The final countdown is on until I finally get to see the Wonder Woman movie Friday night and these last few days are going far too slow. To help me make it through, I’ve decided to watch the show that made me fall in love with Wonder Woman in the first place: Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman TV show.
I don’t remember much from the show (besides that spin) but it created a lifelong obsession. Thanks to that show and the iconic superhero that is Wonder Woman, I now have Wonder Woman comics, tee shirts, toys, mugs, action figures, garbage cans, and lunch boxes (“winning” that lunch box on eBay taught me to never again mix wine and bidding). And I’ve been waiting for a Wonder Woman movie for decades. I’m really excited that Patty Jenkins directed this movie although I hoped for years that the Joss Whedon/Lauren Graham version would happen.
Watching a TV show from the ’70s is fun for a lot of reasons. First, the cheesiness of these old sitcoms is amazing. Second, you get to play “I know that person.” I didn’t know that Cloris Leachman played Queen Hippolyta! And I was shocked to see Henry Gibson of Laugh In fame show up as an Allied spy. Even Anne Ramsey (Mama Fratelli from The Goonies) showed up as a cab driver! Third, it’s nice to see a show from the days when we all agreed that Nazis and fascism were evil. The only depressing part of watching the first episode is that Wonder Woman’s girl power statements are as important, relevant, and disputed today as they were forty years ago.
Wonder Woman’s lasso is also pretty awesome. I’ve often said that Wonder Woman and her fight for truth and justice represents the good side of the legal system (while Darth Vader represents the Dark Side). In particular, her lasso, with its ability to get anyone to tell the truth, would obviously be hugely useful during depositions or in court.
There are two major constitutional issues with using her lasso, however, to coerce a confession that would not otherwise be given. First, the use of the lasso on an unwilling witness or party to get them to confess would violate the Fifth Amendment‘s protection against self-incrimination. The Constitution’s Due Process Clause (of the 14th Amendment) also requires that a confession be voluntarily given — the defendant’s will must not be “overborne by the circumstances surrounding the giving of a confession.” Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428, 434 (2000). Under the Due Process clause, if the confession is “not the product of a rational intellect and free will, the confession was coerced and is inadmissible.” Id. As the Supreme Court has noted, both the American and English legal systems have long believed that a voluntary confession is credible while an involuntary confession should be rejected. In support of this position, the Court quoted an English opinion from 1783: “A free and voluntary confession is deserving of the highest credit, because it is presumed to flow from the strongest sense of guilt … but a confession forced from the mind by the flattery of hope, or by the torture of fear, comes in so questionable a shape … that no credit ought to be given to it; and therefore it is rejected. Id. (quoting King v. Warickshall, 1 Leach 262, 263–264, 168 Eng. Rep. 234, 235 (K.B. 1783)).
Our legal system depends on parties and witnesses telling the truth. We don’t have any magical lassos, but over the years, courts have considered using our world’s less perfect forms of truth telling tools to assist with them in finding the truth. In the trial of the Aurora shooter, for example, the court ordered that the prosecution could use a “truth serum” if the shooter relied on an insanity defense, but only to determine if he was actually insane at the time of the shooting. This highly unusual order raised legal concerns because of the Constitutional issues mentioned above. In fact, in 1963 the Supreme Court specifically held that confessions brought about by “truth serums” are not the product of a free intellect and are therefore inadmissible. See Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 307–08 (1963), overruled on other grounds by Keeney v. Tamayo-Reyes, 504 U.S. 1 (1992). Medical experts also raised concerns about whether such a serum would actually be effective and/or reliable. Likewise, the efficiency of lie detector tests has also caused many jurisdictions to ban their use, although there are still a few locations where they can be used under certain circumstances.
So our legal system is left without a Wonder Woman or her lasso. The rest of us will just have to make do with our Wonder Woman toys to inspire us to keep up the fight for truth and justice! And hopefully none of us lawyers will end up bound and gagged without a Wonder Woman to rescue us (seriously, did Steve Trevor get tied up in every episode of Wonder Woman?)!