Bob Ingersoll: The Law Is A Ass #362: THE PHANTOM MENACE

He’s the Ghost Who Walks. And recently he’s been walking a fine line between right and wrong. Mostly wrong.

As a regular readers of ComicMix, you probably already know the eponymous star of the comic strip The Phantom. But just in case, the Phantom – real name Kit Walker – is the latest crime fighter in a family of crime fighters. The first Phantom appeared in Bangalla, Africa in the year 1536 and made the solemn oath, “I swear to devote my life to the destruction of piracy, greed, cruelty, and injustice, in all their forms! My sons and their sons, shall follow me.”

In every generation since, the oldest Walker son, upon the death of his father, dons the costume of the Phantom – a skin tight purple body suit that’s about as practical for running around in hot tropical jungles as a suit of armor would be for swimming the English Channel – and fights crime. The Phantom is also the commander of the Jungle Patrol, a Bengalli police force which, unless it was really bad at names, operates in the jungle.

For 21 generations the Phantom has fought crime. Now he’s committing them.

Recently, the Phantom chased a murderer named Barker through the junglecontent-1

As Barker ran, he wiped his fingerprints off his gun then threw the murder weapon into the brushcontent

The Phantom found the gun, brought it back, and placed it in Barker’s hand so that his finger prints would be on it when the Jungle Patrol found him. content-2

This was wrong. The Phantom planted evidence. He moved it from the bushes to Barker’s hand, where it needed it to be for a conviction. Yes, I know he was putting it back where it had been, so it wasn’t like he planted evidence that was never there to obtain a conviction. Still planting evidence is illegal and wrong. Apparently 21 generations of getting his own way spoiled the Phantom rotten.

By putting Barker’s fingerprints on the gun, after Barker had wiped it clean, the Phantom also falsified evidence. He placed incriminating evidence on the gun which wasn’t there when he found it. Again, the Phantom restored the gun to the condition it had been in before Barker doctored it, but you know the old saying about two wrongs not making a right. Everybody knows it’s three lefts that make a right.

Don’t worry about how Barker’s trial turned out. When the Jungle Patrol showed him the gun found in his hand, he said, “In my hand!? B-but I tossed the gun!” content-3

Barker stupidly admitted the murder weapon was his gun and that he had possessed it; thereby killing any chance he might have had to challenge the evidence as planted.

Actually, there was a third reason why what the Phantom did was wrong. When the Phantom retrieved the gun, a viper bit his armcontent-4

The Phantom didn’t know what kind of viper it was, so he gave himself a broad spectrum treatment of anti-venom, which had the adverse side effect of giving him amnesia. What followed was several months of story where the amnesiac Phantom joined the Jungle Patrol, because he instinctively knew that was where he belonged.

What the Phantom did was wrong, because we endured what may have been the most boring Phantom story ever written; a story that ended exactly as we knew it would, as everyone knew the Phantom would get his memory back eventually. Note to the Phantom: don’t plant evidence again. Apparently Karma doesn’t like it when you do. And while it may seek to punish you, we’re the ones who end up suffering for it.

Even more recently – as in earlier this month – the Phantom broke into a condominium in a Bangalli city. He opened a wall safe and ransacked it for incriminating paperwork. Then the Phantom waited for the condo’s owner to return.

The Phantom beat the condo owner senseless, or more senseless than he already was considering he bought a condo in Africa in today’s housing market. The Phantom took the man into the building’s fire stairs. He did this because the police in Bangalla, which has a constitution very similar to that of the United States, didn’t have a warrant to search the condo and find the incriminating papers. The Phantom dumped the incriminating papers on the man content-5

 and left them in a public area of the condo building, where the police could find them in plain view.

Apparently the Bangalli constitution is so similar to our own, that it also recognizes a Plain View exception to the Exclusionary Rule. So if the police are some place where they can lawfully be, say the public stairs of a condo building, they can seize incriminating evidence found in plain view without a search warrant. The Bangalli Plain View doctrine might even be a little more liberal than the one we have in the United States. In our Plain View doctrine, the incriminating nature of the evidence must be immediately apparent. Marijuana, for example, can be seized, because police can tell by looking at it that it’s contraband. But if the police see something like expensive stereo equipment which seems out of place in a squalid apartment, they can’t move the stereo equipment and check the serial numbers, because the criminal nature of the stereo equipment wasn’t immediately apparent to the naked eye. It required further examination to determine it was criminal in nature.

The criminal nature of the papers wouldn’t be immediately apparent, either. Someone would have to read them to determine they were incriminating. If the Phantom’s staged scene put the papers under the Plain View Doctrine, it’s a more expansive Plain View Doctrine than ours. That or some writer threw a out legal term without knowing what it meant. But writers wouldn’t do that, would they? As a writer myself, I’ll give writers the benefit of the doubt and say Bangalla’s Plain View Doctrine is broader. (See, who says I can’t play nice?)

The Phantom is a member of the Jungle Patrol. Hell, he’s it’s commander. He’s a Bangalli police officer. His actions are, therefore, subject to the limitations that the Bangalli constitution imposes on the police. When the Phantom broke into the condo and took the incriminating papers from the wall safe, he committed illegal search and seizure. He also committed aggravated burglary. Then the Phantom assaulted the condo owner, who had a perfect right to defend himself against a masked and armed trespasser. Finally, the Phantom planted evidence again, when he left the man and the incriminating papers in a public stairwell rather than in the condo where they had been. It’s all very enterprising, but it’s not in the least bit admirable.

Next the Phantom called the police to the building so they could find the criminal and his papers. Did the Phantom make an anonymous call to the cops? Nope. He discharged his .45 several times in order to wake up the innocent people who lived in the building and scare them half to death so they’d call the cops.

Not a very nice thing to do. But this Phantom has no qualms about planting evidence or aggravated burglary. What’s terrorizing a little old lady or two to him?

You can call me old-fashioned, if you want. You’d be wrong – at 62 I’m certainly old enough, but anyone who’s met me knows I have no sense of fashion. However, I do admit to holding to the old-fashioned concept that heroes, the good guys, shouldn’t commit crimes in order to fight crime. They should be better than what they fight.

The Phantom. Also called “The Ghost Who Walks.” And now we know the real reason he earned that nickname. Because when the Phantom walks, he walks all over the Constitution.