Archive for August, 2009
Crime takes place all around us. Those who step up to do something about it are considered heroes, but what about the rest of us? What duty does the average citizen (or the average superhero for that matter) have to protect those around them? And for those who choose to don the mantle of a crime fighter, what effect does dispensing their own brand of justice have on the rest of their lives?
In a dark alley behind a theater a wealthy couple is walking with their son. Two figures emerge from the shadows; one man with a gun demands money and jewelry while the other stands watch by the street. There’s a struggle; two shots ring out and the couple fall to the ground. Just as the robber is about to pull the trigger on the boy a costumed superhero intervenes deftly subduing the man with the gun. After making sure the boy is alright he gives chase to the lookout and apprehends him a few blocks away. In situations like these there is no question that our hero saved a life but what right did he have to do so? What amount of force was he privileged in using, and can the criminal now bring a lawsuit against him for assault or battery?
Vigilantes forgo the protections of working with the State allowing them to operate without many of the restrictions that accompany civil liberties. They are outside the system; the system doesn’t work; they have rejected the system to pursue their own justice. This freedom at the expense of their quarry is highlighted by a discussion of invasion of privacy. Unlike government actors, evidence obtained by a vigilante in violation of Constitutional protections is not excluded from trial, in fact, Constitutional protections are not even implicated without a government actor.
Batman plants a tracker on your car as you make your getaway; Superman uses his x-ray vision to find stolen goods in your house; and Professor Xavier telepathically extracts your confession; if you’re a criminal Superheros are constantly invading your privacy in the name of “justice.” What’s worse is that some of the citizens who have their privacy invaded aren’t criminals they’re just caught in the crossfire. Assuming you could serve a subpoena on the Hall of Justice or the Xavier School (and actually enforce a summons) what would your remedy be for these intrusions? If you weren’t able to go after the heroes themselves would there be any legal redress in your impending court case or could you even have a case against the government?
Your course of action in these matters depends on the nature of the crime-fighter as either a government actor or a vigilante. If your captor was a government actor the invasion of your privacy may lead to the exclusion of evidence from your criminal case; if a vigilante was involved your next step is a private tort action against the hero.