AMANDA WALLER LOSES TO A CONFESSIONAL PROFESSIONAL
There’s an old saying, “Confession is good for the soul.” But what if the confesser has no soul? Then that confession’s not good for much of anything; especially portrayals of the law.
New Suicide Squad #15 had a scene you’ve seen dozens of times. Well I’ve seen it dozens of times, but I’ve been reading comics and watching TV lots longer than most of you. In this particular case, the scene in question involved Amanda Waller, head of Task Force X, also called the Suicide Squad – the secret, and probably illegal, government black ops group made up of DC Universe super villains culled from Belle Reve Prison – and Miss Pesta, CEO of Calvary Corporation, a multinational corporate conglomerate that for the past several issues of New Suicide Squad had been trying to bring the Suicide Squad down, because the Task Force had disrupted several deals Calvary had in place in other countries. (Sorry about that last sentence, it had more clauses than a family reunion at the North Pole.) (And while we’re doing asides, Calvary Corporation? Seriously? Your evil corporation has the same name as the place where Jesus was crucified? Does no one appreciate subtly? What was Calvary’s business address? 666 Satan Place?)
Anyway, Amanda Waller – who is nowhere near as competent or as intimidating as she had been in her pre-New 52 carnation – decided to confront Miss Pesta head on. Toward that end, Waller broke into Pesta’s office and confronted Pesta head on. And armed, not with a gun but with Deadshot, a costumed super villain assassin in the DC Universe. He had the gun, which he pointed directly at Miss Pesta. Waller and Pesta talked of many things. Not shoes – and ships – and sealing wax; just what Pesta and Calvary was up to and why.
Pesta freely admitted that Calvary wanted to bring Task Force X down and had convinced Task Force X’s new supervisor, Vic Sage, to help them. It wasn’t hard, Sage hated Waller and wanted to destroy her. Sage leaked top secret information about Task Force X through one of the Belle Reve inmates under his supervision. The inmate would be blamed for the leak, so it would never be traced back to Sage or Calvary, and Task Force X and Amanda Waller would be shut down.
When Waller pointed out to Pesta that she had just confessed to conspiring to bring down a government program, Pesta almost literally laughed in Waller’s face. Did I mention that this New 52 version of Amanda Waller isn’t anywhere near as competent or as intimidating as the previous version of the character had been? If I didn’t, she isn’t. And if I did, that hasn’t changed.
Pesta’s actual answer was to say, in what I assume was a mocking tone – Pesta’s word balloon didn’t contain a convenient stage direction like mockingly – “So I deny it later or say you coerced me. You did break into my office and held me at gunpoint, after all.”
Seriously, how many times have we seen this scene played out? Bad guy confesses to cop then says, “but I’ll deny ever making this confession and it will be your word against mine,” Or says, “I’ll say you beat it out of me;” actually believing that a judge or a jury will actually believe the bad guy and not the cop. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen the scene more times than I could count on all the fingers at a polydactyl convention.
Please, if for some reason you’re ever braced by the police and you freely confess to some crime, don’t think you’ll be able to convince a judge or jury that either a) you never made the confession or b) the police beat/coerced the confession out of you. In the immortal words of Rocket J. Squirrel to Bullwinkle J. Moose, “But that trick never works!”
Judges and juries don’t want to believe that policemen lie. They don’t want to believe that the police do anything wrong or that any arrest was carried out in any manner other than “by the book.” They especially don’t want to believe that the police beat, torture, or in any other way coerce confessions. Judges and juries want to believe confessions are on the up and up, so that they can convict the defendant with a clear conscience. Having a confession makes keeping that old conscience clear all the easier. In other words, unless you’re a southern belle, you should never begin any sentence to a police officer with the phrase, “I must confess.”
Okay, maybe things aren’t quite as bad as that cynical preceding paragraph made it seem. Except for the part where I said judges and juries don’t want to believe that a confession was anything other than valid. That part is true. I spent twenty-eight years trying to convince judges and juries to the contrary with very, very limited success.
No, let me rephrase that. With no success. From time to time, I did manage to get a judge to suppress physical evidence seized during an illegal search, but I can’t think of even one time where I convinced either a judge or a jury that a confession was coerced and should be disregarded. And don’t think I didn’t try.
Now I’m not saying that it wouldn’t have happened in Miss Pesta’s case. Pesta’s an attractive and rich corporate CEO who could honestly testify that a government operative broke into her office and had an underling point a gun at her head before she confessed. She and her story might have some jury appeal. Which is more than we can say about Amanda Waller. Waller is curt and abrasive and heads up a secret, illegal government operation that most Americans would not want to know existed and who brought a costumed hired gun for intimidation purposes. Under those circumstances, it is possible – possible mind you – that a judge or jury would believe Miss Pesta that she never made the confession or that it was coerced. But it happens so infrequently that, were I Miss Pesta, I certainly wouldn’t want to confess and then bank my freedom on the possibility that I could get someone to buy the into the coercion ploy. Unless, of course, I was planning on going to my bank and buying someone into buying the coercion ploy.
So maybe Miss Pesta could be successful in convincing others that her confession was coerced. Remember she is an evil corporate CEO in a comic book story. (Hey, aren’t they all?) In other words, Miss Pesta is a trained professional bad guy, so don’t try this at home.
Because there’s another old saying you should remember, “Your results may vary.”