DC Universe: It's Just Unconstitutional!
hate it when writers write about criminal proceedings when
they have absolutely no understanding of the American Criminal
Justice system. Sadly, such is the case with J.T. Krul and
the most recent arc of Green Arrow. As if Green
Arrow killing Prometheus in an act of premeditated murder
(a crime that in California is classified as first degree
murder and carries a prison term of 25 years to life) wasn’t
bad enough, but he did it by means of “lying in wait”
(a special circumstance in California that would make Green
Arrow eligible for the death penalty or life in prison without
the possibility of parole) for Prometheus to return to his
was disheartening enough as a Green Arrow fan for more years
than I care to remember, but what occurred in Green
Arrow #32 was just insulting to me as a lawyer.
of all, Green Arrow did not commit a crime! What do you
mean Troy? You just said that Green Arrow committed first
degree murder and that he should receive the death penalty.
Well Green Arrow did and he didn’t commit murder.
he killed a man but legally, he didn’t commit a murder.
Where did Green Arrow kill Prometheus? He killed him in
Limbo. In order for a crime to be prosecuted the government
has to have what is referred to as “jurisdiction”
to prosecute the crime.
another way the crime must have taken place within the boundaries
of authority of particular prosecuting agency. A deputy
district attorney in California represents the People of
the State of California. As part of the proceedings the
prosecuting attorney has to establish that their office
has the authority to prosecute the crime by establishing
that the crime took place in the California and more specifically
their county (i.e., Santa Clara, San Francisco
or Los Angeles).
U.S. attorney would have to prove that the crime took place
on U.S. soil (embassies count). Even people in the Military
are subject to the laws of the country they are stationed
in unless there is a specific SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement)
signed with the host country (essentially a mini treaty)
that establishes which justice system will prosecute U.S.
soldiers in case of a crime committed on foreign soil.
was a mini-law school education to say that STAR CITY DOES
NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO PROSECUTE CRIMES IN LIMBO!
Green Arrow killed Prometheus, I thought that future stories
might revolve around how Green Arrow had committed a "perfect
murder" and could not be prosecuted for it and how
the other heroes would react because for them to punish
Green Arrow in some sort of extra-judicial manner would,
to use the language of the medium, "make them no better
than the criminal they were attempting to punish."
resulting angst amongst the heroes could have been interesting.
Instead we got to watch as they all stood by while Green
Arrow was unlawfully arrested and unmasked and stood trial
for something that did not occur in Star City or even on
the planet Earth. Star City might as well have prosecuted
all the super-heroes for the Black Lanterns that they just
finished "killing” in the Blackest Night
mini-series (one cannot be convicted of murder for killing
something that is already dead or not human).
that "trial" was insane. Now I am aware that I
am asking for rationality in a world where men and woman
can fly; masked vigilantes are allowed to roam free; and
a city exists where its inhabitants cannot figure out that
its two most prominent citizens who sport identical blond
Van Dyke beards are the same person; but reality can only
be stretched so thin.
in criminal trials are not allowed to just stand up and
deliver a monologue to the jury. Green Arrow would have
had to take the stand after being sworn in and been subject
to cross-examination by the prosecutor.
only part of the trial that made any sense was the jury’s
verdict in acquitting Green Arrow. I don’t believe
this was an example of “jury nullification”,
I think the jurors were the only people in the court room
who actually read the jury instructions and realized that
the crime did not take place in Star City.
once Green Arrow was acquitted he was a FREE MAN. A Judge
can throw out a guilty verdict if there is not enough evidence
for any reasonable jury to convict but there is nothing
that allows a judge to overrule a not guilty verdict. There
is a “little” concept in the U.S. Constitution
prohibiting double jeopardy. This means someone cannot be
prosecuted for a crime after he has been acquitted.
idea is that this prevents the Government from harassing
a person once he has been found not guilty of a crime. When
the Judge orders Green Arrow to leave town he simply did
not have any power to do that. He was punishing Green Arrow
for a crime that he had already been acquitted. Not Guilty
means not guilty. When the jury returned their verdict of
not guilty the Judge lost all authority over Green Arrow
and could not force him to move simply because he didn’t
like the jury’s verdict.
Arrow #32 was bad and then I read Brightest Day
that book, Professor Zoom and Captain Boomerang are in Iron
Heights. This is supposed to be a real prison. It doesn't
bother me that sometimes at Arkham we see the inmates in
their super-villain gear. I always chalk that up to Dr.
Arkham trying out some different form of therapy but Iron
Heights is supposed to be a prison. There is no way they
would let Captain Boomerang and Professor Zoom stay in their
also made me upset in the Green Arrow issue but
I justified it by thinking that since the city had been
destroyed maybe they couldn't find any clean prison jumpsuits
important than their wardrobe however is the question, “Why
are Captain Boomerang and Professor Zoom in jail?”
They've been dead for years. What crimes did they commit
after they were resurrected? I'm sure even in the comic
book world the law loses the authority to punish someone
after they are dead.
think that Boomerang and Zoom's resurrections legally give
them a clean slate as far as the courts are concerned. Barry
(Flash) Allen can't just lock them up because of things
that Zoom and Boomerang did before all three of them died
and he certainly can’t lock them up for things they
might do in the future.
hoping that the future of the DC Universe includes some
criminal due process.
Benson serves justice as a crusading deputy district attorney
in a large metropolis somewhere south of Star City.