A Fact-Check for the Four-Color World

Monday, July 11, 2005

Ultimate Indictments

Even though he may be the most prolific writer in comics right now, I don't think I've critiqued anything from a Bendis book yet. But now I can remedy that, with this passage from a TV news program Ultimate Spider-Man #79:

"[Walter] Dini, known consigliore of Kingpin Wilson Fisk, was indicted at his home Tuesday morning, said the Assistant U.S. Attorney."

There are two ways that criminal charges can be formally filed against someone: indictment or information. Indictments are for serious crimes, typically felonies, and involve the prosecutor taking the case before a grand jury. The grand jury hears witness testimony and evidence, and if it decides that there is a probable cause that crimes were committed, it issues an indictment, formally charging the defendant with the crime(s).

Informations, on the other hand, are usually used for misdemeanors and don't involve grand juries. Just judges and paperwork.

Thus, it doesn't make any sense for a person to be "indicted at his home." (That is, unless the grand jury met at his home.) I'm not sure what Bendis was trying to convey, either. Maybe he meant "arrested"? I can't think of anything else that would happen at the defendant's home.

The easy out here is that the TV reporter didn't know what s/he was talking about, and used the wrong word. And that's not too unlikely, since the news media has been known to bungle things like the concept of 'arraignment' on a fairly regular basis. But that's a topic for another time.