Jump to content

Superhero Commits Murder


Acroyear II
 Share

Recommended Posts

One of the PC heroes in my campaign recently crossed the line and killed a villain. I have been running the Demons Rule adventure, during which the heroes must battle real demons who are using teenage gang members as host bodies. After the first major battle with the Demons, one of the heroes becomes convinced that there will be no way for Stronghold to contain the defeated Demons. Not yet knowing that the Demons are using teenage gang members as host bodies, the hero decides that the only course of action is to kill the Demons. It took him several phases to kill the Demon, as he wanted to rip it's head off with his great strength. Let me tell you, he and the rest of the team were pretty shocked when they saw that head come off and revert to it's true form of a teenage boy.

 

The question now is, what should the hero be charged with, and what kind of jail time is he facing?

 

I had the DA charge him with Second Degree Murder (of the Demon) and Involuntary Manslaughter for the death of the teenage boy. What's worse, the act of killing the unconscious Demon was caught on video tape by the museum's security cameras. Also, isn't there some kind of criminal charge for dismembering a body? Ripping the head of the Demon/boy may add another charge to the list.

 

The hero was given Bond due to the circumstances of the crime, and has been released from prison into the team leader's custody. He is currently suspended from the team, and is awaiting trial.

 

Did I charge him with the right crimes? How many years is he facing in jail? Might he get off of the Second Degree Murder charges, as he thought he was killing a Demon. Still, as an agent of the law, he should not kill an unconscious criminal, especially by decapitation. What do you guys think?

 

Thanks in advance.

 

Acroyear II

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Re: Superhero Commits Murder

 

Originally posted by Acroyear II

Let me tell you, he and the rest of the team were pretty shocked when they saw that head come off and revert to it's true form of a teenage boy.

 

The question now is, what should the hero be charged with, and what kind of jail time is he facing?

 

I had the DA charge him with Second Degree Murder (of the Demon) and Involuntary Manslaughter for the death of the teenage boy. What's worse, the act of killing the unconscious Demon was caught on video tape by the museum's security cameras. Also, isn't there some kind of criminal charge for dismembering a body? Ripping the head of the Demon/boy may add another charge to the list.

 

I believe, according to the Champions Universe book, Demonic entities would not be 'persons' under the law. I would think he'd get get the Involuntary Manslaughter for the teenager, tops.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

They might go so far as to argue that the death of the teenaged boy was a result of 'depraved indifference' rather than mere negligence, at which point it becomes Murder Two.

 

Basically, whether or not the DA goes for the manslaughter charge or the full-court press depends on three things, two in-game and one out-of-game:

 

a) whether or not the DA is sympathetic or antagonistic towards "capes"

 

B) whether or not the DA think he can get the jury to convict for Murder Two

 

c) whether the DM wants to go easy on the player or drop the People's Elbow on the player's nuts -- i.e., exactly /how strong/ a message the DM wants to send re: "This is not, repeat *NOT*, what heroes do."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Depending on setting, killing a demon is something you get medals for, not jail time. Think Buffy the Mass Murderer... As for the human, if they had no reason to believe their actions were in any way were endangering life (in fact that there even was a life to endanger, think hunting accident), it's at worst accidental homicide and again, no jail time. They may get sued of course, and in a land where you can sue for spilling coffee in your own lap, they may end up having to pay out a bunch of money, but you could cover that with insurence or government paying it and the hero only haveing to do some sort of apology to the family or whatever.

 

Of course, now that they KNOW these demons are actually possesed humans...

 

BTW, this is probably one of the toughest situations for players to be in with innocents being the criminals, and a good time to cut the players a bit of slack. It sounds like the demons are pretty powerful and so you can't be expecting the players to be pulling their punchs all the time. Better to stick the player with a disad like dependant: gang member's grandmother, hunted: local gang, losing a contact etc. or use it as a further adventure plot seed than to the really nail a hero for it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's a couple of ideas (for Evil GMs):

 

The DA presses for the maximum (for whatever reason). However, during trial, he cannot successfully argue that the crime was "premeditated". In other words, he argues that the hero came there with intent to kill the villain, but the defense lawyer manages to convince the jury the death was incidental. Without premeditation, the highest charge does not stick. He is free... but the public knows what he did. There will be a stigma attached to him for a long time.

 

-or-

 

Maybe no one really blames him for what happened in the public. But he is now often followed by the ghost of the kid.

His own guilt may be eating him alive.

 

-or-

 

Have everyone (even the prosecutor) bend over backwards to do their best for the hero due to his fine record. Then have a group of villains break into jail and kidnap him. Leave a trail of evidence showing in the prison phone logs that he had communication with some villains on the outside. Suddenly it looks like he made a deal with the enemy to get broken out. In truth he's kidnapped. It's up to the rest of the heroes to prove that he is innocent of fleeing prosecution.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also, consider scenario from another defense lawyer standpoint:

 

Fact: Demon possession going on, demon had possessed kid.

 

Fact: Hero acted in unusual way, killing demon/kid.

 

Possibility: Was Hero being somehow unknowingly influenced by demonic entity at the time?

 

Even if Hero himself doesn't think so, might be enough for "reasonable doubt" in the mind of a jury given the very unusual circumstances.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What's worse, the act of killing the unconscious Demon was caught on video tape by the museum's security cameras.

The important point to remember was that the demon was already incapacitated -- knocked out. The ONLY reason the hero did this is because he didn't think Stronghold couldn't contain the demon. However, I don't see any indication that Stronghold was consulted on the matter, and it ought not have been THAT hard to simply keep the demon unconscious until that determination could be made. In any case, what the ultimate fate of a captured criminal should be is NOT for the heroes to decide, any more than it is for the police to decide. Isn't there something in the law about use of necessary force? Isn't vigilantism at least ostensibly against the law?

 

I don't think depraved indifference is stretching all that far. I expect an unsympathetic DA would use that as a big stick even if he was expecting to ultimately plea bargain down to a lesser charge.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hmmm... if he deliberately chose to execute an unconscious foe, that's Murder *One*.

 

Note re: the 'goes free' scenario -- we'd need somebody with legal expertise to advise us, but it *might* be possible to prosecute simultaneously for murder *and* "lesser included offenses". So even if he beats the 'premeditated' rap as suggested above, he'd still be on the hook for something.

 

But then again, there's what the law says, and what the game needs. If the game needs a player's character to go away to Stronghold for 25 to life, then you're the DM -- just say that the DA prosecuted, the jury upheld, and have him sent there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Chuckg

Hmmm... if he deliberately chose to execute an unconscious foe, that's Murder *One*.

 

Note re: the 'goes free' scenario -- we'd need somebody with legal expertise to advise us, but it *might* be possible to prosecute simultaneously for murder *and* "lesser included offenses". So even if he beats the 'premeditated' rap as suggested above, he'd still be on the hook for something.

 

But then again, there's what the law says, and what the game needs. If the game needs a player's character to go away to Stronghold for 25 to life, then you're the DM -- just say that the DA prosecuted, the jury upheld, and have him sent there.

The "gamble" with lesser included offenses is that juries tend to go towards them instead of the maximum sentence. District attorney is a political position, which means that often having to say, "he got 5 to 10" rather than "I put him away for life" can hurt your image. Of course having him not get convicted at all would be worse.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The important point to remember was that the demon was already incapacitated -- knocked out.

 

Don't forget he's, ah, um... get this... a demon, a servant of evil, an inhuman monster sent by the devil to destroy mankind. I'm thinking the church isn't going to have any problem raising an infinite amount of money for a superhero defence fund myself, and if the current politicians don't take a hand in letting the heros go, they're going to find themselves getting 0 seats next election and probably having to deal with massive protests and riots about the fact that they're more interested in protecting satan's spawn than humans.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by J4y

The important point to remember was that the demon was already incapacitated -- knocked out.

 

Don't forget he's, ah, um... get this... a demon, a servant of evil, an inhuman monster sent by the devil to destroy mankind. I'm thinking the church isn't going to have any problem raising an infinite amount of money for a superhero defence fund myself, and if the current politicians don't take a hand in letting the heros go, they're going to find themselves getting 0 seats next election and probably having to deal with massive protests and riots about the fact that they're more interested in protecting satan's spawn than humans.

Actually, I think the demon thing is going to be a whole other can of worms (unless it's a Silver Age or Gold Age campaign).

 

Granted, there's going to be some preaching from pulpits about demons -- but I don't think that's going to be a factor in the court (assuming "western" country, here). To make that point, the defense would have to introduce testimony that the demon was, in fact, a demon. What kind of expert testimony -- Jesuits? super-mages? -- is going to be able to avoid straying into religious matters on that?

 

Furthermore, there's any number of examples in comics of "reformed demons" -- Etrigan, Son of Satan, etc. So if the campaign world has a "reformed demon" running around, now how much of a defense is that?

 

But there is definately an opportunity to play up the religious frenzy, here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Acroyear II,

 

How has the player reacted to this turn of events? True remorse, or just "oops!"? How realistic do you play? And, if you put the hero in jail, how is the player going to react?

 

Not to metagame, but, well, this is a game after all. If the player is truly remorseful (if the game runs really late, I've seen players do some truly loopy, out-of-character stuff), I'd find a way to salvage things. Even so, the player is going to have to meet you half-way and he's going to have to pay for what he did. Just not necessarily with jail time.

 

I'd avoid the trite "it was all a dream" thing, but maybe there's something else you can set up. I've never read through or played in Demons Rule, but perhaps events to that point are precursors to a demonic invasion. This allows the hero to somehow get a pardon.

 

Or the demons interfere and make sure the hero doesn't go to prison. They influence the lawyers, judge, and jury to get the hero off on a technicality but everybody knows he's guilty, making him a social pariah. The demons are trying to turn the hero over to their side by turning society, and maybe his teammates, against him.

 

Anyway, just some things to think about.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Corpus Delicti . Prosicutors do not have a dead demon. Put expert defense witnesses on to argue that demons exist outside time, and therefore cannot be killed. No demon was killed, just returned to its plane of existance of origin. At worst, the PC is guilty of the unauthorized forceable ejection of an illegal alien, presuming a demon even qualifies as a "person" under the law. Murder One charge goes away.

 

The Murder Two charge is more complicated. Was the teenager a willing participant? Did he agree for the demon to use his body, or was this against his will?

 

If a willing participant, and the PC has a good reputation, and you want to continue that character, plea down to manslaughter, no jail time.

 

If against his will, argue that it was recless indifference on the part of the wizard summoning the demon, not the PC, that killed the boy. The wrong person is on trial here! It's a hail mary, but a jury might acquitt.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I feel I should refer you to the latest issue of Astro City, if no one else has already. The story involves a court case where the defense attorney cites examples of evil twins, mind control, etc. as is well established in super-hero-populated worlds to get his clearly guilty client off the hook. The story shows you how criminal cases involving super-people are virtually untriable by conventional methods.

 

This means that the court will have a choice:

A. Let the defendant get off thereby observing the rule of law but sending out the message that the court is powerless in the face of such things.

B. Send the defendant to jail regardless of arguments (yes, a judge really can do this if he's willing to cross certain lines) thereby setting a terrible legal precedent but showing the world that some semblance of order remains.

 

It's a tough choice.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by BoloOfEarth

Acroyear II,

 

How has the player reacted to this turn of events? True remorse, or just "oops!"? How realistic do you play? And, if you put the hero in jail, how is the player going to react?

 

Not to metagame, but, well, this is a game after all. If the player is truly remorseful (if the game runs really late, I've seen players do some truly loopy, out-of-character stuff), I'd find a way to salvage things. Even so, the player is going to have to meet you half-way and he's going to have to pay for what he did. Just not necessarily with jail time.

 

I'd avoid the trite "it was all a dream" thing, but maybe there's something else you can set up. I've never read through or played in Demons Rule, but perhaps events to that point are precursors to a demonic invasion. This allows the hero to somehow get a pardon.

 

Or the demons interfere and make sure the hero doesn't go to prison. They influence the lawyers, judge, and jury to get the hero off on a technicality but everybody knows he's guilty, making him a social pariah. The demons are trying to turn the hero over to their side by turning society, and maybe his teammates, against him.

 

Anyway, just some things to think about.

 

Bolo,

 

The Player role-played out the remorse of the hero, but he himself seems indifferent over the accidental death. If it turns out the hero must go to prison, he is ready to roll up a new hero. Which is a shame, as his current hero was a few months away from getting married (I had the bachelor party and wedding all planned out!).

 

I run a very realistic game, as far as superheroes are concerned. So, the act of the hero killing is a major event. All my players know that to do such an act will have huge reprocussions. So, I don't plan to let the player off the hook. He knew what he was doing when he declared he wanted to tear the head of the unconscious demon. He knew he did not have all the information on the demons, but still blundered ahead with no thought to his actions. As a result, a teenage boy, who was an unwilling host to the demon, lost his life. He's going to have to do time for his crime.

 

The demons will not interfere with the hero's trial, as they will all be banished to a prison-dimension soon.

 

My best guess it that the hero will not be charged for the death of the demon. He teammates will testify on his behalf on this, and the team leader is a super mage who can provide proof that it was truely demons the team was dealing with. However, the death of the boy cannot be excused. I'm guessing it will be Involuntary Manslaughter, unless you or one of the lawyer types out there know the correct charge for this case.

 

I'd figure the hero will get 5 years in Stronghold, with parole after 3 years. Does this sound right?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm guessing it will be Involuntary Manslaughter, unless you or one of the lawyer types out there know the correct charge for this case.

 

I'd figure the hero will get 5 years in Stronghold, with parole after 3 years. Do this sound right?

 

If killing demons is acceptable, which, it should be since you're using a "realistic" campaign, then the death of the gang member is justifiable homcide, i.e. no time. Involuntary manslaughter would be if they improperly did their duty, but since there is no link between their action and the death of a person they aren't culpable.

 

If the cops break down a locked door to execute a search and there is a person tied and gagged to the other side of the door and they die, or it sets off a bomb they had no reason to suspect is there and it kills a person, they are not charged with anything, it's ludicrous on it's face.

 

By the way, if you insist there is guilt, it applies to everyone there, your entire team is going to jail. The fact that they didn't do anything to stop a murder happening in front of them makes them accomplices. Time to create a whole new superhero team.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some more things to consider as you set this up:

 

Is the DA up for election? That could have a huge impact regarding how strongly he goes after this (but not as much as the earlier point on his feelings towards "capes")

 

Also, where were the hero's teammates while he was doing this? In a different room? Just standing off to the side? Did anybody try and talk him out of this? This trial should have major consequences on them. They'd have to testify, and the trial would probably be carried on Court TV. So the way regular folks view the team as a whole will be greatly impacted. Some heroes may come off well in a trial ("I tried to talk him out of it"), others may come off poorly ("the kid was an acceptable casualty"). There may be some inter-team tension about people's testimony if they didn't see things the same way.

 

Does the team have any sort of official sanction? Then they're looking at state or federal investigations into how they conduct their jobs. Also, local "community groups" may start acting up (think what happens when a cop kills a kid)

 

I wouldn't automaticallly assume that the hero would be found guilty, especially if he is popular and has the resources to hire a great defense lawyer. Juries are always crapshoots. For example, if the supermage were to testify that the kid really "died" the moment the demon first possessed him (and people buy it), then the guilty hero might end up walking. Or a star-struck jury might ignore the evidence and acquit him based on past deeds ("Do we really want to send him to jail? He's saved the planet five times!")

 

Hey, if O.J. could get off, this guy can even with the videotape.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Originally posted by Beetle

Also, where were the hero's teammates while he was doing this? In a different room? Just standing off to the side? Did anybody try and talk him out of this? This trial should have major consequences on them. They'd have to testify, and the trial would probably be carried on Court TV. So the way regular folks view the team as a whole will be greatly impacted. Some heroes may come off well in a trial ("I tried to talk him out of it"), others may come off poorly ("the kid was an acceptable casualty"). There may be some inter-team tension about people's testimony if they didn't see things the same way.

 

Does the team have any sort of official sanction? Then they're looking at state or federal investigations into how they conduct their jobs. Also, local "community groups" may start acting up (think what happens when a cop kills a kid)

 

 

All of the hero's teammates where in other rooms of the museum at the time of the murder. And the team is sanctioned by DOSPA.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting question, especially considering the Demonic aspect.

 

Couple of thoughts.

1) Are demons recognized as having the same rights as people? Remember we live in a world where the law is used to divide and control the populace. In my own campaign, the first alien on Earth was not conisdered being a 'person', until he appeared before the Supreme Court, met with the Pope, and was gotten out of the maimum security prison President Carter put him in. After he got out, he of course marketed his name and image across the world...marketing thousands of products.

 

2) If he gets convicted, and the player is willing, he could become a secret agent for the Vatican. They are who fight demons in my campaign. :) He would get plastic surgery, a new identity, and could rejoin his team under another name. His death would be faked in prison. He would get a contact: 'Commando Nuns answering only to the Pope'.

 

3) The Hero team could break into the DA's office, and steal the evidence. Serves them right for getting caught on tape.

 

4) Let the guy off, but make it look obvious that the case was rigged. (Look at any high-profile court case for examples). The player is free, but it is due to the actions of a government organization that wants him to perform a task for them. Thay way, you get a scenario out of it. character gets a new reputation: 'Murderous Hero who beat the Rap'. Also a rival, 'dead teenagers grandmother'.

 

One point I should mention, my players disadvantages change on occasion, based on their actions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...