Bob Ingersoll: The Law Is A Ass #341: COMMISSIONER GORDON WON’T BAIL ON US
I’ll let you in on a little secret: Batman Eternal isn’t. Eternal, that is. It won’t go on forever. Sometimes it just seems like it will.
Of course, if it did last an eternity and it continued to do things like the bail hearing found in Batman Eternal # 4, that wouldn’t be bad for me. It would mean an eternity of column material.
So, in Batman Eternal # 4, Commissioner Gordon appeared before a judge in a bail hearing after being charged with 162 counts of manslaughter. If you’re wondering how or why, you can find the answer in Batman Eternal # 1. Or you can read last week’s column, where I discussed exactly that. But don’t look here, because I’m not chewing that cud twice. Why not? Be cuds, that’s why.
The judge denied Gordon bail with the following reasoning, “All this destruction. All this death. This is your fault, James Gordon. Because of your negligence. One hundred sixty-two dead. Billions in damage. Critical Gotham infrastructure destroyed. And a major disruption to the lives of every citizen in Gotham. … I’m sorry … but the prosecution is correct that you are a flight risk. You’ve a longstanding willingness to align yourself with Gotham’s vigilante elements, so I’m afraid I have no choice. Your request for bail is denied. And you will be held in Blackgate Prison until your trial for manslaughter.”
A judge in a bail hearing wouldn’t say those things. Oh, he might say the “Your request for bail is denied,” part. He wouldn’t say the, “This is your fault,” part. Between newspapers, TV, blogs, and even live tweeting, other people, meaning probably all of Gotham City, would know that this judge – a respected person who the laity look up to as an expert on the law – said Gordon was guilty. Good luck finding an impartial jury after that little tirade.
As for bail, remember, I only said the judge might deny bail. Might being the key, and even italicized, word. I think it’s unlikely that the judge would deny Commissioner Gordon bail. Okay, more likely than a judge expressing his opinion that the defendant was guilty, but still not likely.
Bail is a pledge of money or property the defendant makes as a surety that he will return for trial if the court releases him before trial. The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution says all criminal defendants have a right to bail that is not excessive. And, while the Eighth Amendment doesn’t expressly grant a right to bail, Rule 7:4-1 of the New Jersey rules of court specifically does grant all defendants a right to bail.
The judge denied bail because he deemed Gordon was a flight risk. The factors which a judge is supposed to consider in order to determine whether a defendant is a flight risk are such things as the length of possible sentences, the strength of the evidence, the defendant’s family and community ties, the defendant’s financial resources, the defendant’s character, and the opportunity to flee.
I admit, the “strength of the evidence,” and “length of sentence” factors do weigh against Gordon. The evidence in against Gordon appeared to be strong. It probably will continue looking strong until Batman Eternal # 48 or so, when Batman finally stops treading water and starts investigating the case in earnest.
The maximum sentence for aggravated manslaughter in New Jersey is 30 years. If Gordon were convicted on all 162 counts and the judge imposed maximum, consecutive sentences on each count, that would be 4,860 years. Even I, who’s acting as devil’s advocate for Jim Gordon, admit that is more than just a little bit lengthy.
But while these facts alone might make Gordon seem a flight risk, those aren’t the only factors the judge should have considered. What about the other factors a judge is supposed to consider? What about, say family and community ties. Gordon has plenty.
Commissioner Gordon had a distinguished career in public service during which he rose from the rank of sargent to commissioner. In less than five years, if I read the revised continuity of the New 52 correctly. He has a daughter in Gotham City. He has many friends in Gotham City, including one of the leading citizens of the city, Bruce Wayne. In other words, Gordon has lots of family and community ties to the community. This factor weighs heavily against ruling Gordon a flight risk.
How about financial resources? Gordon doesn’t have a lot. He was a cop. An honest cop – one of the few honest cops in Gotham City, it seems. Cops don’t earn a lot of money. Honest cops earn even less. Okay, commissioners earn more than beat cops, but still, Gordon wouldn’t be rich. Certainly not rich enough that he could set up a new life for himself in, say Belize, were he to skip bail and flee Gotham.
Yes, Gordon does have rich friends, including one of the leading citizens – and the richest citizen – in Gotham City, Bruce Wayne. Wayne could set up a new identity for Gordon, if Gordon choose to flee. And if Wayne decided to subvert the law in this way. But what evidence could the the state introduce to prove that Bruce Wayne was likely to fund any plan Gordon had for fleeing the jurisdiction? Probably even less evidence than it could introduce to prove that Gordon planned to flee the jurisdiction. And it didn’t have any evidence that he was going to flee.
Defendant’s character. Remember what I said about Gordon being one of the few honest cops in Gotham? Kinda goes to his character, doesn’t it?
The only evidence that the state really had to prove that Gordon had a bad character is that he worked hand-in-hand with known vigilantes. This was the only reason the judge cited when he denied bail. But just because a man works with vigilantes, particularly vigilantes who are actually quite effective in bringing the criminal element to justice, doesn’t make him a person of bad character. Moreover, working with actual justice-helping vigilantes would dictate that a person was of a law-abiding character, not a bail-jumping character.
After weighing the factors in Gordon’s case, I don’t think there was enough evidence to justify denying Gordon his right to bail. To be sure, the judge could have set the bail very high. But I still think the judge would have granted bail.
So why didn’t the judge grant Gordon bail? I have a theory.
Remember what I said earlier about Gordon being one of the few honest cops in Gotham City? Same is true of its politicians. Mayor Sebastian Hady? Corrupt. Former police commissioner Gillian Loeb? Corrupt. The commissioners between Loeb and Gordon? Corrupt. Tammany Hall? Historically corrupt. But it’s historical corruption is only a fraction of the corruption that is shown every time a politician appears in a Batman story. So it wouldn’t be a stretch to conclude the judge in Gordon’s hearing? Corrupt.
Now someone is orchestrating this massive 52-issue plan to frame Commissioner Gordon. Is it so hard to believe that the judge would be adverse to accepting a little something, something from that “someone?” Or that the trial judge accepted a little more something, something to order that Gordon serve his time waiting trial in Blackgate Prison instead of the county jail, where most pre-trial detainees are held? I don’t think so.
Were this England, instead of Gotham City, you could say denying Gordon bail was a case of quids pro quo. It being Gotham City, I think it’s more a case of status quo.