A Fact-Check for the Four-Color World

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Manhunter #9: The Trial of the Shadow Thief, Part 3

Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artist: Javier Pina

*Spoilers* follow. You've been warned.

In his third issue about the Shadow Thief's trial, Andreyko finally manages to avoid any big legal blunders. But that may be because virtually nothing trial-related actually happened in this issue. If I missed a line that could be addressed, please tell me, but this issue seemed to be a law-free zone for the most part. (It also means that Kate Spencer has managed to go three days of trial without producing any actual evidence regarding a murder.)

One thing worth mentioning is something of a rehash of previous issues. Sands is once again shown in his orange prison jumpsuit. That was wrong in the last two issues, and it's wrong in this one too. But that's hardly a surprise.

What is a surprise is the book's end, when Sands is freed from his tube and demonstrates shadow powers on his own. So apparently, Sands has retained the powers given to him by Neron, and doesn't require a belt any longer.

This makes Sands' solitary confinement tube, which I've ragged on in previous reviews, a little more palatable. Realistically, he still shouldn't be restrained unless he has proven himself to be a disturbance to the courtroom, but as was the case with Bruce Banner, I think it's fair to assume that a world of metahumans would find itself compelled to take extraordinary precautions. Particularly after the first couple of supervillains lash out at trial. One could argue that allowing a superpowered defendant to be unencumbered in the courtroom is akin to allowing the defendant to be armed.

There may be the question of whether a solitary confinement tube is too prejudicial to the defendant. Something less conspicuous, like the mutant inhibitor collars that the X-Men used to have, would probably be preferable to a mobile, glass-walled cell. But whether such is possible involves too much speculation about DCU tech to be answered here. So the tube is tolerable (though the jury would probably need to be told exactly why Sands is confined).

Finally, the revelation about Sands' powers creates an additional problem in an earlier issue which I predicted might come to pass. When Kate called Hawkman to the stand in #7, she asked him two questions. The first was about how Sands had used a Thanagarian belt to commit crimes in the past, and the second was about potential dangers of using the belt.

If Sands still has the superhuman powers granted to him by Neron, then how is the belt at all relevant to the trial? It didn't play a role in the murder, and it wasn't responsible for giving him his internalized powers. It's not even relevant to why he's in the tube. The questions were objectionable before, and now they're not even remotely relevant to the case.

In other words, the real-world equivalent of Hawkman's testimony is this: during a murder trial, the prosecutor calls as his first witness a cop who had previously tangled with the defendant. He doesn't know anything about the murder being tried. Instead, his testimony is all about a weapon that the defendant used to employ in his earlier crimes, but which wasn't involved in the murder being tried. Even if such testimony were admissible (and it wouldn't be), what is a jury supposed to make of it?

One more issue to go, I think. Kate's really gonna have her work cut out for her if she wants to pull out a win.

UPDATE: Another thought on the issue. It's stated that it's the third day of trial, but no expected witnesses are ever named. We don't see Captain Marvel or Vixen or Shining Knight, the three actual witnesses to the murder, even after the courthouse is attacked. So either they are slow to respond to an attack, or they weren't the witnesses for the start of that day. And if the latter, then who did Kate possibly plan on calling? Was she going to go a third day of trial without calling the only people who could testify "Sands killed Firestorm"?