I guess it’s just an occupational hazard with the lawyering game; assuming your clients are lying to you. Lord knows, I was guilty of it enough times. Of course, it’s easy to do that, when your initial conversations go something like this.
“I didn’t burgle that house, Mr. Ingersoll.”
“The police found your fingerprints in the house.”
“The police planted my fingerprints there.”
“The police found you in the house.”
“The police planted me there.”
Okay, that was a slight exaggeration. My clients don’t actually know the difference between burgle and rob. But you get the idea.
So, if you guessed today’s column is about Part 3 of “The Good Old Days,” from She-Hulk v.3 #10, you’re right. Now as this was part three of a three-part story, let’s get you up to speed.
In 1940, Harold Fogler left his home in Brooklyn and went out to Los Angeles http://www.discoverlosangeles.com to make his mark. He failed like a wino with bad bourbon. Largely because he hooked up with some “bad people,” who were planning to cause a riot on the Los Angeles docks. Harold’s younger brother, Sam, and a pre-Captain America Steve Rogers came out to LA looking for Harold. They found him. But the bad people found them.
The bad people ordered Harold to shoot Sam and Steve. Harold refused. Then Steve started telling the bad people how weak and cowardly they were. According to Harold, the leader of the bad people told Steve if he didn’t shut up, he’d kill Sam. Steve didn’t shut up. The leader killed Sam.
Seventy-four years later, Harold Fogler related this story for the first time while on his death bed. Then Harold’s heirs sued Captain America claiming that Cap wrongfully caused the death of their uncle Sam when he didn’t stop talking. Jennifer Walters represented Cap and Matt (Daredevil) Murdock represented the Foglers.
Matt introduced Harold’s deathbed statement as his main evidence. He also called Cap to the stand. Cap admitted that everything Harold said was true. And with that the plaintiffs rested their case. (And promptly lost, by the way, because the plaintiffs never introduced any evidence covering what damages Sam’s death caused his great-grandnewphews, so the jury couldn’t award them any money. But that’s another matter.)
Jennifer cross-examined Cap who told the jury his side of the story. It was basically the same as Harold’s side but it added two important things that Harold left out. First, the “bad people” were Nazi saboteurs and American fifth columnists working with the Nazis. Second, the leader didn’t threaten to kill Sam. He said, “Stop talking or someone will die.” Steve didn’t stop talking and the leader told Steve, “I should kill you.” But he didn’t want to kill Steve. He regarded Steve as weak and wanted Steve to marry and have kids so as to infect his country with his weakling genes. So the leader killed the “strong one,” Sam.
And there’s the difference: in Cap’s account, the leader didn’t threaten to kill Sam, he threatened to kill someone. Steve thought the leader was going to kill him, so didn’t know his talking would cause Sam’s death. That being the case, Steve didn’t act negligently in continuing to talk, so didn’t wrongfully cause Sam’s death.
The case became what, I used to call a swearing match when I was lawyering. No, I don’t mean the witnesses got on the stand and started cussing; although that happened often enough. No, it means one side’s witnesses testify and swear the events happened one way. The other side’s witnesses testify and swear they happened another way. Then it was up to the jury to decide which side’s swearing it believes.
She-Hulk was worried about the case. Steve couldn’t verify his version with any records because the matter had been classified. I think She-Hulk was over-thinking the case and worrying for nothing. Personally, I think it could have been the shortest closing argument in history. “Hey, jury, you have two versions of the story. One from a fifth columnist Nazi saboteur and terrorist, the other from Captain America. Who are you going to believe?” But She-Hulk worried. Probably because, lawyers believe their clients are lying, and she feared the jury would too.
Cap had anticipated She-Hulk’s doubts. But he needed She-Hulk to believe in his veracity, so that she could convince the jury of his veracity. So he had She-Hulk’s investigator, Hellcat, break into a government facility and steal the classified documents. He gave them to She-Hulk to prove he was telling the truth. But he told She-Hulk she couldn’t use the documents in trial.
Let me get this straight. Cap had no problem with Hellcat breaking into a government facility and stealing classified documents, but had qualms about introducing them in court? Hey, Cap, I have a suggestion for you. Should this happen again, call your contacts at S.H.I.E.L.D. or the White House and have them declassify the documents. They were seventy-four years old, for crying out loud, and had only been classified because back in the 40s, the government didn’t want the American people to know that “Nazis were working on U.S. soil.” Seventy-four years later, the government wouldn’t even care about this secret anymore. They would have declassified the documents for you in a second. Then you could have used them at the trial.
Anyway, armed with her new-found confidence in Cap’s veracity, She-Hulk gave an impassioned and convincing – because she was convinced herself – closing argument. She said exactly what I said in my version of the closing argument. Only longer. And the result was …
Actually, I don’t know the outcome of the case. Right as the forewoman of the jury was saying “We find the defendant…” the story cut to a new scene. I can’t tell you whether the jury found the defendant guilty or not guilty. Which is good. That way I don’t have to issue a spoiler warning.
So, I can’t tell you what the jury decided. I can, however, tell you this; despite what the forewoman started to say, the jury didn’t find the defendant either guilty or not guilty. This was a civil trial, remember. Juries don’t find defendants guilty or not guilty in civil cases. They either find for the plaintiff or find the defendant. But guilt doesn’t enter into their deliberations.
One little follow up and for this I do have to issue a
Cap deduced that someone was behind this plot against him. Someone who wanted to discredit Cap and tarnish his reputation. Someone who convinced Harold to come forward after all this time, then convinced Harold’s heirs to sue Captain America, and leaked other evidence in the case. That someone was Dr. Faustus. So Cap, She-Hulk, and Daredevil fought their way past Dr. Faustus’s guards and into Dr. Faustus’s hideout, where Cap punched out Faustus cold.
Which created a whole new problem for She-Hulk. Cause when Dr. Faustus sues Cap for assault and She-Hulk represents him, if Cap denies his involvement, she won’t just assume he’s lying, she’ll know.