Can the Gotham Police Beat a Confession to Save 30 Kids from Being Eaten?

Oh, Gotham. Thank you for presenting such a wonderful legal issue on whether it is “OK” for the police to beat a confession from someone in order to save 30 kids from being sold overseas to be a meal. Or worse. We never really learned what the Dollmaker had planned for the children.

Gotham_Orphans_PoliceBrutalityWhile the orphans, the public, politicians, and press, would not have a problem with Detective Bullock beating a prisoner with a phone book to find out where kidnapped children were being held, a Court would begrudgingly say, “Don’t Do that Again.” Any thing learned from the suspect would tainted as “fruit from the poisonous tree” and in admissible in Court. The bad guy would walk because of the beating.

Police can conduct a search without a warrant when there are “exigent circumstances,” namely imminent and ongoing danger to life. Additionally, police can question someone arrested without giving them Miranda Rights if there are “overriding considerations of public safety.” New York v. Quarles, 467 U.S. 649 (1984). This generally involves finding bombs left around town or where a loaded gun was left in a field. However, it is rare to find a modern Court giving a judicial thumbs up to police brutality.

Which brings us to Detectives Harvey Bullock and James Gordon. The police arguably did not gain the exact location of the warehouse from the suspect, because Gordon figured out what the images were to identify the company logo. Even if the beaten suspect described the logo, there is an argument the information was available from the original child victims and if Bullock also saw the truck in the gunfight. As such, the information would have been available from independent sources other than the unlawful interrogation.

There is no question Bullock and Gordon had “exigent circumstances” to search the warehouse for the missing children without a warrant. However, there really is no way around a 1983 action against Bullock and the police department for beating someone in custody.

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Josh Gilliland
Josh Gilliland is a California attorney who focuses his practice on eDiscovery. Josh is the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, which has made the ABA Journal Top Blawg 100 Blawg for 2013 to 2016, the ABA Web 100 for Best Legal Blog and Podcast categories, and was nominated for Best Podcast for the 2015 Geekie Awards. Josh has presented at legal conferences and comic book conventions across the United States. He also ties a mean bow tie.