If you have not read Civil War 2 issue 3, stop reading now. There are major spoilers based on the trial depicted in the story. The comic is excellent with real loss. More importantly, Brian Michael Bendis is telling a story that highlights the danger of playing God with the future. No question about it, this time I am Team Iron Man.

Hulk_No

The story opens with Matt Murdock prosecuting the murder trial of Clint Barton (Hawkeye) in Federal Court in Manhattan for the murder of Bruce Banner in Alpine, Utah. The number of problems with this trial will make any lawyer Hulk out.

The Wrong Lawyer Prosecuting the Case

Matt Murdock is an Assistant District Attorney for New York City, NOT a US Attorney. It makes zero sense for Murdock to be prosecuting a Federal murder trial. Assistant District Attorneys do not bring cases in Federal Court. That is the job of US Attorneys, who prosecute Federal crimes on behalf of the United States.

First question, was there a Federal crime violated?

The Federal crime of murder is defined under 18 USCS § 1111(a):

Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Every murder perpetrated by poison, lying in wait, or any other kind of willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated killing; or committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, any arson, escape, murder, kidnaping, treason, espionage, sabotage, aggravated sexual abuse or sexual abuse, child abuse, burglary, or robbery; or perpetrated as part of a pattern or practice of assault or torture against a child or children; or perpetrated from a premeditated design unlawfully and maliciously to effect the death of any human being other than him who is killed, is murder in the first degree.

Any other murder is murder in the second degree.

Assuming Federal Jurisdiction is proper because of a Federal investigation, Hawkeye clearly could be charged under the Federal statute for first-degree murder, because 1) he killed Banner with malice aforethought; and 2) was lying in wait in order to take the kill shot.

Problem: the murder happened in Utah, NOT New York state.

Barton could be prosecuted under the laws of Utah for the intentional killing of another human being (See, Title 76, Chapter 5, Section 203 (76-5-203) of the Utah State Legislature).

The rare times New York Assistant District Attorneys are on a Federal trial is when they are on a team with Federal Prosecutors. This happens in situations when an investigation begins in New York state court and then is turned over to Federal Prosecutors (perhaps in order to seek the death penalty). As Bruce Banner was killed in Utah, New York state would not have an investigation into an out-of-state crime.

Is New York the Right Trial Venue?

The murder of Bruce Banner took place in Alpine, Utah. Clint Barton was immediately arrested after the murder in Utah. Based on those facts, the trial of Barton should have been held at the United States District Court, District of Utah, in Salt Lake City. This is also presuming that Federal Jurisdiction is proper, which arguably is correct. SHIELD Director Maria Hill did declare the murder investigation a Federal crime scene.

The State of Utah could also prosecute Clint Barton, as the murder was committed in Alpine, Utah. This would be proper, as the State of Utah and the United States are separate sovereigns, thus it is not an issue of double jeopardy. As Manhattan is approximately 2,203.8 miles from Alpine according to Google Maps, it is a stretch for the case to be brought in New York City.

Crimes are usually prosecuted in the county or state where the crime occurred. There are times when Federal Courts might have exclusive jurisdiction over specific subject matter. Perhaps all cases with SHIELD are tried in Federal District Court in New York. However, that seems like a very obtuse practice, as Federal law enforcement agencies conduct activities all over the United States. There is not one Court for the FBI in Washington, DC, so it would be odd for one Federal Court in New York to hear all SHIELD cases.

Civil War 2 is a very thought provoking comic. The story of why Hawkeye killed Bruce Banner is well done. However, as for what was the right court for the trial of Clint Barton, the story missed the target.

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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.