Sedition on Krypton

Superman’s Great-Great-Grandfather Val-El was sentenced to death for sedition in the pilot of Krypton. Val-El’s “crime” was stating that there was other life in the universe. Val-El walked a plank to free-fall into a snowstorm of oblivion. His family was also stripped on status, showing a legal system that issued punishments based on family associations and not actions.

The legal system on Krypton is the opposite of “truth, justice, and the American Way.” The show depicts a harsh police state where the population lives under the heel of repression. By way of comparison, Sedition laws in the United States can easily run in opposition to the First Amendment. The original Sedition Act in 1798 allowed for the punishment of those who made “false, scandalous and malicious writings against the government, either house of Congress or the President, if published with intent to defame any of them or to excite against them the contempt or hatred of the people.” Chicago v. Tribune Co., 307 Ill. 595, 603, 139 N.E. 86, 88 (1923). This did not last long and ensured John Adams would be a one term President.

There have been other Sedition laws over the centuries, such as the Smith Act, which was intended to protect the government from violence, revolution, and terrorism. Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494, 501, 71 S. Ct. 857, 863 (1951). Moreover, for those in the military, it is punishable by death to create a revolt to overthrow the government. 10 U.S.C.S. § 894.

Val-El’s “speech” that there was other life in the universe would not even violate the Unconstitutional language of the Sedition Act of 1798, because the position does not even rise to the level of “false, scandalous and malicious writings.” Moreover, Val-El was not advocating the violent overthrow of the government on Krypton. Val-El was murdered by the state for having a belief that was in conflict with religious leaders, which is not a capital offense.

Val-El’s execution would have violated the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The law prohibits executions that:

1) Presents a substantial risk that a prisoner will suffer unnecessary and wanton pain in an execution;

2) Violates the evolving standards of decency that mark a mature society, and

3) Minimizes physical violence and mutilation of the prisoner’s body.

State v. Mata, 275 Neb. 1, 48, 745 N.W.2d 229, 266 (2008).

Walking a plank that ended with Val-El falling hundreds, if not thousands of feet, would violate all three tenants on the prohibition of cruel executions. Nothing about that execution method is remotely decent of a mature society, would result in Val suffering unnecessary plain, and maximized physical violence and mutilation with death by impact. That form of execution was solely designed as a deterrent for anyone who dared to challenge the state.

Krypton depicts a police state with a repressive legal system that runs counter to our own. How Kal-El’s grandfather leads the planet out of this Dark Age will have this lawyer watching this season.