Category: The Law Is A Ass

The Law Is A Ass #429: If At Flash You Don’t Succeed, Try, Trial Again

Where do I begin? Oh, right, I began two columns ago, because this is column three in my series discussing the “The Trial of The Flash” episode from the The Flash TV show. (And there’s a sentence that’ll drive proofreaders crazy.)

Okay, I’ll actually begin with a SPOILER WARNING. If you’re not caught up on The Flash, I’m about to reveal a couple of episodes worth of endings. Now, with the warning out of the way, like a college professor dressing for his twenty-fifth graduation ceremony, I have to recap.

Barry (The Flash) Allen was on trial for murdering Clifford DeVoe. In reality, DeVoe, a super genius whose hyper brain was literally sapping the vitality from his own body, transferred his consciousness into the body of another man. Then he put his lifeless body in Barry Allen’s apartment and framed Barry Allen for murder.

The trial followed the Constitutional principle of a speedy trial, it barely took up half of the forty-two minutes a one-hour TV episode lasts when you use your DVR to skip the commercials. My writing about the trial has taken a bit longer. Okay, more like a terabit longer. But take heart, the trial’s reached the closing arguments and instructions to the jury stage.

Which I’m not going to write about.

Not because closing arguments and jury instructions are boring – although they are – but because the episode didn’t actually show either to us. About three sentences into defense counsel Cecille Horton‘s one-law-degree-short-of-being-ept closing argument, Barry received a Troubalert that the villain du semaine was wreaking havoc in Central City. Barry told the judge there was an emergency and he was needed. Cecille added that nothing required the defendant to be present during closing arguments and the judge let Barry leave the trial. You might wonder whether the defendant can actually leave a trial while it’s still going on. The answer is yes.

Defendants don’t normally leave their trials, because that tends to make juries think the defendants don’t care about the trial, so why should the juries care about the defendant? But they can leave while trials are going on. And case law says that if a defendant voluntarily absents him or herself from the trial, it can proceed without the defendant.

So Barry left the trial to help Team Flash. Not to mention helping us. As I said earlier, we didn’t have to watch the trial’s boring parts.

It took Flash less than one act to defeat the baddie. It took the same amount of time for the lawyers to finish closing arguments, the judge to deliver the jury instructions, and the jury to reach its verdict. Right before the act break, the jury found Barry guilty.

Some people have complained about the verdict coming in that fast. But it happens. It’s what we call in the legal game a flash verdict— no pun intended, that’s really what they’re called. When juries retire to the deliberating room usually the first thing they do is elect a foreperson. Then lots of juries will take a vote on the verdict just to see where they all stand. If that initial vote comes back with a unanimous guilty verdict, the jury deliberations could be over as quickly as the episode indicated. So I have no problem with how fast the verdict came in. I do have a problem with the jury instructions, however. Those things are never fast.

After the verdict, the prosecutor delivered a speech that he hoped Barry would receive a life sentence given the brutal nature of the crime. Which was grandstanding on his part. Barry had been convicted of murder in the first degree. In Missouri, the mandatory sentence for murder in the first degree is life without the possibility of parole.

Before the judge delivered Barry’s sentence, he delivered a speech about how in all his years on the bench he had never seen a defendant who was more unmoved or had such a lack of regard for human life. You know, the usual shtick.

Also grandstanding, but I can forgive the judge his grandstanding. Judges lay it on thick at sentencing, so they can show the voters they’re tough on crime. It tends to get them reelected. When prosecutors lay it on thick and show that they don’t even know what their state’s mandatory sentence laws are, they tend not to be reelected.

Which brings us to the end of “The Trial of The Flash,” but not our column. See while Barry was serving his sentence in Iron Heights Prison, Warden Wolfe discovered that Barry was The Flash. So three episodes later, in “True Colors,” Warden Wolfe made a deal to sell Barry and some of the other super villains in Iron Heights to Amunet Black, a super villain who trafficked in the super-powered people black market. When Barry and the other super villains learned about Wolfe’s plan, they attempted an escape during the course of which all the super villains and Warden Wolfe died. Team Flash told Barry that he should finish the escape plan so that he could be free and help Team Flash defeat Clifford DeVoe. Barry refused.

He was willing to help the others escape to keep Wolfe from selling them on the black market, but that was no longer a possibility. Barry was going to stay in prison until Team Flash could find a way to get him out of prison legally. That would be the only way he could ever feel truly free.

And later that episode, Team Flash did figure out a way to get Barry out of prison. The Elongated Man used his stretching powers to make himself look like Clifford DeVoe and appeared in court. “DeVoe” told the judge that he hadn’t died, he had been in some weird state of unconsciousness. The judge didn’t think to ask any questions such as how DeVoe survived the autopsy which would certainly have been required on his body before Barry could ever have been brought to trial, and ordered Barry released.

So that was Team Flash’s plan to get Barry out prison legally? Committing a fraud upon the court? If that’s the kind of “legal” method they were willing to use, why didn’t they just bribe the jury during Barry’s trial? It would have saved them a lot of time and us a lot of grief.

The Law Is A Ass #428: Trial And Era With The Flash

It’s just like riding a bike. Once you’ve done it, doing it again is easy.

And what we’ve done, and are doing again, is “The Trial of The Flash.” Sorry, that should be the trial of Barry Allen as it wasn’t The Flash who was on trial for murder in the January 16th episode of The Flash, it was his secret identity Barry Allen. I’d think the old habits formed in columns of another era were dying hard but even the TV show called this episode “The Trial of The Flash.”

Anyway, The Flash – err, Barry Allen – was on trial for killing Reverse-Flash – I mean Clifford DeVoe; damn that muscle memory. Barry didn’t kill DeVoe. DeVoe, the super genius dubbed The Thinker, had transferred his mind into the body of a man named Dominic Lanse, because DeVoe’s own body was paralyzed and atrophying. DeVoe took his lifeless shell of a former body to Barry Allen’s apartment, stabbed it with one of Barry’s knives, and arranged for the police to find Barry standing over the body. Presto, Barry was framed better than Dogs Playing Poker.

Barry’s defense attorney Cecille Horton decided that the best way to beat the murder rap was to reveal to the world that Barry was The Flash…

Damn it! You’d think that after thirty years my fingers wouldn’t automatically write about the events of that old “The Trial of The Flash.”

Oh wait. Cecille wanted to do that in the current “The Trial of The Flash,” too. She decided the only way for Barry to beat the case would be for him to testify, which would require revealing his secret identity. No logical arguments such as, Barry is an expert forensic scientist for the police, so would he plan a crime so clumsy that all the evidence pointed to him. Or, if Barry had actually knifed DeVoe to death, why wasn’t there any blood on him when the police found him? Nope, nothing like that could be tried. Or tried. Only revealing Barry’s secret identity so he could testify could save him.

Problem was, Barry didn’t want to reveal his secret identity. He said if his Rogue’s Gallery learned his secret identity then all his family and friends would be in danger of reprisal from said Rogues.

Uh, Barry, you and your father-in-law, Joe West, are police officers who have openly worked with Team Flash in the past. I think you and Joe are already targets. Cecille, who’s engaged to Joe, used to be a prosecutor. So we can kind of reprise the reprisal for her. And your wife, Iris West-Allen, is a crime reporter who probably already has an enemies list as formidable as Richard Nixon’s. As for your other friends – the super heroes Vibe, Killer Frost, and Elongated Man, the Rogues already hate them, too. But they can kind of take care of themselves.

The point I’m making is that your family and friends already have targets on them. So not revealing your secret identity isn’t really protecting them all that much.

Moreover, at this point who in Central City doesn’t know the Flash’s secret identity? He and his team routinely use their street names while in costume. Their attitude toward preserving Flash’s identity is about as cavalier as a Cleveland sporting goods store in January. And even if there are some members of the general public who don’t know Flash’s identity; which of his Rogue’s Gallery doesn’t know it? Girder knows it. Pied Piper knows it. As does Plastique, Captain Cold, Reverse-Flash, Zoom, Weather Wizard, Savitar, Heat Wave, Abra Kadabra, Clifford DeVoe, and Gorilla Grodd. Did I leave any out? Probably.

So, again, Barry not revealing his secret identity? Not so helpful in the whole protecting-your-family-and-friends department.

The prosecution called Marlize DeVoe, the “widow” of Clifford DeVoe, as a witness. When Cecille cross-examined her, she used some photos that Joe Allen and Ralph (The Elongated Man) Dibny took of her in lip lock with Dominic Lanse. (Remember, her husband’s mind was in Dominic’s body, so she was actually kissing her husband.) Cecille suggested that maybe she and her husband weren’t so much in love and she and her new lover were tired of waiting for her husband to die so killed him.

Which is one of the worst ways to introduce that evidence. Why? Because it gave Marlize an immediate chance to explain the pictures. She said her husband was dying of ALS and she met Dominic, whose father died of the same disease, in an ALS support group. Her husband could see their mutual attraction so he encouraged Marlize to go to Dominic for the things he could no longer give her. It won the jury back to Marlize’s side.

The better way to introduce the evidence is spring it in the defense case-in-chief. Sure Marlize could try to explain it away. But she wouldn’t be able to do that until the state’s rebuttal case which would be hours – or days – later. Any bad feelings the jury might have gotten from the picture would sit in them for those hours — or days – and take root. So maybe, the jury wouldn’t buy into Marlize’s explanation quite so easily. That way, the closing argument of “We only have her word that she had her husband’s blessing. Maybe she and Dominic were tired of waiting for Clifford DeVoe to die and decided to do something about it,” would have had more effect.

And, for that matter, did anyone think to check out Marlize’s story? Did Dominic’s father really die of ALS? We know they didn’t meet in a support group, so why not check into his father’s death. If Dominic’s father did die of ALS – and what are the odds of that? – nothing’s changed. But if he didn’t, then Marlize committed perjury and the jury would have discounted most everything she said. To answer my own question, no one bothered to check Marlize’s story. So there’s some good criminal defense work.

And…

Yes, “and.” It’s happened again. I’ve run out of column before running out of material. Only this time it isn’t muscle memory causing me to re-type something I wrote back in 1983. This time it’s happening now. Seems that no matter what century I’m in, I’m fated to write endlessly about “The Trial of The Flash.”

The Law Is A Ass #427: The Flash Sings Happy Trials To You

So what do you do when you’re feeling nostalgic? If you’re me – and luckily for me, I am me – you write about The Trial of the Flash. No, not the one from 1983, the one from last month. On the TV series The Flash.

So let’s get you up to speed; pun intended. This season Team Flash is fighting Clifford DeVoe, AKA The Thinker, a genius who’s one coyote away from being a super genius and orchestrating some sort of season-long master plan to hector The Flash.

And here’s where we start getting into SPOILER ALERT! territory. I’m about to reveal important plot details from several episodes of The Flash. Why? It’s in my job description. Right after wise ass. If you’re one of those people who don’t watch a show until the DVD set comes out or you binge it on a streaming service, so aren’t current with the current season of The Flash, you might want to stop reading now. The column will be in the archives so you can read it after you’re all caught up. And that way you come here twice so I get more hits.

After The Flash finally figured out DeVoe was the big bad this season, he changed into his secret identity, Barry Allen Central City Police forensic scientist, to question DeVoe. Which played right into DeVoe’s hands. DeVoe had orchestrated events to cause Barry to confront him. DeVoe further manipulated Barry into continuing to confront DeVoe and DeVoe’s wife, until the DeVoes were able to get Barry’s boss Captain Singh to issue a restraining order against Barry. Next DeVoe transferred his consciousness into a man named Dominic Lanse, because DeVoe’s super brain was sapping all the energy from his body, making it atrophy and become paralyzed. DeVoe didn’t want his old body anymore, but he still had a use for it. After the mind transfer, DeVoe/Lanse took his former body to Barry’s apartment, stabbed it with a knife that was there in the apartment, and arranged for the police to find Barry standing over the lifeless, bleeding body of Clifford DeVoe. Presto, the framed Barry was on trial for murdering DeVoe. Now I know I said DeVoe orchestrated these events, but for DeVoe’s manipulations to work, Barry had to act like a complete idiot. So maybe I should have said DeVoe string quarteted them.

According to the show, Barry was arrested on Christmas Eve, 2017. His trial started when The Flash came out of its winter break on January 16, 2017. Which, uh, no! The Constitution guarantees everyone a speedy trial, but that doesn’t mean that the trial starts a few weeks after arrest, giving no one enough time to prepare. Even in the Arrowverse, trials aren’t as speedy as Speedy Gonzales. (You were expecting me to say as speedy as the Flash. Psych!)

The first thing we learned about the trial was that Cecille Horton, a prosecutor and also the fiancée of Barry’s father-in-law, took a leave of absence from the prosecutor’s office to defend Barry. Which seems doubtful. Although the Constitution – yes that again – does guarantee Barry the right to an attorney of his choice, he can’t choose an attorney who would have a conflict of interests in the case. An attorney who was employed by the prosecutor’s office while it was building its case against Barry then left the prosecutor’s office to defend Barry would probably be on the grounds that the attorney could well have learned privileged things about the prosecution’s case while was still in the prosecutor’s office.

On the other hand, considering how poorly Cecille represented Barry, the prosecutor’s office wouldn’t want to disqualify her. It probably welcomed her with arms more open than a Walmart on Black Friday.

The trial started with a montage of scenes in which Anton Slater, the prosecutor, lectured the jury. I’m assuming he was delivering his opening statement. Either that or he was testifying himself, because there wasn’t anyone in the witness stand. As I don’t think even the most careless of Hollywood writers would actually have a prosecutor testifying, we’ll go with opening statement.

Slater’s opening statement was a bit more complete than most. Opening statements give the jury a general overview of what each side expects its case will prove, not every detail of their case. If you give away your whole case in the opening statements, then the jury won’t pay attention when the witnesses testify. And if they’re not paying attention to the witnesses, how will the jury hear it when some witness confesses that he killed the victim? (Oops. Wrong show.)

Slater’s more-detailed-than-most opening statement included showing actual evidence to the jury, such as the restraining order that the DeVoes obtained against Barry and the knife that was still covered in blood. Showing evidence to the jury during opening statements is problematic. Technically, evidence isn’t supposed to be shown to the jury until after it has been authenticated by a witness or witnesses and the judge rules that it is admissible. If you show evidence during opening statements and the judge later rules that the evidence was inadmissible, you’re just inviting a mistrial. And while judges may like invitations to political fundraisers, they hate invitations to mistrials. They hate actual mistrials even more. For that reason, many judges will not permit lawyers to show the jury actual evidence during opening statements

About that restraining order that the DeVoes obtained against Barry. Captain Singh, Barry’s boss in the Central City Police Department, testified that he issued it on behalf of the DeVoes. Which he didn’t. Restraining orders are judicial orders that judges issue after hearing evidence detailing why the person seeking the order needs some other party restrained from doing something. The judicial branch issues restraining orders and the executive branch, through the police, enforce them. Singh could have given Barry a formal reprimand. He could have ordered Barry to stay away from the DeVoes as a matter of departmental policy. But unless Central City is in the habit of bouncing checks and balances, Singh wouldn’t have issued a restraining order against Barry.

So far we’ve had all of that, and I’m just getting started. Literally. I’ve just started covering this episode of The Flash. I won’t finish until next column. At least I think next column. Based on my notes, it might take longer to write about the trial of The Flash than the actual trial.

The Law Is A Ass #426: Ant-Man Doesn’t Right The Wrongs Of His Trial

I know you think you know where you are but you’re wrong. You’re 8-years old again, sitting in your dentist’s waiting room with a copy of Highlights for Children, looking at the “What’s Wrong?” puzzle on the back cover. Only this time, instead of one large picture full of things that are wrong to find, it’s 150 pictures. The 150 pictures that made up The Astonishing Ant-Man # 13.

Scott Lang, the astonishing Ant-Man eponymoused in the comic’s title, was on trial for a crime his daughter committed in an act of rebellion. Guess she had grown past the “Bad Boy” stage. In order to protect his daughter, Scott confessed to her crime and now was on trial.

I’m assuming the prosecution’s case came in badly for Scott; it usually does when the defendant confesses. But I can only assume that, because the story didn’t actually show us any of the prosecution’s case. The story started by showing a string of defense character witnesses all called to attest to the fact that Scott was a good guy.

And here’s our first “What’s Wrong?” Scott confessed, remember? Well the thing about confessions is juries tend to believe them. A lot. When the prosecution’s case includes a confession, that’s pretty much, “The state rests.” The defendant could introduce character witnesses that he’d been canonized for driving the snakes out of Ireland and inventing Triple Stuf Oreos; he’d still be convicted. Scott’s entire defense of character witnesses was pretty much the worst defense this side of, “Yes, the defendant ate his victims; but he didn’t eat them raw.”

If that wasn’t bad enough, Scott’s first two character witnesses were Machinesmith – a super villain who said Scott was a good boss, but so were his former employers Arnim Zola and Baron Zemo – and Grizzly, a super villain who said Scott was the only guy who would give Grizzly a chance after he committed all those murders. Which brings us to “What’s Wrong?” deuce, there’s no advantage in calling Nazi employees or mass murderers as character witnesses.

During a recess, Scott was sitting in the hallway. A correction officer was sitting right next to him, like about a foot away. That’s when the prosecutor, Janice Lincoln, approached Scott and told him the reason she left a lucrative civil practice in New York in order to prosecute Scott was Pym Particles, those wondrous things Hank Pym, the first Ant-Man, used to shrink to insect size. See, Janice was a lawyer who moonlighted as a super villain. (Yes, there is so a difference!) She resented the fact that her Beetle identity was the only insect-named character who couldn’t shrink. She told Scott she was going to bring his Ant-Man costume into court for a demonstration and if he provided her with Pym Particles from it, she’d throw the case.

And we have “What’s Wrong?” the drei heaves. No, not that a prosecutor offered to throw a case for a bribe. It happens. What was wrong is that no prosecutor would offer to take a bribe while talking loud enough to be heard by a defendant who was four feet away when a corrections officer was within earshot!

“What’s Wrong?” may the fourth be with you happened when the prosecution presented its demonstration with the Ant-Man costume. No, not the fact that the prosecution called the defendant as a witness. I assume Scott agreed to waive his Fifth Amendment as part of the bribery deal. It’s the fact that the prosecution was allowed to do this after defense witnesses had testified. The prosecution would have rested its case before the defense called its witnesses. The prosecution wouldn’t be able to re-open its case to put on new substantive evidence.

Now this being a comic book that had gone twelve pages without a fight it was about time for the super villains who wanted revenge on Scott to attack the courtroom. Can you guess what happened on Page 13?

Nine pages of fight scene in the courtroom with the judge and jury present later, the villains were defeated and the trial resumed. Which is “What’s Wrong?” the fifth – a fifth being what I need about now. Ant-Man just saved the lives of the judge and jury from some super villains. There isn’t a judge who wouldn’t declared a mistrial and then disqualify both himself and the jury from the case for the reason that Ant-Man just saved their lives. And that would tend to prejudice them in Ant-Man’s favor.

So trial resumed. Janice Lincoln told the court that she and the defendant had reached “a perfectly reasonable, totally illegal [emphasis mine] deal” which the defendant just broke so the prosecutor wanted to get back at him by calling her final witness and convicting him. And we have “What’s Wrong?” six in the city, the prosecutor just admitted in open court in front of a judge, jury, and court reporter that she accepted a bribe.

The fact that Janice called a witnesses after the defense had put on its case is not our next “What’s Wrong?” Prosecutors can’t put on substantive evidence after they’ve rested their case. But they may put on rebuttal witnesses; that is witnesses called for the specific purpose of rebutting evidence offered in the defense case. These witnesses don’t offer substantive proof of the defendant’s guilt, they poke holes in the defense case.

“What’s Wrong?” seven come eleven (don’t worry, we aren’t actually going that high) happened when Janice called Scott’s ex-wife to rebut all the defense testimony of his good character. Janice proceed to lead her own witness by asking question after question which suggested its own answer. However, Janice soon learned she could lead her horse to the Kool-Aid but she couldn’t make her drink it. Because Scott’s ex testified about how wonderful Scott truly was and what a good father he was.

After that turn of my stomach – err events – the jury found Scott not guilty. No, that’s not “What’s Wrong? the eighth, man. I said the jury was probably prejudiced in Scott’s favor after he saved their lives from the super villains. I was right.

I mentioned in the last column that over thirty years ago “The Trial of the Flash”  storyline lasted two years and made lots of mistakes. “The Trial of Ant-Man” lasted only two issues but I’ll bet it made about as many errors in those two issues as “The Trial of the Flash” made in its two years. Any takers?

The Law Is A Ass # 425: Ant-Man’s Trial Has Character Flaws

The Law Is A Ass # 425: Ant-Man’s Trial Has Character Flaws

A long time ago in a multiverse far, far away…

The Flash went on trial for murdering Reverse-Flash in a multi-part story called The Trial of the Flash. As storylines went, The Trial of the Flash went on for…

Ever!

Okay, it went on for two years. But back in 1983 – before decompressed storytelling and multi-part stories designed to be binge-read in trade paperback collections – two years was forever. The second “The Law Is a Ass” I ever wrote was also my first column about The Trial of the Flash. Several more followed. How many more? Well let’s just say before The Trial of the Flash, and I, were finished, I had earned enough writing about it to pay off my mortgage, insure my kids had no student loan debt, and reduced the national debt to zero from the taxes I paid.

So you can imagine my trepidation upon reading Astonishing Ant-Man# 12. It was, you see, the first part of The Trial of Ant-Man. Still, a journey of a thousand columns begins with a single step, so let’s get started.

Ant-Man – the Scott Lang version, not Henry Pym or the one nobody remembers because even I had to look up Eric O’Grady – was on trial for a crime he didn’t commit. Of course he didn’t. When a super hero is on trial in a comic book you can be pretty certain it’s for a crime the hero didn’t commit. In comics the only thing more certain than that is death and resurrection.

The crime Scott didn’t commit? His daughter – and former super hero Stinger – Cassie Lang committed it. How did this one time Young Avenger go rogue? Long story short; like this. To protect Cassie, Scott took the blame. He said he kidnapped Cassie and forced her to participate in his crime. It was a noble gesture, but it had serious repercussions; as the whole “The Trial of the Ant-Man” title would suggest.

The trial started as most trials do with jury selection but as there is virtually no way to make the voir dire process visually or dramatically interesting, the story ignored jury selection and jumped right to opening statements. Starting with the opening statement of Janice Lincoln, the prosecuting attorney. Janice went for the jugular. Scott’s. She argued that the jury should ignore Scott’s good deeds as Ant-Man, as Scott had been convicted of several felonies, abandoned his family, burned his bridges with the respected members of the super hero community, recklessly allowed his daughter to be killed – but resurrected, see I told you – and kidnapped that same daughter to force her to be his accomplice in a heist. Probably the only reason Janice didn’t blame Scott for The Great Train Robbery is that Scott’s strong suit has never been silent.

There’s a name for that in the legal biz. We call it “putting the defendant’s character in issue.” We also call it improper. In a criminal trial, the prosecution is expressly forbidden from offering evidence, testimony, or even opening statements about a defendant’s bad character in order to prove that the defendant acted in accordance with that bad character. Or, in words that aren’t ripped from compelling prose that is the Federal Rules of Evidence, it’s improper for the prosecutor to prove or even argue that the defendant has been a bad person in the past so probably continued to be a bad person and committed the crime.

There are some exceptions to this rule. We won’t go into all of them, because only one of them applies to the story at hand. The prosecution may address the issue of the defendant’s bad character when the defendant puts his or her own character into issue first. If the defense offers evidence or argues that the defendant is a good person who would never commit the crime – in the legal biz we call that “opening the door” – the prosecution is allowed to walk through the open door and rebut evidence of good character with evidence that the defendant is a bad person who would commit the crime.

In her opening statement, defense counsel Jennifer Walters told the jury all about what a good person and upstanding hero Scott Lang was; ending with “I’ve seen it with my own eyes – this man is a hero.” It was after Jennifer Walters made this opening statement that Janice Lincoln made her opening statement and assassinated Scott’s character like it was that other Lincoln at Ford’s Theater. (What? Too soon?)

So what’s my problem with Ms. Lincoln’s opening statement? After all, if the defense put Scott’s character in issue – and it did – then the prosecution would be allowed to rebut that claim of good character with an argument of bad character. My problem is that if proper trial procedure had been followed – and the story went out of its way to establish that the trial judge, the Honorable Ronald Wilcox, was a no-nonsense, by the book judge who would follow proper procedure – the prosecution would not have been allowed to make the opening statement that it did, because the defense wold not have put Scott’s character into issue yet.

Proper trial procedure dictates that the prosecution makes its opening statement first, because it has the burdens of producing the evidence proving the defendant guilty and persuading the jury that the defendant is guilty. The prosecution makes its opening statement before the defense makes its opening statement. In a real trial, not one that played with proper procedure for dramatic purpose, Janice Lincoln wouldn’t have been able to attack Scott’s character in her opening statement, because she would have given it before the defense opening statement and before Jennifer Walters opened the door to Scott’s character.

Oh, I’m sure that Ms. Lincoln would have had her opportunity later in the trial. The defense’s sole tactic was to convince the jury that Scott Lang was a hero who wouldn’t commit the crime, so the defense was going to open that door eventually. Then all that other bad stuff about Scott’s character would have come in. In the legal biz we have a name for that, a bad idea.

Here’s a piece of advice to all you future lawyers out there: If you put your client’s character into issue, the prosecution is allowed to counter with proof of your client’s bad character. So don’t put your client’s character into issue when your client’s closet has more skeletons than The Pirates of the Caribbean.

The Law Is A Ass #424: Arkham Makes An Asylum Of You And Me

Albert Einstein once said, “Glix sptzl glaah,” then he turned one and developed his first working model of the Theory of Relativity; “that lady who feeds me is Mama.” Einstein also reportedly said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” By this definition, I am insane, because I keep reading Batman comics and expecting the writers to know the difference between criminal activity and criminal insanity.

In Batman vol. 3, # 9, Batman agreed to do a mission for Amanda Waller and formed his own version of the Suicide Squad. So he went to Arkham Asylum, which, based on the ratio of escapes to days of the week, must have biggest Open Door Policy since John Hay. (Go ahead, look it up. I know, “Homework, bleech!) and recruited his recruits. Said recruits were a veritable who’s who of Gotham City’s finest worst.

Arnold Weskler, the Ventriloquist, found guilty of “Eight counts of murder” and sentenced to “life without parole.” Ben Turner, the Bronze Tiger, “Two counts manslaughter. Twenty years without parole.” Jewelee, “Four counts of murder. Life without parole.” Punch, Jewelee’s partner in crime and lover, who wasn’t actually in Arkham but broke into Arkham to try and free Jewelee while Batman was there; which is pretty crazy so maybe he was right where he should have been. Finally, Selina Kyle, Catwoman, “two hundred and thirty-seven counts of murder. Death by lethal injection.” These were the people Batman recruited out of Arkham Asylum. And I had to ask myself, “Why?”

Not “why did Batman recruit them?” Why were most of them in Arkham Asylum?

Arkham Asylum is an asylum. Even if we didn’t know that already from its name, Batman was right in the story. It is not a prison. There is a difference.

A prison is where criminals who are convicted of crimes are sent to serve out their sentences. An asylum is where criminals who were found not guilty by reason of insanity are involuntarily committed so that they can be treated.

None of the people Batman recruited from Arkham Asylum were found not guilty by reason of insanity. I know this for a fact and I can prove it. Arnold Weskler was sentenced to life without parole. Ben Turner was sentenced to twenty years without parole. Jewelee was sentenced to life without parole. Selina Kyle was sentenced to death by lethal injection. Do you see the common link? All four of them were sentenced to terms of imprisonment. That can only mean that they were found guilty because only people who were found guilty of crimes can be sentenced.

People who are found not guilty are released. Why? Because they were found not guilty. And they can’t be imprisoned for the crimes for which they were found not guilty; at least now without violating the hell out of the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution.

In the same way, people who were found not guilty by reason of insanity can’t be sentenced to imprisonment, life imprisonment, or death by lethal injection, because – all together now – they were found not guilty.

If they were convicted – and they were it said so right in the story and I’m taking the story’s words at their word – what were these convicted criminals doing in Arkham?

There is a way that convicted criminals who were sentenced to prison can be sent to an asylum. When people develop a mental illness that impairs their cognitive ability to such an extent that they cannot make decisions for themselves or they present a danger to themselves or to others, a judge can civilly commit them and order they be sent to a mental health facility for treatment.

If a convict in prison develops a mental illness, a judge can the inmate be civilly committed to a mental health facility. Then, when the inmate no longer meets the criteria for civil commitment, the inmate is returned to prison to serve out the remainder of the sentences. The question remains, was there a viable reason for any of Batman’s team to have been transferred to Arkham?

Arnold Weskler had multiple personalty disorder. He thought he was two people; himself and his ventriloquist dummy, Scarface. Only the story said Weskler had “forsesworn his ‘little friend’ and had become an ideal inmate. Sounds like Weskler’s treatment had brought his MPD under control. If that were the case, then as long as he continued to take his medications, he would not meet the criteria for civil commitment. He would have been returned to Blackgate Penitentiary, where the prison hospital would have made sure he continued to take his medication. So Weskler shouldn’t have been in Arkham any longer, but maybe the doctors were keeping him there just to be sure. After all, we wouldn’t want a multiple murderer in prison, now would we?

Ben Turner was diagnosed with delusions of grandeur. He believed he was a former member of the League of Assassins and an agent of various intelligence agencies. A claim these agencies deny. The story didn’t really give us enough information about his mental condition for us to make a definitive assessment of whether he should be in Arkham. In his one conversation in the story he didn’t see irrational, but, as I said, I have insufficient information. So I’ll give Arkham the benefit of the doubt and say he was committed and deserved to be there.

Jewelee’s lover/partner Punch disappeared two years earlier, since then she had been in a catatonic state. She sat on her bed without moving. As such, she wasn’t really a danger to either herself or to others and could have been treated in the hospital in Blackgate prison just as easily as she could have been treated in Arkham. She would not have been committed to Arkham. However, if a court or the prison authorities determined that the hospital at Arkham was better equipped to treat her catatonia that the hospital at Blackgate, she might have transferred to Arkham for that reason.

Selina Kyle, not even going to go there. Why not? Because Selina clearly wasn’t mentally ill. She knew it, Batman knew it, even we knew it. Everything about her presence in Arkham Asylum – from her being in a cell to her wearing a straightjacket and a full-face version of a Hannibal Lecter mask – was nothing more than a plot device used to set up a surprise ending. Oh, and because I’ve reached the end of my column.

– THE END –

See?

The Law Is A Ass # 423: Cyborg Clunks The Parole Evidence Rule

I have a mutant power. (One mutant power; don’t believe any lies Tony Isabella tells about a different power and the silly codename Shattertoy.) I have one power; I get things right for the wrong reason.

And, it seems, my power is catching. Because in Cyborg vol. 2, number 1, the book’s eponymous hero showed the same power. (Sure, the guy’s a half-human/half-robot super hero with gadgets and gizmos aplenty, and you’ve got to go and give him my power, too?)

In the comic in question, Cyborg was stopping an armored car hijacking. The hijackers were speeding their wannabe tank through downtown Detroit with a full cadre of police cars in hot pursuit. That’s when Cyborg used his robotic strength to stop the armored car with a force so masterfully applied that it crumpled the car’s front end without even registering a sound effect in the panel. Now that’s skill! As part of his Spider-Man-approved catch-the-crooks banter, Cyborg explained that the hijackers were likely to hurt someone with their reckless driving and he couldn’t allow that.

Cyborg shook the armored car like he was in a low-budget Mariachi band that could only afford one maraca. The two criminals came tumbling out of the car and immediately started shooting AR-15s. Uh, Cyborg, if you’re really interested in not letting the bad guys hurt anyone, you might try disarming them before you dump them out of the nice car with nice armored sides that bullets can’t get through.

Cyborg used his on-board internet connection to scan the hijackers’ cell phones and learned one was a parolee named Dante Morris. So he continued his banter with, “Dante, Dante, Dante… You do realize that each one of these shots is a violation of your parole, don’t you? You’re probably looking at a year behind bars for each bullet.”

Then Cyborg disarmed and subdued the hijackers, which ended his involvement in the matter. And started mine. Cause now I get to explain that while Cyborg’s ultimate conclusion might have been correct, his reasoning was dead wrong. Er, considering how much lead was flying around, I guess we should be glad Cyborg wasn’t dead wrong. But he was wrong nonetheless.

Not about the part that hijacking an armored car would violate Dante’s parole. Cyborg was wrong in saying that each separate bullet that Dante and his co-conspirator fired was a separate parole violation that would add a year to Dante’s sentence. That’s not how parole violations work.

Parole is an early release from prison. When inmates are granted parole, they are released before serving their entire sentence. Parole comes with conditions attached. Some of these conditions vary, but the ones that are almost always imposed include: a stable place to live, steady employment, reporting to the parole officer, and not consorting with other criminals. Oh yeah, and the biggie; while you’re on parole, don’t break the law.

If a parolee violates parole, the parolee’s parole officer files a notice listing all of the reasons why the officer believes the parolee has violated parole. Then someone, either the parole authority or a judge, holds a hearing which will determine whether the parolee has violated parole. If the person presiding over the hearing rules that the parolee did violate parole, the parolee’s parole can be revoked and the parolee sent back to prison to serve the remainder the original sentence. If a parolee commits armed robbery, not to mention armored car robbery, I can pretty much guarantee the parolee will be going back to prison.

But parole violations don’t involve multiple sentences. Even if the parolee did several different things and each separate act constituted a different parole violation, each act does not add additional time to the parolee’s sentence. Parole violators serve out the remainder of the original sentence. They don’t get additional time for violating their parole.

Dante violated his parole by obtaining a firearm, hijacking an armored car, consorting with another criminal, participating in a high-speed chase with the police, and shooting at Cyborg and the police. Each act was a separate parole violation, but, despite what Cyborg said, each bullet will not add more years to Dante’s time in prison.

However, a parole violation does not end the story of Dante’s problems with the law. You see, by buying the guns, hijacking the armored car, participating in the high-speed chase, and shooting at the police and Cyborg, Dante wasn’t just violating his parole; he was also committing new crimes. Crimes for which he could – no, would – be put on trial. And after he was convicted of those crimes he would be sentenced to new prison terms for his new crimes.

Many jurisdictions have laws requiring that if a parolee violates parole by committing new crimes, not only will the parolee be required to finish the original sentence, but any sentence the parolee receives for the new crimes must be imposed consecutively to the parolee’s original sentence. In addition, if the judge was in a particularly “tough on crime” mood, the judge can order the sentence on each new count to be served consecutively.

If that happened to Dante, he would serve out the remainder of his original sentence, then start serving the sentences for his new crimes. And if the judge ran everything consecutively, Dante would serve out the original sentence followed by his sentence for having a weapon while under the disability of being a convicted felon on parole, followed by his sentence for hijacking the armored car, followed by his sentence for fleeing and eluding while in the high-speed chase, followed by his convictions for attempted murder for shooting at Cyborg and the police officers.

Note I said attempted murder convictions. While each individual shot would not constitute a separate count of attempted murder, each person that Dante was shooting at would be a separate victim. And each victim would be the subject of a different attempted murder count. There were three police cars in the chase, each probably had two officers. That’s six police officers and one Cyborg, or seven attempted murder victims. That’s seven counts of attempted murder and seven more consecutive sentences that would be stacked on top of all the other sentences.

Dante will get a long sentence. Maybe not as long as some of Charles Dickens’s more-famous run-on constructions, but a long sentence. So Cyborg was right in thinking Dante would get a long sentence, but wrong in thinking it would be for multiple parole violations. It will be for his multiple new crimes.

And that leaves us with just one more question: how long a sentence will Dante receive? I don’t know. But I am pretty sure that to Mr. Morris it will look like Dante’s eternal.

The Law Is A Ass #422: Penguin Issues A License To Kill… Logic

Like I said before, well if they’re gonna make it easy for me…

Seriously, the season premiere of Gotham, “Pax Penguina,” didn’t even get out of the teaser before I was thinking, “Well, that’s not right.” It didn’t get three scenes into its first act before the episode confirmed it wasn’t just not right, it was wronger than a sentence using the word, “wronger.” And take it from someone whose grammar wasn’t run over by a reindeer, that’s wrong.

What did we learn in the teaser of the episode? We learned that the Penguin was issuing Licenses of Misconduct in Gotham City. What did we learn in the first scene of the episode? That criminals in Gotham City were paying Penguin half their take to get their Licenses of Misconduct. We also learned that criminals with licenses were fully sanctioned by Penguin to commit crimes in Gotham City and that criminals who were operating without licenses were physically, and violently, stopped from committing crimes by Penguin’s henchmen led by Victor Zsasz. What did we learn in the second scene of the episode? That Penguin had reached a deal with the Mayor of Gotham City and its Police Commissioner. By only allowing licensed and sanctioned crime in Gotham City, Penguin had reduced violent crime rate in the pre-Batman and crime-ridden city by fifty-seven percent. And in order to keep those crime numbers low, the Mayor and Police Commissioner permitted Penguin’s licensed and sanctioned criminals to commit crimes without any police interference. Unlicensed criminals they could apprehend, but licensed criminals were to be left alone. Oh yeah, and that the Mayor and Police Commissioner weren’t doing this just to keep Gotham’s crime numbers low. They were also getting a percentage of Penguin’s action; a small percentage, but a percentage nonetheless. What did we learn in the third scene of the episode? That when criminals flashed their License of Misconduct to police officers, said police officers were supposed to let them continue their criminal acts without interference.

And what did I learn from three years of law school and twenty-eight years of practicing criminal law? (The first one of you who says, “nothing,” will get such a pinch!) I learned that the odds of such an arrangement between a crime boss and the city government actually existing are about the same as the odds of getting in to see the Great Oz; as in, “Not nobody, not nohow!”

Oh, I’m not saying that crime bosses won’t bribe local governmental officials to look the other way when their operatives commit crimes. Hell, any city, town, village, or burg big enough to have an organized government will likely have such an arrangement with the local crime bosses. Hell, even the ones with unorganized governments will have such an arrangement.

What I am saying is that it defies logic that any government regardless of size would have the type of arrangement with their local crime bosses that the city fathers of Gotham City had with the Penguin. Not one that involved actual, physical Licenses of Misconduct.

Oh, did I forget to mention that part? Penguin wasn’t issuing metaphorical or symbolic licenses. He wasn’t telling people, if you pay me half you’re take, you’re free to commit crimes in Gotham City and the police won’t bother you. No Penguin was issuing actual, physical pieces of card stock that were called License of Misconduct and made that promise.

How do I know this? Because I screen capped one of the licenses when Bruce Wayne held it for its Mr. DeMille-sanctioned close-up and studied it. So I can tell you this actual, physical card, suitable for lamination, had the actual words “License of Misconduct” printed on it, a number indicating which license it was and the name and address of the licensee. It contained a checklist of crimes: “Smuggle, Loot, Rob, Murder, Blackmail, Grand Theft, Larceny, Kidnapping, Arson,” with actual boxes to be checked to indicate which crimes the bearer was licensed to commit. The bottom of the license contained the following promise, “This license entitles bearer permission to commit criminal offenses without repercussions or punishment from issuing authority and its affiliates.” The license was signed in ink (not by Pierre Andre) and stamped with the Penguin’s official umbrella seal. Then just to show that the license was comprehensive, it indicated whether the licensee was an organ donor. (You’ll be glad to know that the license Bruce took off some mugger indicated he was an organ donor. Nice to know the guy was socially-conscious scum and not just common scum.)

Okay, I know that the organ donor thing was a sight gag. But the License of Misconduct thing, that’s a joke.

No crime boss would issue such an actual, physical License of Misconduct. No mayor or police commissioner would honor such a thing. And no police officer encountering such a thing would let the bearer go unimpeded in his criminal activities. Not if they wanted to keep on being crime bosses, mayors, police commissioners, or police officers.

How do I know this? I know this because previous seasons of Gotham have established that Gotham City has a District Attorney’s office. And what do all district attorney offices in TV shows, movies, comic books, novels, or any other work of fiction that supports our tropes have? A crusading DA who wants to become mayor or judge or governor or even President. Seriously, this cliché is so old, I think it’s the actual clich A.

Now you know what would a crusading district attorney who wanted to become mayor or judge or governor or even President love to be able to do? Prosecute the mayor, police commissioner, police officers, and local crime boss for corruption and R.I.C.O. violations.

And what’s the only piece of evidence that a crusading district attorney would need to prosecute the mayor, police commissioner, police officers, and local crime boss for corruption and R.I.C.O. violations? If you didn’t say an actual, physical License of Misconduct issued by the local crime boss which promises that the bearer was free to commit crimes without fear of being arrested, then what column have you been reading?

No, crime boss would print an actual physical License of Misconduct and no city official would honor such a thing because its mere existence would land all parties involved in the hoosegow. See, a License of Misconduct wouldn’t just be suitable for lamination, it would also be suitable for lamentation.

The Law Is A Ass #421: Daredevil Ends The Art Show, Mural Less

The Law Is A Ass #421: Daredevil Ends The Art Show, Mural Less

Well, since they’re going to make it easy for me…

In Daredevil vol 5 # 11, there was a new villain in town, Muse, a deranged artist who painted a mural on a wall. Given that we’re talking about a comic book, I think you can Banksy on the fact that there’s more to this villain than meets the eye. Not just Daredevil’s eye, which is blind after all, but even more than meets the eye of an eagle with 20/10 vision. See, it’s not that Muse was using other people’s walls for his paintings; that would only make him guilty of vandalism. Muse was also using other people’s blood.

Yes, while some artists paint in oils and others in watercolors, Muse used the blood of his victims. I think for Muse, his medium is the message.

Muse painted a mural on the wall of a warehouse owned by one Freddy Durnin using the blood of over one hundred and twelve different missing persons. Freddy wanted to display the painting to the public for ten dollars a head. Did the public want to see this corpuscular – or should I say corpse-puscular – work of art? I think the idea grue on them, because there was already a line that went “around the block.”

Personally, I’m not too sanguinary about Freddy’s chances. DNA tests established that one of the victims whose blood was used in the painting was the niece of Andrea Pearson, Speaker of the New York City City Council. And Ms. Pearson did not want the painting displayed to the public.

Now, given that there was the blood of over one hundred victims in the painting, I’m not sure how any DNA sample wouldn’t have been so hopelessly contaminated that it would have been impossible to positively identify any one victim’s DNA. But I’ll give the story that one. After all, this is the Marvel Comics Universe. Reed Richards probably killed an hour one afternoon when the Internet was down by developing a highly efficient method of separating cross-contaminated DNA samples that’s used by whatever DNAgency operates in the MCU.

Anyway, back to Councilwoman Pearson. When Freddy rebuffed her, she went to the District Attorney’s office to get him to shut the display down. And DA Hochberg turned the matter over to assistant DA Matt Murdock. Hochberg was mad at Matt, who had been shirking his duties as an assistant DA. Seems Matt was out protecting the streets of Hell’s Kitchen as Daredevil when he should have been attending to his ADA duties. So Hochberg dropped the case, and a sarcasm bomb in Matt’s lap, “You are supposed to be one of best attorneys of your generation, Matt. Please… do us both a favor. Prove it.”

Wow, some punishment. Hochberg punishes Matt by giving him a job that was so easy even a first year law student intern assigned to filing duties because the alphabet was at the upper end of his competence could accomplish in half an hour? Yes, punish the guy by giving him punishment that basically amounts to a paid afternoon off, that’ll show him.

Seriously, while I was writing these words, I came up with three arguments Matt could use to shut down Freddy’s nightmare. And I wasn’t even giving any thought to the problem.

  1. Have the police say they’ve only finished their initial investigation and that the warehouse is still an active crime scene that has to be kept free of outside contamination. So no visitors allowed.
  2. Have it declared a public nuisance. After all, that blood will attract flies and rats and other vermin to the area.
  3. And, hey, human blood is biological material. Some of that blood may have AIDS or hepatitis or some other infectious disease. That means the mural is a health hazard which is too dangerous to be open to the public. Even more so when you consider that this is blood from one hundred twelve people in the Marvel Universe. So one of them probably had radioactive spider venom or cosmic Gamma rays or Terragin mists or just plain, old New York City water coursing through their blood. That makes it even more of a biohazard.

Once Matt had a theory or five he would petition the court for either a preliminary injunction, an ex parte proceeding in which the person or persons who wanted to enjoin – or prevent – an action from happening appear before a judge without the other party to the case also appearing. To get a preliminary injunction, Matt would have to convince the court both that allowing the act he wanted to enjoin – here Freddy operating his art gallery – to occur would cause some sort of damage and that Matt’s argument would more than likely prevail when the case came to an actual trial. If the judge agreed, the judge would grant the preliminary injunction, temporarily blocking Freddy from running his gallery and setting the case for a immediate hearing in which both sides could argue their cases.

And seeing as how several pages after Hochberg palmed this problem off on Matt, the police presented Freddy with a preliminary injunction, that must have been exactly what Matt did. See, I told you they made it easy for me. Matt did everything right, so all I had to do was explain what he did and why it worked without the extra step I usually have to include of explaining what Matt should have done but didn’t do and why he should have done it.

Still all I said was that Matt made it easy for me, I didn’t say he made it painless. There was that extra scene when Matt complained to Foggy about his possible moral conflict. The DA’s office is supposed to promote justice, not shut down some guy’s business “because it gets on City Hall’s nerves.” Matt, baby, don’t invite problems. You weren’t shutting a business down because it got on Andrea’s nerves, you were shutting it down because it presented a legitimate health hazard. That’s a good thing and what you’re supposed to do as a DA. Don’t go worrying about problems that don’t exist yet.

If Hochberg tells you do to something at a later date which you think is wrong, then you can have your moral crisis. Don’t worry about it now, before he’s asked you to do that thing, whatever it is, worry about it later when he actually asks you to do it.

And considering how loose your legal ethics have been the past few years, I’m not so sure you’ll worry about it all that much later, either.

The Law Is A Ass: Aquaman Has Problems With His Immunity System

The Law Is A Ass: Aquaman Has Problems With His Immunity System

Aquaman has seen better days. He was king of Atlantis and his subjects actually liked him. He was married to Mera and his wife actually liked him. His villains were so lame not even Jesus could make them walk. Even the Fifth Dimensional imp that appeared in his book was an ally named Quisp and not a prankster that would make Aquaman Quake in his boots. Why, Atlantis even got along with the United States of America.

Now, Aquaman’s life is like a bad cover of a Bob Dylan song, the times they are a changin’ but not in a good way. He and Mera were never married. He’s been deposed as king. Quisp’s now named Qwsp and is malevolent. Oh, and the United States and Atlantis were at war, meaning Aquaman’s life wasn’t just a changin’, it was a changin’ into Sub-Mariner’s.

And for the better part of last year, Aquaman was in one of those Asian bootleg versions of a Pixar movie, because he spent his time finding N.E.M.O.

What’s N.E.M.O.? The Nautical Enforcement of Macrocosmic Order was a clandestine organization of rich people that’s been secretly trying to rule the world through control of the oceans since 1872. Which means it’s the Court of Owls but with bad mortgages; cause it’s under water. After all, what’s a comic book series without a super-secret shadow agency that’s operating right under the very nose of the super hero who should know about it?

(Seriously, Batman didn’t know the Court of Owls was operating in Gotham City? Maybe the New 52 Batman, but the Batman I grew up with would have infiltrated the Court before its second board meeting. And Aquaman one-ups Clint Eastwood in Paint Your Wagon; he talks to the seas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nn8YubD01sk. Not one fish in the entire world noticed the increased activity of surface dwellers dating back to the 19th century and reported it to Aquaman?)

N.E.M.O. knew it had to deal with Aquaman so it sent operatives pretending to be Atlantian soldiers to attack a United States war ship, the U.S.S. Ponchartrain. Result: Aquaman was arrested under the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act for crimes against the United States. (Crud! I think I just wore out the period key on my computer.)

Yes, in Aquaman # 3, the United States arrested Aquaman, the King of Atlantis. Hey, there had to be some law in the story somewhere to justify my writing about it. This is it.

Back in the day, the day being back when Marvel was allowed to print Fantastic Four comics, there were Fantastic Four comics in which they fought Doctor Doom. Lots of them. And, because Doom’s appearance on a cover could spike sales, there were also stories in which the other heroes in the Marvel super heroes fought Doctor Doom in their books. Many of these stories ended the same way; the heroes stopped Doom’s plan, but wouldn’t be able to arrest him, because Victor von Doom was also the king of Latveria. So Doom claimed diplomatic immunity to prevent his being arrested.

While I’m not sure diplomatic immunity works in real life quite the same way it works in comics, it is real. It gives diplomats safe passage in the countries they visit and renders them not susceptible to either lawsuits or criminal prosecution under the host country’s laws. The concept of diplomatic immunity dates back centuries. Then it was codified into international law in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and has been ratified by all but a handful of nations. And if you think diplomatic immunity isn’t real, just ask New York City how much fun it’s been having trying to collect the almost one million dollars in unpaid parking tickets it has from countries like North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Russia.

So when I saw the scene of Aquaman being arrested, my first thought was: As king of Atlantis, wouldn’t Aquaman have diplomatic immunity from prosecution, just like Doctor Doom had? Then I found the answer to the question in the place where I find the answer to so many of life’s questions, Columbo.

Yes, the TV show starring Peter Falk. That Columbo. There was an episode of the show called “A Case of Immunity” from October 12, 1975 – so almost exactly 42 years ago; god I’m old – where Hector Elizondo  played a chief diplomat from the Arabian nation of Suari. As part of a plot to usurp power, he killed an embassy security officer. Columbo knew Elizondo was the murderer, but couldn’t prosecute him, because Elizondo enjoyed diplomatic immunity. You’d enjoy it, too, if it meant you could get away with murder. Ultimately Columbo prevailed because Columbo always prevailed. Oh, and because he goaded the diplomat, who had no fear of being prosecuted, into confessing to the crime.

But Columbo had arranged for the new king of Suari to be in the next room. The king heard the confession and ordered Elizondo to be taken back to Suari and tried for the murder. As Suari had the death penalty and in 1975, America did not, Elizondo waived his diplomatic immunity so that he would be tried in the United States.

So, as I learned from Columbo, diplomats and kings can waive their diplomatic immunity if they so choose. Aquaman chose to do just that so that he could prove that Atlantis did not attack the Ponchartrain and make sure that US-Atlantis relations were not damaged any further.

See, Columbo is good for giving you the answers to your questions. Unfortunately, not for important questions. He’s mostly good for getting the answers to just one little thing.