Monday, August 24, 2015

Actual Lawyer in New York Demands Trial By Combat (Because It's Not Illegal)

Trial by combat is an ancient practice that's one part myth, and one part history. A combination of honor duel, fate, and political machinations, the idea is that if you are accused of a crime, then you can demand a fight to settle it. In this ultimate, legal version of "might makes right," the challenger may step into the arena himself, or may select a champion willing to stand for him.

Of course, if you're a Game of Thrones fan, you already knew that.

Pictured: A Westerosi law degree.
What may surprise you is that, while dueling was outlawed in America around the time Andrew Jackson was getting comfortable in the White House (and participating in a whole lot of duels with people who crossed him), the concept of trial by combat is not specifically illegal in the U.S. It's not one of those bizarre "still on the books, but god knows why" laws, we just never declared it illegal.

That's why Richard Luthmann, an attorney from Staten Island, demanded a trial by combat earlier this month.

What The Hell?

Luthmann, who is accused of helping a client commit fraud, says that the challenge he's issued is not to be taken at face value (though it does make you wonder what would happen if the other side picked up the gauntlet). Instead, Luthmann claims that the charges are so ridiculous that he wants to show just how silly they are through his challenge.

Will it work? I have no idea... but it's fortunate that Halfthor Bjornsson is currently tied up with other commitments, otherwise we might have one hell of a legal battle.

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  1. It will be very interesting to see what kind of attention this really gets. I can totally see more people trying to do this. Hehe

  2. Trial by combat is not a version, legal or otherwise, of "might makes right". Quite the reverse, actually, to the extent that it was a real historical thing, its origins were based in a belief that could well be described as "right makes might"; that is, it was believed that whomever represented the good and just side of the conflict would have God (or the gods, depending on the culture in question) on their side, and conversely, if you were in the wrong, God/the gods would oppose you. Thus, whoever won the fight wasn't seen as being right because they were a stronger fighter, they were seen to have won, regardless of their combat ability, due to their being right. It really was a trial: stupidly and irrationally implemented or not, it was a real attempt to discern the truth of the situation.

    1. All of that is true, but at the same time it was something that could easily be manipulated by people who were truly guilty, but whose sword arms (or whose sworn warriors) were more gifted warriors.

      When stripped of the cultural beliefs, it's simply a way for those who are deadlier fighters to escape punishment for crimes. It makes no more sense than trial by fire, or by water, which may have been sincere at one time, but which were more often used as intimidation tactics to coerce confessions.

    2. Exactly the way I see it. "Right makes might" is a line the victors give the naive and gullible masses. As well as the portion of the masses that's intimidated by a burly swordsman who just killed someone in public and isn't being punished for it.

      It's kind of similar to how I view torture: Where trial by combat gives the advantage to the strong, torture ironically gives the advantage to the guilty. If you're innocent and say so, the torturer will just keep torturing you until you give the false confession or die. Because if you were innocent, you wouldn't be in a position to be tortured in the first place. With Fearless Leader being born under the blessing of the gods, he simply doesn't make mistakes like that. If you're guilty, you can fabricate a lie they want to hear, and the interrogator will believe it because it was obtained from torture or the threat of torture. Because they believe torture works.

      Trial by combat might make for entertaining fiction (since who doesn't like a cool fight scene?), but there's a reason we have a legal system in the real world.