bind the juvenile over to the adult court to be tried as adult. And the juvenile will still land in the “state pen.”
In the case of our boy Danny, we’re talking armed bank robbery followed by a high speed chase through city streets in which his gang was shooting automatic firearms out the car window. These crimes show a wanton disregard of human life, as either the Flash or the proverbial innocent bystander could have been killed by the gunshots. So even if Danny had been under 18 by even a couple of years – and as he was the driver of the getaway car, we’d be talking about only a couple of years younger than 18 – the odds are he would have been tried as an adult. In fact in Ohio, once a juvenile court found probable cause that Danny had committed armed robbery with a gun and was 16, it would have been required to bind him over as an adult.
So boo hoo, Danny. Sucks to be you. Sorry I didn’t like your whine. Guess I’m just a Brut.
Whining aside, there was something about Danny’s grousing regarding his punishment at 18 ‘+2 days’ that struck a real-life chord. I’ve worked in a field where my office has dealt with juvenile and adult offenders. Many juvenile repeat offenders who never cross the line enough to be tried as an adult are convinced they know the system inside and out, and know exactly what to expect when they are taken into custody. More than once we’ve seen these individuals fail to take into account that the rules change when they hit 18, and are righteously indignant about the adult consequences resulting in arrest and prosecution the first time it happens. Danny seems as if he could easily fall into that category of offender.
Hey, I worked for the Public Defender office for 28 years and I can tell you from experience that attitude isn’t confined yo those who became adults recently. I had clients (clients plural) who maintained that attitude for several years after their 18th birthday.
Danny was still a whiner, though.
In A Clockwork Orange Alex’s probation officer is just SO happy when he comes ’round to point out to Alex that he’s just turned eighteen (on, as i recall, the same day that he and his droogs killed a woman), and now he’s gonna be tried as an adult…