Marvel’s Luke Cage on Netflix looks amazing. The current Power Man and Iron Fist comic is a lot of fun. Let’s get ready for the premier of Luke Cage, by looking at the final issue of the original Power Man and Iron Fist comic, where Iron Fist was killed and Luke Cage was going to be prosecuted for murder.
Luke and Danny Rand were partners with their business “Heroes for Hire.” Danny tried saving the life of a child who could turn himself into “Captain Hero,” a super-hero adult with extreme strength. Danny was beaten to death by Captain Hero in one of the most tragic scenes in comics. Luke found his dead friend and we are left with the man with unbreakable skin slumped on the floor in grief. (See, Power Man and Iron Fist, Vol 1, issue 125, with excellent summaries on Comic Book Legacy and SuperMegaMonkey’s Marvel Comics Chronology).
The police detain Luke and the District Attorney lays into Power Man with the following allegations that would be an opening statement in court:
Iron Fist was killed by someone with super strength;
Luke and Danny had a very loud and public argument;
Danny named Luke as his sole beneficiary of his fortune;
“Heroes for Hire” was doing poorly;
Luke was an Ex-Con with a reputation for being a “hot head”; and
Bobby, the child, had disappeared;
The DA openly threatening Luke Cage with prosecution should make any lawyer Hulk-out. Luke clearly should have been apprised of his right to counsel under Miranda, because any defense attorney would tell the DA to charge Luke or let him go. An attorney would use language stronger than “Sweet Christmas.”
The first fact against Luke is that someone with super-human strength killed Danny Rand. There are many characters in Marvel Comics with enhanced strength, so that in and by itself is not enough to convict Luke Cage. There would still be substantial reasonable doubt on who killed Iron Fist.
Luke and Danny’s public argument would be an out-of-court statement offered for the truth of the matter asserted, thus hearsay. The District Attorney would likely focus on Luke yelling at Danny, “That’s it, man! I’ve had it! I’m sick of this junk, Fist! I’m out! It’s over, man – Heroes for Hire is finished!” Id.
As Luke would be the defendant, there is a hearsay exception for statements by a party. Staron v. State of N.Y., 993 N.Y.S.2d 646, 646 (Ct. Cl. 2014). However, there would be other challenges to exclude any testimony about the argument, namely that the prejudicial effect of the evidence outweighs its probative value. The state could argue that the probable value outweighs any prejudicial effect, because Luke’s statement would show intent to harm Danny. However, the statement itself merely shows a heated business argument, not any threats. Moreover, if the statement was admitted, multiple Avengers and the Fantastic Four could be called in as witnesses to testify as to Luke and Danny hugging after they believed the child to be saved.
Pro-Tip to Fictional Comic Book Attorneys: If the Defense calls Captain America to testify about loyalty, saving a child, and two heroes hugging, do not cross-examine Captain America. Your case is over.
The District Attorney was wrong to claim evidence of Luke’s past [false] conviction would come into court in the murder trial of Danny Rand. New York law states that, “Evidence of prior crimes or bad acts is not admissible to show a defendant’s predisposition to criminal conduct.” People v. McPhillips, 21 N.Y.S.3d 134, 136 (App. Div.), citing People v Molineux, 168 NY 264, 291-293, ; People v Norman, 837 NYS2d 694 ).
There is no way Luke’s past [false] conviction would be relevant to Danny’s death. Moreover, the probative value of the past convictions would not outweigh the potential prejudice. The DA was effectively trying to convict Luke because he was convicted before. That is both “bad character evidence” and “prior bad acts,” thus would not be admissible.
The District Attorney likely would have enough evidence to charge Luke Cage. However, convicting Luke would be an uphill battle. A good defense attorney could knock down each of the State’s “facts” forming the charges around Luke Cage.