Tag Archive: Superheroes

When Good Guys Do Bad Things – Trespassing in “Young Justice”

After a three-month hiatus, Cartoon Network’s “Young Justice” returned to the air on September 29, 2012. Young Justice is a superhero television show based on the DC Comics Universe and its characters. Additionally, Young Justice focuses on The Team. The Team is a team of sidekicks of Justice League superheroes who fulfill tasks/missions delegated by the Justice League.  Moreover, the members of The Team include, but are not limited to Night Wing/Tim Drake (sidekick of Batman), Kid Flash/Wally West (sidekick of The Flash), Miss Martian/M’Gann M’Orzz (sidekick/niece of Martian Manhunter) and Aqua Lad/Kaldur’ahm (sidekick of Aqua Man).

In the most recent episode (air date October 13), entitled Before The Dawn, The Team had some of its members kidnapped by a group of aliens known as The Reach. Additionally, The Reach’s motive in kidnapping the members of The Team was to conduct experiments on the members who possessed superpowers and the members who lacked superpowers. Thus, with some of their members being held captive by The Reach, The Team (Night Wing, Miss Martian, and Wonder Girl) embarks on a covert mission to save their comrades.

Miss Martian, who is able to walk through walls undetected, flies through the outer wall of The Reach’s ship and rescues her captive teammates. Subsequently, Miss Martian unlocks the door to the ship allowing her other teammates to assist with the rescue. The legal issue that arises, from the incident described above, is whether The Team trespassed into The Reach’s ship? The Reach’s ship is underwater in the fictional city of Metropolis. Thus, because Metropolis is analogized to New York, New York’s ordinances will be applied.

New York Penal Code Article 140.17 states, in pertinent part, that:  “A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the first degree when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building, and when, in the course of committing such crime, he: (1) Possesses, or knows that another participant in the crime possesses, an explosive or a deadly weapon…” Additionally, New York Penal Code Article 140.00 states that a “Building, in addition to its ordinary meaning, includes any structure, vehicle or watercraft used for overnight lodging of persons, or used by persons for carrying on business therein…” Furthermore, under Article 140.00, a person “‘enters or remains unlawfully’ in or upon premises when he is not licensed or privileged to do so.”

In the episode, Before The Dawn, it is likely that Miss Martian, and the other members of The Team, commit first degree criminal trespassing. The element of knowledge is satisfied, because the rescuing members of The Team devised, and prepared, an intricate plan to break into the ship and rescue their captive teammates. The amount of planning The Team did, and the subsequent execution of that plan, shows knowledge/intent.

Additionally, The Team was not licensed or privileged to enter The Reach’s ship. This lack of license, or privilege, is illustrated by the fact that The Team had to devise a plan that would allow them access to the ship without being detected. Furthermore, Miss Martian used her power of invisibility to enter the ship, because she knew that she could possibly be harmed if she entered the ship and was detected. Thus, the element of unlawful entry is met.

Moreover, The Reach’s ship would be considered a “building” under New York law. The Reach’s ship was a watercraft, which the statute explicitly states is a building. Additionally, while no one was ever shown sleeping on the ship, The Reach conducted business on the ship. Although The Reach was involved in an unsavory manner of business, human experimentation, there actions still constitute business nonetheless.

Finally, the last element of the crime is the element that most lends itself to ambiguity. Night Wing always carries explosives and uses them in most of his fights. Night Wing is Batman’s protégé, and follows Batman’s maxim of never killing an opponent. Although Night Wing never kills his opponents, he often uses smoke bombs, gas bombs, and other explosive weaponry, to subdue his opponents. Furthermore, as soon as Night Wing entered the ship he threw an explosive at one of his attackers, causing the attackers body to be launched across the room. While Miss Martian did not possess any explosives or deadly weapons herself, it is likely that she knew Night Wing possessed explosives. However, it cannot be said with certainty that the other members of The Team knew that Night Wing possessed explosives.

Alternatively, The Team may claim that their actions were justified and not criminal. Under New York Penal Code Article 35.05(2), and under People v. Maher, 79 N.Y.2d 978, conduct which would normally result in a criminal offense is justifiable when “necessary as an emergency measure to avoid an imminent public or private injury which is about to occur by reason of a situation occasioned or developed through no fault of the actor, and which is of such gravity that, according to ordinary standards of intelligence and morality, the desirability and urgency of avoiding such injury clearly outweigh the desirability of avoiding the injury sought to be prevented by the statute defining the offense in issue”. The rescuing Team members may argue that because their teammates, and other humans, were being held captive  by The Reach, a malicious and violent alien race, that trespassing was necessary. Moreover, the Team may be able to prove necessity because the captive Team members were going to be experimented on, and killed by The Reach. Thus, in order to save the lives of The Reach’s prisoners, The Team had no other reasonable option but to break into the ship and rescue the prisoners.

In conclusion, it is likely that the elements of criminal trespassing were satisfied in this incident. However, the analysis turns on the fact of whether Night Wing possessed explosives. Thus, if Night Wing possessed explosives and The Team knew about these explosives, then they would all be liable for criminal trespassing in the first degree. Conversely, if Night Wing possessed the explosives and the other Team members had no knowledge of the explosives, then Night Wing would liable for criminal trespassing in the first degree, and the other Team members would be liable for a lesser crime. Alternatively, The Team may attempt to invoke a justification defense and claim that their actions were necessary to save the lives of their comrades, and prevent grave injury.


Hero Behind Bars – False Imprisonment in “Alphas”

The Sy-Fy channel’s, television show, “Alphas” focuses on the lives of superheroes known as Alphas. Alphas are not the indestructible , flight-capable , otherworldly type of superheroes that exist in comic books. However, Alphas are human beings who were born with something in their genetic makeup that grants them certain abilities not possessed by normal humans. These abilities include, but are not limited to, enhancement of the five senses, super strength (for limited periods of time) and mind control.  Furthermore, the main characters are a team of good Alphas, led by a psychiatrist (Dr. Rosen), who fight to save the world from bad Alphas. The objective of the bad Alphas is to create a world in which normal humans are subservient to Alphas. Conversely, the objective of the good Alphas is to protect humanity, and prevent world domination, by finding and capturing the bad Alphas.

In the most recent episode (air-date Sept. 24), Dani Rosen (Dr. Rosen’s daughter) – an Alpha – is sent undercover to help the police catch Stanton Parish, the show’s main antagonist.  Once Dani arrives at Stanton’s hideout, she is taken to a secluded room. The door to the room is locked and a guard is seen standing outside of the door, blocking the room’s only entrance and exit.

The legal issue that stems from this incident is, whether Dani was subject to false imprisonment due to the actions of Stanton Parish’s guards? “Alphas” is set in New York, so New York law controls this incident.  According to Curry v. City of Syracuse, 316 F.3d 324, “The elements of false arrest under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 are substantially the same as the elements under New York law. The elements of false arrest and false imprisonment claims are identical: (1) the defendant intended to confine the plaintiff, (2) the plaintiff was conscious of the confinement, (3) the plaintiff did not consent to the confinement and (4) the confinement was not otherwise privileged.”

The first element of false imprisonment, under New York law, is that the defendant intended to confine the plaintiff. In the episode, before Dani was taken to the secluded room, Stanton Parish commanded his guards to take her away. Thus, the language used by Parish showed his intention to confine Dani.

Moreover, the second element – that the plaintiff must be conscious of the confinement – was met because Dani was aware of the fact that she was locked in the secluded room. Additionally, Dani declared numerous times that she wanted to be let out of the room, once she was locked in. These events meet the requirements of consciousness.

Furthermore, according to the Curry case, a confinement is privileged when the individual, who has imprisoned another, has the legal authority to imprison another. Stanton is not a police officer, nor does he work for any law enforcement agency. Likewise, Stanton’s guards are not law enforcement agents. Therefore, because the confinement was not privileged, the fourth element of false imprisonment is met.

Finally, the element of consent is ambiguous and uncertain, when applied to this incident. In the episode, once Stanton Parish told the guard to take Dani away, Dani calmly walked away with the guard. The fact that Dani just walked away with the guard, without putting up a fight or resisting in any manner, appears to show consent. However, Dani may not have resisted because Stanton Parish and his guards (armed with guns) outnumbered her, and resistance may have led to her demise. Thus, if it is determined that Dani’s inaction was consent to the confinement, then that third element is not met. Conversely, if the surrounding circumstances are considered, then Dani may not have consented, and the third element would be met.

Upon analyzing the issue of false imprisonment it is more likely, than not, that Stanton Parish’s guards falsely imprisoned Dani. Furthermore, false imprisonment is likely met because: the guards intended to confine Dani, Dani was conscious of her confinement, the confinement was not privileged and, considering the surrounding circumstances, Dani did not consent to being confined.

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