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Friday, October 26, 2007

Vampire clients can be draining

As a special extra for our blog readers, I am making the full-text of the editor's column from Monday's Minnesota Lawyer available on this site.

With a vampire as a client, your defense had better not be toothless

By Mark A. Cohen
Minnesota Lawyer/ Oct. 29, 2007

In the spirit (no pun intended) of the Halloween season, I have decided to explore a few of the legal issues faced by vampires and other undead clients.

Now, I know what you are thinking. They kill, they maim, they suck your blood out — so why should they be able to avail themselves of our legal system? That’s an easy one. Everyone is entitled to equal access to justice. To have it any other way would be, well, monstrous!

So you are working in your office late one night, and in walks (or flies) a vampire. He wants you to defend him against charges that he killed multiple individuals and sucked all of the blood out of them. So what do you do?

First of all, you might want to get a Cross (or Star of David or whatever) at the ready. As a backup plan, try ordering a garlic pizza for delivery. If you don’t need it to keep your client at bay, it will make a good snack later.

Assuming you take the case — and prudently invest in an iron-plated turtleneck shirt — what advice do you give your client? How about an insanity plea? I mean, he must have bats in the belfry, right?

If the jurisdiction had an old-style “irresistible impulse” defense, the court may just bite. After all, his insurmountable craving for blood is what led him to do the dastardly deed, isn’t it?
But it is more likely the jurisdiction would have some version of the M’Naughten rule, which requires a defendant to show that, at the time of the act, he:
• didn’t know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or
• if he did know it, that he did not know what he was doing was wrong.
So sorry, but it appears that your client’s insanity defense under M’Naughten would be a loser.

Vampires generally know what they are doing when they suck someone’s blood. And they are aware of the wrongfulness of their acts — you know, being creatures of Hell and all.

The case might also get tried in federal court if the vampire’s string of killings took him over state lines. The federal insanity rule — which requires a defendant to show he didn’t appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts — would, I’m afraid, lead to a similarly unsuccessful result.

Since the vampire drank the blood to avoid starving to death, he might think a necessity defense would work. Sorry, but necessity is unlikely to justify murder, whether you are a vampire or just looking to make a quick meal of an annoying fellow passenger after a plane crash in the Andes.

A “heat of passion” argument for second-degree murder is also unlikely to succeed given that vampires are cold-blooded and actually enjoy premeditating their killings.

So it appears that, despite your best efforts, your client is most likely going to be found guilty of multiple first-degree murders. (Being a vampire, he might not even get by cross-examination.)

But there is a silver lining. If he was charged in federal court or in a state with capital punishment, he may be sentenced to death. And we all know, try as they may, lethal injection, gas, electrocution, hanging or even a firing squad won’t hurt a vampire. And to kill him more than once would no doubt be found to be cruel and unusual punishment.

But what if your client is sentenced to life in prison? No problem! You forget that vampires are already dead! Since the vampire has no life left in him, you make a motion to get him released for time served.

The most problematic result will be if your client is sentenced to a term of years. In which case I certainly would not want to be his cellmate!

Let’s just say a frazzled prosecutor — realizing how much this case (pardon the expression) — sucks, decides to let your client cop a plea. Word gets around, and you soon find your office flooded with business from other “monsters” who hear about your win. Among the many potential clients seeking your expertise are:
• Frankenstein’s monster, who wants to know if he can bring a civil-rights action against the villagers who chased him with rocks and torches;
• a werewolf with a gripe against his landlord for adopting a “no pets” policy and then evicting him;
• a ghost who wants to recover her property from her lazy, no-good heirs;
• King Kong, looking for someone to defend him from the many civil suits spawned from his jaunt onto the Empire State Building;
• a group of zombies seeking back wages from their employer; and
• a mummy seeking child support.

Congratulations on developing a whole new practice niche area! May the frightening amount of business you generate allow you to enjoy all the creature comforts. And, oh yes, happy Halloween!

Mark A. Cohen is the editor-in-chief of Minnesota Lawyer. He can be reached at (612) 584-1531 or by e-mail at mark.cohen@minnlawyer.com.


Anonymous said...

LOL this was hilarious. If you want more monster themed, psudo serious delight check out http://www.convergentstreams.com/cgi/wp/?p=7 or
http://www.convergentstreams.com/cgi/wp/?p=6 or http://www.convergentstreams.com/cgi/wp/?p=5

Anonymous said...

Fabulously funny stuff, Mr. Cohen. Seems there may be a link between lawyers and a fascination with vampires, look at Vampine Vinyards, supposedly the front man is an attorney in New York. "Sip the Blood of the Vine and enjoy!"