First Legal Issues in Gotham: Can Selina Kyle Be Prosecuted as an Adult?

The series of Gotham kicked off with a multitude of legal issues to cover the 75 years of Batman. The series is fantastic and brings the world of Gotham City to life. It is time to turn on the Bat-Signal and discuss the issues presented in the first episode.

Josh_GothamLet’s start with Selina Kyle, the girl who will become Catwoman. As a minor, Kyle leaps from rooftops and uses a knife to cut open a grocery bag to steal milk. Immediately after taking the milk, Kyle pick pockets a man’s wallet.

If Selina Kyle were an adult, she could be convicted of grand theft in California, because she took the property from the person of another. Cal Pen Code § 487(c). If Selina was in New York, merely placing her hands in the proximity of another person’s pocket or handbag would be “jostling,” a class A misdemeanor.  NY CLS Penal § 165.25. Taking the wallet would be a second crime of theft.

As Selina is not a legal adult, but engaged in crimes that would be grand theft, prosecuting her as an adult would be difficult. While the use of the knife might entice a DA to charge her as an adult, it would fail, as the knife was not used to commit murder, which is one of the exceptions for prosecuting minors in Juvenile Court. Cal Wel & Inst Code § 602. As such, Selina would likely be found “delinquent” and prosecuted in Juvenile Court.

Granted, Selina following young Bruce Wayne is not yet stalking, but probably more an interest in having seen his parents murdered. There is no ice-breaker for “I was there when your parents were gunned down. Do you need a hug?” So, we will give her the benefit of the doubt she is trying to find a way to say hello in the least awkward way possible.

James Gordon

Detective Jim Gordon is one of the few TV/comic book characters who openly cares about Due Process of law. It is very refreshing, like a cool glass of milk. In the first 5 minutes of meeting Gordon, we see him save a police officer, avoid a gunfight, and attempt to stop police officers from beating the suspect who was already under arrested and restrained. Alfred’s comment “You’re new. Good luck mate,” highlighted that Gordon is the idealist DA’s son who wanted to see a murder suspect put on trial, opposed to killed in a gunfight.

Gorden also showed no fear in chasing down facts to prove the wrong man was killed resisting arrest for the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Moreover, when confronted by a crime boss about maintaining order and told to murder Oswald Cobblepot, he faked the future Penguin’s death. While that does create a huge problem with Cobblepot on the run killing people, Gorden did not himself become a murder.

Alfred Pennyworth

The Wayne’s Butler immediately took charge in caring for the young Bruce Wayne. While it would take time for Thomas and Martha Wayne’s wills to be probated, Alfred has to legally become the adopted father for Bruce Wayne. Probate and custody is not exactly thrilling TV, so it is unlikely we will see Pennyworth’s application for legal guardianship of Bruce Wayne.

To the Bat-Poles

Gotham had a strong start and I wish the series success. I do hope to see Adam West make a cameo, perhaps as a judge or grandfather in a family portrait.