BATMAN IS THE WORLD’S GREATEST DEFECTIVE
For a man billed as “the world’s greatest detective,” Batman really sucks at his job.
Understand, by detective I don’t mean the guy who sneaks through the bushes to snap photographs of the secret meetings of some modern day Tryst-an and Isolde. I mean a guy who investigates, seeks out clues, and uses deductive reasoning to arrest criminals. A police detective.
The New 52 Batman does precious little clue seeking and thinks deductions are best left to H & R Block. Mostly he beats information out of lowlifes or threatens to drop them off buildings unless they tell him what he wants to know. He’s not so much Dick Tracy as he is Dick Cheney.
In the pre-New 52 continuity Batman had two great mysteries, who killed his parents and Joker’s real name. However, in Batman: The Dark Knight v 2 #0, Bruce Wayne learned Joe Chill killed his parents before Bruce even became Batman. So the post-New 52, Batman only had one major mystery: what is Joker’s real name?
Batman now knows the answer to that question. But not from any detective work. See, in Justice League v2 #42, Batman took over the Mobius Chair, the technological marvel that allows the New God Metron to travel through time and space and store all the knowledge accumulated in his travels. When Batman took possession of the chair, the first thing he did was to ask for the chair to tell him the Joker’s real name.
The world’s greatest detective should have learned the Joker’s real name by detecting. By investigating. Looking for clues. Ratiocination. Batman shouldn’t have solved his greatest mystery by asking an upholstered Magic 8 Ball.
But taking the easy way out was the least of Batman’s detective failings. In Justice League: Darkside War: Batman#1, we discovered what else Batman did with the Mobius Chair and that really proved Batman, like all poor detectives, didn’t have a clue.
Batman used the chair to sift through peoples’ thoughts. He could see what criminals were planning and arrested criminals before they committed their crime. Which gave the Gotham Prosecutors Office an even worse record than Hamilton Burger’s score against Perry Mason. The Prosecutor’s Office had to release most of the perps Batman brought in, because they couldn’t prosecute someone for something they hadn’t done yet.
Our criminal justice system is funny that way. Crimes require both a mens rea, or guilty mind, and an actus reus, or guilty act. Without both, no crime has been committed. Especially the actus reus. That’s really, really got to be there. If no criminal act has been committed, then no crime has been committed. Or, as Tony Baretta might put it, if you don’t do the crime, you don’t have to do the time.
A good detective, let alone, the world’s greatest would-be police detective, would have known this. Batman didn’t.
I’m not saying Batman should have let the crimes happen just so that the perps could be prosecuted. But when a good detective knows when and where a criminal is about to strike, the detective conducts a stake out. (Which shouldn’t be confused with letting one’s T-bone thaw.) The detective waits and watches until the perp takes some affirmative step in furtherance of committing that crime, then the detective arrests the perp. That way the perp can be prosecuted for attempted whatever crime it was that the perp was about to commit.
After Commissioner Gordon scolded Batman for bringing the GCPD perps they couldn’t prosecute, Batman changed his tactics. He confronted four people, all armed with unregistered automatic rifles, who had driven somewhere near the Club Alpha to rob it. They shot at him. Batman didn’t arrest them. Instead, he teleported them to McMurdo Bay in Antarctica, where a Navy icebreaker would be passing in a few hours, to give the criminals time to “contemplate their actions.”
Batman didn’t turn them over to the police, presumably because he didn’t think they could be prosecuted, as they hadn’t actually robbed the Club Alpha yet. But once again he showed a marked misunderstanding of the laws that every good police detective should know by heart.
The perps had automatic rifles. Unregistered automatic rifles. New Jersey NJ Rev Stat § 25:39-5 makes it unlawful to possess unregistered rifles. The same statute also makes it illegal to carry a machine gun, which New Jersey defines machine gun as a firearm that doesn’t require the trigger to be pressed for each shot and which has a means of storing and carrying ammunition which can be loaded into the firearm. A fully automatic rifle meets both these requirements. So the perps who were about to rob the Alpha Club had broken the law. A good detective would have known that he could turn these perps over to the law because they could be prosecuted.
In addition, the perps shot at Batman. He didn’t die because the Mobius Chair protected him. The perps didn’t know that the Mobius Chair would protect Batman, so when they shot at him they committed attempted murder. Again, a crime for which they could be prosecuted.
Finally, a good detective would also know that when four people plan to rob a club at gunpoint, secure the guns that they’re going to use to rob the club at gunpoint, then drive to the club; they have committed a crime. They have planned to commit a crime together then committed at least one overt act in furtherance of their agreement. Two actually, getting the guns and driving the car. That means the four perps were also guilty of conspiracy to rob. So, again, if Batman was a good detective – you know, the kind who knows the law he’s allegedly upholding– he would have turned these perps over to the police to be prosecuted for conspiracy.
Even if the prosecution couldn’t get the attempted murder or conspiracy charges to stick, because Batman was the only witness to them and Batman can’t testify in the New 52 continuity; the weapons charges, they would have stuck. Once the police found the men in possession of illegal weapons, it wouldn’t have mattered that Batman couldn’t testify. The cops could have testified.
After committing these felony faux pas, Batman visited Joe Chill in his prison cell. He asked Chill how many people Chill had killed. “And remember,” he told Chill, “you can’t be tried for hearsay.”
Finally Batman got something right. Chill couldn’t be tried for hearsay. Hearsay is a rule of evidence, not a crime. However, if Batman meant that nothing Chill told him would be admissible in a prosecution for murder, because it would be hearsay, then once again Batman was more wrong than Hello Kitty sex toys.
Chill told Batman he had killed forty people. If Chill were to be prosecuted for any of those forty murders, his statements would be admissible. In these prosecutions Chill’s admissions would be a statement made by a party-opponent in the case. Many jurisdictions, such as Ohio, say such statements are not hearsay, so would be admissible. The other jurisdictions, like New Jersey, consider such statements to be hearsay. But they’d still be admissible because their rules of evidence make statements of a party-opponent an exception to the hearsay rule.
Okay, the statements probably wouldn’t be admissible, because the only witness to them was be Batman and, as I said earlier, Batman can’t testify. So Batman was right for the wrong reason. Still, a good detective would know the right reason.
World’s greatest detective? Please. Detective? Batman’s not even fit to hold Inspector Clouseau’s magnifying glass.