Give the Nazi a Death Mint

Agent Carter presented interesting issues over negotiating deals with people in custody. In the “Blitzgrieg Button,” Agent Dooley traveled to Germany to question the convicted Nazi war criminal Colonel Mueller on the Battle of Finow.

Dooley’s offer to get the Nazi awaiting the gallows to talk? A purported cyanide pill, so Colonel Mueller could have a dignified death, opposed to being hung.

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Bet the Nazi was surprised the cyanide pill was actually a breath mint. At least Herr Colonel could burn in Hell with minty fresh breath.

Could Dooley lawfully offer Mueller an alternative form of execution in exchange for information? This seems legally problematic, as Nazis convicted during the Nurenberg Trials were done under international law, with cases adjudicated between the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.

Colonel Mueller was likely convicted for what Justice Robert Jackson outlined in the Prosecution’s Closing Argument in the Nuremberg Trials as Preparation and Waging of Wars of Aggression; Warfare in Disregard of International Law; and possibly Enslavement and Plunder of Populations in Occupied Countries. We do not know Colonel Mueller’s exact war record, but that is an educated guess for Herr Mueller to have a death sentence in 1946.

Given the fact Dooley was able to see Colonel Mueller on short notice, Dooley had the legal authority to interview the Colonel. It is difficult to imagine any legal authority for Dooley to lawfully offer Mueller an alternative form of death. An international tribunial found Mueller guilty and imposed execution by hanging for the Nazi’s crimes against humanity.

Colonel Mueller, if he had been tried in the United States, could have challenged his method of execution as being cruel and unusual punishment (today such a challenge would be brought as a 1983 action). Beardslee v Woodford, 395 F3d 1064 (2005). However, Courts have held that executions by hanging do not violate the 8th Amendment. Campbell v Wood 18 F3d 662 (1994).

That being said, one could argue that Dooley’s “death mint” was cruel and unusual punishment. Dooley fraudulently got information from Mueller with the promise of a cyanide pill, so Mueller could avoid a possibly prolonged death by hanging. Once Mueller ingested the mint, and realized he had been lied to, the Colonel arguably would have had mental suffering awaiting his public execution. Assuming the Nazi had human feelings.

Regardless of those facts, the fictional Nazi had a trial, the right to confront witnesses, present evidence in his favor, and was convicted of his crimes. That is significantly more “Due Process” than the real Nazis gave any of their victims. As such, no one would care if a Nazi who killed women and children had his feelings hurt.

Dooley did the right thing.

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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, 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.