Supergirl faced a non-Hobson’s Choice in fighting Reactron (and thankfully not Nuclear Man): melt off lead from a historic bust in order to safely encase Reactron’s nuclear core, so it would not meltdown. Kara had to quickly balance the interests in defacing art against preventing a nuclear incident in National City.
Let’s say she picked the right choice. Art has no value if a city cannot be inhabited for 10,000 years.
Willfully destroying property is vandalism. As one Court explained:
The historical definition of vandalism was derived from the destruction of many monuments of art and literature by the Vandals, who, in the fourth and fifth centuries, overran Gaul, Spain, and northern Africa, and, in 455 A. D., entered Italy and sacked Rome. Webster’s New International Dictionary, 1951 edition. It originally meant the barbaric and reckless destroying or spoiling of something venerable, artistic, or beautiful. However, in ordinary usage the word is not limited to destruction of works of art, but has been broadened in its meaning to include the destruction of property generally.
General Acci. Fire & Life Assurance Corp. v. Azar (Ga.Ct.App. 1961) 119 S.E.2d 82, 84-85, citing Webster’s New International Dictionary, 1951 edition, and 91 C. J. S., Vandalism, p. 802.
Supergirl’s bust melting would fall under the historic definition of vandalism, because a work of art had been destroyed by her actions (not necessarily barbaric or recklessly). Moreover, in the unlikely event National City is in Arkansas, she would have committed a Class D felony for defacing a “work of art on display in any public place” if the bust was worth more than $2,500. A.C.A. § 5-71-215.
No Court in the United States would find Supergirl criminally liable for vandalism. Kara’s actions were justified under the defense of necessity, which requires Supergirl prove:
1) She acted in an emergency to prevent a significant bodily harm or evil to National City, specifically a nuclear incident that could have made the city uninhabitable, massive radiation poisoning, and loss of life;
2) She had no adequate legal alternative, because Reactron was in hot pursuit to kill James Olsen and endangering National City with a nuclear device;
3) Supergirl’s acts did not create a greater danger than the one avoided (melt off some lead from a bust vs nuclear incident);
4) Supergirl actually believed that at the time she acted her actions were necessary to prevent the threatened harm or evil (Reactron was on the warpath, causing property damage and threatening others with a nuclear powered device);
5) A reasonable person would also have believed that the act was necessary under the circumstances; AND
6) The defendant did not substantially contribute to the emergency (Supergirl did not, but there is a good argument Maxwell Lord did by repairing Reactron’s battle armor).
2-3400 CALCRIM 3403
No DA in their right mind would charge Supergirl for melting a bust. Yes, it is vandalism, but these actions were justified given the gravity of the harm posed by Reactron.