Deck Log Entry # 168 You Be the Jury! Luthor v. Superboy (Part Two)


 

 

“Good morning, all.  Baliff, are all of the parties present?”

 

“They are, your honour.”

 

“Very well.  Mr. Aldrich, your client may re-take the stand.”

 

“Yes, your honour.”

 

“I remind the witness that he is still under oath.  You may begin your cross-examination, Mr. Barton.”

 

“Thank you, judge.”

 

 

 

Cross-Examination of Alexis “Lex” Luthor:

“Good morning, young Luthor.  Or should I address you as ‘Doctor Luthor’?”

 

“I don’t have a doctorate degree.”

 

“No doctorate?  Well, can you tell us in what field you obtained your master’s degree?”

 

“I don’t have a master’s degree, either.”

 

“The field of your undergraduate degree will do, then.”

 

“I haven’t been to college at all.”

 

“No college degree.  The fact of the matter is that you haven’t even graduated from high school yet, have you?”

 

“No.”

 

“Yet, you sit there and expect us to believe that you, Lex Luthor, created a form of artificial life---how did you put it?  ‘Unlocked the secret of life itself’---something that has eluded the greatest scientific minds of our time, and you haven’t even finished high school, yet?”

 

“Yes, because it’s the truth.”

 

 “But, you must admit, it’s difficult to accept your claim.”

 

“Difficult for a simple mind, maybe.”

 

“Well, my ‘simple’ mind would be more likely to believe you, if you could produce even one item of proof of your creation.”

 

“Weren’t you paying attention?  I said the protoplasm was destroyed, along with my notes.”

 

“So you did.  Did anybody else see this living protoplasm?  Did Superboy see it when he rescued you?”

 

“I know he did---with his X-ray vision.  That’s why he destroyed it.  He knew it would make me more famous than him and that colossal ego of his couldn’t handle it!”

 

“You aren’t going to raise an objection to that statement, Mr. Barton?”

 

“No, your honour.  I’ll let the plaintiff’s answer stand.”

 

“Very well.  It’s your call, counsellor.”

 

“Let’s go back to fire in your laboratory, Mr. Luthor.  How did it start?”

 

“I accidentally knocked over a flask containing an inflammable chemical solution.  The lab table caught on fire and the flames spread before I could do anything.”

 

“Clearly, this was a hazardous chemical.  Wouldn’t it have been prudent to keep such containers of dangerous substances safely secured, under proper storage?  Isn’t that the normal protocol---at least for a trained scientist?”

 

“I had just completed work on another experiment.  The materials I had been using were still on the lab table.”

 

“So it was an oversight.”

 

“I didn’t have a chance to put them away.”

 

“You seem to overlook a lot of things, Mr. Luthor.”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“A few weeks after the incident didn’t you design a solar tower that was installed over Smallville, and didn’t the intense heat from that structure cause more than a dozen residents to suffer from heat stroke?”

 

“Objection!”

 

“May we approach, your honour?”

 

“Come on up.”

“Your honour, Mr. Barton’s question is immaterial to the matter before the court.”

 

“Mr. Barton?”

 

“Sir, I am establishing a pattern of carelessness on the part of the plaintiff.  Young Luthor’s lack of caution has a direct bearing on this case.”

 

“I’ll allow it.  Objection overruled.  The witness will answer the question.”

 

“I designed that weather-tower to keep Smallville warm and comfortable during the winter.”

 

“But, instead, you almost burnt the town to a crisp!  Isn’t that right?”

 

“It was an unseasonably warm day.  The automatic rheostat on the solar mirror should have compensated for that, but it didn’t.”

 

“Another oversight?”

 

“Unless Superboy sabotaged the mechanism.  I wouldn’t put it past him.”

 

“And a few months after that debacle, you persuaded some of the townspeople to plant seeds that you had developed, did you not?  I believe you called them ‘miracle seeds’.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And what happened when they did?”

 

“Cherry and pear trees grew overnight in backyards.  The farmers had fully grown crops in a single day.  They should have appreciated it.”

 

“But they didn’t appreciate it, did they?  Why was that?”

 

“Everyone in this courtroom knows why.”

 

“Refresh our memories.”

 

“It rained especially hard that night and the plants became overnourished.  They grew to gigantic size.”

 

“And?”

 

“The trees expanded so swiftly that several houses and barns were torn apart.”

 

“Another mistake, Mr. Luthor?  Or was that Superboy’s fault, too?”

 

“I didn’t anticipate the effects of an oversaturated water table on the seeds.  O.K., I screwed up!  Is that what you wanted to hear, Mr. Barton?”

 

 

 

“Earlier, you testified that, after you accidentally started the fire in your lab, Superboy happened to flying overhead.  Were you aware of this at the time?”

 

“Yes.  I spotted him in the air from an open window.”

 

“In fact, you called to him for help, didn’t you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And in response to your cry for help, Superboy discharged a blast of super-breath into the lab, to extinguish the fire.  Is that correct?”

 

“Yes, that’s what he did.”

 

“And you stated that the gust of wind created by Superboy’s super-breath knocked a bottle of acid into a flask containing a formula from another one of your experiments.”

 

“That’s right!  Both containers broke on impact and when that happened, the acid and my formula mixed together, creating a corrosive cloud.”

 

“You believe my client did this on purpose.  What reason could he possibly have for doing such a thing?”

 

“How many times do I have to say it?  He was jealous of my genius and afraid that I would become more famous than he was!  He wanted to destroy my creation to keep that from happening.”

 

“Your creation.  You mean the protoplasm you claim to have brought to life in your lab?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“But isn’t it a fact, Mr. Luthor, that you told Superboy that the fire destroyed the protoplasm?  The fire that you started by your own carelessness.”

 

“Er . . . um . . . I don’t remember.”

 

“Come, now, son.  The truth is that this artificial life---if it ever existed---was destroyed by the fire you caused, and not by the corrosive cloud created by my client’s super-breath.  Isn’t it?”

 

“All right!  All right!  Maybe it was the fire.  But what about my hair?  That was his fault!  Because of that alien creep, I have to go through life as a hairless freak!

 

“Young Luthor!  I warned you about those angry outbursts of yours.  One more temper tantrum like that and I’ll charge you with contempt of court!”

 

“Once more, I apologise for my client, your honour.  It won’t happen, again.”

 

“It had best not, Mr. Aldrich.”

 

“I’m almost done with my cross-examination, anyway, judge.  Mr. Luthor, I’m curious about something.  When you were standing in front of the open window, calling for Superboy to rescue you from the fire, why didn’t you just jump out the window?”

 

“I ran back into the lab, to try to save the protoplasm.  By the time I turned to the window again, the fire had spread to that wall.  I was cut off.”

 

“So, at that point, you were trapped, with no way to escape.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And that gust of super-breath that Superboy sent through the window, did it put out the fire?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“So Superboy saved your life!

 

“ . . .  “

 

“I’m done with this witness.”

"This looks like an appropriate time to call a recess, gentlemen.  We'll resume at the next session.  Court is adjourned!"

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You, sir, are a master. I hope to challenge you under civil circumstances someday... but NEVER in an adversarial role! Losing a contest to you would be a sheer delight.

'Course, WINNING would be even better! But very unlikely, I suspect... :)

The defending counsel's initial line of questioning above could be potentially dangerous to Superboy. It tends to establish that Luthor wasn't sufficiently-trained to possess a laboratory, which casts doubt on Superboy's wisdom in giving it to him.

Luke Blanchard said:

The defending counsel's initial line of questioning above could be potentially dangerous to Superboy. It tends to establish that Luthor wasn't sufficiently-trained to possess a laboratory, which casts doubt on Superboy's wisdom in giving it to him.

If Luthor was as smart as he thinks he is, he would accept this gift and take Superboy to civil court. 


ClarkKent_DC said:

Luke Blanchard said:

The defending counsel's initial line of questioning above could be potentially dangerous to Superboy. It tends to establish that Luthor wasn't sufficiently-trained to possess a laboratory, which casts doubt on Superboy's wisdom in giving it to him.

 

If Luthor was as smart as he thinks he is, he would accept this gift and take Superboy to civil court.

The thing was Luthor didn't hate Superboy when the Boy of Steel gave him that lab.

Commander Benson said:


ClarkKent_DC said:

Luke Blanchard said:

The defending counsel's initial line of questioning above could be potentially dangerous to Superboy. It tends to establish that Luthor wasn't sufficiently-trained to possess a laboratory, which casts doubt on Superboy's wisdom in giving it to him.

 

If Luthor was as smart as he thinks he is, he would accept this gift and take Superboy to civil court.

 

 

The thing was Luthor didn't hate Superboy when the Boy of Steel gave him that lab.

 

 

True. But he sure does now!

Except for the fact that by accepting ownership of the lab, Luthor had assumed the responsibility to maintain it safely. Also Luthor believed that he was capable of operating the lab. At no point would he claim that Superboy gave him anything beyond his control or understanding.

Another thing: was the lab a secret? If yes then Superboy is at fault for potentially endangering the community by having an untrained teen running a lab filled with hazardous and unknown chemicals. If no, then why didn't the town government have it inspected or demand it be certified or at least have the fire department check that it had a sprinkler system?

It looks like that there's a lot of blame to go around!

Waiting for the next installment eagerly, Commander!


Philip Portelli said:

. . . then why didn't the town government have it inspected or demand it be certified or at least have the fire department check that it had a sprinkler system?

 

I'm not 100% certain of this, but I did do a great deal of research into the safety standards in place at the time this trial is set---the mid-1930's---and I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be any statutory requirements in place.

Luthor's laboratory was not a commercial establishment; it was a private construction not intended for either public use or with the expectation of populating large numbers of people, such as employees.

It's only been in the last thirty or forty years that legislators have gotten into the business of protecting people from themselves. Particularly in the early twentieth century, lawmakers were loath to enact laws that simply protected persons from their own folly. The belief in individual liberty was still strong then. In the case of a private establishment, the prevailing attitude would have been that the resident occupies it at his own risk.

So there would have been very few laws on the books then, if any, that required basic safety considerations, such as having fire bottles in place, for non-commercial establishments.

With regard to fire sprinkler systems, even though workable sprinkler systems had been available for use since the late nineteeth century, legislation to make them mandatory in commercial establishments didn't develop until the 1940's.

Of course, there is still the question of why Superboy didn't instal a fire sprinker system into the lab when he built it for Luthor. That would have seemed to be a prudent precaution.

Philip Portelli said:

. . . then why didn't the town government have it inspected or demand it be certified or at least have the fire department check that it had a sprinkler system?


Commander Benson said:

With regard to fire sprinkler systems, even though workable sprinkler systems had been available for use since the late nineteeth century, legislation to make them mandatory in commercial establishments didn't develop until the 1940's.

 

Of course, there is still the question of why Superboy didn't instal a fire sprinker system into the lab when he built it for Luthor. That would have seemed to be a prudent precaution.

 

Maybe not, as the place was full of an array of chemicals. All I know about firefighting is watching Emergency!, Backdraft, and Chicago Fire, but that tells me that water isn't the best thing to use on a chemical fire. Water can actually spread the fire, as it pools on the ground and flows, and some substances don't mix with it -- that famous maxim about oil and water, y'know -- or float on it. 


ClarkKent_DC said:


 

Maybe not, as the place was full of an array of chemicals. All I know about firefighting is watching Emergency! and Chicago Fire, but that tells me that water isn't the best thing to use on a chemical fire. Water can actually spread the fire, as it pools on the ground and flows, and some substances don't mix with it -- that famous maxim about oil and water, y'know -- or float on it.

Excellent point. And one I'm a little embarrassed didn't occur to me before I made that statement, since a discussion of hazardous materials in the workplace is going to be a central point of the next instalment.

You're quite right, of course, CK. Although I'm not sure just what fire-fighting safety measures were available then for the potential of dealing with fires in which water would be prohibitive.

Commander Benson said:

You're quite right, of course, CK. Although I'm not sure just what fire-fighting safety measures were available then for the potential of dealing with fires in which water would be prohibitive.

  

Well, the three elements that keep a fire going are flame, fuel, and oxygen.* Putting out fires, fundamentally, is about removing or neutralizing one of those three elements.

Water smothers the fire by removing the oxygen, and it's used because it's abundant, cheap, and there are standard ways to get it where you need it. But for chemical fires, the thing most often used is foam -- but, of course, it's preferable to know what chemicals are in play, because you don't want to mix things that cause a bigger or worse problem. If foam isn't the thing to use, the next thing is sand or soil.

That said, I don't know how fire supression is done in modern laboratories, let alone what would have been done in the 1930s. 

*This I learned from Penn and Teller, explaining how fire-eaters do what they do.

I fought enough fires in the Navy to know the basics for dealing with the four basic types of fires---Alpha (ordinary combustables), Bravo (petroleum-based), Charlie (electrical), and Delta (inflammable metals).  And I know what the state-of-the-art equipment was.

But I have to keep in mind that, for this scenario, I'm dealing with 1930's knowledge and technology. It's real easy to lapse into modern thinking, if one isn't careful.

I suppose you're trying to avoid any "comic book science" stuff, i.e., Superboy might have provided Luthor with advanced fire-figthing tech that he picked up while visiting the planet Pootwaddle, or Luthor might've invented super-advanced fire-fighting tech himself.

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