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Need Legal Expertise For Super Criminal


Acroyear II
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Hi All,

I am in need of some legal expertise for a situation that has arisen in the Champions campaign that I Game Master. Let me fill you in on the story:

 

I run an NPC superhero on my players' team, the Justice Force. The NPC hero owns a technology company and posses alien bird powers. Although he is a superhero, he is also a serial killer of woman. Due to his jealousy and hatred of another hero on the team (a female PC with bird powers), he attempted to frame this hero for the serial killings, but failed. In the last session, he was discovered to be the real killer, and in a showdown with the PCs, admitted to the crimes as he battled the heroes.

 

Now he did confess to the heroes because he thought he would be able to defeat and kill them. But he now plans to plead Not Guilty at his arraignment hearing because there is not one shred of evidence that ties him to any of the serial killings (no DNA, no sightings), but he also has no alibies for the times of the murders either.

 

My question is, can his confession to the heroes (who all have police sanctioning) be considered valid in court and used against him? He never signed an official confession, but verbally admitted to the murders. But again, there is not any evidence that can tie him to the murders. His defense is that the super team is trying to railroad him for the killings in order to protect the other bird character (the PC) whom he framed for the last murder.

 

Would the charges against him be dropped if it was only the word of the heroes against his? And if he should go to trial, would he be denied bail simply because of the PCs word against his? Or would he be denied bail because he has super powers and access to lots of money via his technology company, and could use that to flee the country? Keep in mind, this would be five superheroes claiming he confessed to the crimes, yet none of them have any evidence to back this up.

 

Any advice or suggestions you have would be appreciated.

 

 

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I think he'd almost certainly be denied bail, given his wealth and access to supertech--it would make fleeing the jurisdiction remarkably easy.

 

That's assuming the DA presses charges. I think his confession to the PCs would be completely admissible, given that he volunteered it to them.  But without any other evidence, convicting him would be extremely difficult. It would be his word against the PCs' word, and even if he can't impeach them (with his claim that they're trying to protect another PC), it's asking a lot of a jury to convict based solely on a confession. (By "no other evidence" I assume no witness testimony either, in addition to no DNA, etc.)

 

On the other hand, if he's got no alibi for the murders and the PC he's trying to throw under the bus does...that would weigh against him.

 

But still, the DA might choose not to press charges at this time, hoping that additional investigation will uncover some kind of evidence. If he charges him now, and loses in court, the bad guy can't be tried again.

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Hi All,

I am in need of some legal expertise for a situation that has arisen in the Champions campaign that I Game Master. Let me fill you in on the story:

 

I run an NPC superhero on my players' team, the Justice Force. The NPC hero owns a technology company and posses alien bird powers. Although he is a superhero, he is also a serial killer of woman. Due to his jealousy and hatred of another hero on the team (a female PC with bird powers), he attempted to frame this hero for the serial killings, but failed. In the last session, he was discovered to be the real killer, and in a showdown with the PCs, admitted to the crimes as he battled the heroes.

 

Now he did confess to the heroes because he thought he would be able to defeat and kill them. But he now plans to plead Not Guilty at his arraignment hearing because there is not one shred of evidence that ties him to any of the serial killings (no DNA, no sightings), but he also has no alibies for the times of the murders either.

 

My question is, can his confession to the heroes (who all have police sanctioning) be considered valid in court and used against him? He never signed an official confession, but verbally admitted to the murders. But again, there is not any evidence that can tie him to the murders. His defense is that the super team is trying to railroad him for the killings in order to protect the other bird character (the PC) whom he framed for the last murder.

 

Would the charges against him be dropped if it was only the word of the heroes against his? And if he should go to trial, would he be denied bail simply because of the PCs word against his? Or would he be denied bail because he has super powers and access to lots of money via his technology company, and could use that to flee the country? Keep in mind, this would be five superheroes claiming he confessed to the crimes, yet none of them have any evidence to back this up.

 

Any advice or suggestions you have would be appreciated.

 

The statements are certainly admissible against him.  Confessions usually aren't written.

 

Here are the steps you're looking at.  First the judge will set a bail amount.  A defendant is presumed guilty for purposes of bail (the prosecution doesn't have to prove their case just for the judge to set a bail amount).  How high the bail is set depends upon a lot of factors, including his ability to pay, the likelihood he will flee, and which jurisdiction you're in.  Since he 1) owns a tech company, and 2) has superpowers and it took a team of heroes to bring him in, he's likely to be denied bail.

 

The next step is a probable cause hearing.  This is for a judge to see if there is enough evidence to bind him over for trial.  His confession is enough evidence at that hearing.  A confession alone, with no supporting evidence, is not enough for a conviction at trial, but it's enough at the PC hearing.

 

Finally he's looking at trial.  In the real world this can take a year or two to reach this stage.  But there's lots of time for the state to go digging and looking for something to connect him to the murders.  They're going to get search warrants for his house, his business, his secret BirdCave or wherever his super ID is based.  Remember that a confession needs some evidence supporting it, but not enough to prove the case independently.  So, for example, if he says he killed 6 women with blonde hair with an icepick, and you find the bodies of 4 blonde women killed with some sharp instrument, that might be enough.  You have evidence, after all.  You have the bodies.  Whether it links to him or not isn't important -- he's the one who links it.  Now that may or may not convince the jury, but legally it's probably enough to withstand an appeal.

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Never underestimate the influence of the court of public opinion on legal cases in democracies. When elections are a factor, looking weak on supers crime is political suicide, and judges can be influenced, even if the decision will later be overturned due to a lack of evidence.

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The big question I have to ask right back to you is what are your PCs' relationship withthe Government and law enforcement? Are they vigilantes? Are they deputized by some governmental body to apprehend criminals? If so, are thy held to the Miranda Rights standard, etc?  Is there a precedent within your universe for non-sanctioned-by-the-government super humans  to make arrests.

 

I have made up a few supreme court cases in the past toto redefine/ refine the lawsto accomodate a world where ther are super humans.

 

The next big question is what effect are you driving at? Is this guy more valuable to your campaign as a labeled murderer/ villain and a potential future nemesis? Or does it suit your story better to have him as a hero to the public but a villain to the PCs?

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The possibility of assistance from the superhero community and the use of powers comes to mind. For example, postcognitive clairsentience could be used to observe the past and possibly find that tiny clue that Birdman missed cleaning up.

 

There is also the supervillain aspect to think of. A female supervillain might be incensed at the murder of other women by this guy and do things to get him convicted that heroes would not consider. Imagine a whole gang of female villains going killer vigilante on him. Prison might not seem so bad to him then.

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The only expertise a storyteller needs is the needs of the story, and the will of the audience to suspend their disbelief.

 

In your world, anything your story needs and can withstand could happen.

 

In our world, your serial killer would of course be held without bail if he somehow existed. Homeland Defense would likely not even need to consider him to have human rights, and he would be held under conditions that would make Gitmo seem like a couples resort for jet setters, given that he has superpowers on the level that makes him a terrorist threat.

 

If it were the word of one single officer of the courts, which the legal powers you've described make your supers, that would be enough in the real world, absent something really strong to counter it. You've got the word of several such witnesses to the confession. Likely, the world would be questioning why they didn't save the lawyers the trouble of having to have a trial.

 

Justice systems don't just work on witness statements or alibi's; solid police work would include psychological profiling, CSI trace evidence other than DNA, and on and on. Sure, the case might be 'circumstantial', but it's circumstantial with special circumstances.

 

When it comes to the trial, that's where the judge and jury may influence outcomes. Though, really, I expect such a serial killer would end up on the leash of an Amanda Waller, not in front of a judge.

 

This makes it a very unfriendly world for the sort of person who some group of superheroes did decide to frame, or were mind controlled into framing.

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Thank you everyone. You've really given me some great insight to this story arc for my campaign. Special thanks to Massey, as the legal steps you laid out are just what I need.

 

The twist in the story is that the female bird hero that "Birdman" framed has no alibi for the killings either, and evidence was found at the last crime scene that ties her to it (one of her feathers was found next to the body). "Birdman's" defense will be to attempt to point the finger at the female hero, hoping to give reasonable doubt to the charges against him. This may be enough to make the heroes think there is a fair chance the serial killer will go free, and then be unable to be tried for these murders a second time.

 

Although I don't think the story will get all the way to the trial, as I have other twists planned.

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Thank you everyone. You've really given me some great insight to this story arc for my campaign. Special thanks to Massey, as the legal steps you laid out are just what I need.

 

The twist in the story is that the female bird hero that "Birdman" framed has no alibi for the killings either, and evidence was found at the last crime scene that ties her to it (one of her feathers was found next to the body). "Birdman's" defense will be to attempt to point the finger at the female hero, hoping to give reasonable doubt to the charges against him. This may be enough to make the heroes think there is a fair chance the serial killer will go free, and then be unable to be tried for these murders a second time.

 

Although I don't think the story will get all the way to the trial, as I have other twists planned.

 

Plots like this are why Dark Champions players exist.

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I'd have to start first by saying the NPC is no superhero, but murderer posing as a hero. If he's a serial killer, he will eventually be found out. DNA can be found in most cases to link a murderer. You mention he was jealous and hated this other person. That frame of mind will probably leave some clue to tie him to the other murders, even if there is no actual link to the frame-up. I once heard an attorney say: "the laws of the country are written so that 95.5% of the time, the government will win." Since he's a killer, he's highly unlikely that that there is no evidence linking him - it just hasn't been found yet. Just because the NPC thinks there's no evidence doesn't make it so.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I am trying to figure out the tone of your campaign.

 

If you are running something anywhere near four-color, Silver Age, etc. then the legal system ought to work in a way that puts this mad dog away forever.

Even at that, the tone has been changed permanently toward the darker end of the spectrum.

 

If you are running grim and gritty Iron Age, I can't imagine him surviving the battle that he lost with the group.

He is a murderer, tried to frame an innocent team member for murder, and tried to kill them all.

Why let him live?

 

If you are running a version of "The Joker kills everyone, but Batman lets him live because killing him would send Batman over the edge" campaign, the why bother having a trial. Just send him off for "psychiatric evaluation", then let him escape and go on with what he is doing.

 

If it were my campaign, and the tone was gritty, I would have him found dead in his cell while awaiting arraignment, after some sort of EMP took out all the monitors where he was being held.

 

Did one of the team members kill him?

One of his enemies?

A vigilante cop?

Was there someone he was so afraid of that he took his own life when the lights went out, knowing something worse was going to happen?

Did he fake his own death and escape?

Was the person they caught the actual hero/villain, or some patsy/clone/android that he swapped in after his 'defeat', and he has now killed to cover his tracks?

In a last act of defiance, did he swallow one of ladybird's feathers, retrieve it, and plant it on himself to implicate her when he actually killed himself in his cell?

 

Just thinking out loud.

 

KA.

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Steve Long actually wrote an old article about this in an issue of White Wolf magazine. It should be possible to look it up. It's probably, imho, the best thing he's ever written.

 

Your real problem here is that this guy has every advantage. Money, technology, and he's a well-respected citizen. The question is this: Did you give the players enough clues to figure it out, and if so, how did they handle the investigation? If it's YOUR fault that they didn't do the right things, then they deserve a break.

 

If they legitimately screwed up (Suspected him, but didn't bother to stake him out and take pictures with their cell phone, didn't plant a tracker on him after they established a pattern...) then based on what you've set up, this guy should get away.

 

The problem here is that now that you've done this and it's your first GMPC, your players will (rightly) never trust you again. If you have a history of GMPCs and others of them are trustworthy, then you're fine.

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if the confession was during/after a Super Battle any half way skilled lawyer will argue that it was beat or intimidated from him. " he feared for his life. my client was out numbered and needed to say whatever to survive. he knows the other one is a serial killer and so went along with a fake confession to stop the fight a be remanded to the police." 

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if the confession was during/after a Super Battle any half way skilled lawyer will argue that it was beat or intimidated from him. " he feared for his life. my client was out numbered and needed to say whatever to survive. he knows the other one is a serial killer and so went along with a fake confession to stop the fight a be remanded to the police." 

 

That might be what a halfway skilled lawyer would argue.  I would want to hire a fully skilled one if I was him. :D

 

I'm arguing supervillain plot.  It was a shapeshifter, pretending to be me, that they actually fought.  Or it was Menton, who created an illusion of me saying those things in the other heroes' minds.  It's stuff that sounds ridiculous in real life, but we live in a world without confirmed superpowers.  I'd blame one of the (looks at team name) Justice Force's arch-villains.  Somebody who has reason to want to destroy the team.  If he's got a technology company, maybe the company was working on a holo-projector that can make one person appear to be someone else.

 

My cross examination at the probable cause hearing revolves around the ease of impersonating someone in a super world.

 

"You've been a victim of mind control before right?  On blah blah blah date last year, the villain Psy-kor mind controlled you and made you attack your teammate.  You didn't know you'd been mind controlled until they brought you out if it, did you?  You don't have a way to detect mind control, do you?  The last time you were mind controlled, you thought your teammate was a monster, and you shot him, right?  Somebody was able to fool your mind and you had no idea it had even been done, did you?  You have no way to show that you haven't been mind controlled today, do you?"

 

"You're aware that Bird Tech Industries has a holo-projector right?  Makes somebody look like someone they're not?  You've seen this demonstrated, right?  You don't have enhanced senses that can see through it do you?  So if that projector, that you know exists in Bird Tech's building, is running, it could make somebody else look just like my client, couldn't it?  And you wouldn't know any difference, would you?  Now... who has access to that projector?  You don't know, do you?"

 

"Do you know who Sir Shift-a-Lot is?  He's a shapeshifter, isn't he?  Takes the forms of other people?  Fools people into believing he's somebody he's not, right?  Didn't he infiltrate your base six months ago?  Didn't your own security systems let him in?  He fooled them, didn't he?  You only caught him because my client built a omni-wave scanning device, right?  That's right.  And you don't have that device now, do you?  You didn't have it when you attacked my client, did you?  Sir Shift-a-Lot is on the loose right now, isn't he?  He escaped from prison, right?  Vowed revenge, didn't he?  He's probably pretty mad at my client, right?  Wants to get even?  And you don't have any way of distinguishing that guy from my client, do you?"

 

 

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