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  1. #1

    Default The Trial of the Phoenix Force - The Legal Implications

    I decided to start this thread after reading a very insightful post from Narasinha in the Jean Grey Appreciation thread regarding the legal ramifications of the Phoenix Force. It’s an issue that hasn’t really been addressed in the comics or really discussed in that great of detail. It basically states that in a modern court of law, Jean Grey wouldn’t have been found guilty of murder in any degree for what happened to the D’brai. At the very least, she would’ve been hit with an involuntary manslaughter charge. However, the circumstances would make a conviction for that hazy at best. So I’m going to open up a discussion/debate here and it boils down to one question:

    How would a real court treat crimes while committed under the influence of the Phoenix Force?

    I think this is an important issue to address because these crimes have been used to justify a lot of creative decisions, some of them pretty infamous, for characters like Jean Grey. More recently, Cyclops has been affected by this as well in wake of Avengers vs. X-men. So for the sake of this discussion, let’s all channel our inner Matt Murdock and list the legal issues here. And since Narasinha did such a great job, I’ll cite what she cited.

    For Jean Grey’s crime of slaughtering the D’brai, here are the legal charges and the associated state of those charges. And for the sake of this argument, let’s ignore the retcon.

    1. First-degree Murder: Dark Phoenix planned to kill the inhabitants of that planet: First-degree murder.
    2. Second-degree Murder: Dark Phoenix killed the inhabitants of that planet intentionally, but it wasn't premeditated.
    3. Voluntary Manslaughter: Dark Phoenix killed the inhabitants. It wasn't premeditated and there were circumstances that would "cause a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed."
    4. Involuntary Manslaughter: Dark Phoenix killing the inhabitants of that planet wasn't intentional. There is no intention to cause death but it's the result of an intentional, or negligent act leading to death.

    Now if we’re going to use the US system of laws, here are the associated punishments associated with those crimes.

    1. First degree Murder: life imprisonment or death sentence.
    2. Second-degree Murder: Depend but usually not less than 10 years imprisonment. Up to 25-40 years with reduction (parole) possible.
    3. Voluntary Manslaughter: Fine or up to 15 years imprisonment.
    4. Involuntary Manslaughter: Fine or up to 8 years imprisonment.

    With these terms in mind, let’s look at the evidence. Jean Grey, while under the influence of the Phoenix Force, did not hint at any plan or premedication for murdering the D’brai. She didn’t even mention them. She was focused on the star the planet orbited. So First-degree Murder is essentially a no-go. And because she was focused on consuming the star, not the planet, I think we can rule out Second-degree Murder as well. She clearly had no idea the planet was even there, let alone inhabited. Again, she was focused on consuming the star. Someone may have to scrutinize each panel, but I don’t think there’s enough evidence to indicate that Jean knew the planet was there. So that charge is dropped

    We’re left with the two forms of manslaughter. Now this is where it gets really tricky, as Nanasinha pointed out. Jean was not in a clear state of mind. She was overwhelmed and intoxicated by the power. And there is precedent with the Phoenix that it can cause a reasonable person to become disturbed. The real world equivalent would be a drug known to induce severe psychosis. However, even if this argument was made, I think there would be sufficient reasonable doubt to assert that destroying the planet was intentional. Again, she didn’t focus on the planet. She focused on the star. I don’t know if there’s a close analogy. Maybe somebody shoots at a car while in a state of psychosis without knowing there’s anybody in it. If anyone else has a better analogy, please share it.

    So at a trial, it could be clearly established that Jean Grey was not in a clear state of mind and there’s a fair amount of doubt that she even knew the planet in question was there, let alone inhabited. So at worst, it’s voluntary manslaughter. She could basically get the same treatment a drunk driver would get.

    However, there’s one other very important wrinkle to this case that would undermine that judgment. Jean Grey only became Dark Phoenix after the Hellfire Club corrupted her. There is legal precedent that she was able to control the Phoenix and avoid hurting anyone before. That’s an important precedent to set because it establishes that she did not choose to go on this rampage. There were other mitigating factors. In this case, the Hellfire Club essentially tortured her mentally to become the Black Queen, which in turn made her into Dark Phoenix.

    This is a very important distinction because it makes a drunk driving analogy imperfect. Jean Grey didn’t ask to be turned into the Dark Phoenix. She didn’t ask for anything the Hellfire Club did to her. They manipulated and used her. It would be more like Emma Frost and Mastermind strapped her to a chair against her will and forcibly injected her with drugs that induced psychosis. Then, without knowing what would happen, they unleashed her and she committed her crimes. This is hard to rule on because there is a legal definition for provocation. But Jean wasn’t just provoked. She herself was the victim of a serious crime, mental torture and manipulation. So even if she is guilty of involuntary manslaughter, it’s hard to put her in the same category as a drunk driver or a rage killing because she showed earlier that she could handle the Phoenix Force. It took someone else hurting and tormenting her against her will to make her commit crimes. If anything, Emma Frost and Mastermind are more culpable in this case. They would certainly be guilty of manslaughter in some form since they were the ones that did this to Jean.
    Last edited by MarvelMaster616; 06-01-2015 at 08:30 AM.
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  2. #2
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    Act of God(dess)

  3. #3

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    Now letís focus on Cyclopsí case for Avengers vs. X-men. And for the sake of this argument, letís not focus on whether or not Cyclops was right about the Phoenix Force reviving mutants. Letís just focus on the charge against him, namely the murder of Charles Xavier.

    His own teammates state outright that he murdered Charles Xavier in cold blood. Well if by ďcold bloodĒ they mean First-Degree Murder, thatís almost certainly wrong. Cyclops did not show that he planned or premeditated the death of Charles Xavier. He didnít sneak up on him and snap his neck. And he never even spoke about killing Xavier to hint that it was a thought throughout Avengers vs. X-men. So that charge is immediately out the window.

    Second-Degree Murder would only apply if Cyclops was in a coherent state of mind as well. Pretty much everyone agrees he wasnít and there is plenty of precedent to show that the Phoenix Force does not put someone in the right state of mind. So Second-Degree Murder doesnít fit either.

    That leaves manslaughter again. This is where it gets legally dicey again. As we established, the Phoenix Force would "cause a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed." However, like Jean Grey, he didnít purposefully put himself in this state. He didnít willfully take a drug. It was forced into him against his will, courtesy of Tony Starkís big cosmic gun. Because of this, itís hard to really say Cyclops put himself in the circumstances to commit manslaughter. He didnít want the Phoenix Force in the first place and unlike most drugs, the Phoenix intoxicates its user pretty quickly.

    But thereís another legal complication to consider. Unlike the Díbrai, Cyclops was provoked. He didnít initially intend to do any harm with the Phoenix. In fact, he did the opposite. He established a precedent that he was not threatening, just as Jean Grey showed when she first got the Phoenix Force. It wasnít until he was provoked that he became violent. Emma Frost even pointed this out to the Avengers when they confronted them in Uncanny X-men #3. Provocation is a real legal term and it is considered when ruling on a violent crime. If a defendant is provoked, then that alleviates the punishment substantially.

    But even after Cyclops was provoked, he didnít kill Charles Xavier. It was only when Xavier began attacking him that this happened. This is where it gets even more complicated because beyond provocation, there is the self-defense argument. In every state, there is a statute that protects defendants who exercise self-defense, provided that itís proportional. In this case, Xavier and the Avengers threw the first punch. He used his telepathy to attack Cyclops and he was not just harassing him either. He was trying to physically subdue him. And it clearly caused Cyclops a great deal of harm and discomfort, so much so that a self-defense measure is warranted. Now his response may or may not be proportional because Xavier clearly wasnít trying to kill his student. But I think under the circumstances, Cyclops could make the argument that he was acting in self-defense.

    Now Iím not a lawyer here. Maybe some on this board have a background in law. But if thereís anything else someone wants to submit, I think itís worth discussing. Marvel has used the Phoenix to change the creative direction for numerous characters and for that reason, I think itís important that issues like this are scrutinized.
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  4. #4
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    Jean was victimized but never saw herself as a victim of their manipulation. Trying to adjudicate a cosmic force is impossible.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by DDD View Post
    Act of God(dess)
    Well, yes, in the case of the Phoenix Force (or Cosmic entity) then it's an Act of God: The PF destroy and create. That's its function in the working of the universe. You may as well blame a flood or an earthquake.

  6. #6
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    Shiar hanged her to get back at Jean for getting D'Ken killed.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arya View Post
    Jean was victimized but never saw herself as a victim of their manipulation.
    Oh, really? The real Jean, that was in the cocoon, and who didn't made those things forgave Mastermind at the end. But she sure knew that Phoenix had been a victim of his and Emma's manipulation.

    It's fairly common for someone who has hurt/killed another person by accident, even if he/she couldn't have done anything or have avoided it, to feel guilty about it. Some people can never live with their guilt and end-up killing themselve even if they were absolutely not responsible. It doesn't mean that the person is responsible or that it was his/her fault. Only that she/he human.

  8. #8

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    Just to avoid some needless arguing: What Dark Phoenix did is not a genocide.

    Dictionary:
    genocide
    noun, the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group.
    International Legal Definition:
    Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Narasinha View Post
    Just to avoid some needless arguing: What Dark Phoenix did is not a genocide.

    Dictionary:


    International Legal Definition:
    You're slowly becoming my favorite poster [Platonic <3 ]
    CANON: "Cyclops, the most important mutant in 616" - The scientific community of the 616

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Narasinha View Post
    Oh, really? The real Jean, that was in the cocoon, and who didn't made those things forgave Mastermind at the end. But she sure knew that Phoenix had been a victim of his and Emma's manipulation.

    It's fairly common for someone who has hurt/killed another person by accident, even if he/she couldn't have done anything or have avoided it, to feel guilty about it. Some people can never live with their guilt and end-up killing themselve even if they were absolutely not responsible. It doesn't mean that the person is responsible or that it was his/her fault. Only that she/he human.
    The phoenix saw through their manipulation and embraced the emotions their manipulation revealed.

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    I think we should get some insight from the D'bari's legal systems, since the act was committed against them and human/Earth law wouldn't necessarily apply.

    Oh wait...

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Narasinha View Post
    Just to avoid some needless arguing: What Dark Phoenix did is not a genocide.

    Dictionary:
    genocide
    noun, the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group.

    International Legal Definition:
    Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
    Thanks, once again, Narasinha, for providing some additional insight. I didn't think about this part. It is a distinction that I don't think Marvel or readers often make. They say the Phoenix committed genocide, but if there's no intent, then it's hard to put it into the same category as the atrocities we're familiar with. The Phoenix Force clearly didn't target the D'brai specifically, just as Cyclops didn't target Xavier deliberately. Intent does matter in a court of law. If a death was an accident, then it does not legally constitute murder by the strict definition of the term.
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  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Star_Jammer View Post
    I think we should get some insight from the D'bari's legal systems, since the act was committed against them and human/Earth law wouldn't necessarily apply.

    Oh wait...
    Judgement of the peers: You need to ask other cosmic entities...

  14. #14

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    Imho, it's a case of insanity/disease of the mind. Dark Phoenix is a schizophrenic persona of Phoenix/Jean Grey created by the unlawful manipulation of Emma and Mastermind. Phoenix/Jean Grey is a victim. Not guilty. She need to be cured. (Jean Grey was fighting the Dark Phoenix persona. That's why Scott and Xavier were succeeding until the Shi'ar teleported them).

  15. #15
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    Wouldn't Tony stark be in some sort of legal trouble in cykes trial.
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